By Joe Henricksen
When word started to spread early Thursday morning that Brian Wardle would be named the next head coach at UW-Green Bay, flashbacks to the late 1990s soon came.
In a year where Sergio McClain of Peoria Manual was named Mr. Basketball in a senior class that featured McClain's teammate Marcus Griffin, Deerfield's Ryan Hogan along with a loaded junior class, it was Wardle who was named the City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year in 1997. Wardle was and remains one of the Hoops Report's all-time favorite players in Illinois prep basketball.
Wardle led Hinsdale Central to back-to-back Elite Eight berths, compiling a 55-7 record in two years while averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds and four assists each night out as a senior. In Wardle's final game, an Elite Eight loss to powerful Thornton, the 6-5 do-it-all knocked down eight three-pointers and scored 36 points.
As a high school kid, Wardle was one of those "too-good-to-be-true" types. He was active in the community as a high school basketball hotshot speaking to kids of all ages about the dangers of alcohol and drugs through the DARE program in the local schools. He helped out with the local Special Olympics as well and was respected among the faculty and peers. And he went out and played hard, was productive and unselfish, doing whatever it took to win.
Wardle realized a lot younger than others that he was in a position to make a difference with kids at a local level. And he took advantage of it. He was looked up to and accepted responsibility way younger than most.
Now he's a head coach way younger than most.
Wardle, who is just 30 years old, has been an assistant at UW-Green Bay for the last five years after a terrific playing career at Marquette and two years in the position of Director of Basketball Operations under Tom Crean. It was just two years ago when Wardle was part of the Hoops Report's "Super Six" assistants who recruit the state of Illinois. He becomes the first coach in that group to nab a head coaching job.
You better believe Wardle and his staff will continue to target the Chicago area as he tries to raise UW-Green Bay basketball to another level in the Horizon League.
Another local boy makes good
At Wright State, another former prep player in Illinois, Billy Donlon, was named head coach at Wright State. Donlon starred at Glenbrook North as a prep player.
While Donlon's father, former college assistant and former prep coach Bill Donlon, played the biggest role in his son's development, current Von Steuben coach Vince Carter was also instrumental.