O’Brien: DePaul Prep unfortunate victims of Farragut-North Lawndale controversy

DePaul Prep's Perry Cowan (11) pulls up for a three-pointer against Bogan, Friday 03-15-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times
DePaul Prep's Perry Cowan (11) pulls up for a three-pointer against Bogan, Friday 03-15-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

PEORIA—Gordon Tech became DePaul Prep in the 2014-15 school year. Some people are still getting used to the new name and plenty of Chicagoans have absolutely no idea what DePaul Prep is.

But Tom Kleinschmidt, a legendary player at Gordon Tech and the basketball coach since 2012, has already put the school on the map in the state’s basketball scene. The Rams are 106-50 in his five years at the helm and they made their state finals debut on Friday. Hundreds of schools have been waiting decades to reach those heights.

Perry Cowan, the Rams’ All-City, All-Area and All-State senior, has been the rock over the last four years. The Brown recruit is the kind of high-quality kid, student and athlete that a good coach can build a successful program around, and Kleinschmidt did.

DePaul ran into a Bogan buzzsaw in the semifinals and lost 51-31. But win or lose, this should have been much more of a feel-good experience and story for the Rams then it turned out to be. The Rams advanced to state without playing a supersectional game. DePaul Prep was automatically placed in the Class 3A state semis after Farragut and North Lawndale were disqualified.

The two West Side Public League powers were unable to complete their sectional game at North Lawndale. There was a bench-clearing brawl involving both teams and fans that resulted in a double-forfeit. So the Rams became the first team in the 111-year history of the IHSA state basketball tournament to advance to the state semifinals via double-forfeit.

“I feel for the kids in the [North Lawndale and Farragut] community,” Kleinschmidt said. “I’m a great friend of [Admirals coach William Nelson], and [North Lawndale coach Lewis Thorpe, who died in October] was one of my mentors. [But] we wanted that supersectional appearance for our kids. It’s part of the process. As a player I know it was. The experience would have been special for them.”

Kleinschmidt is right. And the Rams were cheated out of more than just memories. The strange week with no game and heightened media attention must have impacted their mindset heading to Peoria.

“I had to talk about Farragut and North Lawndale all week,” Kleinschmidt said. “It kind of bothered us a little bit, to be quite honest. We wanted to play in that game. I’m real disappointed with all the talk about that. I know it is part of the story, I get it. These kids earned what they got, to get down here. Somebody said it was given to us. Nothing was given to us. These kids have been working for four years. I’m very proud of them.”

The high-profile Public League programs are so accustomed to dealing with and succeeding in the midst of controversy that it is taken for granted. This was the first time DePaul Prep has been near that storm, so it is understandable that it was a struggle.

Kleinschmidt isn’t holding any grudges, though. After saying his piece, he closed the postgame press conference with Chicago solidarity.

“We are very happy and proud to be down here,” Kleinschmidt said. “Good luck to Bogan. I hope they win it—city school.”

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11 comments

  • John Folan

    DePaul Prep 6-1 in the 2018-2019 original March Madness including a decisive sectional championship over a very good St Viator team. It was scheduled to play in the supersectional and we know the story. For someone who has seen every game this year the Rams, the game against Bogan was an outliner, bomb, and finally a rarity. Now if there was no 3rd place game fans who were at the game would have agreed to the first 2 excuses and not the 3rd. In that game the true DePaul Prep team showed up and not only beat a team who was located 10 miles away (home team defacto, see: rest, home cooked meals, no long bus ride, oh and before I forget, 28 State Throphys) the Rams destroyed Peoria Manual cruising to a 20 PT win. Two teams won their last games in the 2018-2019 highschool basketball season, first East St Louis the champions, and The DePaul Prep Rams. Go Rams

  • PistolPete44

    The whole system in the Chicago land area is nothing but behind the scenes recruiting and manipulating of the rosters by the schools and coaches. Lets hope the IHSA can put a stop to this madness which is nothing more than cheating to win.

  • Bill jeske

    Did you just say they earned disqualification? Can you please read that sentence again to yourself? Depaul was 6-1 in the tournament. It sounds like no matter what your gonna excuse the unfortunate situation. Please stop replying. You sound like a fool. They earned their disqualification? Lol. Better yet please keep posting. And please put your name on it. You make yourself look like a clown.

  • Billy jeske

    No outrage. No excuse. Bogan won handely. Just was upset that it was said his kids didn’t earn a trip. They have been working hard for four years. All they did was win a sectional and had to listen to all that. He was not making any excuses. That’s all it was.

  • Will Bradford

    I gotta agree with jordan. Not sure I understand their complaint. They got blown out of the gym today so sounds like predictable excuse making. I get that they wanted the supersectional experience. Certainly it’s easy to deflect attention and claim yourself as a victim when you lose by 20.

    Not sure Kleinschmidt meant it the way it looks. And yes, this story should not have been written. Farragut and Lawndale are old news at this point and the story is that Bogan crushed Gordon Tech by 20. I would have preferred a celebratory profile on a deserving kid instead of this faux victim outrage.

  • Tommy

    It brings tears to my eyes being a product of the Lawndale community and farragut alumni to see people act like this and further reinforce stereotypes of people on the westside . God bless the athlete’s from farragut and north Lawndale the world isn’t like this be strong .

  • jordan

    ???? How are they the victims? Would this article had been written had they won? Farragut is the victim truth be told. Write that article…..

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