After stellar career, Libertyville's Bonder will now focus on academics
As of now, competitive basketball is not in Libertyville senior Chase Bonder's future plans.
It's a likely shocker to the outside world given the 6-foot 7 forward-center just helped lead the Wildcats to a school-record 27 wins, a spot in a Class 4A sectional championship game, and is the newly minted captain of the 2022 Daily Herald Lake County All-Area boys basketball team.
But to Bonder, he has a longer endgame in mind.
"Before the season, I talked about it (playing in college) with my parents," he explained. "The best thing for me is to go to college. I went on a couple visits over the summer and talked to some schools about playing. The best route is to go to school and focus on my studies. If I miss basketball I can try to walk-on wherever I go. It's probably the toughest decision I have ever made in my life. Knowing I won't be playing it after this year is tough on me after I have put so many hours in the gym. It's kind of been my whole life and my whole high school career. It's tough to let it go, but overall it's the best decision for me and it's a tough decision that had to be made. I don't think pursuing it another four years is the best route for me."
Bonder, who has a 4.23 grade-point average at Libertyville, is deciding between Big Ten schools Indiana and Wisconsin to continue his education and would like to study business with an eye toward consulting or finance, but leaning in the direction of finance and financial advisory. Bonder's dad, Kraig, is an Indiana alum.
"I'm at peace with the decision," said Bonder, who noted interest in basketball-related form ranged from several Ivy League schools to a variety of Division II and III programs.
"It was tough for a little bit. The whole senior year was kind of stressful. This takes a load off me and allows me to hone in on academics and get down to business. It will benefit me in the future."
If this ends up being Bonder's basketball swan song, he went out in style, leaving a trail of beaten defenders in his wake. Bonder averaged 16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.5 steals for the Wildcats, who were North Suburban Conference runners-up to Lake Forest. He also went over the 1,000-career point mark this season, becoming the first Libertyville player to do so since current USC standout Drew Peterson (2018). The 27 wins Bonder helped the team achieve broke the previous school record of 25 that had stood for two decades.
"My simplest description of Chase Bonder is the highest compliment I can give a player. He's a winner," Lake Zurich coach Terry Coughlin said. "When I say he's a winner, what stands out coaching against him and preparing to play Libertyville is he does whatever is necessary to help his team win that game or that possession. He has such a well-rounded skillset that he can do anything on the court, but his selflessness is what stands out."
Coughlin recalls the Bears' NSC game at home against Libertyville this season. "It was a 1-2 possession game the entire second half, and in the fourth quarter every time we were on the verge of taking the lead Chase either made a pass that would get a teammate an open look or score the basketball because they needed a bucket or snatch a defensive board," he said. "He elevates the performance of everybody around him at all times. From an intangible perspective, he also plays the game with great joy and enthusiasm that's contagious. Chase is a special player and a big reason why Libertyville had a great season."
Bonder's size and versatility consistently created havoc for opposing teams.
"Chase is tough to guard because he can score inside and from the perimeter," Warren coach Jon Jasnoch said. "He uses his strength very well to create space and can shoot over a defender because of his size."
Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose added: "He's a really good player. He can play inside and outside and is very versatile. He's strong, but skilled and a real leader for his team."
And this added opposing team hair-pulling-out affirmation from Phil LaScala, coach of NSC-champion Lake Forest: "Chase was tough to defend because he could score in many different ways -- off the dribble, shoot the 3 and in the post."
Libertyville senior guard Dylan McCarty, one of three captains on the team with Bonder and senior forward Mack Imm, said Bonder is not a "normal basketball player." He said that referencing Bonder being the only player on this year's squad that experienced a non-COVID postseason run as a sophomore three years ago.
"He leads by example on the court," McCarty said. "He knows what to do in tough situations in games and keeps pushing guys in practice. I credit most of our success to what he has done and the work he has put in. When you are on the court and you know you are out there with probably the best player on the court most games, that's reassuring. What makes Chase dangerous is he's a stretch 4 for his size. He can go hard down in the paint and you have to defend on the 3-point arc. He's probably the best shooter on our team. If you leave him open, he won't miss every often. Guarding him in practice is tough. He'll shoot it over you. It's tough to defend both ways against a guy like that. Having Chase here this year was special."
And Bonder got the job done when it counted throughout the season for the Wildcats. He had a game-high 17 points in the sectional championship overtime loss to Barrington, which plays in the Class 4A state semifinals in Champaign Friday. A 27-point, 8-rebound performance helped Libertyville come from behind to defeat Stevenson. He had 14- and 17-point efforts against NSC champ Lake Forest, plus 14 points and 10 rebounds against supersectional qualifier Glenbrook South and 23 points and 10 rebounds against Class 3A sectional qualifier Carmel.
"In big games this year, Chase got the job done," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "He scored in and out and did it all year. Playing against those types of teams, they will try to find a way to defend him, but he was very difficult to defend because of the range he has. He's unique. He's one of the very few players who can play inside and out. It's one of the long-lost arts. You don't see that from a lot of players. He can play in the post and extend outside the arc."
Beyond the Xs and Os, Zyrkowski said the Libertyville boys basketball program will take a major hit in the leadership wallet.
"One of the biggest factors we will miss is Chase's leadership," Zyrkowski said. "He's been a great mentor to the younger guys and he relates great to the kids his age and those who are younger than him. He was voted a team captain by his peers the last two years. He will be missed. He's very humble, works hard and loves to win. The last game against Barrington was very hard for him because he gave everything he had to help the team. Chase thinks he fell short, but he won. He's a winner and we're so proud of him and what he has done."