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Plainfield North forward Kurt Palandech has his shot blocked by LW North's Daryle Morgan. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Whenever the discussion turns to playing three sports, rather than specializing in one or perhaps limiting yourself to two, I think of our old friend Larry McKeon.
I played Little League baseball with Larry and was his classmate at Joliet Catholic. I always said I could not imagine him not being on the football field, the basketball court or the baseball diamond for the Hilltoppers.
McKeon played football at Illinois; that was his No. 1 sport. But he made good Joliet Catholic teams better on the court and the diamond as well.
A thought occurred as I covered Plainfield North in the round-robin basketball tournament it is hosting this week: Kurt Palandech is another Larry McKeon.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Palandech is the Tigers’ All-Area quarterback/defensive back. Quarterback is his No. 1 position, and the way he operates is not unlike what Jordan Lynch does for Northern Illinois or what Chandler Harnish did before him. Palandech will beat you with his legs or his arm, he is smart and he’s a leader.
In basketball, he is not a big scorer, so the headlines are for someone else. But he brings heart and toughness to the court night after night. In baseball, he is the shortstop and a top-of-the-lineup hitter.
“Kurt is physically and mentally tough,” North basketball coach Nick DiForti said. “For three years, he has always made the big play.
“He is not a super-skilled basketball player. But whatever he lacks, he makes up for in heart. He flat out competes.”
“Kurt is such a competitor that there were some games he hardly came off the field,” football coach Tim Kane said. “He never wanted to come off.”
Kane, who played football, basketball and tennis initially during his high school career before settling into football and tennis, is a proponent of kids being involved in multiple sports.
“Sports teaches kids how to compete and you don’t always get that in one sport,” he said. “There is a lot to be said for competing in multiple sports.
“But even more than that, I just like to see kids be active, whether it’s in another sport or in a good offseason program, it doesn’t matter. But it is nice to see a kid like Kurt, with his athleticism, be able to help everyone.”
Palandech’s teammate, Kendall Interial, came back to football for his senior year after skipping the fall sport as a junior. He also plays basketball and baseball and “he too lays it on the line every time he is on the floor,” said DiForti, whose team will meet T.F. North at 6:45 p.m. Friday and Lockport at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in its final two tournament games.
Palandech said he always has wanted to play three sports.
“My father was a three-sport athlete at Hinsdale South and I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” he said. “My brother (Kyle) was, too.”
Kyle, who is studying criminal justice at Western Illinois, was the Tigers’ senior quarterback when Kurt was a sophomore. When Kyle suffered a hand injury that prevented him from quarterbacking, Kurt stepped in.
“Little known fact,” Kurt said. “My first pass was to my brother in our playoff game.”
Palandech, who has played varsity basketball and baseball since his sophomore year, plans to visit Ivy League schools Yale and Cornell. He said Southeast Missouri State and Georgetown are in the mix for his services and Southern Illinois and North Dakota are among others expressing interest.
“I want to play quarterback,” he said. “I made that choice. Some schools wanted me as a defensive back. Of course, I love playing defense, too. But I feel quarterback is my position. I’m looking for a speed-type offense that wants me to be a dual threat.”
Palandech was sporting a large bandage on his chin this week. A meeting with the floor during an early tournament game produced a cut that required stitches. What’s new for a hard-nosed athlete?
“Those things happen,” he said with a smile. “They’re just more rare in basketball.”
When pressed, Palandech said basketball may be his third sport. But he plays the game with the same uncompromising vigor.
“I’m out there to guard people,” he said. “That’s my job.
“The only thing about basketball that hurts is the weight loss. But a lot of college coaches have told me that they like to see kids they are recruiting playing other sports.”
North baseball coach John Darlington, the offensive coordinator in football, was an excellent three-sport athlete at Morris. So he and Palandech have common ground.
“I spent a lot of time with coach D in the summer and talked to him a lot,” Palandech said. “He’s a great guy. He tells me all his stories from when he played.”