Seton Academy coach Brandon Thomas often forgets that seniors Mark Weems Jr. and Kamal Shasi are best friends.
“They’re more like brothers,” Thomas said. “The way they get on each other during games, the way they coach each other and feed off of each other, it’s not just a friendship. It’s much deeper than that.”
Exactly how strong the relationship between the pair of 18-year-olds is may be no more apparent than in the form of the 68 career wins the two have accumulated during their three seasons as varsity starters. The win total — a school record that could reach the upper 70s should Seton Academy reach the IHSA Class 2A State Finals — is just one landmark for the inseparable pair, and one both guards hope will lead to greater things.
“We’ve got so much more to accomplish,” Weems Jr. said. “All of these accolades can’t get in the way of what our team goal is, and that’s a state title. Both Kamal and I know that.”
As sophomores, Kashi, Weems Jr. and the Sting fell to Hales Franciscan in the 2A Herscher Sectional championship before finishing fourth as juniors at last season’s state finals in Peoria. This year, the two are hoping their experience as a fluid backcourt can put Seton Academy over the hump.
On paper, Weems Jr. and Shasi appear to be two outstanding individual players.
Weems Jr. currently stands as Seton’s all-time leading scorer with 1,270 points, and leads the 19-10 sectional-bound Sting this season with 18.3 points per game.
Shasi on the other hand scores an average of just more than nine points per contest, but also dishes out four assists per outing and holds the program record for 3-pointers with 144. Thirty-five more points would push Shasi ahead of Seton Academy alumnus Tony Nixon (now playing at Northern Illinois University) and behind Weems as the program's second all-time leading scorer.
As good as the two have been over their prep careers, Shasi and Weems Jr. insist their success stems from the play of one another.
“We just know each other’s games, and we know how to make each other better,” Shasi said. “Mark is more of a to-the-basket type of player, and he finishes better at the basket, whereas I’m more of an outside shooter.”
That’s how Weems Jr. likes it.
“What Kamal does makes us better as a team, and I think what I do also makes us better as a team,” he said, “and Kamal and I use each other to our advantage. He gives me the ball in places I like, and I try to do the exact same thing for him.”
Thomas, who has benefited from the play of his senior leaders, said one of the biggest keys to the pair’s success is their familiarity with not only each other, but varsity basketball.
“It’s all about consistency. Not necessarily always on the basketball court, but just as teammates and as friends,” Thomas said. “There aren’t going to be a lot of unknowns throughout a season when you have two guys who have been around together as long as Mark and Kamal have.
“They’ve won together, they’ve lost together, and they’ve pretty much accomplished everything they can except for one thing, and I think they’re ready to put it all out there to take home a state championship at the end of the this season.”