Road trip could help Wildkits forge bonds
Evanston, 01/13/12--The Evanston Wildkits celebrate a crucial 3 pt shot as head coach Mike Ellis sneaks a glance at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter in Evanston, IL on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. The Wildkits beat the Titans 49 to 46. | Shauna Bittle~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 28, 2013 2:50PM
The road doesn’t appear to get much easier for the Evanston boys basketball team, it just gets longer.
The Wildkits, who lost to New Trier 55-33 on Dec. 20 at Northwestern, will take part in the 48th annual holiday tournament in Pekin from today through Saturday.
“It’s some high quality basketball,” Evanston coach Mike Ellis said. “We’ll play four games in three days and stay there for two nights. It’ll be good to get some time away and to come together as a team.”
The players understand that it will be different than last year’s appearance in the Rich South McDipper Tournament, held an hour away in the far south suburb of Richton Park. Pekin is about three hours southwest of Evanston.
“We’re going to have fun, but it’s going to be a long trip,” senior guard Chris Rudnicki said. “As a senior captain, I need to make sure we have fun but that we also stay focused.”
Evanston opens with the 12:45 game today, drawing fellow suburban team Lake Zurich in the first round. Win or lose, the Wildkits play at 10:30 a.m. Friday, necessitating the team to stay down in Pekin.
At least one player sees an advantage to that.
“Staying overnight will help us get used to being down there,” senior guard/ forward Pete Winslow said. “We need to keep working on developing a good team chemistry and (staying overnight) will help with that.”
Ellis has a history with the Pekin tournament and that proved to be instrumental in getting Evanston into the field this year. He played in the tournament as a player at Peoria Richwoods, then participated in it as a coach at Richwoods, winning it all in 2010.
“Pontiac (Holiday Tournament) and Pekin get the broadest representation in the state,” Ellis said. “They get teams from downstate, the western part of the state and the suburbs.”
Ellis is looking for the tournament to help the team build to the second half of the season. With a 5-6 overall record including a 1-3 mark in the CSL South after the New Trier game, the Wildkits are still growing after losing five starters from last year’s team.
“It’s all about building relationships,” Ellis said. “It’s a young team right now, (they’re) finding niches.”
“We don’t have a whole lot of varsity experience,” Rudnicki said. “Playing (four) games and against tough competition can only help us.”