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Druley: Michigan latest campus tour for Geneva boys hoops

Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 5:32 a.m. CDT

Geneva added Michigan to its summer boys basketball team camp tour this past weekend.

DePaul, Illinois-Chicago and Wisconsin came before it. The Vikings figure those trips can only help what happens next.

“I don’t think there’s any team that’s doing what we’re doing this summer,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “I think we’ve tried to push the pedal to the metal as much as we can. This year was about using our 25 days [of IHSA-approved summer contact] and maximizing them as best we possibly could, and I don’t know many other teams that are going to four college team camps in one summer.”

The Vikings typically attend one team camp each offseason, but with juniors Nate Navigato (forward) and KJ Santos (wing) becoming increasingly bigger blips on Division I recruiters’ radars by the shot, Ralston thought some extra northern (and eastern) exposure couldn’t hurt.

Still, that doesn’t trump the Vikings’ team focus.

“We certainly have a lot of nice pieces, and we want to try to push us so we can actually achieve something we haven’t in a long time,” Ralston said.

That would be a regional title, hardware that’s eluded the program since the 1985-86 season.

Geneva flirted with the feat in March as an underdog 12th seed pushing eventual supersectional qualifier West Aurora in the 4A Wheaton Warrenville South Regional title game.

The road to improving upon the Vikings’ 21 victories in 2012-13 began last month with a souped-up travel schedule as well as important matters closer to home.

Last week, the Vikings advanced to the tournament finals of their 5-year-old summer league for the first time, losing to Larkin, 54-51. Geneva took about as long to reflect on that result as the two-minute, running-clock overtime it needed to defeat St. Charles North in the semifinals, but there will be plenty more absorption in the weeks before.

“We’ve got to get better in our press, better in our offenses. Kind of a learning experience for the season,” Navigato said. “Things we can do more of, things we can do less of. Know our players and how we can play.”

A top-eight finish among 48 at Wisconsin’s team camp offered glimpses of what that could be.

A week later, the Vikings were bound for the campus of one of the Badgers’ Big Ten rivals, Michigan.

“We’re doing everything we can to get our kids battle-ready for the coming season,” Ralston said. “We’ve had certainly more highs than lows, but it’s kind of shown us the areas where we’re deficient, and what we need to really work on this coming season.”

Wheaton Academy adds Olympian to coaching staff: Jim Spivey, former U.S. middle distance runner and three-time Olympian, will team up with Wheaton Academy’s Chris Felinski, 13-year veteran cross country assistant coach and 2000 Wheaton Academy graduate, to co-lead the Warriors’ cross country team, the school announced Monday.

Spivey competed in the 1984, 1992 and 1996 Olympics and has held head coaching positions at the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University.

Felinski, of Wayne, has been the assistant cross country coach at Wheaton Academy for the past 13 years. During that time he has trained varsity boys who have qualified for state final races four times with a school best finish of 16th place in 2007. In his new role as co-coach with Spivey, he will continue to train and coach athletes, and will also handle day-to-day responsibilities, as well as serve as meet manager for all home cross country and track meets.

“We are excited about our kids having the best of both worlds; an on-campus coach fully capable of assuming head coaching responsibilities, working under the leadership of an experienced college coach and Olympian,” Head of School Gene Frost said in a news release.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com.

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