By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Some high school basketball players have the uncanny ability to raise their level of performance even higher once the state tournament comes around. Glenbard West's John Shurna is one of those players. As a result, Shurna's team has reached the sectional round of the tournament for the second consecutive year. While others may be a bit surprised, for us we have come to expect this from Shurna, especially if everyone remembers where we ultimately projected him in comparison with the rest of the 2008 class in Illinois.
After watching Shurna dominate a team camp at Loyola University at the beginning of last summer, we went on record to say that by the time Shurna's high school career was over he would rank among the top five prospects in the state from the class of 2008. Shurna's effort this season has certainly done nothing to discourage that notion and in fact his performance in Glenbard West's two regional contests at Naperville North may have been the icing on the cake.
Shurna notched double-doubles in both regional victories, scoring 29 points and grabbing 22 rebounds in leading Glenbard West to a 55-50 upset win over Wheaton North in overtime and coming away with 20 points and 12 rebounds to upset Naperville Central 40-36 in the regional final. As a result, Glenbard West advances to the class 4A sectional at East Aurora High School and will play Bartlett tonight. Last season Shurna was instrumental in leading Glenbard West to the Class AA supersectional at Northern Illinois University.
We did not witness either of Shurna's performances at Naperville North, but then again, we didn't have to in order to write this blog, as we have seen him on several other occassions. What is most amazing about Shurna's tournament streak is how he has once again put his team on his back. We watched Glenbard West play a non-conference game in December and at that time we concluded that regardless of how good a player Shurna is the bottom line was that he had very little around him in the way of a supporting cast. Therefore, we figured that Glenbard West was a middle-of-the-pack team in the West Suburban Silver conference and would be lucky to even win a state tournament game. This only goes to show how much Shurna means to his team, as Glenbard West now takes a 16-12 record into the sectional.
With the exception of Farragut's Michael Dunigan, we believe that Shurna's overall skill set is as good as any frontcourt player in the state from the 2008 class. Shurna is capable of scoring consistently in the post or facing the basket and has range that extends beyond the 3-point line. He is also a tremendous rebounder, can handle the ball and blocks shots as the result of his above-average athleticism. To top everything off, Shurna is also the valedictorian of his class. It therefore goes without saying that he personifies everything that you would look for in a student-athlete. At this point the one thing that Shurna needs to continue working on is adding strength, which we believe he will do. On the other hand, while he may not look strong, he plays strong.
The bottom line is that top-tier players also find ways to make the players around them better, and Shurna undoubtedly falls into that category. That is the biggest reason why we believe Shurna is a great get for Bill Carmody and Northwestern University, as is Batavia's Nick Fruendt, the other member of Northwestern's 2008 recruiting class. Both Shurna and Fruendt have the ability to bring out the best in their teammates and simply put know how to win. With that being said, while we aren't saying that Shurna and Fruendt will lead Northwestern to the promised land, we do believe that they are two players who can put the Wildcats in a position to be a much-improved Big Ten team down the road.
Getting back to Shurna and Glenbard West's state tournament chances, Bartlett, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley (the other three teams in the East Aurora sectional) are all solid teams, making for a quite balanced sectional. However, with most all ot the top seeds (Batavia, West Aurora, Wheaton North, Naperville Central) already out, the East Aurora sectional suddenly becomes quite winnable for Glenbard West. Therefore, a birth in the Class 4A supersectional at Chicago State University is not out of the question. Regardless of whether Glenbard West makes it that far, as far as we are concerned Shurna has already proven his worth to us from the first time we watched him play.