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Following a successful third-place finish in the Luther North Holiday Tournament, the Maine East boys basketball team suffered two blowout losses.
“We need to learn how to compete against good teams,” coach Dave Genis said. “It’s not easy getting high school kids to learn they can compete, but we’re getting there.”
Genis is in his third year at the school and in the midst of a rebuilding process for the program. The Blue Demons (5-8 overall, 1-4 CSL North) have struggled in recent years, including a couple of winless campaigns in the CSL.
Two sophomores, forward Ezeke Omeke and point guard Abby George, get significant time at varsity this season.
“Abby had a really nice spring and summer,” Genis said on the reason to keep the sophomore on the varsity level. “He’s had his ups and downs this year but he keeps learning and growing.”
George understands his role is likely to grow over time.
“I’m trying to be more of a leader, more of a vocal leader,” he said. “We need to make sure we work together the rest of the season. We gave up against Glenbrook North and we need to change that.”
Glenbrook North beat visiting Maine East 60-17 Friday and Niles North topped the Blue Demons 66-40 on Jan. 8 in Park Ridge.
Not giving up and having the confidence to compete against tougher teams are two of the biggest aspects Genis is trying to instill, and he has leaned on seniors Evan Nazzal and Urchit Chokshi for help with that.
“(Urchit) and Evan have provided a model that the time they’ve put in on getting better has paid off,” Genis said. “It’s a model of hard work and commitment.”
Nazzal made the all-tournament team at Luther North and Genis said it was a testament to the hard work Nazzal put in.
“I want to leave the mark that if you put in the hard work, you will see the outcome,” Nazzal said.
“The history at Maine East is that going into many games we have no chance, but we have to know that if we put in the work, we can compete,” he continued.
The rebuilding starts with changing the culture, but the talent appears to be on the way for Maine East.
“We’ve got a really good freshman team that we’re keeping together, letting them get a sense of winning,” Genis said.
Genis expects to test the underclassmen over the summer and might move some up next year. Nazzal agreed that the future looks bright for Maine East basketball.
“You can teach skills,” he said. “But you can’t teach heart and effort and that’s what the young guys have.”