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Mundelein's Robert Knar (right) drives hard to the basket. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
When will Robert Knar return? All season, that has been the most pressing question on the minds of Mundelein boys basketball fans.
Saturday, he returned. Sort of.
There were 14.6 seconds left in a 60-60 game against Warren, and Mundelein had possession. Mustangs coach Richard Knar, Robert’s father, glanced down at his bench.
“I looked and saw him (Robert). He looked at me and I was like, ‘Can you hit a shot?,’ ” Richard Knar said. “He’s like, ‘Do you want me to go in?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Get your (butt) in there and hit the jumper.’ ”
After that brief exchange, Robert Knar ran to check in at the scorer’s table. But he forgot one important piece of housekeeping.
“I ran in with my warmups still on,” Robert Knar said. “They had to remind me to get my (uniform) out. I was on cloud nine.”
When his name was announced, the roar from the fans behind the Mustangs was palpable, drowning out noise generated by the home crowd. Robert Knar hadn’t played in a game for Mundelein since March, when he scored 32 points in a sectional final loss to Warren. A knee injury suffered during the summer had sidelined the 5-foot-11 senior shooting guard all season.
When Robert Knar entered the game, he lined up on the far right corner, just behind the 3-point line. The location was designed to be both a safe haven and provide offensive leverage for the Mustangs.
“I got to the corner as far away from people as possible,” Robert Knar said. “I didn’t want to get hit.”
Said senior guard Quinn Pokora: “He can shoot. He’s on the gun every day. Who do you trust more to hit a game-winner than Robert Knar?”
Just Friday, in practice, Robert Knar had worked on shooting against a zone defense.
“I got some shots up. It prepared me for (Saturday),” Robert Knar said.
When play resumed, Mundelein senior Sean O’Brien took the ball at the top of the key. Warren’s defense shaded a bit toward Robert Knar, leaving the lane open. O’Brien drove to his left and dished to senior forward Chino Ebube, who was fouled as he went up for a dunk. Ebube missed the first free throw, and Robert Knar sat down. The clock read 10.4 seconds. Ebube missed the second, leading to the only play that could upstage Robert Knar’s return.
With the game still tied at 60-60 and 6.4 seconds remaining, Warren’s Aarias Austin drove the length of the floor and launched a shot from just outside the 3-point line as the buzzer sounded. It went in, spoiling Robert Knar’s return and giving the Blue Devils a 63-60 win.
Mundelein (5-3 in the NSC Lake) is now one game behind first-place Stevenson (6-2). It will play the Patriots again Feb. 9 (Stevenson won the previous meeting 71-61 Jan. 11).
No one is saying whether Robert Knar will play in that game. There is plenty of time before that decision has to be made, because the Mustangs are off until Feb. 8. But after a long layoff, Robert Knar proved he still has star power.
Even if it was just for 4.2 seconds.
“When he took his warm up off, the whole crowd went crazy,” Austin said. “You just know when Robbie Knar is on the court.”