St. Charles West participated recently in the Illinois team camp shootout. Their top player is Christian Kirk, a 6'-7", 205 pound junior forward. West enjoyed an excellent last winter, and Kirk played a significant role.
"Last year, we ended up 26-4," Kirk remembers. "We lost in the state quarterfinals to Miller Career Academy."
Unfortunately, the team that participated in Champaign-Urbana was missing some key pieces.
"We lost about 6 seniors from last year, so this was our first time playing with these guards and other people. I'm the only one back, so it's tough playing all these good teams. They really jumped on us.
"We've got to work on our guards, and I have to help them out with that to show them that it's okay to have turnovers and make mistakes but just keep them down in the long run."
Getting behind early made life difficult for Kirk's individual game. It was discouraging to see his team fall apart so easily. He especially struggled against Waukegan and its All-American Jereme Richmond.
"I was wondering where he was at when he didn't start. Then he came out there and I was like, ‘Oh, that's probably him'. He's a heck of a player. I feel like he pretty much kicked my butt to be honest with you.
"I feel like everyone has a bad game, but you have to try to jump on the next one. Anytime someone comes out there and embarrasses you, you don't want to see the same thing again. So it's motivation."
Kirk showed flashes of his ability at times. He has several assets that are appealing to college coaches.
"I like to cut to the basket. I post up a lot. Sometimes, I can shoot the jumpshot. I'm on and off. And I can attack the rim. That's what I try to do all the time is attack the rim."
Kirk has also become a good passer, the result of competing against his brother.
"When I was younger I used to play with my brother, and he used to eat me up. Whenever we played with other people I definitely wasn't scoring if he was guarding me, so I was just trying to find the easiest way to score."
The intelligent, personable young man wants to improve his jumpshot while adding strength and bulk to his raw-boned frame.
"I'm working out a lot this summer, hoping to put about 10-15 more pounds on."
Illinois has invited him to a couple games and given him a campus tour. He witnessed the packed Assembly Hall for the Michigan State game, so it was weird to play there when it was nearly empty. Illini coaches have made their interest clear.
"They've been telling me they like the way I play and that I fit in good with their system. I talk to Coach (Jay) Price the most. By the way they played this year, the program is obviously going up and not the other way. They just keeping improving, and Coach Weber is a great coach. Sky's the limit."
Kirk has a number of other suitors as well.
"Missouri, Kansas, Wisconsin, Marquette, and a couple of Missouri Valley Schools have shown interest. St. Louis University and Southern Illinois have offered.
"With SLU, I love the coach's personality. Coach (Rick) Majerus is a funny guy, and he always shows you where to eat. At Southern Illinois, Coach (Chris) Lowery came out to a couple of games. He's laid back."
Kirk is playing with the Kansas City Pump Run AAU 16 and under team. He was pleased with their results in a May tournament in Minnesota.
"We won our first tournament in two years. We've been kind of struggling, but we won the Howard Pulley tournament in Minneapolis. In July, we play in Cincinnati, Tulsa, Vegas and Kansas City."