CALUMET CITY | Thornton Fractional North boys basketball coach Tim Bankston knew this team would be a work in progress.
With almost a new cast that is untried at the varsity level, Bankston said his team would need to find itself. He has had teams like this in the past, and they always came together near late December and were strong come February.
After Friday's debacle, a 54-46 home loss to Richards in which the Meteors were 21-of-43 from the free-throw line and committed 27 turnovers, Bankston hopes his team will wake up and smell the coffee.
Or maybe drink some to get a jolt of energy.
"This team has not come together yet, and usually by now my teams are starting to get it together in December," Bankston said. "Maybe they won't, but I think and I have confidence in them that they will.
"We will be a different team by February."
For starters, guard David Stevens should be eligible for Wednesday's game against Bowman Academy. The Meteors (3-5, 2-1 South Suburban Blue) will be without Ashanti Randolph, who will have to sit out because he got two technical fouls Friday. Another player will be eligible in December, so some help is on the way.
"We missed too many easy shots, didn't finish off, and we still hung on," Bankston said. "I should get coach of the game for keeping us close."
Bankston is not picking on anyone, but he wants his team to play together and play hard. He got nothing from his big men for the second-straight game. In a Tuesday win over Eisenhower, he was able to use a guard-oriented lineup, and it worked. Nothing worked on Friday, or so it seemed.
It is time for the post guys to step up, get tough and not be afraid to mix it up in the paint. This is a talented team and chemistry may be missing right now, but that doesn't mean the Meteors can't come together.
In defense, North plays a tough schedule and Bankston wouldn't have it any other way. The Meteors go to a Christmas tournament in East Aurora and host the Bob Hambric Classic in January, which includes Simeon, East Chicago Central, LaPorte LaLumiere, Bloom Township and Mount Carmel.
He has had teams that lost 11 games in a season, and he has always said you don't win a regional or sectional title in November. A few years ago, the team started slow but won the Class 3A Rich South Sectional before losing to Simeon, Bankston's prep alma mater in the Chicago State Supersectional.
"We had tough guys like Marcus Deloney," Bankston said. "We need one this year, and I may have to find one or I'll make one."
Bankston is counting on his team to play together and play hard. The players will not disappoint. The tough schedule will toughen them, and they need to focus on finishing — whether it is on a field goal attempt or the game.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at email@example.com.