York's Hesch making the best of bad break
This is not what Nick Hesch was expecting his senior year to be for the York boys basketball team.
His season was going along just fine until his second game of the season, when the 6-foot-6 senior power forward tore the ACL in his right knee.
It was devastating -- not only for him, but his teammates and second-year coach Mike Dunn. But York has still managed to craft a 16-6 overall record (3-4 in the tough West Suburban Silver) in part because Hesch has become a pseudo-coach for the Dukes.
"He'll be at practice and contributing to our coaches to see what he sees on the floor," Dunn said. "It's another set of eyes of what he sees.
"He's like another coach. He's a great leader."
Be careful, though. Hesch doesn't consider his situation a silver lining -- it just is what it is, and reflects his commitment to the program.
"I don't think this is what you expect, going into your final year, but (it's) being able to support my team in a different way," said Hesch, a three-year varsity starter. "Right now, I'm trying to help my team any way I can. With my experience, it eases the pain a little bit."
As part of his newfound coaching role, Hesch is spending significant time with his replacement, sophomore Braden Richardson.
Richardson said he has looked up to Hesch for a long time, and appreciates the extra attention.
"I do something in a game, he'll tell me what to do and where to be," Richardson said. "I take everything he says to heart and try to learn from everything he tells me."
Hesch said he sees a lot of himself in Richardson, and helping the younger player is not just about success this season.
"He has some really great parts of his game, and now since I'm injured, I'm trying to give him anything I can," Hesch said. "Jeff Grayson and Nate Shockey taught me how to play York basketball, and I'm trying to pass on that tradition."
The really unfortunate part, Dunn said, is the fact that last season was almost a wash for Hesch due to COVID-19, in the sense of there was no Jack Tosh holiday tournament and, of course, no state playoffs.
Hesch also had a terrific off-season for the Dukes, but the injury is not precluding his plans to play collegiately. There's more to it, though.
"I think coaching could be something I pursue," he said. "It's awesome that even though I don't get to play, I feel like I'm part of the team."
Hilgart, Richardson key for ICCP:
On the other side of Elmhurst, IC Catholic Prep (14-10, 3-5) is doing well with a combination that might be called Thunder and Lightning -- seniors John Hilgart and Antonio Richardson.
"I would say Antonio is the thunder and John Hilgart is the lightning," coach TJ Tyrrell said. "Antonio is kind of the gritty worker. He does an outstanding job rebounding and defending, and with John, he's a dual threat, he can play inside and out. He's one of our best 3-point shooters."
Richardson is a particularly interesting case because he's a football player for the Knights as well, helping lead the team to the Class 3A state semifinals. But in the process, he sprained a UCL in his elbow, which placed his basketball season in jeopardy.
It was almost as tough mentally as it was physically for Richardson to bounce back from that injury, but he did it, easing his way into more contact until now, when he's basically 100% and has reclaimed his Thunder role.
"I feel like I bring an unselfishness to the game," Richardson said. "To me, it's about being physical, communicating with the guys and bringing us closer together."
As for Hilgart, he relishes in the fact that he presents a load of problems for the defense. In other words, he's tough to stop, but also contain.
"My inside game and outside game has been important all season," he said, "and playing both toughens who is guarding me," he said.
Sophomores shine for Waubonsie:
Tyler Threat is a sophomore for Waubonsie Valley (14-10, 3-4), and while he's a starter now, he began the season on the sophomore team. That didn't faze him one bit.
"It wasn't a disappointment," said Threat (pronounced Threet), a quiet sort who also plays football and baseball. "I thought it was something I could build on and be on the varsity team. It inspired me to keep going and get better."
He's done that, and perhaps the best example was hitting on a key layup with 2.0 seconds left last Friday against Metea Valley to help push the game to overtime, then adding two big free throws in the extra period to help the Warriors to a 68-64 victory.
Waubonsie Valley coach Andrew Schweitzer admits he probably should have had Threat on varsity at the start of the season, but better late than never.
"A big reason I brought him up is he's physically ready for varsity," he said. "He's extremely strong and he had six interceptions (in football) at the sophomore level, and he does the same thing in basketball."
Threat isn't the only soph making a name for himself for the Warriors. So is 6-foot-4 forward TreShawn Blissett.
"Tre has been the most improved guy since the beginning of the year," Schweitzer said. "Anytime you tell him to do something, he does it."
Blissett played on the sophomore team last spring, so being promoted to varsity was a change, of course. What's the big difference between the two?
"The experience," he said. "The experience is more than playing at the sophomore level. The atmosphere is electric."