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Elmwood Park Khalif Bentley (right) and Ian Nunez block a shot during the Chicago Academy and Elmwood Park boys basketball game at Elmwood High School on Friday, February 8, 2013. I Stacie Scott~for Sun-Times Media
A couple underclassmen have been chomping at the bit to show what they can do on the basketball court at the varsity level.
They recently made the most of an opportunity, and loved every minute of it.
Elmwood Park sophomore Ian Nunez and freshman Khalif Bentley came off the bench in an 82-27 rout of Chicago Academy Friday and showed the home crowd something that should make the future of Tigers’ boys basketball look a whole lot brighter.
The 6-foot-2 Nunez entered his first varsity game in the second quarter and immediately made his presence felt when he buried his first shot and followed with a 3-pointer a few minutes later. In the final period, Nunez again showed a soft shooting touch, swishing two more field goals and his second trey of the night, as he finished with 12 points.
“I give everything I have every time I go onto the court. I’ve been working on my 3-point shot and drive a lot lately and I happened to hit a few shots tonight,” Nunez said. “This team has a lot of good regulars who will be back next year and, with with a lot of hard work over the summer, we should be better next season.”
Nunez said basketball is a huge part of his life and he wants to continue to improve in every aspect and see the Tigers (7-14) do the same.
“I play a lot,” he said. “I play here, with my friends every day, and I work out a lot — it’s always basketball all the time. With all the talented juniors we have and the sophomores coming up, I think we should be able to turn things around. Tonight was lots of fun. I loved it.”
Bentley had been playing mostly with the sophomore team until a recent promotion to the varsity, and he made an immediate impact against Chicago Academy as the 5-8 guard scored a varsity-best 10 points.
“I think I earned a shot at varsity with my play on the sophomore team and I hope I can stay up here and contribute,” Bentley said. “I like my team, I think we are going to be really good. I work on my game every opportunity I can and I like to play with my friends a lot, too. But I had a lot of fun out there tonight, it was a great experience.”
Elmwood Park head coach Mike Wasliewski admitted he likes what he sees from the two young players.
“I think Ian and Khalif have a real bright future with us,” he added. “We brought them up because we needed some numbers after some guys dropped off the team. Khalif is a freshman, but he was averaging double figures at the sophomore level so we decided a while ago it was time to test him on varsity.
“He has been with us a couple of games now and he has shown quickness offensively, an ability to pass the ball, and he can really get to the basket. Ian has been solid at the sophomore level and came off the bench ready to play and really showed he can shoot the ball and he’s a leader.
“The young talent we have makes us hopeful and makes us to continue to want to work hard and get better.”~.