PREP BEAT

MIKE NIETO: Jerry Colangelo, Wes Mason and Chicago Heights basketball

2012-03-15T22:00:00Z MIKE NIETO: Jerry Colangelo, Wes Mason and Chicago Heights basketballBy Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
March 15, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO HEIGHTS | If you played Trivial Pursuit, you could make a whole game of Bloom athletics and particularly basketball.

The Blazing Trojans boys basketball team is making a trip to Peoria for the Class 4A tournament.

This is the first time a Bloom Township team will play in the four-class state semifinals.

There is one coach who took two different schools in District 206 to the Class AA Elite Eight. Can you name him?

Gary Meyer. He coached the 1988 Bloom Trail team to the Elite Eight and the 2000 Bloom Township squad to the Elite Eight.

The two schools combined athletic programs starting with the 1995-96 school year. The 2000 team was part of Gatorade's Replay, which was televised, of the 2000 Class AA East Aurora Supersectional. The Blazing Trojans beat Brother Rice 42-40 in a controversial finish in which many thought Joe Chapman's shot came after the buzzer. But it didn't according to the officials.

Meyer had a great run with both programs. There were some great SICA East battles with Bloom's Frank Nardi and Homewood-Flossmoor's Don Laketa as well as with Thornton, Thornridge and Thornwood.

The list of names in M'Cann Gym just touches the surface of a great program which still has a great alumni following. From Jerry Colangelo making all state in 1957 to Audie Mathews as well as Raymond McCoy in 1978 and 1979 to Aaron Nelson in 2009. The coaches like Wes Mason and Hadwin M'Cann, for whom the gym is named.

They still talk of the Wes Mason years and the floor which the Blazing Trojans play on is named after him with his name on the floor. The back-to-back Class AA runner-up finishes in 1974 and 1975. The big after-game dinners at Savoia's and the famed "Trojan Mafia."

"We had 1,200 season ticket holders during those years," Bloom Township assistant coach Pete McGuire said. "If you didn't have a ticket, you had to be here by halftime of the sophomore game or you wouldn't get a seat. And we sat 3,500 in here back then."

McGuire coached in the late 1970s and early 1980s at Bloom Trail and what he said is great is the sons and daughters, and even grandchildren of Bloom and Bloom Trail grads who play sports the Blazing Trojans.

Bloom's Dejahown Freeman is the son of Kevin Green, who starred on Meyer's 1988 Bloom Trail team. Freeman's aunt, Freda Freeman-Jackson is a Bloom Trail grad and the women's head basketball coach at Alabama State. His cousins include former athletes Cora Jones, Devon Green and Beunie Green.

"It is an honor when I put on that uniform, step on to the floor, to know I am part of the Bloom tradition," Freeman said. "It is special, but it is special to play here. Coach Pete (McGuire) makes sure we know about the history and there is a lot of it."

He said the combination does gives you a little bit of a charge, if not a sense of pride.

"You want to play harder because you look up and see a lot of former players in the stands," Freeman said. "We want to be a a part of that and do something downstate. We want to be able to come back and talk to the (future) players and come to games."

Yes, Bloom Township holds a special place not only in Illinois basketball history, but in the hearts of anyone whoever went to Bloom or Bloom Trail high schools.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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