It’s no surprise that Joliet Junior College sophomores Jarret Gmazel and Mitch Kwasigroch have great chemistry on the court.
The two have played together since fifth grade.
After starring as teammates at Lincoln-Way Central, the pair have become the Wolves’ top two players.
“Jarret’s always had my back and I’ve always had his,” Kwasigroch said. “We play well together. We know where each other is on the court at all times. I think we both have a high basketball IQ.”
Gmazel, a 6-foot guard, is leading Joliet (16-5) in scoring at 18.8 points per game and shooting 44 percent on 3-pointers.
“My teammates are doing a great job getting me open looks and I’m more confident shooting the ball,” Gmazel said. “My teammates and coaches trust me to knock down those shots, and they’re falling right now.”
Kwasigroch, a 6-foot-5 forward, is the team’s leading rebounder (6.8 per game) and ranks third in scoring (13.3).
“They’re both really good kids, the prototypical student-athlete you want in your program,” Joliet coach Joe Kuhn said. “Jarret’s really been outstanding, even being a marked man by defenses. Mitch has been a tremendous leader and he’s shooting the ball well, too.”
Gmazel said his long-time friendship with Kwasigroch helps the Wolves communicate.
“We’ve played together so long that we’re not afraid to talk to each other, let each other know if there’s something we need to do differently,” he said. “When we can communicate right away, that helps all the other guys do it, too.”
Kuhn said Gmazel and Kwasigroch are both receiving interest from four-year schools, mostly NAIA programs, including St. Francis.
“I definitely want to go on and play two more years,” Gmazel said. “Right now, though, I want to stay focused on this season and finishing strong before I get into that too much.”
Kwasigroch echoed those sentiments. While he and Gmazel may end up playing at different schools next season, he’s grateful to have his friend by his side now.
“It’s so much fun playing with Jarret,” he said. “I’ve set probably thousands of ball screens for him. Going into college, it’s made it a lot easier knowing you have a friend you can always go and talk to. We always hang out.”
Heating up: During its current four-game winning streak, St. Xavier’s men’s team has been lighting up the scoreboard from long distances.
In each of the wins, the Cougars (13-8) have hit at least 10 3-pointers and made at least 50 percent of their 3-point attempts.
Last week, St. Xavier went 14-for-21 on threes in a win over St. Francis and 15-for-20 in a victory over Olivet Nazarene.
“It’s a good time playing in this offense,” senior guard Jared Jones said. “When we’re moving the ball well, we’ve got so many different guys that can step up and hit a shot.”
Jones’ 47 3-pointers rank second on the team behind Brother Rice graduate Quinn Niego, who’s 50-for-96 from three (52 percent).
“Guys make the extra pass so we can get good looks,” Niego said. “Coach (Tom O’Malley) encourages us to fire them up there and I feel confident shooting the ball.”
Streaking: Lewis’ women’s team has won nine games in a row under first-year coach Sam Quigley Smith.
The Flyers (16-4, 9-1) are atop the East Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Junior forward Jessica Kelliher is averaging 25.2 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Quigley-Smith has been happy with the progression of guards Gabby Green, Kayla Brewer and Rich South graduate Tierney Lockett.
“Our guards are doing a great job getting Jessica the ball, putting her in position to score,” Quigley-Smith said.
Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.