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Hampshire firing on all cylinders

12/17/2012, 6:00pm CST
By Erik Jacobsen ejacobsen@stmedianetwork.com

With senior Tyler Crater leading the way, Hampshire is off to its best start in a decade and looking like a force to be reckoned with in the FVC Fox.

Hampshire's Tyler Crater (42) high fives Shane Hernandez in the closing seconds of a victory against Marengo last week. The Whip-Purs have won seven straight. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

Hampshire coach Bob Barnett certainly has a lot to be thankful for these days.

Less than a month after suffering a pair of heart attacks in the morning prior to his team’s first game of the season, Barnett is back on the sidelines and back in good health. He also recently learned he has been chosen as an inductee into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

Last, but certainly not least, Barnett’s Whip-Purs are off to the program’s best start since the 2002-03 season. Winners of seven straight, Hampshire boasts a 7-1 record and looks like a team to be reckoned with in the Fox Valley Fox.

Crater leading the way

A talented lineup filled with savvy varsity veterans is a big reason for the team’s early success, but one player stands out from the pack.

Guard Tyler Crater has taken his game to an entirely different level during his third varsity season. The 6-foot-3 senior is averaging 20.5 points and has developed into an undisputed floor general for the Whip-Purs.

“I cannot give (Crater) enough credit about the improvement not only in his game but in his psyche from last year to this year,” Barnett said. “I noticed it the second week of school and I’ve been telling him how impressed I am with his demeanor on the court and off the court. That’s our leader right there.”

Crater is a three-sport athlete who also stars on Hampshire’s football and baseball teams. He has always been a solid contributor on the hardwood, averaging 9.6 points as a sophomore and 9.0 points as a junior, but this year he’s scored at least 18 points in all but one game.

Part of that uptick in production is the result of Crater’s uncanny ability to knock down mid-range jumpers off the dribble.

“Last year I shot a lot more threes because of the team identity we had,” Crater said. “This year I’m just looking to attack more with the pull-up jumper, getting to the hoop or whatever I need to do.”

Lineup filled with talent

While Crater has developed into the center of attention for the Whips, the team is by no means a one-man show.

Senior Shane Hernandez is a 6-6 center who has been up with the varsity team since midway through his freshman year and is capable of dominating in the post.

During his first three varsity seasons Hernandez teamed with former Hampshire star Tyler Watzlawick to give the Whips two big bodies in the paint. With Watzlawick now playing at Carroll College in Wisconsin, the Whips have returned to a more guard-oriented offense that Barnett favors.

“It’s just motion,” Barnett said. “Read what the defense is doing and don’t go where they’re at. When you’ve got kids like we have, they can adapt. They’re getting pretty good at seeing different things, and Tyler is leading the way.”

Junior Ryan Cork is another player capable of guiding Hampshire’s crisp offense. With passing skills that sometime seem to border on wizardry, the 6-1 guard’s court vision puts him among the area leaders in assists.

“I definitely feel confident in my teammates,” Cork said. “I can count on them to catch my passes and make the shots.”

Senior guard Brendan Waterworth and senior forward Mike Dumoulin round out the starting lineup. Waterworth is a lock-down defender on the perimeter while Dumoulin handles all kinds of dirty work in the lane. Sophomores Matt Bridges and Jake Tuttle are two other key contributors.

IBCA recognition ‘an honor’

Barnett missed Hampshire’s first six games while recovering from his health scare. The team’s solid play under assistant coach Mike Featherly combined with the good news regarding the IBCA Hall of Fame no doubt helped Barnett stay positive.

The Whips have enjoyed winning seasons in eight of Barnett’s 10 years at Hampshire, and last January he earned his 400th victory in a career that has included stops at Hinckley-Big Rock, McHenry and Franklin Center. The milestone is a big reason why Barnett will be honored at the IBCA’s Hall of Fame induction banquet April 27 at Braden Auditorium on Illinois State’s campus in Normal.

“It’s the epitome of high school basketball,” Barnett said of being inducted. “It’s an honor. This is my 26th year as a head coach, and it’s taken a lot of hard work through the years.”

More pressing matters for Barnett include Tuesday’s home game against Crystal Lake South. Later this week the Whips begin play at DeKalb’s Chuck Dayton Tournament, where they figure to be among the favorites going into their first game in pool play against Marmion on Thursday.

“I really like this team,” Barnett said. “We have a nice mix and a good complement of young kids coming off the bench. It’s a very unselfish group, and it’s a group that listens well and retains things.”

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