Basketball strives to be the best by playing the best.

Harrison Witt, Sports Columnist

Playing poor talent can only make your team worse.

Basketball is rising to the occasion by challenging themselves this season. 19 out of the team’s first 21 games are on the road.  This involves playing in three different states.  The states are not just Wisconsin or Michigan.  No, the boys basketball team is playing in tournaments in South Carolina and Ohio.  These tournaments are not “anyone can play” type of deals; they are invites.  According to coach Mike Ellis, the team had to turn down many offers because they could not fit it in their jam-packed schedule.

This is going to be an amazing experience for the boys.  They are playing some of the best competition in the nation.  They already faced one of the top teams in the nation, Montverde Academy, which has had NBA players graduate from their high school.  These are not no-name players either.  D’Angelo Russell? Ben Simmons? Do these names ring a bell?

The team is also playing against LeBron James’ old high school team, St. Vincent-St. Mary, this weekend.  Yes, LEBRON JAMES, one of, if not the (I can get into that another time…), best NBA players of all time.  Coach Ellis will be coaching next to LeBron’s old coach, Dru Joyce.

The results do not matter.  Of course winning would be the ideal result, but the fact that the players are getting this experience and playing against this type of competition will make them so much better.  New Trier will seem like nothing compared to St. Vincent-St. Mary.  However, that does not mean they should take other opponents lightly because they are not Montverde.  No, the players should do the opposite.  They should look at Maine South like they are Montverde, and the wins will roll in.

The Montverde game was rough.  Montverde won 82-51; that is not a pretty result.  However, take into consideration that Montverde is a prep school that recruits players from all over the country.  They have a junior, Rechan Black, who is committed to University of North Carolina.  Their best player, a sophomore, RJ Barrett, can jump out of the gym.  This kid is unbelievable.  He scored 23, had an extremely impressive dunk, and shot the lights out… he was great.  He has offers from Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas.  This Montverde team was ELITE.  So, while the loss was a little larger than many would have expected, at least the Wildkits had the experience of competing with some of the best players in the world.

Winning against one of the out of state teams would be great for national recognition and whatnot, but no matter the result, our basketball team will only get better.  Ellis put it perfectly when he said, “We are going to take it day by day.”  That is the mentality that is successful.  You play whoever is put in front of you, and you treat them all with the same mindset.

However, playing against poor competition is not teaching players anything.  In order to be the best, you need to play the best.  It is noticeable when coaches schedule the same bad teams to put their guys against in order to give them a boost of pre-conference confidence.  It is obvious when sports continue to play the same bad out of conference teams year in and year out. Yes, it may be a self-esteem booster for players in the moment, but in the long run, on the road to state, the players are getting nothing out of it.

Don’t get me wrong, the basketball team is phenomenal because they have elite talent.  They have Nojel Eastern.  They have Elijah Williams.  They have Lance Jones.  This list could go on.  However, these players take their game to the next level by playing other “Nojel Easterns”.
The competition does not exist entirely out of state, however.  They have played, and will play, some amazing in-state teams.  They will take on Homewood-Flossmoor team at home on Jan. 28.  We know that would be a nice win after the football playoff game.

Overall, it would be great for every team at ETHS to play the best teams in the nation for their sport, but that is not reasonable.  Not every team at ETHS is as elite in their field as the basketball team is, and that is the reality.  There really is no high school that is good at everything, but I do think it is important to challenge yourself to your ability.  If the basketball team is one of the greats, they should play the other greats.