Friday, September 2, 2011

A System team brings the show to N.C.

I have spoke often of my desire to have a System team closer to me. Instead of driving 17 hours or so to Grinnell, Iowa, or 4 hours up to Bluefield, W.V., for a Glenville State away game, to see the best style of basketball around, it would be so nice to have some place to go that was nearby.

Well, that still ain't happening (excuse my English, Mrs. Lambeth). Not quite, anyway. I do have some incredible news, however: one of my teams has scheduled a game in North Carolina for the upcoming season!

What a surprise when I got the news from Mike Curta, the boys' coach at Eisenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill., just outside of Chicago. He e-mailed earlier this week to say he was close to signing a game at Southern Durham HS, located, coincidentally enough, in Durham, N.C., then got back in touch Friday with the final word. The game was signed, sealed and (nearly) delivered.

It will be held Saturday, Jan. 14, just before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, so Coach Curta and the team will have plenty of time to return to Chicagoland for classes. I'm still pinching myself to make sure this really is happening.

Of course, I wanted to share the news with those who check out the blog, so he sent more information on the genesis of this trip, as well as his ideas on travel in general. Here is what he wrote:

Mike Curta: "When I was at Mount Carmel during my first job as a head coach, our team statistician and school historian gave me a list of all the gyms that he wanted to visit before he died. He was a huge fan of Indiana High School Basketball and knew the history of the game in that state inside and out.

"That got me to thinking about traveling because he was such a good friend of mine and we had the luxury of having some exceptional players at that time that made us an attractive opponent. We went to some of the biggest gyms in the state of Indiana and played some of the most storied programs at the high school level. It was a great experience for our kids, coaches and most importantly that statistician, Frank Kiszka, who has since passed away.

"We didn’t travel much over the next six years at my next two stops, but when I got to my current job we really took traveling to another level. Allen Dandridge, my assistant coach, is the man really responsible for our opportunities now. He works tirelessly putting on weekend tournaments for all age levels that help us raise the money to be able to travel. In our first three years we have gone to Hawaii, Reno (Nev.), Las Vegas, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.

"So that brings us to this year. We originally were planning on a trip for the entire program to Cincinnati, but that fell through. Because I knew you were in North Carolina and were such a passionate fan of System Basketball, I started looking for games through the North Carolina High School Association Website. We didn’t have much luck until last week when we made contact with the head coach from Southern Durham High School. We struck up a conversation, agreed on the dates, and got our Athletic Directors' stamp of approval and now we are just working out the minor details of the trip.

"We play on Friday, January 13th at home. We plan on boarding a bus with our sophomore and varsity teams and heading down to Durham after our game that night. That should put us in Durham early Saturday. We will play that night and then spend the night before returning to Blue Island on Sunday.

"We are excited about the opportunity to play the game, but more for the opportunity to see the campuses of North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke. I made the trip to Greensboro while in college for the NCAA tournament, but have never been to any of those campuses. This should be a great trip and we look forward to playing our best for our #1 long distance fan in Keith Parsons."

I questioned whether to leave that last sentence, but in the interest of staying true to Coach Curta's wishes, I went with it!

As I said, I can't possibly thank Coach Curta enough, not simply for scheduling a game near me, and not simply for always responding to my requests, no matter how ridiculous, and not simply for running The System. It is really all of the above, and at the risk of missing out on some good stuff between now and then, I hardly can wait for January.

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