Gritty Gustafson out-thinks OPRF opponents
Oak Park River Forest's Alex Gustafson during the boys basketball game in Oak Park Saturday Jan. 26, 2013 | James C. Svehla~for Sun-Times Media
Friday Girls Basketball: vs. Proviso West, 7:30 p.m. Saturday Boys swimming: at WSC Silver Meet at Hinsdale Central, 1 p.m.
Girls Basketball: vs. Proviso West, 7:30 p.m.
Boys swimming: at WSC Silver Meet at Hinsdale Central, 1 p.m.
Updated: March 1, 2013 7:39PM
OAK PARK — When Oak Park-River Forest’s Alex Gustafson was younger, he thought his future was going to be on a baseball diamond.
“I thought I was going to be a pitcher for the Cubs, but it did not pan out that way,” Gustafson said Saturday after the Huskies dropped a 53-45 decision to Hinsdale Central in Oak Park.
Instead, the senior guard has turned himself into a versatile and integral component of the OPRF hoops team, having played on the varsity since his sophomore year.
“He is a kid who has played four positions for us this year,” said Huskies coach Matt Maloney. “Last year, he played all five, at times, when we had injuries and foul trouble.
“Whatever I ask him to do, he does. That is why he is going to be extremely successful in life, and just a guy that you can build a program around and get some younger guys to really watch what he does. Hopefully you get some more guys to play that way, and we could be really good.”
Gustafson, who lives in Oak Park, is regarded as the team’s top defender and almost always draws the assignment of covering the opponent’s best offensive player.
“I have always worked hard on my defense and put more value in that than my offense,” said Gustafson. “I try to use my brain a lot and think, or outsmart opponents, rather than getting really dog-tired on defense. Because a lot of people get really dog-tired, but I try to be smart about it and put myself in the person on offense’s shoes, and think about what they are going to do and react to that.”
He also spends plenty of time using his brain in the classroom. He scored a 32 on the ACT, and is hoping to play basketball at the next level.
He has applied to University of Chicago, Washington University (St. Louis), Macalester (Minnesota), Grinnell College (Iowa) and Illinois Wesleyan.
“Academics are more important, because I know I am not going to be playing basketball for money,” said Gustafson, whose favorite classes have been AP psychology and AP economics. “Both (of those classes) were really interesting and engaging, and were a lot of fun.”
In addition to turning himself into the team’s top 3-point shooter (he hit only two as a sophomore), Gustafson is definitely considered a leader among his teammates.
“I have known Alex for a long time, since the middle school days at Brooks Middle School (in Oak Park),” said junior guard Erick Locke. “He has always been one of the hardest workers. You see a guy like that, busting his butt every day, and you know you have to bring it every day, because you know he is going to make you look bad.
“I think that is a big inspiration, when you have a guy like that. He is always going to work hard, he is always going to guard the other team’s best player and do what is needed of him.”