Morgan Park’s road back to state relevance several years back was a result of an influx of superior talent. But the most important piece was the arrival of Nick Irvin as coach.
Since Irvin’s arrival at Morgan Park in 2008 the Mustangs have never won fewer than 23 games in a season, averaging 25 victories a year over the past nine seasons. That nine-year run now includes three state championships and one third-place finish in Class 3A.
Irvin has created a brand at Morgan Park, turning a program into one that is known for its relentlessly aggressive and attacking approach to everything it does.
This season, however, was different. This was Irvin’s finest job as coach of a team that won a state championship with less overall talent than past teams –– and without its star playing in Peoria this past weekend.
Ayo Dosunmu was lost in the opening quarter of the state semifinal with a slight fracture in his foot. How many teams would crumble when the catalyst and top junior in the state is lost at such a critical time?
But the Mustangs persevered and turned once again to its regular path of success: continuing to turn games into a certain level of chaos. Irvin’s teams do it with all-out hustle and competitiveness that turns mistakes and miscues into points and wins. No matter the circumstances, Irvin’s teams always play hard.
The best teams typically have the best players, which is why Peoria was loaded with talent this past weekend when the top teams in Class 3A and 4A met in the State Finals.
The eight teams in Peoria included a whopping 25-plus players who will be playing Division I basketball at some point in college.
That’s why it bears repeating: Fremd’s season was remarkable for so many reasons. But one of them is the fact the Vikings were the only team in Peoria without a Division I prospect in their starting lineup.
Coach Bob Widlowski’s team showed the very smallest things still matter in basketball and that you can win and compete at the highest level in different ways. This team that lacked so much curb appeal had the eventual state champs, Young, on the ropes in a tie game with 1:30 left to play.
When peeking ahead to the 2017-2018 season look no further than your Chicago area state championship game representatives to find the top teams. Young, Simeon and Morgan Park will likely be the best three teams in the Chicago area next season.
Class 4A state champ Young loses Lucas Williamson but returns a bevy of Division I prospects in juniors Javon Freeman, Xavier Castaneda and Justin Boyd, sophomore Myles Baker and freshman Tyler Beard.
Simeon has four starters back in the talented junior trio of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kezo Brown and Messiah Jones and sophomore Kejuan Clements.
Ayo Dosunmu, the top-ranked player in the junior class, returns for Class 3A champ Morgan Park, along with 6-9 junior Tamell Pearson, sophomore Lamond Johnson and freshman star Nimari Burnett.
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