The wild, wonderful and often wacky times in the life of a college basketball coach and his program have reached new heights for Jay Harrington at Southwestern Illinois College.
Heading into the 2012-13 season armed with a potential first-team All-American and one of the most highly recruited players in the nation in 6-foot-11 sophomore Keanau Post along with as many as seven other NCAA Division I recruits on the roster, SWIC practice sessions have been interesting to say the least.
And very well attended by coaches from throughout the country.
"It's been crazier than its ever been. Ever.'' said Harrington, a veteran of the recruiting wars over his long carreer in the junior college ranks. "We've got enough kids that coaches are interested in that we're getting probably 10 calls a day on. And five of those are from high Division I programs.
"Today (Tuesday), Missouri has called and Michigan State called. We had a scrimmage on Sunday and there were coaches there, and two days before that at practices we had UCLA, DePaul, Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota in. It's to the point where it's become a distraction. We're trying to address the deficiencies of this team.''
And the season hasn't even started.
The Blue Storm, which finished 22-10 a year ago, opens Saturday when it hosts the Morraine Valley Cyclones, of Palos Hills, at 7 p.m.
SWIC graduated five seniors, three of which -- David Wiegmann (University of Albany), Joey Quigley (Sacramento State) and Jordan Coleman (Valparaiso)-- are playing at NCAA Division I programs.
"All five of our kids from last year are playing college basketball and we're very proud of that. We feel as if we do as good a job as anybody in promoting our kids,'' Harrington said. "The fact that we're a top-100 school academically helps too. Coaches love it they don't have to worry about the kids that come from here, academically.''
Athletically, the Blue Storm is loaded. In addition to Post, sophomores Mat Piotrowski, Dylan Chatman, Tony Bradley and Trae Anderson along with freshmen Darryl Milburn, Brendon Wheeler and Brandon Book are also getting looks from NCAA Division I programs.
But Post is the Blue Storm's go-to guy.
"Obviously, Keanau is one of the top players in the nation. When you've got Missouri, Cincinnati, Illinois, UCLA, Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee and Auburn all looking at you, it's tough. But he's doing a great job of handling it,'' Harrington said. "He was hurt early last year but by February he was a beast. Keanau has continued to work on his individual skills all spring and summer to the point where the scouting services run by Jerry Mullins and Rick Ball think he has NBA potential.''
The 7-2, 280-pound Piotrowski has also shown improvement since arriving from Boston University last spring. St. Louis University and several Mid-American Conference schools have already shown interest.
How quickly SWIC develops this season may depend on freshmen point guards Luke Norman (6-0) and Jaquail Townser (6-3). Both have been bothered somewhat by injuries early, but both have enormous potential.
Norman could also see time at the shooting guard spot along with Anderson (6-4) Chatman (6-1), Bradley (6-3), Darryl Milburn (6-3) and Wheeler (6-3).
Also with the ability to play shooting guard and also go down low is the 6-6 Book. One of the top players in the state the past two years while at (Breese) Central, Book is a pure shooter with the size, strength and quickness to score inside.
Sophomore Jarian Norris (6-6) played at Cahokia High School and also at Kaskaskia College two years ago. A terrific athlete, Norris is a player coaches love to have on their roster.
"He's our junk-yard dog. The kind of kid who will do the dirty work inside, rebound, play good defense,'' Harrington said. "Jarian knows one way to play and that's hard. He's the kind of kid every team needs. The type of kid who will run through the wall to help his team be successful.''
Marvin Jones (6-10) and Sam Strus (6-6) are two other freshmen who will be counted on to come off the bench and be key role players while 6-9 sophomore Colten Schneider could also be a key player in the post area for the Blue Storm.
Steven Brock (6-4) and Tanner Hall (6-3) complete the 2012-13 Blue Storm roster.
SWIC will also face its most challenging schedule ever this season. Starting on Saturday with a Morraine Valley College team that features one of the top players in the nation in 6-6 forward Karrington Ward, the Blue Storm also plays rival Mineral Area College twice and one of the top programs in the nation in Three Rivers College.
But SWIC's biggest challenge will come in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. In addition to always-top programs such as John A. Logan, Wabash Valley, Southeastern Illinois College and Lakeland, two new additions -- Vincennes College and Shawnee -- make the GRAC one of the top four JUCO conferences in the nation.
"It's absolutely the toughest schedule we have ever played. There are no easy games in the GRAC. None. Every night it will be a war,'' Harrington said. "If people want to see big time college basketball, they should come out and watch.
So how good can SWIC be during the 2012-13 season?
"We could be just average and win 17-18 games or we could be exceptional, win 26-27 games, be a top 10- to 15-ranked team in the country and have a chance to get to the national tournament. It depends on a lot of things,'' Harrington said.
"The one thing I will say is that this is one of the best group of kids I've coached. They're just all really good kids.''