Geneva became an unlikely powerhouse during Phil Ralston’s nine-year tenure as head coach. The Vikings have posted five consecutive 20-win seasons and finished fourth in Class 4A in 2015.
The wins don’t tell the entire story. Ralston, along with his fellow Upstate Eight River coaches, helped turn the tri-cities into a basketball hotbed thanks to a fan-friendly, up-tempo style of play.
This past week Ralston left Geneva to take over Glenbrook South’s program. The Titans finished 9-18 last season and haven’t been a notable team since Jack Cooley graduated in 2009.
Ralston coached at Grant for 11 years before arriving at Geneva in 2008. He isn’t the typical high school basketball coach. There was a quote from Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson in the press release announcing his departure. Ralston also posted a letter on Twitter thanking the Geneva community and saying goodbye.
Geneva’s feeder program is strong, but it will be difficult for Ralston’s successor to match his achievements. He was 193-77 in nine seasons and won the conference three times.
“I had always thought I would finish my teaching and coaching career at
Geneva, but sometimes an opportunity comes along that you simply can’t refuse,” Ralston, a Glenbrook North grad, said. “Glenbrook South is one of the few places that could have enticed me to leave Geneva. Glenview is a fantastic community, and GBS has a reputation as a great place to teach. The school’s athletic facilities are top-notch and I’ve been very impressed with the school leadership. The team plays in the Titandome, which is one of the most unique and top venues in the state.”
THE SILLY SEASON
The spring transfer market was much slower than usual. The two biggest moves both benefitted Curie. The Condors picked up sophomore guard Marquise Walker from St. Joseph and 6-5 junior Jayden Gasby from Urban Prep-Englewood.
Walker had an up and down sophomore season, but led the Chargers to Peoria as a freshman. Gasby’s transfer is a significant blow to UP-Englewood. The Lions were expected to take a major step forward next season behind Gasby and guard Fred Cleveland. They finished 16-10 last season.
Devonire Glass, a 6-6 junior, is back at Simeon. Glass transferred to Simeon from Gary at the start of last season. He sat out the entire regular season and then played with the sophomore team in the city playoffs. He spent this season at Wasatch Academy in Utah.
Simeon coach Robert Smith had high hopes for Glass two years ago, he could provide the Wolverines with a nice boost of size next season. Simeon was already the runaway choice for preseason No. 1 honors, this just stacks the deck a little more in the Wolverines favor.
UNDERWOOD OFF AND RUNNING
New Illinois coach Brad Underwood was busy during the April evaluation period. The Illini offered several local players, including Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu and Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker. He also moved early to offer two freshmen, DJ Steward of Fenwick and Nimari Burnett of Morgan Park.
Underwood also offered a slew of out of state players last week. It’s a significant departure from John Groce’s strategy of offering only select talents.