It’s only the first year of Kaneland’s “Day and Knight of Hoops” shootout, but Knights boys basketball coach Brian Johnson is setting the bar high.
Not only has Johnson helped organize an impressive tripleheader of varsity games, but also a full slate of bells and whistles to accompany them.
Among them: exhibition games by Kaneland’s youth basketball programs, participation by Kaneland’s high school and youth cheer squads, customizable event clothing, a 50-50 raffle and a draw-down raffle with a $2,000 grand prize.
The shootout will benefit the Wounded Warrior project, which helps wounded veterans and their families as they return home. Johnson said that idea came from one of the event’s volunteers, and “it just seemed that it made sense.”
“I think the big thing for us is we decided to donate all the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior project and give a little meaning behind what the shootout is going to be for. People are pretty excited about that,” Johnson said. “I received a lot of emails from people wanting to donate money or get sponsorships or do draw-down tickets just because of what we’re donating the money to. Once that started happening, you got a good feel for it.”
For the area’s basketball-lovers, the lineup of participating teams is incentive on its own to make the trip to Maple Park.
The night’s middle game – Larkin against North Chicago – will be one of the state’s top games Saturday, Johnson said, while the first (St. Charles North-Peoria Richwoods) and last (Kaneland-Hillcrest) games pit local teams against quality, out-of-area competition.
“I feel lucky to have gotten Hillcrest to come out,” Johnson said. “[Hillcrest coach Don Houston] is a great guy. Him being willing to play us for the final game, I thought that was important to have a program like Hillcrest come out and play. And I’ve known (Larkin coach) Deryn Carter since high school when he was at Larkin and I was at St. Ed. We were at a wedding and I told him we needed some teams for the event. I knew he was going to have a good team, and he was more than willing to come, and when I told him who I was thinking he could play against, he was all about it.”
Johnson expects at least some of the shootout’s field, including St. Charles North, to remain in the event going forward.
The Knights should receive a boost Friday against Yorkville and Saturday against Hillcrest with the return of sophomore guard Dylan Vaca, who has been out since late December with a wrist injury.
Vaca was Kaneland’s third-leading scorer behind seniors John Pruett and Ty Carlson.
Another Knight moving on: Cole Carlson is one of numerous Kaneland basketball players who also played football, and now he’s also among numerous Kaneland football seniors who will play in college.
The ball-hawking linebacker announced this week that he’ll play collegiately at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, a Division III program.
He follows several classmates who have made football commitments, including Joe Komel (Central Michigan), Justin Diddell (Indiana State), Tyler Slamans (Western Illinois), Brandon Bishop (Minnesota-Duluth), Gary Koehring (St. Cloud State) and Dylan Nauert (St. Cloud State).
Mooseheart-Curie game off: Mooseheart boys basketball’s showdown scheduled for Sunday against Class 4A state favorite Curie at Northside Prep’s Conference Challenge is canceled because of Curie’s scheduling conflict with the Chicago Public League playoffs, Ramblers coach Ron Ahrens confirmed Tuesday.
Ahrens indicated in an email that Mooseheart expects to still play Sunday against a replacement opponent, possible La Lumiere (Ind.) prep school or Niles Notre Dame.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.