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.”Tags: DePaul Prep