Gorches: Former Spoilermakers shining in boys basketball postseason
By Steve T. Gorches 648-3141 or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @SteveTGorches March 6, 2013 11:34PM
Updated: April 8, 2013 7:49AM
It’s not uncommon for Northwest Indiana boys basketball players from different teams to be teammates in the offseason on one of the numerous AAU squads that traverse the country.
Heck, the days of heated school rivalries are starting to disappear since many of the kids get along off the court, especially in the new Twitter and Facebook universe. I’ve lost track of how many athletes have players on supposed rivalry teams “following” them on Twitter or “friending” them on Facebook.
But the regionals taking place on Saturday at four sites feature some players whose offseason friendship goes back several years to when they were winning state titles between the second and fifth grades.
I still remember back in my recreational sports writing days pontificating about the Spoilermakers AAU basketball team that began as a group of second graders in 2003.
The program, started by Mike Burvan with annual tryouts at the Lincoln Center in Highland, won from the very first day it competed. The Spoilermakers won the USSFA Indiana state championship as second graders, then followed up with repeat state titles in third, fourth and fifth grades. It just wasn’t fair.
“By 2004 many tournament directors were requesting we play up a grade level for a bigger challenge, and we still won many of those tournaments,” Burvan said. “When the kids got into middle school, it was time to disband the team and let them play for their local high school feeder programs, which was the right thing to do.”
So it’s no surprise that the eight players on the Spoilermakers have shined in the high school ranks and are playing this weekend in regional games.
And they’re big impact players, too. On Merrillville you have Jake Raspopovich and Zoran Talley. Former Spoilermakers on Andrean are Nick Davidson and Matt Ruberry. Munster’s Mike Schlotman was the teammate of those guys, as was Chicago DeLaSalle’s Marcus White and a pretty famous Illinois standout who was playing in his IHSA sectional on Wednesday night in Chicago — Jabari Parker.
Yeah, that Jabari Parker … the one who’s committed to Duke and has Chicago Simeon High School going for its fourth straight Class 4A state title in Illinois.
“(Jabari) was a beast,” said Burvan, who’s son, Ryan, was also part of the Spoilermakers and a current member of Lake Central’s team that lost to Munster in overtime in last Saturday’s classic sectional final. “His parents brought him out to Northwest Indiana to play. He was dunking in fifth grade.”
Well, that’s no surprise since he is the No. 1 player in the nation in the 2013 recruiting class. What is a surprise to me is that he was on the Spoilermakers among these other standout region players, and they all contributed to the success of the team even though Parker was already being touted as a future star.
Little known fact: If Parker went to an Indiana high school, he would only be a junior due to the difference in age cut-offs for Illinois and Indiana schools.
“This group was truly special at an early age and had very supportive parents,” Mike Burvan said. “No one realizes how good that team was until you see the names now that everyone recognizes. It was a fun group to watch grow up.”
They’re not done growing up yet. Five are still playing on Saturday in the IHSAA basketball postseason — Merrillville’s Talley and Raspopovich will face Munster’s Schlotman in 4A at Michigan City, while Davidson and Ruberry will be in the 3A regional at Plymouth — trying to accomplish what Parker has done three times in Illinois and what they collectively did multiple times as Spoilermakers: Win a state title.