The Illinois Playmakers won the PEP Fall Classic this weekend at Whitney Young high school in a strong team effort. The Playmakers were playing in their first tournament together, and they defeated a mix of high school teams and seasoned AAU teams to win the PEP title. The team featured four Division I commits, and a number of other Division I prospects. The team was coach by Bobby Stineman, Bob Stineman, and Michael Ciepierski.
The star-studded team was put together by coaches Stineman and Ciepierski, with major help from players Jim Hayes of Mount Carmel and Kevin Stineman of Stevenson. Both players were on last year's Playmakers squad, which after was not continued until this past weekend. The PEP Fall Classic was the perfect time to bring back the Playmakers, and this time come up with a make-up that had a group of talented players that were both unselfish and complimented eachother. The first three players that were fits were Dylan Richter, Nate Bateman, and Jason Music. "We are all friends off the court", stated Kevin Stineman. "I really wanted to have fun this weekend, and get guys that played team basketball." Also friends are Brian DeSimone and three-star prospect Luke Fabrizius. "Brian, Luke, and I work out alot together", stated Stineman. "I told them what the coaches were doing, and they would love to have them, and they were in!" The final three players were key to the foundation of the team. Carl Richard, and Indiana State commit, played with the Playmakers last year, and was excited to join it again. Two new additions were Northwestern commit John Shurna, and All-American center Michael Dunigan. "Anyone can get a group of great players, but to win you need the right players, and we did that", stated Michael Ciepierski. "We made sure we had unselfish players with a high basketball IQ, and most of all wanted to win."
The Playmakers breezed through to the semi-finals, beating the Berwyn Mustangs, Fast Break, East Troy, and TPS, which was virtually the Whitney Young varsity squad. In the semi-finals, the Playmakers played the Illinois Stars, who were without D.J. Richardson, James Kinney, and Xavier Humphrey. The game was over before it started, as Luke Fabrizius lit it up from the outside by shooting 8-10 from three point range, Carl Richard and Michael Dunigan not allowing any offensive rebounds, and Kevin Stineman pushing the ball up the court, which all led to a win of about 50 points. "I told our guys in the middle of the first half that I wanted them to lock down the Stars", said Bobby Stineman. "I was amazed to see that over a 9 minute span, we only allowed two points, and they were on free throws."
In the finals, the Playmakers had a rematch with TPS, which had Chris Colvin, A.J. Rompza, and Anthony Johnson. TPS was up for the challenge with extremely great games from both Colvin and Rompza, but the Playmakers took the game by a total of two points with a score of 49-47. This was accomplished due to a great second-half play from John Shurna, as well as from an injured Michael Dunigan, who put his pain aside to help his team win. "Michael was hurting", said Michael Ciepierski. "But he said he wanted to stay out there and win the tournament. He defines a gamer."
Some great individual performances are also to be noted. Michael Dunigan, as usual, was a man among boys, and did not allow anything easy in the lane, and was able to show his offensive game. "Our goal was to get Michael the ball down low each time in the halfcourt", stated Bobby Stineman. "When it goes down there, great things happen." Dylan Richter, Nate Bateman, Jim Hayes, and Jason Music all played extremely well on the perimeter, treasured the basketball, and made plays for their teammates. Kevin Stineman played an excellent cerebral game, and was excellent in pushing the ball on the break. Brian DeSimone was excellent at hitting his open shots and playing a great deal of point guard. Luke Fabrizius shot the ball well, and in Day 2 played a great defensive game. "I told Luke that there is a game inside the arc, and that his hands need to be up on defense", says Michael Ciepierski. "After that, Luke was hitting everything on the high post and baseline, and his defense was great." Carl Richard was all over the place, slicing to the lane, playing outstanding defense, shot over 60% from the arc, and led the tournament in dunks. John Shurna was equally impressive, as he led the team in points, rebounds, blocks, and assists. Both Richard and Shurna won co-MVP's of the tournament.
The team members also realized they were part of something special. "Today in AAU Basketball, it's so hard to find a group that could all play together, and not just go one-on-one", stated Kevin Stineman. "When we played, we all had a great feel for everyone's individual talents, and we made sure we used it. All in all, we had more chemistry and ball movement than any other team in the tourney." Carl Richard also added: "I've played with Meanstreets and Ferrari, and this was the best team I've ever played with. This was the first time where I can play almost a point guard, dish the rock, and all my passes turned into buckets."
The members of the Playmakers had such a great time, that they all decided to stay together, and actually gained another player, Northwestern-bound Nick Fruendt from Batavia. The Playmakers will be on showcase again at the Mac Irvin Tournament on September 22nd and 23rd.
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