Young female basketball players from area schools wait for the championship game of a November tournament at Proviso West on Nov. 14. The first-ever tournament for up-and-coming girls hoops talent was created by first-year Proviso West girls varsity basketball coach Marques Hatch, pictured below.
The flamboyant Jordan Brand court at Proviso West is best known for the winter basketball it hosts during the annual Holiday Tournament held each year in late December.
But by this time come next year, or perhaps several years from now, high school basketball heads may be reminiscing on the action that happened on the court a month earlier. That’s if Proviso West varsity girls basketball coach Marques Hatch gets his way.
Last November, the first-year head coach hosted a small invitational of several girls’ basketball teams from area elementary schools.
The tournament’s preliminary games were held in the high school’s fieldhouse, while the championship game happened in the main gym. The elementary school lineups were introduced to live sounds of the school’s marching band and the girls were able to compete in the same place where local hoops legends like Isiah Thomas and Glenn “Doc” Rivers earned their stripes.
“The motivation for this was to have the girls in our neighborhood be able to see our facility and to introduce the high school to our feeder schools and other schools in the area,” Hatch said during an interview in November.
“Even more, though, it’s about making sure we’re raising awareness about girls basketball, period. We have a lot of good girls at Proviso West, Proviso East, St. Joe’s, etc., so we just want to raise that awareness.”
If his on-court success so far this season is any indication, the tournament may well be on its way to enjoying the same kind of aura of prestige and popularity the 52-year-old Holiday Tournament has — albeit on a smaller scale.
Hatch’s team is off to an 11-2 start. They’re 3-1 in conference play and, according MaxPreps, are ranked among the top 50 teams in the state and 17th in their division. At the time of the interview, Hatch said his first year had been relatively smooth, so far.
“Everything’s been smooth. The administration’s been helping out. We have a good group of girls who work hard. Things are going good. I got a nice core of girls—seven juniors, a freshman and a sophomore. We’re young, but at the same time, we’re real tight. If we play together, we’ll be good.”
Hatch’s players were among the people in the crowd at his tournament in November who were cheering on the elementary school players. Some of them may have been looking at potential teammates and fellow Panthers. And vice-versa.
“It’s good for the younger girls to see the older girls, so that they can envision themselves playing in this gym,” he said. “That’s what it’s about.” VFP