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At 8-11, Rich Central does not rank among the top teams in the Southland.
However, the Olympians can take some satisfaction in that many of their losses came against quality competition, namely Brother Rice (15-2), Neuqua Valley (18-1), Bloom (15-3), Crete-Monee (14-5) and Orr (15-2), all of whom rank among the top teams in the state.
Central coach Bobby Smith is hoping there is a payoff.
“We’re trying to put a system in place here,” he said. “We’re trying to build something and make the kids realize it’s special playing for Rich Central. There’s some history here and we want to be that program again.”
Smith was a part of that history as a member of the Olympians squad that finished runner-up to King in Class AA in 1986.
Smith has no issues with his team’s work ethic. He does, however, question some of their decisions on the court.
“These kids play hard, but not always smart,” Smith said.
That’s in stark contrast to how many of the players are performing in the classroom. Senior Jalen Miller has scored a 28 on the ACT, while Munang Ekoi and McKinley Marseille both registered a 26.
“There are some very smart, dedicated kids on this team,” Smith said. “I tell them, ‘You can be a great basketball player and a great student.’ ”
One player Smith thinks is destined for greatness is junior William Berry.
“He can really shoot the ball, but if he keeps working he can develop into a silky smooth shooter,” Smith said.
Sandburg more competitive
While the return of junior Malek Harris has made Sandburg a far more competitive squad, there’s also been an adjustment period, according to coach Todd Allen.
“We’re starting to get settled some,” Allen said. “This is Malek’s sixth game back, and we’re adjusting to playing with him.
“Obviously, we’re a much better team with him. He’s just so talented.”
The Eagles lost all 11 games Harris had to sit out to start the season for a school-related matter. They’re 3-3 since his return.