Pontiac Indians basketball

It’s summer break, but that doesn’t mean high school athletics are over for the year. Au contraire, Pontiac Township High School and the Pontiac Rec Center will be home to the first Pontiac Summer Shootout basketball event on Saturday.
    Unlike many such events that take place, this one has a plethora of reasons for being special. Besides being the first one for Pontiac head coach Durrell Robinson here, it one that is combining some state powers with some area programs. Making the trip to the Chief City from the area will be Dwight, Lexington and Prairie Central, besides Pontiac and JV teams from Pontiac and Prairie Central, who will square off in a game in the afternoon.
    Also making the trip are Pontiac Holiday Tournament veterans Peoria Manual, Danville and Chicago Curie, as well as defending two-time state Class 2A champion Chicago Orr and Judah Christian of Champaign.
    “I wasn’t expecting it to be as big as it is,” Robinson said. “Those guys I thought would be busy, but I reached out to them and they’re in. We get a chance to play against some great competition in June, some great state powerhouses. It’s pretty exciting for us.
    “I’m thankful for the programs willing to come in and play. We’ve got a great mix of area programs, Peoria Manual, Danville, Chicago Curie, Chicago Orr and Champaign Judah Christian. At least five of us won a regional last year.”
    Orr won the Class 2A state title in March for the second year in a row. Besides Orr, Pontiac, Curie, Manual and Judah Christian were regional champions.
    Also on tap will be a kid’s clinic, a 3-point contest and a dunk contest. The highlight of the intermission period will be guest speaker Keon Clark, a former AC Williamson Award winner from Danville at the PHT, who played in the NBA.
    “He’s just going to talk about life in the NBA, his life’s experiences — just something that you normally don’t get a chance to hear,” said Robinson, who was a teammate of Clark’s at Danville High School.
    Each team will get three games in rather balanced schedule. The smaller schools will take on each other while the bigger programs will battle it out.
    For Pontiac, it will be an interesting mix with the Indians taking on the 3-point frenzy of Judah Christian in the morning and then the city flavor of Curie and Orr in the afternoon.
    Robinson is happy with how things have worked out in this inaugural event.
    “Peoria Manual, even though they’re known as a power, they don’t usually get to play against Chicago schools; and at the same time, Chicago schools are getting more of an urgency to play good teams down here, as well,” Robinson said. “It just happened to work out great.
    “I want it to be as organized as possible, doing things the right way. It will pretty much draw itself. I think it would be cool to get maybe 12 or 16 teams. I think that’s a good number.”
    It will certainly be a test for the Indians, whose top two returning players were only sophomores last season.
    “It’s still a learning experience because of new formats, new ways,” Robinson said of the Indians. “A lot of kids are involved in other sports but many of them come as much as they can. It’s a new experience for a lot of them, a new opportunity.
    “We’re looking for as much competition as possible. We’ve already been to team camp at University of Indianapolis. We played some of the top  programs in Indianapolis, we scrimmaged Plano, a pretty good 2A, 20-win school school last year.”
    The competition is stronger than Pontiac has seen in the summer in quite some time, if not ever.
    “Coming up, we’ll get to go to Illinois State University where we’ll play Rock Falls, Winnebago, Belvidere North and Zion-Benton,” Robinson said. “Then we’ll go to the DePaul Shootout.
    “These are great opportunities for these kids to get on Division I, Division II campuses and play in front of coaches and get a chance to test where we’re at and hopefully let us get better.
    “Another thing with our summer schedule, those are bonding trips. It was a great mix that went to Indianapolis and they really enjoyed themselves. It’s a family affair here and everyone fit right in, everyone is blending in great and we’re hoping to grow.”
    These are the steps that could produce a strong program for the long term, which is what Robinson is looking at having.
    “I don’t think it’s hit some of them, how much harder it is to achieve success and take it to a level further,” Robinson said. “At the end of the day, they’re not used to it. I know some of the younger kids are excited because of the success we’ve had. There’s more confidence, more leadership.”
    Here is the schedule for this weekend, with games starting at 10 a.m. At 10 a.m., Dwight vs. Lexington at PTHS; Pontiac vs. Judah Christian Court 2 at the rec center and Manual vs. Prairie Central on Court 3 at the rec center. At 11, Danville vs. Orr at PTHS, and at the rec center it will be Lexington vs. Pontiac JV and the Indian basketball clinic.
    At noon will be Keon Clark’s address, followed by the dunk contest and the 3-point shootout. Games resume at 1 p.m. with Curie and Pontiac at PTHS and PC and Dwight at the rec center. At 2, it’s Orr and Manual at the high school with Danville vs. Judah Christian and Lexington-PC at the rec center. The 3 p.m. slate has Curie-Danville at PTHS and Dwight-Judah Christian and the Pontiac-PC JV matchup at the rec center.
    The final two games will be in the PTHS gym with the Indians taking on Orr at 4 and Curie and Manual at 5.