Three years ago, Chesterton Middle School's eighth grade team went undefeated, completing a two-season run of perfection that spanned 45 games.
Two of the stars, Chris Palombizio and Matt Holba, stayed in town to start high school. A third, Ryan Fazekas, charted his own course, heading to Marquette Catholic in Michigan City.
"I did what I had to do to get better," Fazekas said. "It was best for me at the time, to show what I can do, to start to develop more, and academic-wise. That was a big deal."
Now a junior, Fazekas has been a starter from the day he walked into the Scholl Center, helping the Blazers get within an eyelash of a sectional title twice. There's not an ounce of regret, though Fazekas, now and again, can't help but wonder what might have been if the band had stayed together.
"We always talk about how, now that we've all really developed, what we could have done as a team, how it would've been nice," Fazekas said. "We were always competitive. We always played two on two. We'd pick someone up for fun. We'd go two out of three, then end up playing 12 (games). I see Chris every weekend, and when Matt comes up, we hang out. We're all still pretty much best friends."
Marquette coach Donovan Garletts has seen Fazekas evolve from a spindly ninth-grader with a soft touch to a more complete player.
"It's been incredible," Garletts said. "He's a great kid, a near 4.0 (student) at a college prep school. He's a relentless worker. He's stronger. He takes it to the hole and finishes through traffic. There's a lot more other parts to his game, which has made him college ready."
Providence noticed, seeing Fazekas' evolving skill set and still growing 6-foot-8 frame, and offered early. Up more than 20 pounds to 190, he trains with Andrew Wallen at Integrated Movement in Valpo and Rick Lewis at the Duneland YMCA. Most of his free time involves eating.
"More meals, peanut butter for snacks," Fazekas said. "They said I haven't finished growing. I haven't filled out yet."
After averaging 14 points per game last season, Fazekas is currently at 10.1, the lowest of his career. He's not stressing it.
"I'd rather score five, getting double teamed so other guys are getting easy baskets, and win the game," he said. "I'm more concerned about team success than getting mine. If I want to score, that's what AAU's for. It's nice to contribute (points), but doing a little of everything is definitely something I pride myself in, getting 10, 15 rebounds, a few blocked shots, guarding the other team's best guy. In the end, the scoring will come with it."
Three games without Fazekas, who hasn't played since spraining his ankle Jan. 11 against Andrean, have reinforced what Garletts already knew.
"We're really missing all the things that aren't on a stat sheet," Garletts said. "For every five rebounds, there's about 15 tips, deflections. He's changing shots, forcing contested shots. Everybody's attention is on him. There are so many differences from just putting up points and rebounds."
Fazekas hopes to return next week as the regular season heads into the stretch run.
"It hurts watching, not being out there contributing," he said. "We've had our ups and downs. We've been battling a lot of injuries all year, but we're coming around as a team. We've taken big steps from where we were."