Days off are unusual things for coaches during the season.
Especially coaches with day jobs like Germantown boys head basketball guru/police officer Steve Showalter.
And it was no surprise that when Showalter took a day off from his police work on Saturday, he had a lot of basketball in mind. And what he saw filled him with a mix of elation and concern, mixed with a little conflicting emotion.
After a shoot-around in the morning with the team following a successful rout of Grafton the night before, Showalter gathered them up and went downtown to see his old friend UW-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter lead his Panthers against Loyola-Chicago.
This is where the conflicting emotions came in to play because the starting center for the Ramblers is none other than Showalter's former two-time NOW All-Suburban Player of the Year Ben Averkamp, whose 12-point, six-rebound and three-assist effort helped Loyola to a 71-65 win over the Panthers.
"It was tough," Showalter said. "On one hand, I'm a friend and fan of Rob's but I just love that kid in the maroon and gold jersey (Averkamp) just so much. I was really torn a little. But it was fun to see my boy out there doing a great job."
He was even pleased to see a favorable feature on Averkamp in the Chicago Sun Times as Averkamp and a teammate talked about the difficulties and pleasures of being a scholarship athlete and also a pre-med student (Averkamp plans on becoming an orthopedic surgeon).
Following that success, Showalter hiked north out of the downtown to Nicolet to see a high-level nonconference prep game between Greater Metro Conference co-leader Marquette and unbeaten Appleton East.
It was a game of some concern to Showalter, because if the 13-1 Warhawks win the WIAA sectional title at the Al McGuire Center on March 12, they will have to turn around, go up to Oshkosh on March 15, and likely face the Patriots in the newly-configured and highly controversial "Super Sectionals" in order to advance to the state tournament.
That's not to belabor the politics of the WIAA's maneuver, which comes about because of the addition of a fifth division to the championships, which itself resulted in the large school Division 1 field being reduced from eight to four teams. Showalter and many other large school coaches find the prospect of the super sectional as appealing as a root canal without anesthetic.
"You drive up to Oshkosh on a school night to face a (Fox River) Valley team in what is almost a de facto home game for them; that's just not right," Showalter said. "Try to get fans to come up to that one. It would be just as tough and just as wrong for them if they were to have to come down to the Al (McGuire Center in Milwaukee) to face us in that situation."
But the process is in place for now and Showalter will have to deal with a larger problem, because what he saw in the game itself at Nicolet made his blood run cold, as the unbeaten Patriots drained 13 3-pointers, seven of them in the first quarter, as they routed the otherwise strong Hilltoppers, 74-55.
"Very effective, very efficient," he said. "They didn't hurt themselves out there. Just fundamentally sound. Everything is done with a purpose. They all can shoot and they all make the extra pass and they were very effective at tipping the ball out and getting offensive rebounds."
"It was a bit startling, but it was good to start getting as much information as possible this early."
So to ease his mind, Showalter passed the rest of the day with a far more pleasant diversion: watching the Packers rout the Falcons.
"Now, that was fun," he said.
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