When Bobby Locke came to Evanston to coach the varsity boys basketball team in 2005, many critics asked if he was experienced enough to lead a team that used to be a powerhouse in Illinois. Coach Locke knew what he had to do to get this program back to the respectable status it once had — back to greatness.
In his first year, Coach Locke did not have everything working out for him; his new presence and completely new system eventually led to a 10-16 losing record. But although it was a disappointing season, Locke saw potential in three young men he knew would be special to the team and would grow into his system. They were 6’5″ center Travis Clark, 6’2’’ point guard Zach Morton, and 6’3’’ shooting guard Stephen Rudnicki.
The following year, those three players led the Wildkits to an unexpected 23-9 record and a trip to the Class AA Super-sectionals. Though they eventually lost to Marshall, the second season was a stepping stone for things to come.
The next year the Wildkits pulled off a 30-4 record, the team’s best season since 1984. They went downstate with those core players who fit the system perfectly and uncovered the formula for solid team play. In the semi-finals they played Zion Benton, widely considered to have the most talented team in the state, with great individual stars. The Kits started fast and the teams played their hearts out until the very end. It took a half-court shot by Zion Benton in the closing seconds to end the Kits’ title run by a hair; the Kits regrouped and won the third place game the next day.
That last season showed Coach Locke and his team’s potential. Now they have to keep up their consistent play to meet extremely high expectations. Some key players returning from last year’s magical run include senior big man Eric Dortch, sophomore point guard Garrett Jones, and key shooting guard junior Ryan Fraizer-Chambers. A new addition to the team is former Niles West Wolves star 6’6’’ Nick Garcia, who is sure to fill in the small forward spot and bring some major firepower to the offense.
If Coach Locke has not silenced his critics yet, this year should finally put away many of those questions asked when he got the job back in 2005. The team will most likely be ranked in the top ten in major Chicago newspapers and in publications all around the state because of what they did last year and their potential this year.
The team will start their season on Nov. 24 at the Lane Tech Tournament, facing Taft. Only five days later, the Wildkits will try to avenge themselves against the team that ended their championship run last season — Zion Benton.
This time they will make sure the game does not come down to a half-court shot.