Created:Saturday, January 5, 2013 9:11 p.m.CDT
Updated:Saturday, January 5, 2013 9:47 p.m.CDT

Johnsburg's 'great kids' reunite after 10 years

JOHNSBURG – Ed Sennett moved from one familiar face to another, exchanging a handshake and a hug with each encounter, discovering that the past 10 years hadn't changed much.

The players the former Johnsburg boys basketball coach had guided to the Class AA state quarterfinals in 2003 were the same now as they were then, making Saturday's reunion of the school's championship contenders even more memorable than Sennett expected.

Sennett spent time reminiscing with players from a team that finished 30-2 in the 2002-03 season and that became – at the time – only the fourth McHenry County team to reach the Elite Eight, joining the 1952 Alden-Hebron squad that won a state title.

The Skyhawks were honored in a ceremony at halftime of Johnsburg's 62-52 loss to Woodstock on Saturday as nine former players – including Northwest Herald Player of the Year and two-time NCAA Division II Player of the Year John Smith and star point guard Brad Preston – received a standing ovation for an accomplishment that remains special a decade later.

For Sennett, the team wasn't so much about the games it won, but about the players to make up the roster.

"It's great because the kids I coached 10 years ago are still great kids today," Sennett said. "They were great kids and you hope great things happen for those kids, and it did. So it was a special team."

Smith, who went on to win two Division II national titles at Winona (Minn.) State, relished the opportunity to reunite with his teammates after not seeing many of them much over the past 10 years. Three starters from the squad – including Smith, Preston and Shane Neiss – were part of Saturdays festivities.

Smith started to see the makings of a special team as a junior. The combination of Johnsburg's dominating post players and a point guard in Preston that held everything together along with a bench full of opportunistic reserves led to the Skyhawks making their run that ended in the quarterfinals in a loss to Glenbrook North.

"It was just a really fun time in all of our lives," said Smith, who spent time in the NBA Developmental League before playing professionally in Portugal, Holland and Austria. "They are memories of a great time that all started here."