Five games in two days. A near upset of heavily-favored Stevenson in the championship bracket on Thursday and an overall 2-3 record.
For the most part, that sums up the two days of activities for the Morris basketball team at the 28th annual Morris Shootout.
In between games, long before the first whistle and long after the echo of squeaking sneakers has subsided, members of the Redskins basketball team were helping work the event, as well.
After the locals had finished their final game of the day on Thursday, and while he was keeping the scoreboard in the middle court of the District 101 Recreation Fieldhouse, Morris senior Brock Kukman engaged the MDH in this week’s question and answer session.
Q. So, how do you think the Morris team did at the shootout this year?
A. We did really well, I think. It was a better showing than I thought we would. We took advantage of the opportunities given to us and we beat some teams that we should have. And I think we should have pulled out that win against Stevenson, but sometimes things just don’t go the way you want them to.
Q. You’re here all day long, in addition to playing, right?
A. We’ve been working the shootout the whole time and playing in it. We’re here from like 30 minutes before the shootout until like an hour after it. We’re constantly working the entire time.
Q. That must feel good though that a lot of the money from the event goes right back into the program?
A. It’s goes toward us getting our jerseys, gear, basketballs, Gatorade, so it all works out. It’s not too much to ask for the players to put the time in and help out.
Q. Tell me about your summer schedule. How much have you guys played up until this point?
A. We’re played two or three games every Tuesday and Thursday night. Games for us to get some reps in. We’re here at home, either playing in the field house or in the main gym. Last week we went to Olney. That was an eight-game trip and it was nice to see the competition down south. We played decent, but we could have played a lot better.
Q. So does the summer schedule end today?
A. It ends today. We’re done.
Q. Do you like the way the summer schedule is set up?
A. Yeah, I like it because we got a lot of games. Practice is good, but once you get into a game, you start to get a really good feel for what the team can do.
Q. How long have you been playing basketball?
A. I’ve been playing basketball since kindergarten. I played at the YMCA in Dixon.
Q. When did you move to Morris?
A. I moved to Morris when I was in kindergarten. I moved from Lanark, Ill.
Q. Do you remember playing ball for the first time here in town?
A. I played for the Little Hoopsters. It’s a high school program that they don’t have any more.
Q. Did you start playing with some of your current teammates at that time?
A. Sam (Allen) and Nick Evola, who doesn’t play any more, were playing. Conlan Callahan from Seneca was there.
Q. Your first organized ball outside of the Y was where?
A. It was for Shabbona Middle School. That’s when I first started playing organized ball.
Q. Did you guys have success over the years?
A. We did have some success, but we really weren’t the best team. We made it to the regional championship in the seventh grade but lost.
Q. What’s the biggest transition from grade school to high school?
A. The speed of the game and the fact that you are going to see the best players every night. In grade school, you’d see good players, but not like at the high school level.
Q. You’ve played other sports over the years. Which other sports have you played?
A. I played football and soccer in grade school and I’ve always played baseball. Right now I’m playing baseball on the varsity team and running cross country.
Q. Talk about this year’s (basketball) team. There’s a lot of juniors out (10) and a lot of depth.
A. The benefit is that we get a lot of reps at practice. That helps because we’ve installed a new press where we are going to try and get teams out of their rhythm this year. We’re also going to get up and down the floor and it helps to have a lot of kids coming in and out.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge in getting to learning to play with so many new teammates?
A. The biggest challenge is the fact that we don’t know their strengths and weaknesses right away. It may take a couple of games to figure that out.
Q. Finally, what would be your best advice to some kids who wanted to play sports for Morris High School some day?
A. Just keep working at it. Try your hardest. And don’t quit. Even if you think your the best player out there, just go out and play hard all the time.