Fenwick faces a tough test in game against Orr

Fenwick faces a tough test in game against Orr
March 2, 2013, 12:15 pm
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According to baseball legend, Babe Ruth once was asked why he was paid more money than Herbert Hoover, then the President of the United States.

"Because I had a better year than he did," Ruth is supposed to have replied.

Well, it could be argued that Fenwick basketball coach John Quinn is having a better year than his older brother, Illinois governor Pat Quinn.

"Who would want his job? I'm happy where I am," John said.

In his 28th year as head coach at the Oak Park school, Quinn has bounced back from last year's 12-14 finish, his first losing season in 11 years. The Friars are 17-8 going into Tuesday night's game against Orr (25-3) in the semifinals of the Class 3A sectional at Nazareth in La Grange Park.

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Quinn had high expectations for 2012-13. He returned four starters and 10 of his top 11 players from a year ago. Last summer, they defeated several highly regarded teams, including Loyola, Notre Dame, St. Joseph and Schaumburg. When they were freshmen, the current junior class went 26-1.

"I felt they could be a special group," Quinn said. "Last year was a trial by fire. We played five sophomores at times. We knew we would take our lumps. We lost six games in the last minute. We were building for this year. I was hoping our young kids would mature and grow."

Fenwick got off to a rocky start. The Friars were 5-5 with a four-game losing streak when they showed up for the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in December. Since then, they have won 12 of their last 15 games, including last Friday's 64-55 victory over Marshall for the regional title.

"We have players who have a high basketball IQ," Quinn said. "Sometimes that can work against them because they think too much on the court. We want the game to flow for them. But we have a relatively young team so it's still a process."

Quinn believes this is his best team since 2009, when the Friars were 18-8 and lost to state champion Whitney Young by two points in the regional final. No, this team isn't in a class with Fenwick's 1998 Elite Eight qualifier that was led by Corey Maggette, but Quinn suggests that next year's squad could be his best ever.

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If it is, it will have to play without Luke Lattner, the 6-foot-1 senior guard who is the best all-around player on this year's squad and its leader. The grandson of former Fenwick and Notre Dame football star Johnny Lattner, Luke averages 18 points per game. He led contributed a team-high 16 points in the regional victory over Marshall.

"He is a Lattner, very energetic, very competitive, never at a loss for words," Quinn said.

Luke didn't play football last fall. His twin brother, John, played defensive back. But Luke said he wanted to focus on basketball. He wants to play basketball in college.

"My uncles rip on me. They say I'm a baby because I didn't play football," Luke said. "I love watching football. But I always liked basketball better. With five guys, you have more of an opportunity to excel.
I like running up and down the floor rather than getting in a huddle every 10 seconds."

He has played basketball since third grade. He has a court in the basement. He and his twin John play one-on-one until the lights go out. And Luke shoots hoops with his father Jack, who played basketball at DePaul.

"Last year was a learning experience," he said. "This year, we know what we need to do. We are versatile. We have two bigs who can score and rebound and block shots and four guards who can score. We have multiple scoring options and play tough defense."

Most of all, Quinn looks to Lattner, a three-year varsity player, for leadership. "They look for my leadership more than scoring," Luke said.

Other contributors are 6-foot-5 junior Scott Lindsey, who scored 12 points against Marshall, 6-foot-8 junior Dan Dwyer, 6-foot-6 junior Tom Planek, 6-foot junior point guard Keshaun Smith, 6-foot senior guard Josh Carlisle and 5-foot-10 freshman guard Michael Smith.

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Dwyer has good bloodlines, too. He is a first cousin of former Fenwick girls basketball star Tricia Liston, whose father is former Fenwick star Sonny Liston. He has size 17 feet and still is growing.

Quinn feels he has another edge. Former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach shows up every day for practice to teach fundamentals to the taller players.