The Harper College men's basketball program has a new leader, as Justin Welke has been announced as the Hawks' head coach.
He follows Tony Amarino, who retired following last season to cap a distinguished career.
Welke says he's ready for action, calling the Harper job, "a perfect opportunity for me."
Last season Welke served as boys varsity coach at Roycemore High School in Evanston. The Griffins finished 5-12 and bowed out in the regionals with a loss to Christian Liberty.
"I was prepared to be there for a long time," Welke said of Roycemore. "I wanted to explore options. I wanted to coach at the college level."
A self-proclaimed basketball junkie, Welke expects to do some learning on the fly as he gets acquainted with his new surroundings and goes about determining his staff. The new coach expects to work with Amarino in that process.
"We are going to have a lot of phone conversations over the next month," Welke said.
Last season's 17-14 team had a lot of talent, but much of it graduated. Welke is starting the process of talking with players who have eligibility remaining.
"We aren't going to have a lot of guys from last year's team," said Welke.
One trend the coach would like to see continue is players from the immediate area on the Harper roster.
"The Palatine, Arlington Heights area, there's a lot of talent there," said Welke, who also said he plans to have a good relationship with private schools such as St. Viator and Christian Liberty.
Despite the likelihood of essentially starting from scratch with next year's team, Welke has high expectations for the program.
"(I) want to win conference championships," he said.
Another expectation: Loyalty. He intends to provide it to his players, and expects it in return. That will be important if a beefed-up schedule becomes a reality.
"If we're really going to set a precedent," said Welke, "I want there to be an expectation we're going to play a high-caliber schedule."
The Hawks finished .500 against teams ranked in either the NJCAA Division II or III national polls last season, but Welke remains optimistic the team can find success in the North Central Community College Conference. He's planning a fast-paced style and aims to have his team ready to get up and down the court.
"If anything else, we're going to be the best-conditioned team," Welke said. "It's going to be exciting to watch."