Tim Bankston said last week would be more than a test for his T.F. North boys basketball team.
With six games in seven days, including five in a row, the Meteors passed just like they are looking to do on their final exams this week.
T.F. North (9-1) won the Plainfield North Holiday Tournament led by the tourney's most valuable player Nick Wood, who averaged 18 points and 5 rebounds per game last week.
"I didn't know how they would react, but they never blinked," Bankston said. "Last year, that would not have been the case, but these guys, the seniors, they are leading."
The lone loss was on Dec. 9 to Marshall.
"I think we came together against Plainfield North on Friday (Dec. 14)," Bankston said. "We were in overtime with seven guys fouled out and just four on the floor. They never panicked. I think Plainfield came down four times and we held them without a basket.
"Now, that is saying something."
Bankston plays a tough schedule, so in the past, not all of his teams have started fast. He said he knows this does not mean his team is unbeatable, nor does it mean they will have a great year.
It is better than last year when Bankston said he was not sure if the Meteors would ever come around. Unfortunately, he was right. It was a young team that had a learning experience and a losing season.
This team is one year older and has that something.
"They have chemistry," Bankston said. "Last year, they just did not get it when we told them things. Now, they take charge, and with Nick and Greg (McClain), they make sure everyone is on the same page."
That means in practice letting Bankston and his staff know what is going on.
"I tell them something and they say, 'Coach, we know, we are supposed to be here when this (situation) is happening," Bankston said. "Sometimes, I forget to do something in practice. You know, I am getting a little old and sometimes I forget, but they remind me. That is leadership."
Wood has shown the leadership and not in the loud way, though he is not afraid to tell a teammate something.
"Off the court, Nick don't say two words, nicest kid you want to meet. He wouldn't hurt a flea," Bankston said. "On the court, different story. He is tough, he plays hard and is not afraid to play defense."
The Meteors will need all that next week as they play in the State Farm Holiday Classic in Bloomington/Norrmal. They play Normal Community on Wednesday and if they win, they will probably get Rock Island.
"That is a tough tournament," Bankston said. "It is loaded and that is good for us. We will be tested every game and then we get ready for our the rest of our (South Suburban Blue) conference."
There is no doubt T.F. North is proving that last year's sub-.500 mark was an aberration and Meteor basketball is back.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.