There is a reason that North Side was considered the kingpin in the Summit Athletic Conference for the last several seasons. Despite just a couple of regular season conference titles, the Legends (and Redskins) tore through five consecutive SAC Holiday Tournaments and generally were considered the cream of the conference crop.
North Side became a destination, not just for fans, but for incoming freshmen and transfers alike. The naysayers could chat Bounce’s ear off for days about fairness and parity and blah, blah and blah.
Reality: Success breeds what North Side had. Everybody wants to play for a winner. North Side won. And more importantly, lost in all of that, is that people wanted to play for Shabaz Khaliq. He was, at both Elmhurst and North Side, a player’s coach. So his program was rewarded with a wealth of differing talent that often melded together to be champions.
Then he left North Side for Richmond last spring and, for the first time in years, it was open season in Fort Wayne prep basketball. Let’s call it how we see it: a lot of player movement happens. We all know it, let’s not ignore it. Those players who would have gone to North Side if Khaliq was on the sideline or if Keion Brooks Jr. was on the court with them are now looking elsewhere, most of them anyway.
Like I said: open season. If the most successful program doesn’t exist anymore, people are going to try and wager against the system to determine who the new SAC kingpin is. So, in theory, all of those programs are on even footing now, and all of them want to be the “new” North Side.
North Side spent years being dragged through the mud, in ways, on social media. Everybody is against the perennial winner. Now every program and their followers want to be THAT team. Be the program that replaces THE program and all that jazz.
That said, Bounce wants to be clear that the playing field isn’t going to be that even. The Summit Athletic Conference is going to be nearly as fun in basketball as it has been in football. But if there is such a thing as a “new” North Side, you won’t have to venture that much up State Street (and a left on Reed Road) to find the Panthers of Snider.
Bounce’s buddy Jeremy Rauch (who is always excited about game day) may have not modeled his program’s balance after North Side, but he will be successful for the same reasons. This season, the Panther roster will feature an interesting combination of homegrown talent, a few guys that started their careers at other high schools and at least a trio of freshman who made the educated decision to be part of what Snider is attempting to build.
Seems a little Legend-ish if you ask me.
And what that means is the story everyone has been telling about a level playing field really will prove to be false in the long run, if not immediately when the 2018-19 season rolls around.
Rauch is a players’ coach. He understands the mindset of these kids, which is something we all wondered about when he ventured to the big city from DeKalb a couple of years back. And the way he relates to his players is something we haven’t seen the same way anywhere but North Side in recent years. And to the supporters at other schools: that doesn’t mean your coach has bad player relationships, Bounce is just comparing apples to apples and not to avocados.
A roster comprised of nearly all underclassmen will show you what Bounce tells you: no matter where you are or what you call yourself, Snider is the only “new” North Side that I see.
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