BOYS BASKETBALL

Area basketball players leave home for big hoop dreams

2013-02-23T17:00:00Z 2013-05-06T22:10:12Z Area basketball players leave home for big hoop dreamsSteve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com
February 23, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

The Dyer door remains closed. For at least 10 months out of the year the family doesn't look behind the entry.

For the last five years the door to R.J. Curington's room has been a brick wall.

"I'm playing a trick on my mind," said Jacquelyn Curington, R.J.'s mother. "When I see the door shut I believe he's in there playing a game. I don't miss him as much."

Five years ago the Curingtons had a very difficult decision to make. R.J. Curington had an opportunity to play basketball at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. Oak Hill is one of America's leading hoops prep schools.

Instead of playing basketball one more year at Kahler Middle School and then, Lake Central, the flashy, athletic guard was gone.

"At first, that was something that was an intolerable pain," said Rolando Curington, R.J.'s father. "I missed him greatly. I couldn't console or comfort after games. Oak Hill has been great. But I had some long nights.

"I'd look into his bedroom and see his picture on the wall and I had some teary eyes. Especially, the first year."

Recently, Curington verbally committed to play basketball at DePaul. His sacrifice paid off. His story is not unique.

In recent years several high school boys basketball players have left their home high school to attend a basketball school to expand on their abilities.

Curington is a senior. He would've been on last year's sectional champion Lake Central team had he stayed home.

Wheeler's Christian Sikoski left the Bearcats program after last year. He was Tom Johnson's leading returning scorer and rebounder. His brother Anthony is a freshman player at Wheeler.

Christian Sikoski transferred to Traders Point Christian Academy in Whitestown, Ind. He's playing with another local player who left his traditional high school before graduating, Bishop Noll's Milos Kostic left Noll before his junior year.

Both Sikoski and Kostic have played together in AAU before joining up at the school that is northwest of Indianapolis.

And Munster's Nick Pellar left the Mustangs program after the 2009-10 season. The 6-foot-6 guard transferred to IMG Academy in Florida. He missed Munster's run to the semistate in March of 2011.

Pellar played two years at IMG and is now a walk-on at Auburn.

These players are different from Crown Point's Spike Albrecht and Merrillville's Jeremiah Jones. Those two finished their regular high school careers before playing one additional year at a prep school.

Albrecht is now at Michigan and Jones at Duquesne.

SYF coach James Dye sent Roosevelt's Tyrone Appleton to a prep school after his sophomore year in Gary. He said that was a specific situation to help a young man get into a better situation. Appleton, after some bouncing around, ended up at Kansas.

Likewise, East Chicago's Bobby Smith left early for a prep school and he ended up at Villanova.

"Those were situations to help young men find a better situation for their life," Dye said. "In the past two-three years we have worked with kids and we did not want to take them away from their four-year high school experience.

"That's what we're doing at SYF. But I know a lot of kids are getting pulled away from their local high schools toward prep schools. It's a going trend."

R.J. Curington gets back to Dyer on average two months out of each calendar year. He's handled it pretty well. It's been tougher on his family.

His younger sister, Rolanda, is a junior at Lake Central and helped the Indians win a sectional championship. Rolando said the older brother rarely sees his little sister player.

Most information exchanged comes from texts and quick phone calls.

But that is monitored tightly. When R.J. is on Oak Hill's campus he can not use any electronic communication devices. Just an old-school phone in his room.

"Of course, at times I missed home," R.J. said. "But I've had a great experience, competing against great players and being pushed by a great coaching staff. I wouldn't have done it any differently."

But that doesn't mean he didn't think hard about coming home to play with the likes of Glenn Robinson III, Tyler Wideman and Tye Wilburn. Curington said had he played for Lake Central last season something special really could've transpired.

And with the IHSAA's 103rd boys basketball state tournament tipping off this week, it has given many of these players another reason to miss home.

"I saw (Lake Central) play a couple times, those guys are my friends," R.J. said. "I believe we would've gone downstate and won it all. I did think about it. That would've been fun."

Sikoski played in one of Indiana's lone "sold-out" sectionals last year, the Class 2A Wheeler Sectional. With Bishop Noll, Bowman Academy and a field with very solid teams, it was nearly impossible to get a ticket.

In the last three years the winner of this sectional has gone to the state championship game. Sikoski was a freshman when Wheeler won it all in 2010.

"I've wanted to play D-I basketball my entire life," Sikoski said. "Traders Point is helping me reach that goal. We don't have to follow the rules that an IHSAA school has to. I got there on Aug. 12 and we started practice right away.

"We had two D-I players last year. And I think Indy has higher competition than the region. We play a lot of great teams in Indianapolis."

Leaving his family was the toughest. But also leaving the friends and teammates he's known his entire life in Valparaiso. He's been able to get back and see a few Bearcats' games.

Sikoski will be home this weekend to spend time with his parents, Aco and Daniela, along with his little brother. He is also going to miss Hoosier Hysteria.

"The Indiana state tournament has been around 100-plus years," Sikoski said. "I am definitely going to miss it. There is nothing like it. I do miss playing with my (former) teammates."

Sikoski's dream is moving closer to realization. He has heard from Brown, Dartmouth and Valparaiso. He believes playing at a higher level will get him where he wants to go.

But for the parents, this dream does have a lot of lonely nights.

"At first it was like, 'Oh my God, my baby's leaving," Jacquelyn Curington said. "Can he take care of himself? I let him know if he didn't like it he could come home. I miss our conversations. Him laughing and telling jokes."

Mrs. Curington said she sometimes makes an extra plate of food at dinner, forgetting her son is away. Rolando misses working with his son, riding snowmobiles and the other basic day-to-day that is a constant for many.

"We keep his door closed until he comes home," Jacquelyn said. "It's our way of coping."

For Daniela Sikoski it hasn't been as tough. Her son is only two hours away and he only left home early for one year.

"It wasn't easy but he wanted to try something new," Daniela said. "We've always supported him.  I know he misses his brother. But he does come home a lot and we get to go see a lot of his games. It was his dream and we wanted to help him get there."

Attempts to reach Pellar were unsuccessful.

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