By Joe Henricksen
Since the year 2000, the Thornwood basketball program has produced a Mr. Basketball winner and NBA Lottery Pick in Eddy Curry, numerous Division I players, churned out five seasons of 25-plus wins, made four trips to Peoria and claimed a pair of state runner-up finishes (2001 and 2003).
But since coach Bob Curran left the Thunderbird program following the 2006-2007 season, Thornwood basketball has dealt with coaching turnover and has hovered around the .500 mark with just one regional title game appearance in the last four years.
Although most people are unaware outside the south suburbs, Thornwood basketball has something to be excited about again -- Darrell Combs.
Although very underappreciated by the masses, Combs has long been among the Hoops Report's top 15 prospects in the Class of 2012. He received his first offer from Loyola last week and, in the eyes of the Hoops Report, remains one of the best-kept mid-major secrets in the much-maligned Class of 2012 in Illinois. He averaged 19 points and four assists a game last season as a junior.
With Combs returning next season and some stability provided by coach Paul Slavich, who went 16-12 last year in his first season as head coach after 15 years coaching at the lower levels, Thornwood has something to build on. And Combs is looking forward to building his own reputation over the next six weeks.
"I'm just real excited for the opportunity," Combs said of playing with his Meanstreets team during the July evaluation period. "I'm anxious to get on the court and show what I can do -- and not just to the show the people in Chicago that I can play, but others as well in July."
What the 6-1 Combs does best -- and what college coaches will come to appreciate -- is put the ball in the hole. The slender, smooth, fluid combo guard can often look effortless in putting up impressive scoring totals and in a number of ways. Combs can put it on the floor and shoot it with range. He can slither to the basket in the open court and knock down shots with an evolving mid-range game in the halfcourt. He's a naturally gifted scorer.
What Combs also hopes to show going forward is an ability to lead. He believes this is an area he's made his biggest strides as a player and teammate.
"I think I have really improved in terms of being a leader, my work ethic and knowing what it is that I need to in order to help my team," says Combs. "Now I want to find a school that fits me, fits my talent and style of play."