Mundelein's Enright has fun season, despite all the "What-ifs'
"What-ifs" can be torturous.
They can also be kind of fun if you spin them the right way.
Conor Enright, a four-year starter for the Mundelein boys basketball team, is trying his best to focus on the fun.
"I'm trying," Enright said. "But it's still hard."
It bothers Enright that the IHSA boys Class 4A state basketball tournament last year got abruptly canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic before sectional championship games were played.
Enright and the Mustangs were due to play Stevenson for the right to move on to the supersectional the day after the world turned upside down.
What if COVID-19 never happened?
What if the state tournament, and that sectional championship game, was never canceled?
It also bothers Enright that the Mustangs, making the best of this strange COVID-19-shortened season, finally had the chance to go out with a bang last week in the Chipotle Clash of Champions tournament at St. Patrick, which featured some of the best teams in the Chicagoland area.
But the only game that Enright missed in his career was Mundelein's first-round game in the tournament against Fenwick. The Mustangs lost that game.
What if Enright wouldn't have badly sprained his ankle just days before? What if he didn't have to cheer on his teammates against Fenwick from the bench, in street clothes with a bulky boot on his foot?
And what if COVID-19 didn't also disrupt this season and also erase the state tournament for the second straight year?
The Mustangs have had two of their best boys basketball teams in the history of the school this year and last year. And neither team got a shot at a postseason run.
So many "What-ifs."
"It (stinks) with 'What-ifs,' " Enright said. "I feel like we've had so many of them these last two years. A bunch of 'what-ifs.' But if there's a 'what-if,' you can also have fun with it and make proclamations and no one can really say anything. Like, 'We would have won this game, and that game.' That sectional championship game against Stevenson last year, we can say that we would have won that, too. And that we would have gone on to win the state championship, too. We can say that we would have won that Chipotle tournament and been state champions this year, too. We could say that we would have been back-to-back state champions."
Enright started chuckling to himself.
"You've got to look for the bright spots, and have fun with it," he said.
Enright has actually had plenty of bright spots along the way.
"What-ifs" or not, he has put together one of the best four-year careers in Lake County basketball history and for the second straight year, he is the captain of the Daily Herald's Lake County All-Area Boys Basketball Team.
Enright averaged 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists this season, finished with 1,453 career points, was known for his aggressive lockdown defense and will be playing Division I basketball next year at Drake.
"Conor has been the main piece of heart and soul of our team," said Mundelein coach Matt Badgley, whose team won the North Suburban Conference regular season title this winter with a perfect record and was ranked as high as No. 3 in the state rankings. "This has been one of the most special groups that any coach could be fortunate enough to be around and Conor was a big part of that.
"Just to have the last two years go the way it did though was just so unfair for these kids."
The impact of COVID-19 on IHSA basketball is especially poignant for Mundelein because just five years ago, the program was in a completely different position. The Mustangs were winning only a few games each season.
Enright's older brother Kyle was a part of those teams.
Badgley was hired as the younger Enright and a talented freshman class that also included Scottie Ebube, Trey Baker and Jack Bikus arrived on campus.
That season, Mundelein, led by Enright, who started at point guard as a freshman, beat perennial power Stevenson on its own floor.
It was Mundelein's first win in the North Suburban Conference in four years.
"That's one of my best memories," said Enright who remembers having 16 points in that game. "Our student section in that game was crazy and the feeling that you got in that game was that Mundelein was back. Maybe not fully back, but kind of back and I remember Scottie (Ebube) capped off that win with a big dunk. That was a big game for us."
And while the Stevenson win might have been a surprise to some, Enright and his teammates saw it coming from a mile away. They knew they had the chance to be part of a very special group.
"I really can't explain it, but for the kids in my grade, we grew up thinking that when we got to high school, we were going to be good, no matter what," Enright said.
"Our whole goal coming in freshman year was to get Mundelein back on the map ... and fast-forward to the end and we are now on top of the map. We took a big jump with that Stevenson win, and it kind of just took off from there. It's just crazy to see how far we've come. To look back at that growth, it's just amazing."
*Conor Enright, Mundelein, G, sr.
Trey Baker, Mundelein, G, sr.
Hakim Williams, Round Lake, G, sr.
Chase Bonder, Libertyville, F, jr.
Scottie Ebube, Mundelein, C, sr.
Blake Ellingson, Libertyville, G, sr.
Kobe Kriese, Antioch, G, sr.
Tony Hines, Grayslake North, G, sr.
Darius Clemons, Stevenson, F, sr.
Deveauntay McNeal, Round Lake, F, sr.
* designates team captain
Syam Atade, Mundelein, F, sr.; Jack Bikus, Mundelein, F, sr.; Nick Bulgarelli, Wauconda, F, sr.; Jalen Burton, Carmel, G, sr.; Amarion Coleman, Grayslake Central, G, sr.; Griffin Daun, Wauconda, F, jr.; Asher Jackson, Carmel, F, jr.; Chad Kiesgen, Grant, G, soph.; Zoel Martinez, Grayslake Central, F, sr.; Bryce Moore, Carmel, F, jr.; Isaiah Nixon, Round Lake, G, sr.; Nick Pierre, Round Lake, G, sr., Evan Porto, Stevenson, G, jr.; Erik Rimas, Vernon Hills, F, jr.; Jake Sanders, Lakes, G, sr.; Cooper Stacey, Warren, F, jr.