HAMMOND | Jason Quigg is the kind of guy you'd want your son to play basketball for. If you had any brains, anyway.
The boys hoops coach at River Forest doesn't have a string of sectional and regional championships. Hasn't coached seven kids now playing in the ACC. Matt Painter hasn't watched talent in his gym.
Really, Quigg's claim to fame was coaching the Ingots to one semistate back in 2001.
No matter what happens, his team always plays with blue-collar grit and hard-hat hope.
"We tell our kids all the time," Quigg said after a tough 77-41 loss at Bishop Noll, "'No matter what you do, on or off the court, if you never quit you will be successful.'
"That's in life more importantly, but also on the basketball court."
Down 30 inside a minute to play, River Forest junior Brandon Laas dove through the legs of a Warrior to force a jump ball. That effort symbolizes what Quigg's teams do.
The loss dropped the Ingots to 5-5. Not as bad as you'd think. Until the Noll roll, the Ingots have competed in every game. Not bad for a squad that only won eight games the previous two seasons.
Remember, though, the Ingots made it to the 2009-10 Greater South Shore Conference tournament championship game with a team that won 15 games.
That was a few months before three starters moved to other schools — Steve Hawkins to Bowman and Ricky Garcia and Hasonie Walters to Lake Station.
Quigg has a team that could be dangerous this upcoming week in the GSSC tourney. The Ingots will open at Whiting on Tuesday.
"It's a great tourney," Quigg said. "There's great rivalries and a bunch of teams that play really hard. We want to get past Tuesday and take our chances on Friday."
If Laas can stay out of foul trouble, like he was in against Noll, this kid is on a roll. He averaged 18.3 points over his last four games and scored 13 against the Warriors, spending half the game on the bench.
Not bad for a kid who broke his collarbone and missed most of the football season — and he has a tumor in his right leg.
"It's benign," Laas said. "I've had it for two or three years. I'll get it taken care of when the season's over."
Kids like this don't grow on trees. They cut them down with a dull axe in about 45 seconds.
"I absolutely love basketball," Laas said. "I am determined to win. I hate losing, like tonight. I want to keep playing like this. I don't want it to end."
The leadership of the GSSC has done a great job with this midseason tournament. Don't know why more leagues don't do something like this. It is a great soup starter for fans, getting them ready for the postseason.
What makes the GSSC so great on the boys side is you have teams like Noll and Marquette — but you have coaches and players like Quigg and Laas.
"I've got high hopes, big dreams," Laas said. "This tournament gets more intense every year. We want to get to the championship game."
Isn't what this is all about?
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.