Last year, Glenbard East's Tahron Harvey weighed between 215 and 220 pounds. By his own admission, he was "heavy and out of shape." His natural position is wing forward. But coach Scott Miller was desperately looking for a point guard to lead his team. Harvey was his man.
"We were going into the second half of a game against Glenbard North in the second half of the season and I was going out of the locker room when coach Nelson (assistant coach Austin Nelson) pulled me aside. 'Can you play point guard?' he asked me," Harvey recalled.
"We needed a point guard and I wanted to play point guard. I had been playing small forward and power forward. I never had played point guard before in high school, only when I was in sixth grade. I adapted to the position. I pushed myself to be good and make the team good."
Harvey's maturation and development as a point guard began the next day at practice. In the next game, he made his debut at point guard against West Chicago and recorded a triple double.
"That told me that I can do this, that I can run this position," he said. "I believed I could do it. It boosted my confidence even more. I wasn't nervous. I was looking forward to the opportunity."
With Harvey out front running the show and directing traffic, Glenbard East went on to win seven of its last eight games to finish with a 14-12 record, losing to Glenbard North by one point in the regional. With Harvey and nine others returning, Miller was optimistic about the 2012-13 season.
"We had a great summer," the coach said. "With a bunch of seniors coming back, we finished third in a 32-team shootout. We lost to Proviso East by two at the buzzer at our tournament. We won the Geneva summer league and lost to Washington (Ill.) by six in the final of the 32-team tournament at Illinois Wesleyan.
"I was excited by what we had coming back. The players are close knit, play hard and listen. That was one of our problems last year. We didn't seem to have senior leadership. But this team took the bull by the horns and ran with it, like our 28-4 team that finished third in Class 4A two years ago."
The key is Harvey, a 6-foot-2 senior who averages 16.5 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. He scored 26 points in a recent 58-56 victory over highly rated West Aurora that Miller called "our biggest upset victory in eight or nine years." He followed up with 24 points against Plainfield East.
"As he goes, we go," Miller said. "He is the Player of the Year in our conference if we win it. He is our leader, our vocal kid. He has a big body. Now he weighs 185 pounds and is able to use it to his advantage. He still is bigger than most point guards."
To get in top physical condition, Harvey insists he didn't go on a nutritional diet. In fact, he claims he doesn't have any bad eating habits. He doesn't eat fast food, just home cooking, more vegetables and fruit. And he loves his father's homemade chili and pizza with cheese.
"I just started to work hard," he said. "I got on a treadmill. I did what I had to do to help my team. Playing point guard means running all the time. So I lifted weights and started running and working out."
Harvey has been very instrumental in Glenbard East's success. The Rams are 14-6 after last Friday's 69-34 victory over Wheaton North and share first place in the DuPage Valley Conference with West Aurora. Against Wheaton North, Harvey was limited to nine points but Mike Kjeldsen had 15, JaRon Hall 14 and Marvin Grant-Clark 10.
They could be even better but for a one-point loss at Glenbard West at the buzzer at Thanksgiving and an overtime loss to Class 2A power Rockford Lutheran, an eight-point loss to Maine South and a three point loss to St. Charles East on a bank shot from mid-court at the buzzer.
"I hope those losses have helped to build us," said Miller, in his 14th year. "Beating a quality team like West Aurora was a confidence booster. We're pointing toward the regional.
"Our guard play will take us there. When we play well, we are tough to guard. We have shot well and attacked the basket. We have a lot of guys who can shoot but our guards, Harvey and JaRon Hall, must take us there. How good are they? When we had Zach Miller (the coach's son) and Johnny Hill two years ago, we went to the Final Four. Guards win championships. The ball is in their hands so much. And Hall takes pressure off Harvey at times."
Hall, a 5-foot-11 junior, averages 14 points per game. Other starters are 6-foot-4 senior Marvin Grant-Clark (11 ppg, 6 rpg), who has signed with Division II Maryville in St. Louis, 6-foot-7 senior Brandon Havenga (3 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-foot-2 senior Mike Kjeldsen (8 ppg), the team's best three-point shooter.
Off the bench, the Rams rely on 5-foot-10 senior Danny Ryan, 6-foot-6 senior Greg Ludwig and 6-foot-5 senior Mike Hansen.
What does it take to be a good point guard?
"When you are running the team, you have to communicate ore and direct traffic and tell people where they have to go," Harvey said. "You have to be vocal and get everyone in their spots. You have to be able to pass and make decisions and have a great basketball IQ.
"I like playing under pressure. I like big-game situations, in an atmosphere like West Aurora. I like to make the big play or the big pass. I'm still aggressive as a shooter. I don't force shots. I like to give my teammates good shots."
At the same time, Harvey enjoys his new look. "Everywhere I go, people compliment me that I have gotten so slim. I had to get a new wardrobe. Everything was so big. I went from double XX or large to medium. I used to wear size 42 pants. Now I wear 34 or 36," he said.
"On the floor, I feel light on my feet. I have deceptive quickness. Last year, we had a lack of leadership from our seniors. They were great players but not great leaders. This year, this is my team. We can do what they did two years ago. There is a lot of leadership on this team."
Two years ago, Harvey was a reserve on the Final Four qualifier. He recalls during the second half of the season how the guards, Miller and Hill, and the other upperclassmen told everyone that they had to take everything more seriously, that the underclassmen had to work hard in practice to prepare the starters for the state playoff, to make them better.
"That's what I like about this team," Harvey said. "We have good chemistry and everyone plays hard. If I slack off in practice, others pick it up. The seniors have been playing together since seventh grade. There are more people we can go to if someone takes the ball out of my hands. Others can step up and make a big shot."