Saturday, March 10, 2007

Jumping on their back in March

POINT #1 .... A big part of a team's success in March has a lot to do with star players rising to the top and carrying a team, especially during sectional basketball. We are seeing that again this March in the Class AA sectionals and none more so than at Glenbard West, a team that really came together down the stretch of the regular season and is now playing in the Sweet 16.

Glenbard West, which has zero depth and little basketball tradition, has hardly been a blip on the radar this winter and has received little appreciation and respect from the Chicago media. Yet here they are, one win from reaching Peoria after preparing themselves in a tough West Suburban Silver Conference. The biggest reason? The emergence of 6-8 junior John Shurna, who has been absolutely dominating in state tournament play.

Shurna showed great potential last year as a sophomore. He was slowed just after the season started with an injury but has come on like gangbusters since. Although very thin and not real strong, Shurna possesses a solid skill package, great hands and a feathery touch around the basket. He's a true difference-maker and has put Glenbard West on his back at times and carried them. I now believe Shurna, who could very easily end up 6-10, is a mid-major prospect at worst and has elevated himself into the top 15 prospects in the relatively weak junior class.

Shurna is the big reason Glenbard West is still alive, although not the only reason. They are big and strong. Northwestern football recruit Kevin Watt, a high-energy player, has overachieved on the basketball court and has been spectacular in the postseason. They also don't make mistakes or turn the ball over, receiving much better guard play than anyone anticipated. Each possession has a purpose, which is so important in March. And why they are still Peoria dreaming.

POINT #2 .... Right there with Shurna in helping lead his team into the Sweet 16 is Thornton's Mustapha Farrakhan. This is another team no one truly believed would get past the likes of a T.F. North or Thornwood in the sectional. Farrakhan, though, has that capability of taking over games with his scoring ability. He hits big shots, scores in crucial situations and has shown he's more than just a perimeter shooter.

POINT #3 .... And finally, is there any player whose back you would want to ride more than Derrick Rose of Simeon? What makes Rose even more special this season is the fact he's already been there and done it during last year's run to a state championship. Add that championship, big-game experience to all the talent Rose brings to the floor each night and opposing teams are truly an underdog in any matchup with the Wolverines.

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