There's a switch somewhere in the basketball makeup of Brandon Vice that makes the play of the Moline 6-foot-6 junior go from somewhat mediocre to impressively dominant.|
Moline coach Jeff Schimmel has seen it for three years now, the first two years on the Moline sophomore team and now in Schimmel's first year as the varsity head coach of the Maroons.
"It's a mirror of the past, where he has started slowly and then comes on and gains confidence," Schimmel said of Vice, who has turned his season into one worth of being this week's Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. "Everyone on the team knows how good Brandon can be except Brandon. Everyone tells him how good he could be with confidence in himself."
Over the past five weeks, that confidence has blossomed to the point of averaging double figures in scoring (10.1 points per game) and getting nearer to that in rebounding (7.0 per game). That, in turn, has led a team that now is flirting with a 20-win season, at 15-9 after winning seven of its last eight.
Schimmel, though, wasn't satisfied with improvement in just those numbers. Vice's free-throw-shooting numbers that hovered near 50 percent glared at him, and so the coach went in search of flipping another switch.
"His free-throw percentage had dipped big-time; he was on a horrid stretch," Schimmel noted. "I was on him in practice and challenged in a free-throw contest. First one to 20, shoot 'til you miss, and the loser runs sprints for as many as you lose by."
Yes, he must know that Vice's switch does, indeed, have something to do with zeroing in on a challenge.
"I was a little cold and a little old, but he did beat me the first game," Schimmel related. "He made 15 in a row and then missed. I made five and then he ran the table, 20-5.
"He says, 'Go. You owe me 15. Get on 'em.'"
It was the best 15 laps Schimmel would run. In the ensuing two Moline games this past weekend, a 57-56 win over Galesburg and a 61-35 win over Wheaton Warrenville South, Vice went 11-for-12 from the line, an amazing and motivated 92-percent clip.
"I have no idea how I did that," Vice said. "It's a confidence thing, a mental thing, a concentration issue. It was fantastic."
Vice said he had to let his coach have a rematch, one in which Schimmel did get revenge.
"I let him off easy," Vice chuckled.
"I said, 'Don't go anywhere, we're not done," Schimmel said. "I got him on the second one; messed with him at the line. He tried that with me, but I told him that I grew up with brothers and that's the way the game's supposed to be played in the driveway."
What it ultimately showed, though, is what Vice is capable of when he puts his mind to it. Still, part of the success he has achieved this season can be attributed to just adapting to the varsity level.
"This is definitely more intense and a lot more demanding and physical," Vice said, recalling the early struggles in had in November and December. "It was pretty overwhelming at first. As the season progresses, though, you get more comfortable.
"Going up against the tougher competition – Tyson Parks of Galesburg is short but rebounds better than anyone I know, and (Valparaiso signee) Alex Peters of Washington was top caliber – games like that help me a lot, teach me a lot."
The bonus, Schimmel says, is that the improved play of Vice inside has opened up the Maroons' outside game with the shooting of Drew Owens, Tyler Biscontine and Jed Wood.
"We've gotten to the point where the kids are finally buying into their roles," the coach said. "They finally get it. They understand that Brandon is a big part of that and that we need to take advantage of that."
Vice's game had improved progressively over the past month, all except for that free-throw issue until this past weekend.
"I am always on Brandon, probably more than anyone," Schimmel admitted. "The kids seem to think that I have a stare that shoots lasers. Brandon complained that it was my fault for his free throws because of the stare. I don't know what he's talking about."
True, says Vice.
"It's the 'Schimmel Stare,'" the junior said, as if it was nationally famous. "It's uncomfortable. You can't really describe it; it's just there."
However, if Vice keeps up his double-figuring scoring that includes such free-throw performances as his 10-for-10 against Galesburg, it will become even more of a stare of admiration.
Still, for Vice, that won't be good enough. There's still some unfinished business.
"I'm going to want one more free-throw contest," he said. "I can't go out with a loss."
Yes, that switch of his, it definitely has a competitive component to it.
Favorite Wharton concession food: Chick Fil-A
Favorite school subject: Physical education
Favorite athlete: Michael Jordan
Favorite college: University of Illinois
Favorite road court: Quincy's Blue Devil Gym
Parents: Dan and Kelly Vice, Moline
In the running
Ben West, Alleman: Won three Western Big 6 Conference matches by fall in a 24-hour span.
Daniel Rodriguez, Rock Island: Swam to a double win in the 50-yard freestyle (22.57) and 100 butterfly (56.68) in Rocky's senior night win over Moline 112-74.
Daniel DeVilder, United Township: Touched the wall with season bests times in the 100 yard breaststroke (1:06.60) and 100 butterfly (1:01.14). Helped lead the Panthers to a 106-49 win against Peoria High.
Katie Daggett, UTHS: Previous Pacesetter had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, four in a 90-second span, in a Western Big 6 girls' basketball win over Alleman.
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