My turn

Basketball battles cancer

2013-01-17T00:00:00Z 2013-01-17T21:10:06Z Basketball battles cancerGeorge Grenchik Times Columnist
January 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It’s mid-winter, though you couldn’t tell most days by the weather. And mid-winter for a lot of folks, including me, means basketball.

I almost never played basketball. Being 5 foot, 8 inches was only one of my impediments. But I do love watching the game. I would argue it is the game that requires the most pure athleticism in order to excel.

And this year, almost all of “my” teams are doing quite well. I’m a big IU fan. Here’s why. As a little kid I was watching a basketball game on TV (yes, there was TV when I was a little kid; not color, but there was TV). The name of the team playing was “Indiana," I knew I lived in Indiana, and voila, a life-long Hoosier fan was born. Anyway, IU is again a national power.

I retired from Bishop Noll and I still follow its teams. This year the boys and girls basketball programs are excelling. Both, I believe, are conference champs with only one loss apiece. And one of the main contributors on the girls team, Tori Keilman, is a grand student of mine (a child of someone I taught). Go Warriors.

Then there is the team of which I am part owner.

Confused? Don’t be. I can show you my tax bill and point to the line that shows I am part owner of the T.F. North Meteors.

Although the girls team is having a bit of a down year, the boys team is again a power to be reckoned with. Coach Tim Bankston has had them in two very competitive tournaments and they play a tough, defense-oriented game.

One of North’s few losses came Saturday in the third annual Bob Hambric Coaches Against Cancer Shootout.

This is a tournament held at T.F. North arranged and run by Bankston to honor his high school coach, Bob Hambric, and to raise money to fight the disease that took his life in 2009.

Bob Hambric led Simeon to the Illinois Class AA state championship in 1984. Coach Bankston was one of his stars as was Ben Wilson, who was rated the top high school basketball player in the country. Wilson was killed in November 1984, a victim of street violence, before he ever had a chance to display his gifts to a wider audience.

Bankston’s main motivation for having this tournament is to make his own team members aware of how lucky they are. And with sponsorship money and with gate receipts, he hopes to raise funds to fight the killer that cancer is.

The T.F. North family recently got a cruel reminder of the reality of cancer with the death of Mirko Jurkovic. He was a star football player at St. Andrew grade school and at T.F. North. He went on to become a consensus All-American at Notre Dame.

I really didn’t know Mirko, but I do remember watching him man handle our St. Victor football teams of the mid ‘80s. I do know many folks who knew him and they testify as to what a great person he was. Another victim of cancer taken too soon.

So congratulations to coach Bankston and all the T.F. North folks and the volunteers who made the Coaches Against Cancer tournament happen. May good people continue the fight against cancer.

Along those lines, there is a candlelight bowl on March 2 at Lan Oak Lanes sponsored by the Friends of Jim Perniciaro. This is a cancer fundraiser in the memory of another victim taken too early by the disease.

And the silver anniversary game of St. Victor’s Trivia Nite Out is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in St. Victor church hall.

If you’d like information on either of these two events, contact me.

Thanks for reading.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. George Grenchik is a longtime Calumet City resident and retired instructor at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond. He can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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