Fox All-Area Boys Basketball Captain: Drew Scharnowski, Burlington Central
It didn't take long for Drew Scharnowski to make his presence felt on the basketball court this season.
Try the first preseason practice scrimmage in early November.
"We were only a couple minutes into practice, and I was guarding Drew," recalled Burlington Central senior forward Nic Gouriotis. "We were right under the basket, and he just reverse dunked over me. I was like, 'OK, so that's how it's going to be this season.'"
Scharnowski enjoyed one of the best individual seasons in school history while leading the Rockets to a 29-6 record that included their third consecutive Fox Valley Conference title and second straight Class 3A regional championship.
The 6-foot-9 senior forward/center averaged 23.1 points per game, amassing 761 points - good for second on the Rockets' all-time, single-season list - while grabbing 8.6 rebounds per outing, and adding 3.1 assists and 2.4 blocks per contest.
For his efforts, Scharnowski has been named the Captain of the Daily Herald's 2022-2023 Fox All-Area Boys Basketball Team.
"Drew is a unique player," said Rockets coach Brett Porto. "Just his presence on the court was a huge factor for us.
"He's such a tough matchup because of how well he moves with or without the ball. It's tough to collapse on him because of his ability to pass and dribble. Drew will look to you - sometimes to a fault. He's kind of like a point guard at heart."
That versatility began to shape during his middle school days when he stood at about the same height as his teammates.
"Matthew (Lemon) and I were point guards in middle school," said Scharnowski. "Looking back, it definitely helped to develop guard-like skills that have stayed with me."
Scharnowski comes from an athletic - and basketball intensive - background.
His dad, Haug, played NCAA Division II basketball at St. Cloud State (Minn.) before playing professionally in Germany. His older brothers, Sam and Max, played basketball at Wheaton Academy - Max currently is a member of the nationally ranked University of Alabama basketball team.
His mom, Cyndi, was a collegiate swimmer at the University of Cincinnati.
Height is another family trait.
"My dad is 6-7," said Scharnowski. "My brother, Sam, is 6-7, and Max is 6-6.
"I was around 5-11, 6-foot, my freshman year, and then I had a huge growth spurt during COVID. At the start of my junior year, I was 6-6, 6-7."
Scharnowski received an early introduction to the sport.
"I've been playing basketball as long as I can remember," he said. "My dad has played a huge part in my career. I've always looked up to him. I also remember my two brothers beating me up playing basketball in our driveway.
"I appreciate it now."
This past season, it was Drew's turn to inflict pain on his opponents.
"He had so many 'wow' moments," said Porto. "There was a three-game stretch midway through the season against Crystal Lake South, Hampshire and South Elgin where Drew must have had 15 dunks in the first three quarters of those games.
"All different varieties of dunks. It was the most dominant thing I've ever seen."
Something that helped turn Burlington Central games into must-see events this season.
"Every game was like a highlight reel," said Gouriotis, who will play basketball at Lawrence University (Wis.) next season. "It was just crazy. As one of his teammates, you kind of got used to it. I'm glad he was on my team."
"There was a moment when we played Jacobs the first time, and Drew trailed me in transition," said Lemon, who set Rockets' single-season assist and steals records this season. "I put the ball off the backboard, and he dunked it for an 'and-one.'
"This season was so much fun. It was a true joy having him as a teammate."
Scharnowski, who finished his career with 1,228 points - good for 8th on the Rockets' all-time scoring list - was at his best when his team needed him most.
During the Rockets' 68-54 regional championship victory over Wauconda, Scharnowski's final stat line read - career-high 35 points, 17 rebounds, and 8 blocked shots.
"Any time we needed a play on both ends, Drew provided it," said Porto.
Whether it was scoring his 1,000th career point on a breakaway reverse dunk against Crystal Lake Central, signing autographs for grade-school kids, or going out for postgame meals with teammates at Portillo's, Scharnowski enjoyed every minute of it.
"It was the most fun I've ever had in my life," he said. "So many memories that will stick with me forever. It was everything you dreamed for.
"Coach Porto and my teammates put a lot of faith in me."
Scharnowski, who recently received Class 3A All-State honors from the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Association, as well as AP 3A second team All-State accolades, earned it all, according to his coach.
"Over the course of the past two years, his work ethic is unmatched," said Porto. "He would be in the gym at 6 a.m. putting up shots with Nic, and they'd do the same thing after practice. After our games, him and Nic would be in the weight room lifting for an hour.
"I hope our juniors, underclassmen and middle schoolers understand how much time they put into it."
Scharnowski has turned his attention to next season, where he will attend and play basketball at NCAA Division I Belmont University in Nashville.
"When I visited the campus, I had that feeling that Belmont was the right fit for me," said Scharnowski, who also visited Illinois State, Furman, and William & Mary, among others.
"The initial plan is to redshirt for a year, but I'd love to play right away, and I'm going to work my butt off to do that."
"I think Belmont got a steal," said Porto. "He's so long and so skilled - he checks a lot of boxes.
"The sky is the limit for him. He's just scratching the surface."
Scharnowski certainly left a permanent mark on the Rockets' program.
"I don't know if I'll ever have anyone else like him," said Porto.