OPRF’s Gant steps up on and off the court
OPRF (15) Jason Gant drives around York 25 (25) Stanley Roberts in game action on Friday night. Oak Park River Foerest HS plays York HS in a boys varsity game at York HS 355 W. St. Charles Road, Emhurst, IL on Friday night 2-15-13.|Judy Fidkowski~Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: 01100879A
Friday and Saturday
Boys swimming: at state meet at New Trier High School in Winnetka.
The Huskies have the No. 1 ranked 200-medley relay based on sectional times and Nikita Bondarenko and Kyle Patnode are favored to reach the finals in their events as the preliminaries begin at New Trier. Patnode ranks fifth in the 100 backstroke and eighth in the 100 butterfly. Bondarenko’s top event is the 200 free. Another finals candidate is Mark Hallman in the 100 free.
Tuesday Boys basketball: at Glenbard North Regional semifinal, 6 p.m.
Boys basketball: at Glenbard North Regional semifinal, 6 p.m.
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:42AM
ELMHURST — If Oak Park-River Forest junior guard Jason Gant has an off practice or a tough game, he knows what to expect the following morning.
His honors American history teacher is also his varsity basketball coach.
“He may make a little side joke, but I know it’s just all basketball love,” Gant said of OPRF coach Matt Maloney. “It’s a little weird seeing him in first period every day for history class. He’s a great teacher.”
Gant, who has emerged as one of the team’s top seven players, shines in the classroom as well, Maloney said.
“He’s an honor-roll kid,” Maloney said. “He gets good grades, has a great family and is a perfect program guy. He’s the kind of guy that you will talk about for years to come. When freshmen come in, we’ll tell them that we want them to take a look at Jason Gant, a kid who did it the right way on and off the court.”
Gant came off the bench to score four key points late in the second quarter of the Huskies’ 47-41 win over York on Friday in Elmhurst and was on the court at the end of the game.
The victory gave OPRF (17-8, 8-4), which won the West Suburban Silver championship last year, a share of second place with York (19-7) in the conference.
The 6-foot-2 Gant is one of the reasons for the team’s success, even if his playing time was sparse early in the season.
“He was a kid at the beginning of the year that was overlooked by me,” Maloney admitted. “Then down at Pontiac we had a tough first-round loss and I said we have to find some energy. Jason Gant will go out there and run through a wall for us. Let’s throw him out there and see what he can do.”
In his first varsity start, Gant scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and dealt five assists. He’s been in and out of the starting lineup ever since.
“I’ve always loved his game and believed in him,” senior teammate Alex Gustafson said. “He’s great energy. He comes in and is always focused and always knows what he’s doing. He plays a lot of different positions and is very versatile. He’s a guy who doesn’t get much credit, but he’s a very key part of this team’s success, whether it’s in practice or games. He steps up and makes plays.”
OPRF has a sign in its locker room that reads: “When my time comes I will be ready.” Waiting for that time wasn’t easy for Gant, but he never complained. Instead, he just worked harder in practice.
“I wasn’t used to it (not starting),” Gant said. “Freshman and sophomore year I was always a starter, but coming into the season I knew I wasn’t going to be starting. Once (Maloney) saw my potential, he started playing me.
“I know my role. I fill in for the seniors and try and give the team a spark when I come off the bench or when I start. I want to give energy, especially on defense.”
Maloney said he expects Gant to be a key contributor down the stretch.
“He’s become a major spark for us,” Maloney said. “He does all the little things. He’s a guy you know you can get on and it’s not going to faze him. The great thing is we have him another year. He’s learning a lot as a junior.”