WEST CHATHAM — Simeon Career Academy High School's 4A boy's basketball championship not only won the team a spot in state basketball history, but it also won it a trip to Springfield Tuesday, where the Illinois General Assembly honored the Wolverines.
Three local businessmen sponsored the team's trip to the state capital.
The three businessmen with offices in Chatham, Larry Huggins, president of Riteway-Huggins Construction Services Inc. and brothers Tim and Everett Rand, who own Midway Airport Concessionaire, said they were happy to sponsor the trip.
"This was the second year we took pride in doing this," said Everett Rand. "We wanted to make sure that these guys are not holding the ladder of success for others without also being able to climb that very same ladder themselves."
Tim Rand added that he likes to use a lot of four letter words when describing positive things youth do.
"I use words like 'care,' 'hard' and 'work' as in teamwork," Tim added. "We are self-supportive individuals and like my brother said, we take great pride in making sure our youth get the proper recognition, especially here on the South Side."
In January, the Rand brothers donated $10,000 to the South Shore Drill Team, which enabled them to cover cost to travel to Washington, D.C. to perform in the Presidential Inaugural Parade.
State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), whose district includes Simeon and the Auburn Gresham community on the South Side, invited the Simeon team to Springfield.
“This is a team that has overcome many obstacles and withstood tremendous pressure to prevail with a brand of basketball that values skill over showmanship and teamwork over star power,” Collins said, in a statement. “With seven state championships [including] six in the past eight years, the Wolverines have more than established their legacy as one of the greatest teams in state history.”
Promoting amateur sports is something the trio have been doing since establishing the Chicago Football Classic in 1997. Huggins said the nonprofit organization is dedicated to encouraging African American youth to achieve their personal best in school and beyond.
Every September the organization sponsors a college football game at Soldier Field to raise money for scholarships for needy students attending historically black colleges and universities. This year's game is between Central State University and Morehouse College.
And by Simeon basketball players achieving success as state champions, Collins said said it helps inspire other youth to do the same on and off the court.
“Thank you, young men, for standing strong for all the young people who look to you as examples of what an athlete can be,” she said.