North boys take 'step in the right direction'

WHEATON – Wheaton North’s boys basketball team had plenty of obstacles thrown its way this winter, from an extended playoff run by the football team that kept several players busy to a plethora of injuries throughout the campaign.

But thanks to an unselfish group of players, the Falcons were able to keep their heads above water and finish with a 14-13 overall record.

“I was happy with the year and it is something to build on, for sure,” Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann said. “We are trying to get the program to where it was several years ago, but we know it’s not an overnight thing. Last year we took a small step in the right direction and this year, we took a bigger step in the right direction.

“The senior leadership was great. We were all disappointed with the injuries we had, and that made things tougher, but the biggest thing is they kept working hard and getting better.”

That senior group Brackmann referred to included seven players, headlined by three-year varsity player Matt Biegalski, who missed a good chunk of the season with an ankle injury, and this year’s leading scorer Andrew Slivinski. Mike Cerone, John Coolidge, Jack Kirschbaum, Bryan Knoedler and Nathan Houlihan are also departing the program.

“It was disappointing for Matt to deal with that long time off,” Brackmann said. “But the way he came back was a credit to him. His first game back at Lake Park, which was the team he was injured against the first time, he wasn’t really sure how he would be, but there he was diving on the floor for loose balls. He was a real leader for us.

“And Andrew is a great story. He is a kid who decided a few years ago that he wanted to become a player. He obviously has talent, but he took it upon himself to work as hard as he could. He had an all-conference year even with the multiple injuries he was dealing with.”

The Falcons will return a good chunk of experience next season, especially with the junior trio of Nick Traversa, Nick Jordan and Jake Heggeland expected to come back.

“We like all of the classes in the school right now,” the coach said. “Three of the juniors got great experience and they are ready to step in and lead the team next year.”

As for taking another step next winter, that will depend on continued hard work, according to Brackmann.

“We have to outwork teams, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “We do have talent, but we are the smallest school [enrollment] in the DVC. We have to rely on how hard we are going to work.”