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Mundelein Saturday, 1/5/13 Carmel's Kayla Quinn (52) tries to get past Fenwick's Kendall Boardman (35) during the second quarter of Saturday's game. Fenwick won the game, 66-62. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Brian Keegan isn’t playing basketball for Fenwick anymore, but he still gets to play one of his favorite sports once a week.
Keegan is a member of the King Cobras, a group of Fenwick boys recruited by Fenwick’s varsity girls basketball team to come out to practice and scrimmage against the Friars.
At the end of practices at least once a week, Fenwick girls coach Dave Power brings in the boys to raise the competition level for his Friars, ranked No. 13 by YourSeason. The pace is up tempo, the boys are not allowed to foul and even though Power makes on-the-fly substitutions with his girls, the same five boys remain on the court throughout the scrimmage. No score is kept.
Players must be seniors and are not allowed toss passes longer than half court. None of the Cobras plays for Fenwick’s boys basketball program, which often practices right before or after the girls.
“Part of (the nickname) is that we are willing to strike at anytime,” Keegan said. “You never know what is going on with us. We are all over the place.”
Boys practicing against varsity girls is nothing new, although Fenwick has been doing it for a few years. Shortly after taking over the Devils program in 1994, former Hinsdale Central girls basketball coach Steve Gross created the Generals, a nod to the hapless opponents of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Gross ruled that the Generals could not block shots if they were within three feet due to the difference in jumping ability. At Fenwick, Power prefers his girls to work on their pump fakes.
Gross, who would entertain all of his Generals basketball players with a season’s-end pizza party, recruited players from his social studies classes.
“You have to find the right kind of kid,” Gross said.
Current Hinsdale Central girls coach Tom McKenna has maintained the Generals tradition. This year’s team includes baseball player Matt Silk, football player Ben Herbst and baseball pitcher Adam Dessler, who signed with Purdue in November.
“We go as hard as we can,” said Aaron Walsh, another Devils baseball player. “We’re pretty much fast-break. There is no offense that we run.”
At least three Cobras, Keegan, Patrick Hart and Mike Nowicki, competed for the Friars as freshmen or sophomores, but have since given up basketball. Keegan is a catcher for the baseball team in the spring, Hart was an all-Catholic League linebacker who will play football at Penn next season and Nowicki was a senior captain for the boys soccer team in the fall.
“The girls organize it,” Keegan said. “They tell the seniors who to come and when they are needed.”
The girls basketball player who communicates the most with the Cobras is senior forward Kendall Boardman. The closest thing to a captain for the Cobras is Nowicki, who also plays point guard.
Nowicki, Hart and Keegan played basketball against each other before they came to Fenwick. Nowicki played for St. Luke in River Forest, Keegan at St. Giles in Oak Park and Hart, a Burr Ridge resident, at St. Isaac Jogues in Hinsdale.
“We do pretty well,” Keegan said. “Our boys are bigger than (the girls). That definitely helps the girls get better. They really know how to shoot.”
Other members of the Cobras include James Walsh, a lacrosse player, Nick Galla from the track and field and football teams, and John Lattner from football.
“It’s wonderful, but it’s got to be boring for them,” Power said of the Cobras. “They are such a big part (of what we do). It’s boring when we are scrimmaging against ourselves.”
Nowicki disagrees with the Friars’ coach.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Nowicki said. “I’d say on scale from 1 to 10, it’s probably a nine.”~.