BATAVIA - When former coach Jim Roberts helped concoct Batavia's Night of Hoops 20 years ago, it became a chance for basketball fans in the far western suburbs to see elite teams from Chicago and collar county schools that they would not normally see in person.
Through the years, many superstars from across the state played in the event, from Dee and Shannon Brown at Proviso East to Crane's Will Bynum to Simeon's Jabari Parker.
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"It's nice as a basketball junkie, and the community really loves it," said new Batavia coach Jim Nazos, the former Wheaton North coach. "The seniors have grown up watching various teams come in. It's a sense of pride for the community. They can't wait."
Saturday, the tradition rolls on with a tripleheader starting with St. Joseph and Wheaton North at 4:30 p.m.; two top suburban teams, Benet and West Aurora, at 6 p.m.; and capped off with the host Bulldogs taking on De La Salle at 7:30 p.m. All three games will be shown on CN100, The Comcast Network, on Sunday, Feb. 3. Visit cn100.tv for additional air times. You can also find the action throughout Chicagoland with Xfinity On Demand.
Roberts stepped down from his coaching post after 27 years last year for health reasons. But Roberts will be in the house on Saturday. For his service to the school and his help in turning the Night of Hoops into an anticipated annual event, the event will be renamed the "Jim and Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops" in a ceremony before the night's final game.
"They will be there," Nazos confirmed. "I've always viewed it as a first-class event (the only time he coached a team in the event was last year, a four-point loss to Benet), even more when I saw it on the inside. Everything is done first class and it's because coach (Roberts) took care of things."
St. Joe's, led by legendary coach Gene Pingatore, is hovering around .500 this season, but that doesn't mean the Chargers don't have the firepower. Center A.J. Patty is a force in the paint and smooth sophomore point guard Glynn Watson is one of the best sophomores in the state. He is the brother of former St. Joseph and Illinois star Demetri McCamey. Wheaton North is led by massive, 6-foot-11 center Andrew Zelis.
De La Salle has seen an exodus of star players in the past few years, but Minnesota-bound Alvin Ellis remains, making the Meteors a strong team even without the likes of Jaylon Tate (Simeon), Alex Foster (Seton), Demarcus Richardson (Curie) and Gavin Schilling (Las Vegas Findlay Prep). Batavia started out 2-7 this season, but the Bulldogs have won seven of their last eight games.
"We don't see teams like this," Nazos said of De La Salle. "It's exciting to play a team like this and see where you're at. We've taken strides every week and it's a team that will continue to get better. They really like to be challenged."
The marquee match-up is the middle game, Benet and West Aurora, who are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 respectively by the Daily Herald. Benet is led by junior center Sean O'Mara, one of the top prospects in the state. Senior Pat McInerney is also having a huge season.
West Aurora, which beat St. Joseph at the Sears Centre last Saturday, is coached by a legend as well in Gordie Kerkman. The Blackhawks are led by junior point guard Jontrel Walker and senior center Josh McAuley.
- Paul Johnson, CN100 Correspondent
CN100, The Comcast Network, broadcasts high school sports each week on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. All games are also available with Xfinity On Demand, where you can relive all the action of your favorite school's game on CN100.
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