By Joe Henricksen
As those that took in Proviso East’s run to the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout title this past weekend, the question was just who was going to coach this talented team next winter?
As the Hoops Report reported in a May 19 blog, the head coaching position at Proviso East — and all coaching positions throughout the school district, including those at Proviso West — were opened up. All 19 head coaches in the district were asked to re-apply for their coaching positions, including David Chatman, the head basketball coach of the Pirates.
But without a coach in place at one of the most tradition-rich basketball schools in the state of Illinois, the Pirates rolled to the R-B Shootout championship. While summer titles don’t mean much of anything in the grand scheme of a high school basketball team’s season, it does confirm the fact Proviso East will be one of the top five teams in the Chicago area when the season tips off this November.
Proviso East pounded Morton on Sunday and then knocked off surprising St. Joseph in the title game, 62-52, after going 3-0 in pool play Saturday.
While Sterling Brown, a deserving and recognized top talent statewide in the Class of 2013, and senior-to-be Keith Carter are the two names everyone is familiar with, the Pirates possess talent and balance. And they’re extremely quick.
The lack of size may come into play at some point, with rugged and athletic 6-4 Trashaun Carroll really the only presence the Pirates have inside. But the relentless speed and quickness Proviso East can throw at you is impressive. Both of Proviso East’s hotshots –Brown and Carter — had their moments at R-B and remain the catalysts, but senior Mike Nicholas and junior Paris Lee are two small, quick guards that get a whole lot done and pose problems for opposing defenses.
Nicholas, a 5-9 senior, scored 20 points in the title game win over St. Joseph and pumped in 20 in a win over St. Ignatius and 22 in a win over Eisenhower. He was an unsung player for the Pirates a year ago as a knockdown three-point shooter. And this year, with so much of the focus directed towards Brown and Carter, two unselfish stars, Nicholas will once again be spotting up on the perimeter and knocking down shots. He’s a perfect complement to Carter, Brown and Lee, a jet-quick 5-9 junior guard who constantly puts pressure on opponents with his ability and smarts.
When November rolls around in Maywood, the anticipation of the high school basketball season will be extremely high. This has been the case for 50 years at Proviso East, starting with coach Tom Millikin in the 1960s and continuing on with legendary coaches like Glenn Whittenberg and Bill Hitt throughout the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
Since Hitt stepped down following the 1992-1993 season, Andrew Johnson (6 years), Troy Jackson (3 years) and David Chatman (8 years) have led the program. There has been continued success at Proviso East, but there are a couple of glaring differences when it comes to the basketball program’s different eras and comparing Millikin, Whittenberg and Hitt to Johnson, Jackson and Chatman.
Millikin, Whittenberg and Hitt all won state championships — four in all — and made multiple trips to the state finals. But since Hitt led back-to-back teams to state titles in 1991 and 1992, Proviso East has yet to return to either Champaign or Peoria in March. That’s a nearly 20-year drought at a school where in the previous 35 years the longest state finals drought was nine years.
While Chatman’s status is up in the air, with some close to the program saying he will not return, a new coach — former Proviso East great Donnie Boyce’s name continues to be floated around — could inherit a loaded team. And whether it’s Chatman, Boyce or some other first-year Pirate coach, the hope will be, even with an always difficult tournament road, to get past the supersectional next March and return to the state finals for the first time in 20 years.
The Hoops Report will have more from the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout in coming days.