Seniors left huge mark on OPRF hoops
Oak Park-River Forest High School varsity basketball player, Tacourrus Mattox (41) looks for an open teammate during the IHSA sectional final against Proviso East High School at Schaumburg High School on Friday, March 8, 2013. | Ruthie Hauge~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:31AM
One of the difficult things about your final high school basketball game is knowing that you’ll never again be teammates with friends you’ve played with for years.
Oak Park-River Forest’s big-man trio of 6-foot-9 Virgil Allen, 6-8 Thomas Ross and 6-7 Tacourrus Mattox took the floor together for the last time Friday in a 67-48 loss to Proviso East in the Class 4A Schaumburg Sectional final. The three seniors combined for 16 points and 20 rebounds.
All three big men attended Julian Middle School, but didn’t play basketball together until their freshman seasons at OPRF.
Allen didn’t even make the team in middle school. He stood 6-4, but was a baseball pitcher before high school. He tried out for the seventh- and eighth-grade teams at Julian, but did not make the cut.
“I wasn’t good,” Allen said.
A growth spurt allowed Allen to make OPRF’s freshman B team. He was a project, and remains one, but, with the size of a football lineman, he has a load of potential. Allen hopes to play for a junior college program or attend a prep school, which is the route former teammate Gabe Levin followed this season after graduating from OPRF.
“I’ve worked hard and I keep working hard,” Allen said. “I’ve still got to work now. I’d like to play in college at the next level.”
After Friday’s loss, a junior college coach waited outside OPRF’s locker room to speak to Mattox, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Coach Matt Maloney started both Allen and Mattox to give the Huskies defense a big wall in their 1-3-1 zone. Maloney rarely used all three big men on the floor at the same time this season.
Allen, Mattox, Ross and classmates Alex Gustafson, Jakari Cammon and Darius Williams won the West Suburban Silver title as juniors and completed back-to-back regional titles as seniors. OPRF finished 20-10 this season and advanced to its first sectional final since 1992.
Gustafson recalled the time when Maloney gathered his freshmen in a circle after a weight-lifting session and predicted great things for the group.
Maloney said: “You guys are the next great Oak Park team.”
“It’s crazy to see how that happened,” Gustafson said.
“We have played together a lot since middle school. We’ve grown to be so close off the court, which made us so good on the court. I will miss them.”