2005 POY: Jon Scheyer
Leading up to the announcement of The News-Gazette's 77th All-State Boys' Basketball team, we'll look back at a recent player of the year.
JON SCHEYER (2005)
By JEFF MEZYDLO
NORTHBROOK – He can't walk the halls of swanky Glenbrook North High without a handshake or a high-five from a fellow classmate or faculty member.
In a north suburban Chicago school of more than 2,100 kids that fictitiously rallied to "Save Ferris" in the 1980s, there aren't many students who don't know Jon Scheyer.
"I know a lot of people," Scheyer said after stopping to talk with a group of students conducting a science experiment in the Glenbrook North hallway. "I don't know everyone."
But everyone seems to know the 6-foot-6 junior, who led his team to the Class AA state championship last month and likely will be the state's top college basketball prospect next year.
At a recent prep all-star game in the United Center, Scheyer signed so many autographs and greeted so many well-wishers that the game was over before he knew it started.
"It was so hectic," said Scheyer, whose 33.5-point average in his final four postseason games turned a great prep player into a state tournament legend. "People were so excited and talking to me, I couldn't even watch the game."
Scheyer, his father, Jim, and a family friend were fortunate to visit the Final Four last weekend. Scheyer wore an Illinois shirt and sat among Illini fans, but he couldn't get comfortable in his seat without orange-clad fans wishing him good luck or congratulating him on the season.
For the humble Scheyer, arguably the best junior in the state, the attention he indirectly draws is second nature. The attention will increase as Scheyer closes in on a college decision. Arizona, Duke, Illinois and Wisconsin are his final four. His decision could come as early as the end of the spring.
It's a lot for a 17-year-old to handle. But the laid-back Scheyer, who still can ask a buddy if he wants to shoot around after school or go to the movies, just soaks it in without changing.
"I think it's fun," said Scheyer, the 2004-05 News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year. "I try to have a good time with it. I don't try to get carried away."
Lindsey Berman hasn't taught Scheyer since he was in her science class as a freshman. She still helps him with work and is the only one at Glenbrook North known to call him Jonathan.
Though he's never suffered from an ultra-thick ego, mentors like Berman always seem to be there to keep him grounded.
"He's become much more mature because his schedule is more demanding," Berman said while showing Scheyer the 'A' he got on a chemistry test.
"He's really good at math, too."
Scheyer is good at a lot of things. He carries a 3.3 grade-point average.
On the court, he averaged 25 points for the second straight season. His 134 points in the state tournament (including 48 against Waukegan in the super-sectional) is second in Class AA only to Marcus Liberty's 143 in 1987.
Against Brother Rice in the quarterfinals, Scheyer went 16 of 16 from the free throw line, the most made in a game since 1956.
"He's a terrific player," Brother Rice coach Pat Richardson said. "What he did should serve as an example that you can score so many points if you can just make free throws."
His postseason run is the stuff of prep legends. His ability to shoot, pass (four assists a game) and handle the ball makes him a rare complete player.
"I call him a combination of Larry Bird and 'Pistol' Pete (Maravich)," Glenbrook North coach David Weber said. "He's got the flair, the passing abilities. He's got good size. He's a rare player in this day and age."
He was an Associated Press all-stater for the second straight year, a Parade Magazine All-American and Illinois' Gatorade Player of the Year. He consistently hits the weights to add more meat to his bones. He gets pointers from the Chicago Bulls' trainer and rarely is seen without a ball in his arms.
Off the court, Scheyer's maturity could be the most noticeable. He's close to mastering fan and media attention, and he has knowledgeable and supportive parents by his side.
"They don't let things get to my head," Scheyer said. "I've just always followed their lead."
And he has a core group of six friends, some who aren't basketball players, who treat him simply as a teen-ager and not a star.
"I'm tight with my friends," Scheyer said. "I think they see me for who I am. I like to joke around with my friends and just be a kid."
Scheyer has practically grown up with the attention. He's learned to become comfortable with it and how to handle it.
"He's really opened up," Weber said. "He's obviously had to with all the coverage he's got. He's starting to enjoy it."
A few days after his team won the state title, Scheyer and his teammates were on a live Chicago-area sports show. The next day, he was interviewed on Chicago's WSCR 670-AM. On Tuesday, the entire team will sing during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field.
Even those at school can tell how comfortable Scheyer has become.
"Saw you on TV last night; you're doing great," one Glenbrook North teacher said to Scheyer as he admired the school's first state basketball championship trophy in the glass case. "You're turning into quite the microphone guy."
Scheyer doesn't mind signing autographs – even at school. But he's still trying for the perfect signature.
"I've never really worked on it," Scheyer said. "I guess it's all right."
With one more year of high school, the autographs won't stop. Neither will the talk of what college he'll choose.
Weighing his options
It doesn't matter if he's at school, in the gym or at the local mall, Scheyer knows what's coming.
"About 15 or 20," said Scheyer of the number of times a day he's asked where he's going to college. "I just tell them, 'I don't know.' I get it all the time."
Scheyer and his family won't rush into the decision. He's played basketball since he was 3, so he's invested too much to rush to a decision.
The Scheyers are thorough when it comes to checking things out.
"He and his parents may go down as the career leaders on unofficial visits," said Dave Telep, a recruiting expert from scout.com.
Scheyer visited Duke and saw the Blue Devils play Wake Forest. When he visited Illinois, he saw the centennial celebration game against Minnesota. He happened to be in Arizona on a family vacation and checked out the Tucson campus when Illinois beat Arizona in the Chicago Regional final.
"They were very stunned," said Scheyer of how the locals took the loss. "We were going back and forth for both teams; it was a great game."
He plans to start making official visits soon. Depending which experts or reports you pay attention to, it's a tug-of-war between Duke and Illinois. Telep said Scheyer's performance in the state finals likely elevated him into the top 25 national players for the Class of 2006.
"He's been a known commodity since his freshman year," Telep said. "Some guys like that often peak. With Jon Scheyer, it shows that he can still bust out."
Most Illini fans expect Scheyer to pick Illinois because his prep coach is UI coach Bruce Weber's brother. That's never been the case.
"I love them, but they are completely different coaches," Scheyer said. "Knowing (David Weber) makes it a completely comfortable situation at Illinois, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go there."
He enjoyed himself among the Illini faithful at the Final Four.
"(The Final Four) is the most amazing sporting event I've ever been to," Scheyer said. "To see all the fans get excited and how Illinois played, and how their fans supported them, was great."
What that means on Scheyer's future is unknown. He said his favorites are still the same as before the Final Four. It's getting serious, and so is Scheyer.
"With recruiting, I tried not to take it too serious," Scheyer said. "Now, I'm taking it serious because I have to. At the beginning of the year, I didn't focus on it too much."
Now it's about resting his body and focusing on the summer, which includes a trip to the Nike All-America Camp, the USA Festival of Basketball in Colorado and a camp in Portland.
Scheyer has learned to balance life as a kid and basketball star. It's always been about the game. It's just something he loves.
"(Winning the state championship) was such an amazing accomplishment," Scheyer said. "My whole life is basketball. It's such a great feeling. I can never see my life without basketball."