A week ago, I introduced you to three local student-athletes preparing to play basketball at the collegiate level — Jimmy David and Peyton Schrag of Seneca and Ben Ortiz of Morris.
There was a bit of an ironic background to the three that I didn’t include in the coverage. I’ll share it with you here.
Both David and Schrag were standouts on the Fighting Irish football team and gave some consideration to playing football at the next level. Schrag quarterbacked the Irish for three years, and David was a receiver and defensive back.
“I thought about football for a while, but I think I knew I was always going to do basketball,” Schrag said. “The question for me was whether I wanted to try to do both. In the end, I think the schedule would have been too rigorous.”
Ortiz, meanwhile, was as basketball-focused an athlete as I can remember covering. Even Division I hoopsters like Garrett and Griffan Callahan and Seth Evans played other sports during their prep careers. For Ortiz, it was all basketball, all the time — and according to Morris head coach Joe Blumberg, it was that way by choice.
“I think you see some families pushing young athletes, in grade school even, to specialize in a sport with an athletic scholarship as the end-all, be-all goal,” Blumberg said. “That wasn’t the case here. Ben played and played and played because he loves the game of basketball, and I think Tim and Karen (Ben’s parents) helped him keep his priorities in line.”
I used the word ironic earlier because Ortiz comes from a school where, while the basketball program has made strides under Blumberg, football is king. Conversely, I don’t think many people would dispute the notion that Seneca is a basketball school, though football is certainly not an afterthought there. Still, if a standout athlete was to devote himself entirely to basketball at one of the two schools, I think one would expect it to be Seneca.
Well, they’ll all be devoting themselves to basketball now. David is headed to Illinois Valley Community College. Ortiz and Schrag will do so at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill.
For Ortiz, it will be another chance to be a basketball player in a place most would associate with football. The Chicago Bears are headquartered in Lake Forest .