Written by Anthony Nasella
The Reporter/Regional picked co-Players of the Year in boys basketball and one in girls. Here are the tremendous three for 2015-16:
Photos by Jeff Vorva
JAYLAN CATLEDGE, RICHARDS
As far as impact players go for boys’ basketball teams in the area, some view Richards junior forward Jaylan Catledge as a can’t-miss talent.
And to hear Bulldogs’ head coach Jevon Mamon tell it, as Catledge goes, the team goes.
That was evident for the second-year varsity player, who averaged 20.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest this season, while his improving his shooting percentages from a year ago in leading Richards to success.
It’s those accomplishments and general impact that led to Catledge being named the Reporter/Regional co-Boys Basketball Player of the Year. He was the first sophomore to win Player of the Year last year and his numbers have gotten bigger this season.
“The guys all rally behind Jaylan,” Mamon said. “He has the ability to change games. He’s done a tremendous job and is an exceptional player who continues to open eyes.
“In the last off season, we gave him a goal to improve his shooting, and he shot 35 percent from 3-point land and 50 percent in conference. That was something that he worked on over the course of the summer, and it paid off this season.”
In addition to leading the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding while improving his shooting from behind the arc, Catledge displayed versatility and value to his teammates by adding 1.7 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.5 blocks per contest to help his team win the South Suburban Red Conference. He was named the conference’s MVP.
“He probably had about five double-doubles,” Mamon said. “He’s just so tough to guard. He can score multiple ways off the dribble – on the glass while also making his opponents also respect his jump shot.”
Catledge said he was aware of the challenge to step up and be an impact player, and he expressed some satisfaction with his play this season. But he also knows he has his work cut out for a big senior campaign.
“I knew I had to step up my game and carry our team from time to time, and I also knew I had to make better decisions,” Catledge said. “I think I could have played a little bit better. I still need to work at my jump shots off the dribble.’’
Catledge will get plenty of chance to sharpen that part of his game when he plays for the Example Sports AAU team in Bourbonnais for a second season.
“I’m looking forward to some summer ball,” he said. “I’m excited about the challenges of next season.”
Mamom is said he’s looking forward to seeing Catledge take his game to another level next season.
“Jaylan is a good player, but he’s far from maxing out his potential,” he said. “When he plays to his potential, he’s definitely one of the better players in the area. Work is far from over.
“There’s multiple things he can do offensively and defensively. He’s quiet, which can be challenging. But he’s taking steps to lead vocally. He gets it done pretty much on a nightly basis for us.”
MALIK PARKER, CHICAGO CHRISTIAN
When Chicago Christian boys basketball coach Kevin Pittman handed the point guard responsibilities to Marist transfer Malik Parker at the beginning of the season, he was hopeful that the newcomer could blend in and lead the team to success.
Parker was able to accomplish that as he was a key in helping the Knights become the only area team in the past three years to win a regional title when they beat the hosts to claim the Class 2A Illiana Christian Regional. Under his watch, the team also won the Metro Suburban Conference East title and won 22 games on the season. The junior was named the Reporter/Regional co-Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
The first hurdle was to win over his teammates. Sometimes new players are not welcomed with open arms by veteran members of the team.
But Parker’s experience on Marist’s varsity last year and commitment to the game enabled him to lead a team that featured established three-year varsity players such as Anajuwon Spencer, Daylon Washington and Trevor Wolterink.
“For Malik to lead the way he was able to with the strong senior leadership we had, and to gain their trust, speaks volumes,” Pittman said. “He’s already talking about what he’s planning to do over the summer: A full AAU schedule and team camps. That work will make him an even better player next year
“As the year progressed, he started to also relax in the offense that we ran. He found people in spots we wanted him to find them in. He’s a well-rounded player. To do all that as junior is saying something about the talent level that this kid possesses.”
For the season, Parker averaged a team-high 13.5 points per game, 2.5 assists, two rebounds, and two steals per game. He canned 45 three-pointer baskets on 108 attempts for a solid percentage of 41.7 percent. He scored 24 points in the team’s 68-65 sectional semifinal loss to Reed-Custer. He was also named his conference’s Player of the Year.
Proudly called a gym rat by Pittman, Parker’s versatility has allowed him to transcend his point guard functions and help in several different ways, according to his coach.
“Malik really grew into the point-guard position as the season went on, but he’s a definite scorer,” Pittman said. “He’s more of a hybrid – a one-guard and two-guard mixed into one body. He just loves to play and is always in the gym the moment it’s opened."
Parker defers his accomplishments to the hard work and talent that was put in by all of his teammates.
“The success I achieved would have been impossible without my teammates and coach,” Parker said. “They all pushed me on and off the court to be the best player I could be. There was a little pressure at the beginning of the season, but I knew we had a lot of talent and we could have a great season.
“The honors and accomplishments have all been very humbling. It was a fun season.”
KARA SHIMKO, QUEEN OF PEACE
In the spring and summer, basketball was not Kara Shimko’s top priority.
Beating a cancer scare was.
The junior-to-be at Queen of Peace received the frightening news that she needed a phyllodes tumor that measured at 4.5 centimeters removed from her left breast. She had the surgery performed in June and was relieved that it benign.
When the procedure was over, the first thing she asked was “When can I play basketball again?”
She was back on the court soon enough and ready to help Queen of Peace finish 19-12 and to win a Class 3A regional title.
She raised her scoring average from 13 as a sophomore to a team-high 17 points per game, led the team in 3-point baskets (66) and free-throw shooting (91 percent) and has been named the Reporter/Regional Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Since the award was given out in 1994, she is the first Queen of Peace athlete to win it.
For Shimko, this was a season that was more than about basketball. When word of her story came out in December, it was shared by a ton of websites from lookfordiagnosis.com to glocalheadlines.uk.
Her father, Queen of Peace coach George Shimko, said he is just as proud of her off the court as he is on the court.
“I received a text regarding Kara that said as much as Kara is as a great player, what is great about her is how much of leader she is to her teammates,” the coach said. “That is such nice recognition to have because we tell the players all the time that if you want to be recognized as a good player you have to genuinely want you teammates to do well.
“And that’s Kara – every day at practice and in school. The way she carries herself is all about wanting everybody else to do well. That’s her mantra and how she approaches life. That’s the thing I’m the most proud about Kara. Work hard on individual skills and team skills, but her concern about teammates speaks a lot about the kind of individual she is.”
Kara said her approach to hers and team’s success was basic.
“We just wanted to go out and have fun this season, and that’s exactly what we did, she said. “We as a team were able to turn things around from when we lost all those games two seasons ago to be able to win while still having fun.
“It was great seeing my teammates, especially, having fun. The way we did it was so fun, and I was most happy when we were all doing well together.”
The Pride has gone from two wins two seasons ago to 19 this year and a bigger season could be in store next year and beyond. The team had no seniors on the roster and freshman Jovannna Martinucci became a force in the lineup.
With one more season with Shimko and her scoring and leadership abilities, it could be huge year in Burbank.