Originally published March 3, 2006
Forget the Bulls. Forget the Blackhawks and DePaul and Loyola and UIC. Right now, the biggest sports star in Chicago is Glenbrook North guard Jon Scheyer.
You can see him on ESPN, hear him on ESPN Radio and read about him in ESPN Magazine. He’s on the front page of newspapers in Israel, and there are autographed pictures of him for sale on eBay.
Two weeks ago, when a Glenbrook North game was televised, it got better ratings than all five college basketball games on at the same time.
Scheyer, the Sun-Times Player of the Year, is a bona fide phenomenon.
“I think it’s his smile,” Glenbrook North coach Dave Weber said. “Obviously, people watch him because of how good he is, but I think they really enjoy the fact that he looks like he’s having fun doing it. I think that’s why so many little kids like watching him play.”
Scheyer is definitely quick with a smile, which has made him a fan and press favorite over his four-year career.
“He gets fan mail from little kids all the time,” Weber said. “And the media attention he got this year amazed me.”
A couple of years ago, Weber floated the idea of selling Scheyer jerseys at Glenbrook North games.
“Eventually someone probably will,” Weber said. “We could have made the school a fortune; a lot of kids would be buying them.”
No one would care about the smile if Scheyer didn’t have the skills to back it up. Scheyer will finish his high school career in the state’s all-time top 10 in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
He led the Spartans to third place in Class AA as a freshman and to the state title as a junior.
And a large part of that success is due to a lack of smiling in practice.
“I’m kind of a freak,” Scheyer said. “I have a real problem with my competitiveness.
“I’ve stormed out of the gym a few times in practice, gotten into a bunch of fights with teammates. It was hard for me when I thought sometimes they weren’t taking things serious enough. But it’s not just basketball; I’m like that with everything.”
According to Scheyer, the competitive monster behind the smile has chilled out a little with age.
“I think I’ve gotten better this season,” Scheyer said. “I love hearing stories about Michael Jordan and how he used to get in his teammates’ face in practice. But that’s something I’ve learned to control, when to be competitive and when not to. I realized it was a difficult thing for my teammates and my coach to deal with.”
Scheyer made an immediate impact on the prep scene. As a freshman, in his sixth varsity game, he scored 23 points to lead the Spartans in an upset win over No. 5-ranked Evanston.
At the time, Weber called it the biggest win for Glenbrook North in years.
There were plenty of big wins to come in Scheyer’s career, but it has been a handful of dazzling individual performances that have made Scheyer a household name.
His first signature performance came as a sophomore. On Dec. 20, 2003 against Thornwood at the Hillcrest Shootout, he scored 30 points. He had six three-pointers, four assists and three steals. He completely dominated the game, scoring or assisting on all but two of the Spartans’ field goals. After the game, Thornwood coach Bob Curran said Scheyer was the best player he’d seen all year.
Just a few days later at the Proviso West tournament, Scheyer topped that performance. He led the Spartans in an upset of Schaumburg with 38 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. That’s when area recruiting analysts began referring to him as ”the next Isiah Thomas.”
In March of his sophomore year, Scheyer’s legend grew when he had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a win over rival Glenbrook South — two days after suffering a concussion.
“[Scheyer] called me and said, `I’ll do anything to play — wear headgear, anything,” Weber said.
Scheyer’s junior year did not begin well. In December, at the KMOX Shootout — a high-profile national event in St. Louis — he shot just 5-for-17 from the field and 5-for-10 from the free-throw line. The Spartans defeated Jennings, the defending Missouri state champion, but the national scouts in attendance were not impressed. Despite everything he has accomplished since, Scheyer’s national ranking in the class of 2006 has never completely recovered from that performance.
Later that month, the Spartans were bounced from the Proviso West tournament in the first round by Evanston despite 41 points from Scheyer.
The Spartans rebounded well from the disappointing holiday showing: They didn’t lose the rest of the season. Scheyer’s scoring run through the playoffs was one of the most dominant performances in state-tournament history. He scored 48 in the supersectional against Waukegan, 35 against Brother Rice in the quarterfinals, 24 against Rockford Jefferson in the semifinals and 27 against Carbondale in the state final. He finished just nine points shy of Marcus Liberty’s all-time record of 143 points, set in the 1987 state tournament.
“I’d just like to thank everyone who chanted overrated at him,” Weber said after the state-title game. “He was so fired up this season.”
Scheyer acknowledges that the attention from the fans and the media got to him at times during his first few seasons.
“Sophomore and parts of junior year, it got to me a lot and bugged me,” Scheyer said. “The more media attention you get, the higher expectations are and the more critical people are of you.”
The entire Scheyer family got a taste of media madness in the summer of 2005. Every newspaper, radio station and recruiting Web site was hot on the family’s tail for news of Scheyer’s college commitment. Arizona, Duke and Illinois were his final three choices.
In April, some Web sites began speculating that Scheyer’s girlfriend was accepted at Duke, putting the Blue Devils in the lead.
One sports radio station erroneously reported that Scheyer had dropped Arizona. The other sports radio station prematurely reported that Scheyer had chosen Duke.
The decision came on May 17, 2005, at a press conference in the Glenbrook North library. There were seven television cameras and nine microphones in front of Scheyer when he chose Duke.
“When I was little, after Christian Laettner’s shot against Kentucky, I made my mom and dad go down in the basement and re-enact it,” Scheyer said. “My dad was Grant Hill, and my mom was Kentucky.”
This past December, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and assistant coach Chris Collins, the Sun-Times Player of the Year in 1992, were in attendance at Proviso West when Scheyer became a local prep legend.
He scored 52 points against the host Panthers, including 21 points in 75 seconds.
“I’ve been watching high school basketball for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” one fan said. “The memory of him hitting those shots, from all over the court, will live with me forever.”
After the game, Scheyer passed out in the locker room — dehydrated and exhausted. He ended up in the hospital, but made it to the Spartans’ game the next day by halftime. He scored six points and became the all-time leading scorer in tournament history.
“I haven’t missed any games in my high school career, and I wasn’t planning on missing one my senior year,” Scheyer said. “I wanted to leave the hospital after the first IV bag. My mom made me stay for the second bag.”
A week later, Scheyer was on the WGN morning show. The gag was, what else can Jon Scheyer do in 75 seconds? They had him tying shoelaces, making sandwiches, writing Coach K’s name on a blackboard. Then they whipped out a stopwatch and challenged him to do it again, score 21 points in 75 seconds.
“I figured the media attention would die down after I committed,” Scheyer said. “But things just got out of hand after Proviso West, [and] there was even more media. I figure it will prepare me for college.”
Scheyer’s career isn’t over. There is one playoff run currently in progress.
“Ending up on top is a big thing for me,” Scheyer said. “I’m not sure if it will affect how other people view me, winning one state title or winning two. Just winning one is so special. I’m excited to just go out and try again. Crazier things have happened.”
Jon Scheyer’s Signature Performances
– Dec. 11, 2002, vs. Evanston
Scored 23 points as a freshman to help Spartans upset fifth-ranked Wildkits.
– Dec. 20, 2003, vs. Thornwood
Had 30 points, four assists, three steals. Scored or assisted on all but two of the Spartans’ field goals.
– Dec. 28, 2003, vs. Schaumburg at Proviso West tournament
Had 38 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Comparisons to Isiah Thomas begin.
– March 5, 2004, vs. Glenbrook South
Returned from concussion two days earlier and had 30 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
– March 15, 2005, vs. Waukegan
Scored 48 points to break King star Marcus Liberty’s Class AA supersectional record of 41 points.
– March 19, 2005, vs. Carbondale
Scored 27 points in state-championship game, falls just nine points shy of Liberty’s record of 143 points in the state tournament.
– Dec. 28, 2005, vs. Proviso West
Scored 52 points, including 21 in the final 75 seconds of the game.
2006 Chicago Sun-Times All-Area Team
MARSHALL, 6-0 senior guard: Averaged 32 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals per game. Led Marshall to Red-West conference title and Public League Holiday Tournament championhsip. Selected to participate in the Roundball Classic.
PROVISO EAST, 6-11 senior center: Signed with Illinois. Averaged 18.4 points and 13 rebounds per game. Led Pirates to 21-5 record, undefeated season in West Suburban Silver. Selected to participate in the Roundball Classic.
THORNTON, 6-6 senior center: Signed with Oregon. Averaged 18.9 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Shot 60 percent from the field. Led Thornton to Elite Eight as a junior. Missed time this season with a deep thigh bruise.
CRANE, 5-10 senior guard: Signed with Kansas. Considered one of the top guards in the nation. Averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Led Cougars to Elite Eight as a junior. McDonald’s, Nike All-American.
PHILLIPS, 6-3 senior forward: Signed with Illinois State. Averaged 24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals per game. First-team All-Public League selection. Explosive athlete, earned rave reviews on summer circuit with Illinois Fire.
SIMEON, 6-5 junior center: Averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. Second team All-Public League selection. Helped lead Wolverines to Pontiac Holiday Tournament title and city title. One of the most dominant post players in the state.
BATAVIA, 6-5 sophomore forward: Averaged 17 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals per game. Shot 48 percent from the field, 85 percent from the free-throw line. Helped lead Batavia to the title at the Elgin Holiday Tournament and a 24-1 overall record.
WARREN, 6-3 senior forward: Signed with Northern Illinois to play football. Averaged 13.3 points per game. First-team all-tournament selection at Pontiac Holiday Tournament. Led Blue Devils to 23-2 record, undefeated in North Suburban Lake conference.
WASHINGTON, 6-4 senior forward: Averaged 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks per game. Led Minutemen to city-championship game and Red-East conference championship. Second-team All-Public League selection.
WEST AURORA, 6-2 senior forward: Possibly the most diverse player in the state. Lockdown defender, terrific passer, rebounder and scorer. Averaged 10.5 points per game while leading Blackhawks to 24-1 record and DuPage Valley championship.
ST. JOSEPH, 6-3 senior guard: Committed to Notre Dame. Averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists per game. Helped Chargers to Proviso West tournament titles in 2004 and 2005. Shot 51 percent from the field, 48 percent from three-point range.
PROVISO EAST, 6-1 junior guard: Averaged 17.6 points, 6.5 assists and five steals per game. Considered one of the state’s top defenders. Earned national recognition for his performance against Mike Conley, Greg Oden and Lawrence North (Ind.) in December.
HALES FRANCISCAN, 5-8 senior guard: Signed with California. Averaged 25 points, 4 assists, 3 steals per game. Helped Spartans to Class A state title his freshman and junior years. Has never lost a Class A playoff game.
SIMEON, 6-3 junior guard: One of the top juniors in the nation. Averaged 16 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists per game. Led Wolverines to Pontiac Holiday Tournament title, named tournament MVP. Led Simeon to 24-4 record and the city championship.
THORNRIDGE, 6-5 senior forward: Averaged 19.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Shot 42 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free-throw line. Excellent three-point shooter; made 70 threes this season. Led Thunderbirds to 18-8 record.
GLENBROOK NORTH, 6-6 senior guard: Signed with Duke. Averaged 32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3.3 steals per game. Led Spartans to third place in Class AA as a freshman and state title as a junior. McDonald’s and Nike All-American.
VON STEUBEN, 6-2 senior guard: Averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. One of the best three-point shooters in the state. Led Panthers to 23-5 record and the Public League semifinals. First-team All-Public League selection.
HOMEWOOD-FLOSSMOOR, 6-7 senior forward: Long, versatile player, averaged 15.3 points, 8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.1 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. Shot 51 percent from the field. Led Vikings to 23-3 record and the SouthWest Suburban Red title.
BOLINGBROOK, 5-11 senior guard: Signed with DePaul. Averaged 30 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists per game. Four- year varsity starter, led Bolingbrook to 21-3 record and the SouthWest Suburban Blue title. Selected for the Roundball Classic.
T.F. NORTH, 6-7 junior center: Averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Named to SICA South Silver All-Conference team. A terrific leaper who earned a reputation this season as one of the premier rebounders in the area.