Hoping to continue Stevenson’s recent success streak, the basketball team aims to win the state title this year.
With the recent state championship for the football team still fresh in their minds, Stevenson fans now look eagerly toward the boys basketball team to see if they can continue this trend. Having come just short of a state title in the last two years, the 9th nationally ranked basketball team aims to answer the fans’ hopes this year during the upcoming season.
While achieving at a high-level in the post-season is one of the team’s goals, Patrick Ambrose, head Boys Varsity Basketball coach, said that they try to focus more on improving the little things like team chemistry and improvement of individual players.
This goal of focusing on the team’s improvement is echoed in Ryan Rosenbaum’s ’15 personal goals for the season.
“I want to help our team win in any way I can,” Rosenbaum said. “I’m not trying to get great stats or accomplish anything individually. I just want to give us the best chance to win when I’m on the court.”
Rosenbaum plays forward and is one of nine seniors on the varsity team this year. The experience of the varsity players has created a very strong team dynamic, Rosenbaum said.
“The core has been together for three or four years, and we all want to play for each other and win for each other,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s a really close team, so that helps us on the court too.”
For these seniors, it is their last chance to win state, and this year, they believe they are prepared to do it, Rosenbaum said. This is because they have a little more size than last year. Also, two of their biggest competitors, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and Curie Metropolitan High School, had several great senior players graduate last year, leaving Stevenson in a better position to win state, Rosenbaum said.
Ambrose is most excited to watch these seniors go through the season together. This year’s group is composed of talented players and great kids, Ambrose added.
However with so many seniors, Ambrose said one of the greatest struggles of the season will be determining playing time and developing the right combination of players in each game.
Another challenge facing the team is the need to continue to develop the younger players and prepare them to step up once the seniors leave, Ambrose said.
“It’s a balance of continuing to develop and play [the younger players] so that the future is not barren but at the same time capturing what we want to capture with the seniors,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose hopes if the juniors do not play much, they will continue to develop at practice by following the example of the seniors.
This idea of leadership is emphasized in the athletic department, Athletic Director Trish Betthauser said. Freshmen have greater success because they see the success of the seniors.
As a freshman on the varsity team last year, Justin Smith ’17, said that it was a little intimidating at first, but ultimately he became comfortable.
“Playing with mostly seniors is a good experience because you get to learn from them as a younger player,” Smith said.
Ambrose is looking forward to the conference games. One of the most highly anticipated games, Ambrose said, is the game against Lake Forest. Last year, the team beat Lake Forest in double overtime so Ambrose foresees the game this year being just as difficult. Other skilled teams in the conference that Ambrose is looking forward to playing include Lake Zurich and Zion-Benton.
Also on the upcoming schedule for the team are two national tournaments in January. Ambrose said that the team was asked to compete in several national tournaments this year, but they decided on one in West Virginia that is run by a cancer hospital to help raise funds. The other is the Hoop Haul Classic in Massachusetts. Both tournaments are long-standing, prestigious tournaments.
Ambrose is looking forward to the team bonding these tournaments will provide, as well as the philanthropic and entertaining aspects to each tournament.
As for the state title, Betthauser believes that any type of success is slightly contagious, not only on the courts and fields of the athletic programs, but also in the classroom and even socially. With the recent high school rankings and football championship, Stevenson has so much to be proud of, Betthauser said. She hopes that this success can catapult other teamd to success, such as that of the basketball team. And so far it has. Both the boys and the girls basketball seasons are off to undefeated starts this winter season.
However, Betthauser said that ultimately the true success comes in the journey teams take together. Ambrose also hopes that great players and a state title will not be the only result of this journey.
“We want to develop players as people,” Ambrose said. “We hope they pick up some character like discipline, determination and dedication.”