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updated: 2/3/2014 7:56 PM

MSL East's top talent thriving at Harper

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  • Tyler Gaedele

    Tyler Gaedele

  • Stefan Vucicevic

    Stefan Vucicevic

By Jonathan Cregier

The Mid-Suburban League has seen many changes over the last 33 seasons, including a switch in divisions.

But through those changes, there's always been a constant: pride at having competed in the conference.

And the Harper College men's basketball team is harnessing some of that pride this season -- especially when it comes to the league's East Division.

Of the 10 players on the current Hawks roster, five come from the MSL East, including sophomores Tyler Gaedele (Rolling Meadows) and Stefan Vucicevic (Hersey). Both received interest from NCAA Division III schools and other junior college programs as high school players but opted to join Harper.

"We have a lot of the top players from those (MSL East) teams," Gaedele said.

Before joining the Harper program, a pair of Prospect grads -- Kevin Sexton and Will Botefuhr (a member of Prospect's 2011 MSL championship team) -- decided to try their luck at the NJCAA Division III level. Sexton was at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., while Botefuhr was at Elmhurst College.

It was a rough road for Botefuhr, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture and needed to redshirt the 2012-13 season.

"I thought going to a four-year school would be better for me, instead of coming (to Harper) and transfering somewhere," Botefuhr said.

Sitting out was "pretty difficult" for the the 6-foot-9, 280-pound post player last season. He considers himself about 70 percent healthy now but says, "It's still difficult to get into things."

Sexton's story is different.

"Carthage didn't turn out the way I wanted it to," the soft spoken Sexton said. "I thought I would come back here (Harper) and have a chance at playing at a higher level."

Another former Knight, Brad Reibel, is a business managment major. After high school, he joined the Illinois-Chicago soccer team before reconsidering.

"I realized I wanted to play basketball," Reibel said.

The common background of Harper's players ended up working in the team's favor. Sexton, Reibel and Gaedele all played basketball on South Middle School's basketball team, where they lost 2 games in as many seasons at the Arlington Heights school.

When it came time for Vucicevic to choose a place to play, he leaned on former Hersey and Harper standout Connor Miklasz. The versatile post player explained, "I just had a good feeling about the program."

With their current perspective on the high school days, all of Harper's MSL East products are thankful for the opportunities they had.

"I was lucky enough, and Ty was lucky enough, to play on teams whose focus was more on the offensive aspect of the game," Reibel said.

Sexton is the on-court facilitator of the Harper group. He, too, prefers a fast-paced game.

And those high school rivalries, well, they don't necessarily end when high school is over. All three Prospect players picked Rolling Meadows as the game they got most excited for in their prep years.

Botefuhr, meanwhile, tabbled Buffalo Grove as the toughest place to play, owing to the Bison's physicall style and raucous student section.

While Gaedele, Sexton and Reibel regularly are among Harper's scoring leaders, they depend upon Vucicevic and Botefuhr for reliable inside work.

"I loved playing against them (in high schol)," Vucicevic said of current teammates.

"When you play in the MSL," said Reibel "you pretty much know everybody. To some extent, you look forward to playing against people you know. The other half of you says, 'I don't know if I want to play against somebody I know.' "

And all of Harper's MSL East products think the tightly knit nature of competition in their high school years has helped them become a better team now.

It's been especially helpful to Sexton as he runs the Hawks' offense.

"It makes your job easier," he said.

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