Chicago Christian’s AJ Van Dellen was requested to alter roles this season.
So, the senior guard/ahead went from sidekick to tremendous hero.
“Since he has been right here, he has all the time been Robin to Batman,” coach Kevin Pittman mentioned of Van Dellen. “He’s performed varsity for 3 years and all the time been a complementary participant.
“He thought he might nonetheless be a complementary participant, and I mentioned, ‘No, now could be your time to be that man.”
And the way’s that figuring out? Properly, based on teammate Kerry Teague …
“He’s Batman,” Teague mentioned. “He’s the actual Batman.”
Van Dellen reached into his utility belt Wednesday evening, arising with 20 factors to assist Chicago Christian to a 64-50 win over host Shepard within the annual Palos Heights showdown.
Teague, a junior getting used to the purpose guard position, was proper behind with 18 factors for the Knights (7-13). Van Dellen scored 13 factors within the second half and Teague had eight within the fourth quarter.
Jovan Thomas got here off the bench to attain 13 factors for Shepard (4-14), whereas Jeremiah Storey added 12 factors, together with 10 within the first half.
The 6-foot-3 Van Dellen mentioned he’s having fun with the position of being the chief.
“I struggled my sophomore and junior yr a bit bit,” Van Dellen mentioned. “Taking the duty senior yr is tough, but it surely’s additionally enjoyable as a result of there are a variety of guys I can train.”
The Evergreen Park resident has been doing an excellent job of educating these youthful gamers.
“He’s displaying the youthful guys learn how to step up,” Teague mentioned of Van Dellen. “He’s taught me to work onerous and to belief your self and have faith.”
Teague, a Nation Membership Hills resident, is studying on the job for the Knights.
“He’s by no means performed level for us at any stage,” Pittman mentioned of Teague. “We had a necessity for him to play level, and he’s actually rising into that position.
“He struggled a bit bit early with some decision-making, however he’s one child the place we by no means, ever query effort. We lived with a variety of errors early as a result of if you happen to inform that child to run via a wall, he’ll put his head down and run via a wall and rise up and do it once more.”
The Knights have been coming off Tuesday’s 82-62 Chicagoland Christian Convention loss to Hope and opened Wednesday’s sport down 16-9 earlier than righting the ship.
Shepard has misplaced 4 in a row below Tony Chiuccariello, who’s retiring after the season. He’s the dean of Southland coaches, having guided the Astros for the reason that 1998-99 season.
The second-longest serving coach within the space is Lincoln-Method East’s Wealthy Kolimas, who began within the 2001-2002 season.
Chiuccariello mentioned he’s attempting to dam retirement ideas out of his thoughts, but it surely hasn’t been straightforward of late.
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“It’s beginning to sink in,” he mentioned. “I’ve been attempting to tune it out and concentrate on the following opponent. An official thanked me for every thing and mentioned he’s known as my video games my complete profession.
“On the finish of the season, I’ll let it sink in additional.”
There’s extra coming from the Van Dellen household. AJ’s youthful brother, Eddie, is a junior guard for the Knights who had eight factors towards the Astros. Emmitt, an eighth grader, is ready within the wings.
AJ, in the meantime, is hoping to get some faculty curiosity within the coming months.
Van Dellen has performed AAU with the Illinois Jaguars, and he hopes to catch a recruiter’s consideration to proceed to play the game he loves.
“It’s a sport with a variety of competitiveness,” he mentioned. “All the rankings and social media can’t prevent. We’re all enjoying five-on-five and deciding it there.”
Jeff Vorva is a contract reporter for the Day by day Southtown.