After finishing in second place in the IHSA Class 4A State tournament last season, the Evanston Township High School boys basketball team has hopes of matching that level of success in the 2019-20 campaign.
In order to accomplish that, head coach Mike Ellis says the keys will be to take it one day at a time and to get better every day. Another key will be the development of the team’s leadership, according to Coach Ellis.
“Our goals are basically day by day trying to improve and get better,” said Coach Ellis. “One of the keys is going to be the evolution of our leadership and the growth of the newer players. And I think those two goals are coordinated hand in hand. So you talk about Isaiah Holden, Blake Peters, Jaylin Gibson, those are guys that have been on varsity since their freshmen year, and also the return of Elijah Bull. Those four guys have varsity experience going back to their freshmen year, so it is going to be their abilities and strengths to bring everyone else along. Also in terms of their development, make sure they are productive in that role.”
Regarding what needs to happen for the Wildkits to make another trip to the State final tournament, Coach Ellis said, “Maybe under a different set of circumstances, but I doubt we are going to be the preseason favorite in our Sectional. Last year we were, and the year before that we were not [but both seasons resulted in a Final Four appearance],” explained the Coach. “So it does not matter what others think of us. For us to return to Peoria, it is going to weigh heavily on the shoulders of those veterans that have been on varsity for the last couple years [along with the aforementioned development of leadership and getting better every day].”
The 2019-20 campaign is set to begin on Nov. 26 when the Kits take on Libertyville as part of the St. Viator Thanksgiving Tournament. The Kits’ other opponents in that tournament include Conant (Nov. 27), Prospect (Nov. 29) and St. Viator (Nov. 30).
Other notable games on the schedule for the Kits include the Central Suburban League South Conference opener against Glenbrook North on Dec. 5 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston, followed by a matchup with Notre Dame on Dec. 6 as part of the Chicago Elite Classic at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. T
he Kits then take on archrival New Trier on Dec. 13 in Evanston. After that matchup, the Kits play Orr High School on Dec. 15 as part of the Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel. The Kits will also participate in the Centralia High School Holiday Tournament from Dec. 26 to 28. Then later in the season, the Kits visit New Trier as part of the War on the Shore on Jan. 18 in Winnetka. The Kits also meet Bloom on Jan. 25 as part of the When Sides Collide event at Glenbard East, Hamilton on Feb. 8, Kenwood on Feb. 18 and the CSL Crossover at Niles North on Feb. 25 to close out the regular season.
When asked which teams or tournaments they have circled on the calendar this season, Coach Ellis said, “We shared our schedule with the guys the other day and you go down the line with the teams we are going to play and it seems like once a week we are playing a top 20-ranked team in the Chicago area.”
The Coach explained, “Having been to the State final tournament the last two years, there is going to be a lot of schools that are pointing in our direction saying that is a team that has been there before and try to use that [as motivation] to play well against us. But honestly, it is about us taking care of our business.
“That is the reason we put our schedule together that way. If we are going to just worry about what we can control and worry about ourselves, the best way to do that is to go out and test ourselves all season long and grow from that.”
If all goes to plan, look for the Kits to be in position to make yet another lengthy postseason run come early March.