WW South all-in on team concept

  • Wheaton Warrenville South's Danny Healy, right, and Braylen Meredith guard Batavia's Charlie Saul. The two are part of a balanced Tigers lineup for the DuKane Conference leaders.

      Wheaton Warrenville South's Danny Healy, right, and Braylen Meredith guard Batavia's Charlie Saul. The two are part of a balanced Tigers lineup for the DuKane Conference leaders. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/10/2022 10:40 AM

In a world where self-promotion on social media platforms is rife, the Wheaton Warrenville South boys basketball team is a little different.

In the words of coach Mike Healy, his squad is "pre-Twitter days."

 

"Nowadays kids have their highlights and their Twitters and our guys don't seem to get caught up in it," Healy said.

Need proof? Follow @wwshoops on Twitter after a big game, like the team's 40-28 win over Lake Park on Saturday. You'll notice that no players or individual statistics were mentioned. And that's just fine with 6-foot-5 senior post Tyler Fawcett.

"I'm not that familiar with Twitter, and the whole idea of self-promotion is foreign to all of us," said Fawcett, who for the record is averaging 14.9 points a game. "I personally don't get into that and I know the other guys on our team don't, either. We're focusing on ourselves and that's working pretty good right now."

It sure is. After the Lake Park win, the Tigers are 16-1 overall and 6-0 in the DuKane Conference.

For senior guard Danny Healy, he and his senior teammates started together at Little Tiger basketball camps in third grade, before heading into the club ranks as fifth-graders. They also spent a lot of time in the bleachers watching the Tigers' players over the years and thought about the day when they would be on that court, doing big things.

The future is now.

"We watched Wheaton Warrenville South growing up," said Danny Healy, who averages 9 points. "It's playing with your buddies. It's awesome."

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The historical aspect isn't lost on Fawcett, who added, "We've been talking about this moment we're living in all our lives. We'd hang out after we'd play for our feeder team and then go out after a South game and (said), Someday, it's going to be us."

On the court, the Tigers are as tough as nails defensively, which has contributed to its lofty win-loss record. And they can score, too, but no one seems to care who puts the ball in the hole. In addition to Fawcett and Danny Healy, senior guard Rourke Robinson is averaging 9 points, and junior post Braylen Meredith is averaging 10.5 points. The team is also getting solid minutes out of junior guards Matt Sommerdyke, the football team's quarterback, and Colin Moore.

"They're fun to watch," Mike Healy said. "They love to play defense and they are very unselfish. "You are never going to know going into the locker room who scored or didn't score. They're just happy."

Leadership key for Lake Park's Zakic:

Over at Lake Park (11-3, 5-1), coach Billy Pitcher can't say enough nice things about the contributions of senior guard Matt Zakic, especially in the category of leadership.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He's just our rock and he's our most vocal leader on and off the court," Pitcher said Wednesday. "He runs our group chat and organizes team dinners after games. Just today after practice he was setting up a team Fortnite game party online for everyone tonight."

Zakic is getting it done on the court as well. He's averaging 10.5 points per game, 5 rebounds and two assists. He leads the team in steals and is shooting 47 percent from 3-point land.

In his words, he's shooting less than last year but making more shots. That improvement is due to his commitment to working hard in the gym in the off-season with his personal trainer, Dave Brown, and playing club ball with the Kessel Heat.

"When Coach Pitcher and I met before the season, it was not only picking it up on the defensive end, but it's taking better shots and waiting for the shots to come to me," Zakic said.

As far as leadership goes, Zakic noted last year's COVID-19-shortened season was tough on everyone, he wanted to make up for lost time. Hence a Fortnite game party.

"More team chemistry off the court leads to better chemistry on the court," he said.

Starting agrees with Benet's Kunka:

Benet junior forward Brady Kunka came off the bench as a sophomore last spring for Benet and coach Gene Heidkamp. Almost a year later, he's starting for the Redwings and making the most of it.

Case in point: In a 52-34 win over Carmel on Dec. 17, Kunka came up with 21 points and 6 rebounds, but more importantly, he held Niagara recruit Bryce Moore in check on defense.

Want more? He dropped 23 points Friday in a 59-41 road victory over Nazareth.

In all, Kunka is averaging 13 points and is shooting 65 percent from the field and 53 percent from the 3-point line. Oh, and he's also averaging 6 rebounds.

Now add fellow high-caliber players like seniors Brennan White and transfer Kyle Thomas, and it's no surprise the Redwings are 10-3 and 4-0 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.

Kunka credits the off-season work with the Illinois Attack as a big reason for his success. He was joined on that team by fellow juniors Brayden Fagbemi, Sam Driscoll, Andy Nash and Matt Moran.

"We won 40-plus games in the summer and built rapport with all the guys," Kunka said. "I have a good relationship with those guys in the first place. We had a good time in the summer."

Heidkamp insists Kunka isn't a surprise.

"I think he's worked really hard on his offensive game," he said. "I think his experience last year served him well. He got off to a good start."

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