Harvey-Blaszczyk pairing lived up to expectations
Four years ago. Two guards. An unguarded moment.
Incoming Benedictine University men's basketball player, Tahron Harvey felt assured when he realized he'd be sharing the backcourt with fellow DuPage Valley Conference product Michael Blaszczyk.
"Coach (Keith) Bunkenburg invited us to the same open gym and when I saw him I'm like, 'I'm playing with you? We're gonna be good,'" said Harvey, the DVC's most valuable player his senior season at Glenbard East in 2012-13.
Truer words have never been spoken. The 2015-16 Eagles squad that included Harvey, Naperville Central's Blaszczyk and since-graduated D3Hoops national player of the year Luke Johnson, out of Wheaton Academy, won its first 31 games until losing to St. Thomas in the NCAA Division III championship game.
This season No. 11 ranked Benedictine is 21-4 and finished 19-1 in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference to repeat as outright conference champion, following its 2014-15 title share.
"When I first recruited them I remember telling some people in our department, boy, if we get these two guards we're going to be something special, we can be really good. But you never know till you get them on the floor, get them in uniform," said Bunkenburg, the Eagles' 22-year coach, Naperville resident and 2015-16 D3Hoops national coach of the year.
"They've lived up to what we felt they could be coming out of high school," he said.
On Wednesday, Harvey was named Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference player of the year, averaging 18.8 points, 7 rebounds and 6.2 assists to earn his second first-team honor. Over four seasons the senior point guard is the first Benedictine player to amass 1,000 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists and 100 steals.
When on Feb. 18 the 6-3 Harvey scored 12 points with 12 assists and 10 rebounds in the Eagles' 78-67 win over Lakeland to cap the regular season, it was the 10th triple-double in NACC history. It came a couple weeks behind the ninth in history and first in 15 years at Benedictine, Blaszczyk's 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 103-76 win over Aurora University on Jan. 31.
A CoSIDA Academic All-District selection in accounting and finance, the 6-3 Blaszczyk earned his third first-team NACC honor on Wednesday. Averaging 16 points this season he's Benedictine's seventh leading all-time scorer, 33 points away from fifth in program history.
"We had a lot of potential coming in (to the season)," said Blaszczyk, joined in NACC honors by all-freshman selection Kenny Bogus of Lake Park and first-teamer Adam Reynolds of Minooka. Freshman Eric Grygo, of Addison Trail, averages 4.2 points.
"We never lost our confidence and we expected to do big things again this year," said Blaszczyk, known as "Blaze," naturally. "And now that conference is over it's playoff time, so we just have to focus on buckling down and making another run."
They've got momentum of a 10-game winning streak and the No. 1 seed in the NACC tournament. At 7 p.m. Friday at Benedictine's Dan and Ada Rice Center the Eagles host the winner of Wednesday's game between Milwaukee School of Engineering and Wisconsin Lutheran. The winner of the NACC Tournament championship, 2 p.m. Sunday also in Lisle, gets an automatic bid to the Division III Tournament.
"We don't want to leave it in the hands of the (selection) committee. We just want to win our next two and go from there," Bunkenburg said.
The runner-up can only hope fate smiles, as it did when Harvey and Blaszczyk decided to hoop it up together.
"It's definitely been one of the great experiences of my life, not just last year but all four years," Blaszczyk said. "I think every team is special. Every single year brought something different to the table and obviously this year isn't over yet so hopefully we can make it something special that we'll remember for the rest of our lives."
Moore the merrier
The DuPage Heritage Gallery, a neat little niche in the DuPage County government complex in Wheaton, announced on Jan. 28 that Wheaton Warrenville South senior receiver Cam Moore is the 2016 Red Grange Award winner.
The annual award is given to the District 200 high school football player who "best demonstrates a combination of athletic skill, sportsmanship and scholastic ability," the gallery's release stated.
Moore, who will play football at Division II power Grand Valley State, caught 44 passes for 1,003 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also threw 3 touchdown passes and ran for another score. All-DuPage Valley Conference and Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder made the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 7A All-State Team.
Moore will accept his award at the DuPage Heritage Gallery on or near Red Grange's birthday in June.
For those keeping score at home, Wheaton Warrenville South athletes have earned 18 Grange Awards (Jon Beutjer and Jon Schweighardt shared it in 1999), Wheaton North 15 and dearly departed Wheaton Central 6, Wheaton Warrenville 5.
Now for something completely different
The U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships will be held Thursday through Saturday at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. Ninety-four teams and nearly 1,700 athletes spanning juvenile to masters divisions will compete, according to U.S. Figure Skating.
Two of the best synchronized teams not only in the United States but in the world are the Haydenettes, out of Lexington, Massachusetts; and the university women from Miami (Ohio). They went 1-2 in the United States last year and went on to finish third and ninth, respectively, at the 2016 World Synchronized Championships in Budapest.
There is a local component to this.
Naperville North graduate Jordan Alexander, a student at Bentley University, is in her third season with the Haydenettes. So is Roselle's Samantha Pearsall, a Conant graduate attending Brandeis.
Miami has 15 Illinois skaters in its program. They include junior Brianne Safer of Waubonsie Valley, and junior Alyssa Presley, of Downers Grove North, both competing with Miami's Collegiate Team.
Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1