April 18, 2024

Chicago Christian’s AJ Van Dellen was requested to vary roles this season.

So, the senior guard/ahead went from sidekick to tremendous hero.

“Since he has been right here, he has at all times been Robin to Batman,” coach Kevin Pittman mentioned of Van Dellen. “He’s performed varsity for 3 years and at all times been a complementary participant.

“He thought he might nonetheless be a complementary participant, and I mentioned, ‘No, now could be your time to be that man.”

And the way’s that figuring out? Nicely, in keeping with teammate Kerry Teague …

“He’s Batman,” Teague mentioned. “He’s the actual Batman.”

Van Dellen reached into his utility belt Wednesday night time, developing with 20 factors to assist Chicago Christian to a 64-50 win over host Shepard within the annual Palos Heights showdown.

Teague, a junior getting used to the purpose guard position, was proper behind with 18 factors for the Knights (7-13). Van Dellen scored 13 factors within the second half and Teague had eight within the fourth quarter.

Jovan Thomas got here off the bench to attain 13 factors for Shepard (4-14), whereas Jeremiah Storey added 12 factors, together with 10 within the first half.

The 6-foot-3 Van Dellen mentioned he’s having fun with the position of being the chief.

“I struggled my sophomore and junior yr a bit of bit,” Van Dellen mentioned. “Taking the duty senior yr is difficult, but it surely’s additionally enjoyable as a result of there are plenty of guys I can train.”

The Evergreen Park resident has been doing an excellent job of instructing these youthful gamers.

“He’s displaying the youthful guys how you can step up,” Teague mentioned of Van Dellen. “He’s taught me to work onerous and to belief your self and have faith.”

Teague, a Nation Membership Hills resident, is studying on the job for the Knights.

“He’s by no means performed level for us at any stage,” Pittman mentioned of Teague. “We had a necessity for him to play level, and he’s actually rising into that position.

“He struggled a bit of bit early with some decision-making, however he’s one child the place we by no means, ever query effort. We lived with plenty of errors early as a result of when you inform that child to run by means of a wall, he’ll put his head down and run by means of a wall and stand up and do it once more.”

The Knights had been coming off Tuesday’s 82-62 Chicagoland Christian Convention loss to Hope and opened Wednesday’s sport down 16-9 earlier than righting the ship.

Shepard has misplaced 4 in a row beneath Tony Chiuccariello, who’s retiring after the season. He’s the dean of Southland coaches, having guided the Astros because the 1998-99 season.

The second-longest serving coach within the space is Lincoln-Approach East’s Wealthy Kolimas, who began within the 2001-2002 season.

Chiuccariello mentioned he’s making an attempt to dam retirement ideas out of his thoughts, but it surely hasn’t been simple of late.

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“It’s beginning to sink in,” he mentioned. “I’ve been making an attempt to tune it out and deal with the following opponent. An official thanked me for all the pieces and mentioned he’s known as my video games my complete profession.

“On the finish of the season, I’ll let it sink in additional.”

Shepard’s Jovan Thomas (52) tries to stifle a laugh at the free-throw line after the student section were ribbing him during a nonconference game on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.

There’s extra coming from the Van Dellen household. AJ’s youthful brother, Eddie, is a junior guard for the Knights who had eight factors towards the Astros. Emmitt, an eighth grader, is ready within the wings.

AJ, in the meantime, is hoping to get some school curiosity within the coming months.

Van Dellen has performed AAU with the Illinois Jaguars, and he hopes to catch a recruiter’s consideration to proceed to play the game he loves.

“It’s a sport with plenty of competitiveness,” he mentioned. “All the rankings and social media can’t prevent. We’re all enjoying five-on-five and deciding it there.”

Jeff Vorva is a contract reporter for the Day by day Southtown.