It may be a bit of an understatement to say Ken Stevenson likes a challenge.
He certainly is not afraid to got after a challenge.
The former Seton Academy boys basketball coach is in his second year at Urban Prep Bronzeville and his Lions won the Public League Green with a 14-1 conference mark and 20-4 overall. Granted the Green will never be confused with the prestigious Public League Red, but the second-year program has to start somewhere. Next year, Urban Prep Bronzeville moves up to the Blue.
"We want to be able to play our way into the Red," Stevenson said. "We know we are not there yet, but we want to keep building."
In the Public League, teams start in the Green division, then move to the Blue, then the Red -- where the Simeons, Curies and Morgan Parks reside. Pretty good company.
Like when he started the program at Seton in 2003. Before his first practice, Stevenson had to go to a sporting goods store in Calumet City to buy a basketball.
He won a Class 2A state title at Seton in 2009 and left the school after the 2009-10 season to move on. His first team at Urban Prep Bronzeville went 10-13 overall and 6-9 in the Metro Green.
He said there are naysayers, just like when Seton went co-ed.
"They say, 'You'll never win there,' like they told me when I took over at Seton," Stevenson said. "I think that is part of the drive to prove people wrong. It is a challenge and I love one. Anytime someone tells you that you cannot do something, it automatically makes you want to prove them wrong."
At Seton, nobody knew about the program.
"They would say, 'You got boys? I thought you were an all-girls school.' and stuff like that," Stevenson said. "It makes you work harder to get the word out.
"I think people know about Seton Academy now."
Urban Charter Prep is a boys-only, lottery school, which means you must enter one and get your number selected to attend. The Bronzeville campus is at 27th Street and Dearborn Ave., near IIT. Stevenson learned a few things about starting a program from scratch.
"One is you have your philosophy, whether you are a new program or taking over an established one," Stevenson said. "I learned a lot while at Seton and each year you coach, you become a better coach."
While his team did win its first regional game this year in Class 3A, Stevenson knows consistency is the key to a successful program. The wins may not be as many next year in the Blue and if his program makes it to the Red.
Stevenson certainly has a flair for starting something and making sure it grows. He will undoubtedly put Urban Charter on the map.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.