Jarrin Randall has come a long way since Black Friday.
Maybe that's why Nick Irvin can sit in the bleachers and rest his arms on the row behind, looking like he's enjoying Christmas.
There goes Jarrin again, finding Josh Cunningham for another alley-oop.
Attrition has dominated Morgan Park's season. Jarrin wasn't supposed to scrimmage with the starters, but here he is because Charlie Moore is out. Markus Johnson isn't supposed to be out there either, but Lamont Walker is on the bleachers nursing a hurt ankle. Jarrin and Charlie, both sophomores. Markus and Lamont, seniors.
Spare parts a plenty.
With his seniors, Nick, for the most part, knows what he's getting: Two solid players, who have put in work and proven themselves. Lamont the better of the two, clearly a starter. But Markus makes enough positive plays on the court to help the team win.
Jarrin is a different story...or was.
Before the season started, Jarrin looked timid. Three-pointers are his specialty, but early on he either shot too much, or too little.
Same with dribbling, passing, driving. All things he does well.
Unlike Charlie, who, as a freshman, played a key role in Morgan Park winning State last year, Jarrin still needed to get acclimated to varsity ball.
This season is important for Jarrin, if he wants to prove himself one of the best young players in the city. If he doesn't seem ready for the Red South, if it looks like he might need another year, Jarrin could spend his career at Morgan Park looking up at Charlie. A lot of "ifs." Such is the nature of examining sixteen-year-olds under a microscope.
Charlie went down, Jarrin got his shot.
Morgan Park hosted Red South foe Bogan before heading to Simeon. They lost a close one, missing free throw after free throw. But Jarrin scored 13, hit three from behind the arch and earned special attention in the Chicago Tribune.
Jarrin didn't start against Bogan, Nick decided to go with a bigger line-up.
But the practice before Simeon, a starting spot looked guaranteed.
If there was one person in the gym that practice that wanted to beat Simeon more than Nick, it was Jarrin.
Last season, Jarrin played at Simeon. He helped the sophomore team go undefeated and win the city championship. Bogan was his first loss in high school.
He went to middle school at Morgan Park, wanted to transfer back, so he did.
Jarrin's teammates at Simeon, Ben Coupet and Zack Norvell, start for varsity now and are considered in Charlie's elite skill class. Last year, Jarrin was a role player. Ben and Zack, the stars.
Now they were all starters again. Ben and Zack starters all season. Jarrin, getting his shot out of necessity.
Attrition forced progress.
Heading into the fourth quarter, only two sophomores remained on the court: Zack and Jarrin.
Ben started out well, dishing out three assists early. An ineffective stretch in the third landed him on the bench for the final quarter. Zack wasn't playing much better, but Simeon needed a point guard. While Zack looks more comfortable at shooting guard, Simeon's one weak spot is at the point.
Imagine how Rob felt, watching Jarrin. The point guard he saw walk away scored his rival's first points of the game, hitting a three. Later in the quarter, another. Another in the second. Nine points in the half. Morgan Park up by six.
Zack hit a three with under five minutes left in the fourth, bringing Simeon within two. But Morgan Park kept pulling away.
So at the buzzer, there was Nick with his fists raised above his head. Jarrin jumped next to him. Both looking like they had proven themselves. They disappeared into the locker room before anybody else.
And here they are now, on Christmas, relaxed and confident.
Charlie isn't due back for a few more games, so Jarrin is looking at starting opportunities during the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.
Nick looks comfortable with his point guard dilemma.
They both seem ready for the next challenge.