By Joe Henricksen
If Batavia didn't open enough eyes with its four-game sweep of the very competitive Elgin Holiday Tournament in
late December -- without its top player, Nick Fruendt -- then the eye-popping will certainly come if the Bulldogs can
pull off a win this Saturday night at the Meijer High School Hoops Showdown at the Sears Centre in Hoffman
Estates. Fruendt is back and the Bulldogs, who face powerful Marshall, are poised for what could be a monumental
moment in what could evolve into one magical season.
It's not as if Batavia is exactly sneaking up on people. The Bulldogs returned virtually everyone from a year ago,
including the Northwestern-bound Fruendt, and were highly ranked in the preseason. But starting this Saturday
night at 8:30 p.m. against Marshall, and then continuing in a couple of weeks in a showdown at its own Batavia
Night of Hoops against top-ranked Simeon, the Bulldogs will learn an awful lot about themselves -- likely good and
Coach Jim Roberts, though, has tried to keep his team's focus entirely on its conference date Friday night with
Rochelle. Tough task when you're dealing with teenage kids who know basketball, follow it in the papers and on
the internet and are well aware of the task at hand Saturday night.
"Those two programs [Marshall and Simeon] have two of the greatest traditions in the history of high school
basketball in Illinois," says Roberts.
Roberts has to be pleased with where his team is at after losing Fruendt for three weeks. The Bulldogs did lose to
Geneva without Fruendt but bounced back impressively at Elgin. Junior David Bryant hit big shots. Jordan Smith
became a major factor on both the offensive and defensive glass. Sophomore Ricky Clopton has come into his
own. Senior guard Phil Albrecht has been Mr. Steady. And Stewart Charles has been a defensive standout.
Now the Bulldogs get the opportunity to test themselves against two of the premier teams in the state. Although
they are both Class3A schools, there are plenty of people that would argue Simeon and Marshall are the two best
teams in Illinois. Batavia, a Class 4A contender, has played premier programs before, including the likes of past King
teams a decade ago, St. Joseph, Quincy, Proviso East and Crane to name a few. Now Batavia gets a chance to
make its mark on the 2007-2008 season.
"This is a reflection of the peope that came before these kids," says Roberts of the opportunity at hand for his
current Bulldogs. "What they have achieved in the past has allowed us to talk to people and schedule these types
And it's a reflection on Roberts for taking the initiative and going out and actually scheduling these types of games
and putting his teams in a position where they are able to grow and mature as a team, which has only helped build
interest in Batavia basketball.
A lot to prove for Jacobs as well
Batavia won't be the only team Saturday night out to prove something. Jacobs, led by often underappreciated guard
John Moran, is looking to establish itself as a legit contender this winter. Last season ended abruptly, losing in an
upset in the regional after a sparking 25-1 regular season. Coach Jim Hinkle really felt his team came into this
season with some unfinished business to attend to after last season's regional loss left such a horrible taste in his
The critics and naysayers were out and doubts were raised as to the legitimacy of this team and program,
specifically its schedule. Those people can be quieted with an impressive showing against Fenwick in the game
prior to the Batavia-Marshall showdown. Jacobs features the talent of Moran, a gifted all-around guard who has
signed with Northern Iowa. Moran & Company will face a hot Fenwick team at 6:30 p.m. at the Sears Centre.