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Talking Irish hoops for good reason

Nothing says May is here like a couple of stories about the Seneca High School varsity boys basketball program.

I’ve covered the Fighting Irish more than maybe any other reporter over the past several years, but I can’t imagine I’ve ever written two stories directly involving them in five-day span at this time of year, as I’ve done this week.

The timing’s warranted. Last weekend, their 2006 team was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and former Irish standout Seth Evans graduated from Florida Southern College, for which he played basketball for two seasons. You may have read about the ‘06 team in Tuesday’s paper; my story on Evans will appear sometime soon.

For one member of the 2006 team, ceremonies honoring his basketball accomplishments have been common of late. Garrett Callahan had his jersey No. 33 retired by SHS on Feb. 9. He was one of six former players who made it to Illinois State University last Saturday for the IBCA’s pomp and circumstance. This time, Callahan wasn’t forced into a position that he admits makes him uncomfortable — being the center of attention.

“It was a lot more fun,” Callahan said of the IBCA event, “to be able to just see everybody and hang out with the guys and talk about how our lives have changed.”

As you might expect with any team, some members of ‘06 have remained closer with each other over the years than others. The fact that Callahan founded and runs the Illinois Ambush basketball organization gives a few former teammates a unique platform to see each other regularly, and to reminisce about their high-school days.

“Me and Garrett and Griffan (Callahan), and Marty (Hetelle), mainly the seniors, have stuck together. With Garrett’s AAU team, and Marty and me helping out with that, we see each other quite often,” 2006 graduate Robert Rexroade said.

“We’re always talking about it, especially when we’re coaching. We’ll see kids doing things that remind us of Marty, or Garrett, or me. In that way, we’re always talking about it. It was a big part of our high school lives.”

Longtime Irish head coach Doug Evans, who is now retired and lives in Florida, wasn’t able to attend the ceremony. There’s a reason for that. Seth graduated from FSC the very same day. But I called Doug later this week while working on the Seth story, and he gave me his thoughts on the team being inducted.

“It’s just a great honor for the team and the school and the community, for a special team,” Coach Evans said. “You don’t get a group of basketball players like that more than once in a lifetime. There were so many great talents on that team. Of course, it was a very special honor. We have a lot of great memories between Coach (Jeff) Stenzel and Coach (Shane) Trager and Coach (Nate) Nollen, who were all able to be there for the banquet, and I, and of course the players.”

Seth Evans, who started as a freshman for the ‘06 Irish, also talked a bit about his experience playing on that team, and how it’s helped lead him to where he is today.

“I have a great appreciation for the Callahans and the Rexroades and the Hetelles,” Seth said. “We had some great accomplishments together.”

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