‘The sky is the limit’ at St. Ignatius as basketball practice tips off across the stateMichael O’Brienon November 8, 2021 at 11:46 pm

St. Ignatius’ Richard Barron (23) practices with his team on November 8, 2021. | Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

St. Ignatius is a tremendous academic school, probably one of the best in the Midwest. But no one has ever considered it a basketball powerhouse.

Richard Barron laughed when I asked him why he decided to go to St. Ignatius. It’s probably a question he’s heard fairly often.

St. Ignatius is a tremendous academic school, probably one of the best in the Midwest. But no one has ever considered it a basketball powerhouse. The Wolfpack’s greatest season was a supersectional appearance in 2000.

Barron is a big, strong 6-5 junior that recently picked up a scholarship offer from SIU to add to his growing pile that includes George Mason, Kent State, Loyola, DePaul, and Milwaukee.

He likely had his pick of high schools, but he chose wisely. There’s a special feeling at St. Ignatius this season and it was evident on Monday, the first day of basketball practice around the state.

The Wolfpack is loaded with talent, but not in the usual way. There isn’t a headline-grabbing superstar and none of the key players are transfers. It’s just a group of kids that decided to come to a really good high school and play basketball.

“My sister went here, but we picked a school-based on education, not just basketball,” Barron said.

Senior guard AJ Redd and 6-5 senior Kolby Gilles, an Air Force recruit, are the leaders. Redd, an All-City selection last season, is one of the city’s unheralded stars. Expect to read a lot about him over the next few months. It’s puzzling that his name didn’t pop more on the summer circuit based on how well he played last season.

“AJ is a tremendous team player,” St. Ignatius coach Matt Monroe said. “He brings so much to the table. You’ll see during the season, playing in the system with his teammates he’s going to thrive. He’s a tremendous leader. He’s going to make some college very happy.”

Redd, a 6-3 combo guard, is on track to finish his career as the school’s all-time leader in steals, rebounds, and assists. He’ll also be a 1,000-point scorer, despite the shortened season last year.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times
St. Ignatius’ AJ Redd (21) practices with his team on November 8, 2021.

Gilles and Barron provide the Wolfpack with strong, mobile post players rarely seen at the high school level. Redd can do it all and 6-8 junior Jackson Kotecki is a three-year varsity player.

There are three other players to keep an eye on. Junior Emmet O’Shaughnessy missed last season with a knee injury but was impressive on the sophomore team as a freshman. Senior guard Miles Casey didn’t play last year either but will be in the rotation.

Redd is quick to point out the contribution that senior guard Noah Davis brings to the team.

“Noah, Kobe, Richard, and I are all best friends outside of basketball,” Redd said. “Noah has had a little bit of a different path than the rest of us. He started at the freshman level and has worked his way up to varsity now. He’s worked his butt off. He does a lot for our team that doesn’t necessarily show up in the stats.”

Monroe wasn’t about to name a specific goal for his talented team. He’s about the process. But Redd said what most are probably thinking.

“The sky is the limit for this team,” Redd said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get a chance to make playoff runs the last couple of years because of COVID. If we lock in and everyone is focused, the goal for this team is to go to state.”

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