Tipping off the 2012 Morris Boys Shootout
With the annual Morris Boys Shootout set to tip off Tuesday at Morris Community High School, coaches, players, and volunteers are hard at work to prepare for the 32-team tournament that so often has featured some of the state’s best players and teams. This year is no exception with teams set to attend from as far north and south as North Chicago and Belleville, and as far east and west as Kankakee and Galesburg.
The summer is always an interesting time for a basketball team, with athletes often forced to split their efforts between many endeavors, but for Morris Redskins head coach Joe Blumberg, the goal is simply to get better despite the fact that injuries and other focuses have left him with less than a full roster.
“This will be our first shootout of the year. We’ve only played home games on Tuesdays and Thursdays so far, and I’m still trying to gauge what exactly to expect from this summer,” Blumberg said.
“Jason Matteson hasn’t played at all yet this summer from a baseball injury and Danny Friend has taken some time to focus on football (recruiting). ... We’ve been able to get some guys some valuable minutes that have allowed them to improve and learn our system and that will hopefully help us get better.”
The 32-team field, which has been divided into eight four-team pools of play for Day One, features some familiar opponents, including conference foes like Kaneland, Ottawa and La Salle-Peru, as well as some old conference foes like Oswego and Minooka. However, the pools have been constructed in a way that allows teams to get fresh looks from teams they’re unlikely to see during the regular season.
“No coaches want to run their set plays against conference opponents during a summer game, so on the pool play day we are trying to keep familiar teams from playing each other. We made sure to spread us and the other (NIB-12) teams apart, and we do the same for those old SPC schools,” Blumberg said.
Being able to get a look against unfamiliar opponents is also something that draws Kaneland head coach Brian Johnson to Morris this summer for the shootout.
“Morris is always a really well-run tournament, and it’s not too often that we get to play teams like Pekin and Belleville West, or any of those other teams that we would normally never see during shootouts up in our area,” Johnson said. “It’s a major draw to be able to go play teams that we rarely see that play different styles of basketball.”
However, despite coach Johnson and the Knights having dealt with some of the same scattered interest this summer as the coaching staff in Morris, the goal for Kaneland, whose summer schedule is starting to wind down, is slightly different.
“We are going to try to be as competitive as we can possibly be,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a pretty hectic summer, but for this tournament the goal is to go in and showcase all the things we’ve been working on this summer in order to end the offseason on a positive note.”
The first day of the tournament runs all day with Morris is set to begin its day with North Chicago in the opening round of the afternoon session at 3 p.m. The Redskins then play at 5 p.m. against Deerfield and at 7 p.m. against Edwardsville.