They were a couple of peas in a big-city pod.
All-America peas, at that.
During the course of the 1990-91 season, it seemed as though wherever a big game was played, Chicago Vocational's Juwan Howard and Gordon Tech's Tom Kleinschmidt were there.
On the court. In the stands. Sitting in press row. Everywhere.
You don't often find high school All-Americans hanging out in their spare time, going on trips to watch college games or just traveling across town to watch one another play.
Howard and Kleinschmidt shared the same dream-winning a state title in their senior season. Ultimately, neither dream was fulfilled. But that failed to dim their seasons or high school careers. Years from now, perhaps those shared disappointments will somehow make them closer friends.
"Tom and Juwan are two kids from completely different backgrounds," said Gordon Tech coach Steve Pappas. "That's one of the few positive values that's come from all those glamour camps kids play in during the summertime. When kids can develop some great relationships, and develop lasting friendships that they can take into college and beyond, that makes it worthwhile."
Chicago's brightest pair of stars head up the Tribune's All-State team, but their fellow All-Staters are no less talented. Also earning first-team honors are Proviso East's Sherell Ford, Peoria Manual's Howard Nathan and Nazareth Academy's Sean Pearson.
This is Kleinschmidt's second straight appearance as a first-team All-Stater. He led the Rams to a Class AA state runner-up finish to King his junior year.
Then, late this season, he suffered a broken bone in his foot during the final minutes of a win over Loyola. In a moment that perhaps symbolized his career, Kleinschmidt was able to overcome the pain for a few seconds, taking a long pass and making a layup before walking off the court for the last time.
The Rams, 77-7 with him in the starting lineup over the last three years, couldn't sustain the magic without their leader. Gordon Tech bowed out to New Trier in the Niles West sectional finals.
Howard was also on a mission this year. CVS had been pounded by King in the Public League semifinals his junior year.
But the season began on a down note for the 6-foot-9-inch Howard. A death in the family forced him to miss CVS' opening-game loss to West Aurora in the Lockport Thanksgiving tournament. CVS also lost to eventual Elite Eight qualifier Peoria Manual in the same tournament.
But once Public League Red-South play began, Howard and the Cavaliers made their presence known. CVS avenged a loss to archrival Simeon by trouncing the Wolverines on their own court. The Cavaliers also won their first outright section title since 1983.
Considered by some to be the favorite in the Public League playoffs because of Howard, CVS succumbed to Westinghouse in the semifinals.
Nathan was the third Illinois player-Kleinschmidt and Howard were the other two-named to the McDonald's All-America team. He also was picked to play in the prestigious Dapper Dan Classic in Pittsburgh. He will be Kleinschmidt's teammate at De Paul next year.
Though he is only 5 feet 11 inches tall, the speedy point guard is head and shoulders above his peers as a playmaker.
"He could score 30 points a game if he was selfish," said veteran Peoria Manual coach Dick Van Scyoc. "He'd much rather give an assist than get two points for himself. You don't find too many like that."
Nathan, a starter all four years, will round out his career this weekend in Champaign. Manual plays Rock Island Friday night in the Class AA quarterfinals.
"For a young man who's only 5-11," said Van Scyoc. "He's a very exciting player to watch."
Nathan will be joined in Champaign by Proviso's 6-7 Ford, the leader of the top-ranked team in the state. Initially, Ford was considered a role player-a rebounder and inside man-while teammate Donnie Boyce was considered the star of the show. But after Boyce went down with a broken ankle midway through their junior season, Ford became one of the most dominating players in the state.
An all-area selection last year, Ford rose to first-team All-State status by proving himself an all-round talent. He popped in three straight three-pointers last Wednesday to vault the Pirates past Thornwood in the fourth quarter of their supersectional showdown.
Though Nathan and Ford will be able to say they ended their careers by making the tournament finals in Champaign, Nazareth Academy's Pearson took his team on the season's most memorable ride.
Even the most ardent of high school basketball fans knew next to nothing about the tiny La Grange Park school last year. But Pearson helped the Roadrunners win 28 straight games, including playoff upsets of St. Joseph and Oak Park, before No. 1 Proviso East ended their season last Friday.
"I guess he's our Mark Aguirre," said Nazareth coach Tom Richardson, alluding to De Paul's sudden rise a decade ago after the Westinghouse star entered its program. "Sean has been a catalyst for our program. It's amazing, he knows every kid in school by his first name, from the littlest nerd to whoever. You see so many kids with huge egos, it takes away from what high school ball is all about. Sean's a legend here, but he's still very humble."
Howard. Kleinschmidt. Nathan. Ford. Pearson.
They each had moments to remember this year. They'll be making moments to remember for years to come.
FIRST TEAMSherell Ford, Proviso East, 6-7, senior
West Suburban Gold MVP. Averaged 23 points, 8 rebounds for state's top-ranked team. All-around athlete who can slam on one possession and hit a three-pointer on the next. Led Pirates to 29-1 record and Elite Eight berth. Uncommitted.
Juwan Howard, Chicago Vocational, 6-9, senior
McDonald's All-American and second-team Tribune All-Stater in '90. Averaged 27 points, 12 rebounds while leading Cavaliers to Public League semifinals. Top player in area's toughest league. Will attend Michigan.
Tom Kleinschmidt, Gordon Tech, 6-5, senior
Two-time, first-team Tribune All-Stater who averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists before incurring a broken foot in regular-season finale. Led Gordon to three Catholic League titles and 77-7 record as a starter. McDonald's All-American. Will attend De Paul.
Howard Nathan, Peoria Manual, 5-11, senior
Played in state tournament final as freshman and started all four years. Unselfish player who averaged 21 points, 7 assists to take Rams into Elite Eight again this year. McDonald's All-American. Will attend De Paul.
Sean Pearson, Nazareth, 6-5, senior
Silky-smooth shooter took the second-smallest Class AA team on memorable ride with first Private League title and 28-0 record before loss to Proviso East in sectional title game. Averaged 24 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals. Will attend Kansas.
SECOND TEAMDonnie Boyce, Proviso East, 6-5, senior
Leading rebounder in history of school with rebounding tradition of Jim Brewer, etc. Averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds to help lead No. 1 Pirates into state tourney finals. Will attend Colorado.
Dan Cross, Carbondale, 6-3, senior
Inside-outside threat who averaged 28 points, 7 rebounds to take Terriers into this year's Elite Eight. Best player in Southern Illinois area. Will attend Florida.
Steve Payne, Shepard, 6-7, senior
Two-time MVP of SICA North, led the Astros to conference title and 26-2 record in '90. Averaged 24 points, 13 rebounds. Will attend Ball State.
Billy Taylor, West Aurora, 6-6, senior
All-time leading scorer in Blackhawk history, taking them Downstate as a junior. Averaged 17 points, 8 rebounds while leading Hawks to school record 27-game win streak. Will attend Notre Dame.
Corey Williams, Batavia, 6-7, junior
Took 27-1 Bulldogs Downstate for first time in 70 years while averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds. Three-time all-conference selection and top junior in state.
THIRD TEAMChris Collins, Glenbrook North, 6-3, junior
Sharpshooting guard led North to first conference title since 1973 while averaging 30 points. Won or tied four games with last-second heroics.
Marc Davidson, Aurora Christian, 6-6, senior
Will be remembered as the player who put Aurora Christian on the map in last three years. Averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds for Class A power which finished 21-6. Will attend Illinois.
Antoine Gillespie, Gordon Tech, 6-5, senior
Playing in large shadow of Kleinschmidt, he averaged 25 points, 8 rebounds for Gordon's Catholic League "threepeat." Stepped to forefront after Kleinschmidt's injury. Uncommitted.
Rashard Griffith, King, 7-0, sophomore
Only sophomore on All-State squad. Started as freshman on Class AA champs. Led young King squad to 29-2 record and Public League Final Four berth. One of top sophomore prospects in nation.
Richard Keene, Collinsville, 6-5, junior
Led Cahoks to Sweet 16 while averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals. Conference player of year. One of the state's top juniors.
ALL-AREA TEAMFord, Proviso East; Kleinschmidt, Gordon Tech; Howard, CVS; Pearson, Nazareth; Boyce, Proviso East; Payne, Shepard; Williams, Batavia; Taylor; West Aurora; Collins, Glenbrook North; Davidson, Aurora Christian; Gillespie, Gordon Tech; Griffith, King; Lance Broderson, Waubonsie Valley, 6-6, junior; Randy Engel, Larkin, 6-6, senior; Kiwane Garris, Westinghouse, 6-1, sophomore; Rick Hielscher, New Trier, 6-9, senior; Brian Kopf, St. Patrick, 6-7, senior; Torrey Lewis, Hillcrest, 6-6, senior; Belefia Parks, Simeon, 5-11, senior; Ken Pratt, Taft, 6-4, junior.