ALGONQUIN – One way or another, Robert Grant was going to play in the Class 4A Elgin Sectional.
Had Grant stayed at South Elgin for his senior season, he would be in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. semifinal with the Storm (17-14).
Grant, however, moved to the Algonquin area with his family late last summer and transferred to Jacobs. So he will see his old friends when the Golden Eagles (18-13) and South Elgin battle in the semifinal at Chesbrough Field House.
Grant said he and his former teammates have traded some good-natured ribbing through text messages this week.
“We’ll just play ball and see,” said Grant, a 6-foot-6 left-handed forward. “It’s motivation, ‘I’m going to get you.’ ‘I’m going to do this.’ The main thing [winning] did was mean we get to practice and play more basketball. We get to meet them and see what’s up.”
Grant started at Jacobs a week later than most students, but he became well-known pretty quickly. Eagles coach Jimmy Roberts remembers when guard Ben Murray brought Grant by his office during his student tour.
“Everybody was abuzz about this kid,” Roberts said. “We made him earn everything. My thought process was, he’s a senior and we have guys who have been with us. But we got into the fall and he was at everything. He worked his butt off. His body has completely changed, he had a big belly, but he’s changed and developed.”
Grant doesn’t start, but he sometimes gets considerable minutes, depending on the situation. In last week’s 55-46 victory over Prairie Ridge in the Crystal Lake Central Regional semifinals, Grant played a key role in the Eagles’ fourth-quarter comeback from a five-point deficit.
Grant had two big rebounds, scored three points and blocked a shot in the fourth quarter. He averages 2.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and one blocked shot a game.
“I want to bring more energy and I like to rebound the ball,” Grant said. “That’s my role. I can get minutes either way, I like to be on the court and be able to contribute.”
Grant walks, almost bouncing, with long, loping strides, and his size makes him a force defending and rebounding inside. Roberts says any points Grant can contribute is just a bonus.
Junior forward Brandon Perry grew close to Grant as a sort of tutor for the offense since Grant missed the summer practices and was behind.
“He was slowly working into it,” Perry said. “[Assistant] coach [Jack] Denny asked me to help him run through the plays. You could tell he loved playing with these guys. He’s goofy, that’s for sure. He’s good to have around.”
While it was Perry and others helping this year, last season it was South Elgin big man Ryne Lundy, now at Elgin Community College, on whom Grant leaned for improving his inside game.
“He really helped me get my jumping ability up and worked with me on my post moves,” Grant said.
South Elgin misses its big men from last year, but has strong guards, led by Matt Smith and Darius Wells. The Storm knocked out heavy favorite Larkin in the St. Charles North Regional semifinals.
Now, Grant will try to take out his old friends with his new ones.
“We said a bunch of times this season that he has helped us, and I think we’ve helped him,” Roberts said. “We have such a great group of guys and they welcome him with open arms. He makes a big, big impact because so few teams have size.”