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Monday, January 30, 2023

Heart and Soul of Benet’s Run to Peoria, Danny Sobolewski Earns 2015-16 Positively Naperville Prep Basketball Player of the Year Honors

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The irony was lost on no one.

“Not bad for a baseball guy,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said.

Ask around and people will tell you Danny Sobolewski is “a baseball guy” at the core, as it was his first passion growing up and his sporting future in college.

However, being a part of 78 victories over the course of three seasons of playing for Benet on the hardwood displayed a passion first cultivated watching older brother David lace up the sneakers.

David, a Class 4A All-State first team point guard in leading Benet to a 29-1 record as a senior in 2010-11 before moving on to Northwestern, set a tremendous standard.

Upon first stepping onto the floor for the Redwings as a sophomore in 2013-14, Danny charged out to define his own legacy as opposed to focusing on what David did from 2008-11.

“I mean, I’ve definitely just tried to make my own name for myself,” Danny said. “Personal stats never meant a lot to me. It was all about wins and losses and I think I’ve had a pretty good go of it the past three years.”

A role player on the 25-win team that went down to Peoria and finished second in the state to Jahlil Okafor and Whitney Young in 2013-14, his role two years later was far different.

One of the biggest reasons for the Redwings’ program-record 31 victories in 2015-16 and a second Class 4A runner-up finish in three years, Danny was the team’s third-leading scorer.

As his teammates will attest, that doesn’t tell the entire story.

“He’s a great leader,” James Dockery said of Danny. “He brings it all together. He does everything. Just plays his heart out every single game and it just feeds off everyone.”

That, not numbers, is what helps define a legacy and it’s why Danny Sobolewski is Positively Naperville’s Prep Basketball Player of the Year in 2015-16.

All year long, the Redwings had been a cohesive whole greater than the sum of their parts.

That comes with the territory when four players ended the year by averaging at least 10.37 points.

But time and time again, no matter who was carrying the scoring load, Danny was in the right place at the right time.

Benet NCHS Regional Final2016030416-109Benet’s journey to Peoria almost ended before it even got started back on March 4 facing Naperville Central in a Class 4A Benet Regional Final.

With the Redhawks clinging to a 37-35 lead late, Danny’s quick thinking by corralling a Dockery miss and turning it into a three-point play put the Redwings up to stay.

Two weeks later, with Simeon bearing down and a state title game berth on the line, Danny’s three-pointer from the left wing with 97 seconds left in regulation was the difference in a 49-48 upset.

As far as he sees it, it was all about just doing whatever he had to do to let his team win.

“Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m going to do,” Danny said after scoring 13 points in a 67-59 victory over Joliet West on March 15. “Sometimes it’s scoring. Most of the time, it’s just rebounding and defense. We have five guys who can go for 20 on any given night and I think that’s what makes our team so good.”

Talk about practicing what you preach.

Six times this season, Danny either led or tied for the team lead in scoring while holding or sharing the rebound load 23 times and dishing out a team-high 105 assists along the way.

Five years older than Danny, David knows quite a bit about winning himself.

A 55-5 record during his last two years at Benet, including a sectional title in 2009-10 as a junior, David, along with Frank Kaminsky and Pat McInerney, helped start this eight-year run under Heidkamp.

To see where Danny came from when he first donned the Redwings’ uniform as a sophomore to the senior that was the heart and soul of a 31-win team was an absolute treat for David.

“I think it was only natural for Danny to feel some pressure – even though I tried to make it clear that not of that mattered,” David said. “And he came in and he did a great job. He played three years of varsity. He’s become a nice player and a nice leader on this team. They’ve exceeded expectations all year, which has been great to see.”

For six of the eight years Heidkamp has coached the Redwings, a Sobolewski has prominently been featured on the floor.

As the chaos started to engulf St. Ronald Gymnasium following Benet’s 41-37 victory over Naperville Central, there was just one thing left to do.

Pose for a photo that will stand the test of time.

“It was funny – Coach Heidkamp, after the game, he ran over and he was like, ‘Dave, we need to get a picture. It’s the last game I’ll be able to coach a Sobolewski on this floor,’” David said. “So it’s just been an unbelievable opportunity for myself and I’m sure I can speak for Danny, as well. It’s going to be weird without one of us around Benet basketball.

“But like I said, the coaches – Coach Heidkamp, Coach Bremner, Coach Conrad, Coach Veselik – they’re all very good friends of mine and it’s been great to see what they’ve been able to do with Benet basketball over the past seven years.”

All of Redwing Nation would agree with that.

Blake Baumgartner
Blake Baumgartner
Raised in Naperville, Blake Baumgartner is a 2001 Naperville Central alumnus and a 2005 graduate of Michigan State's School of Journalism. Since March 2010, he has covered football, boys' basketball and baseball for both The Naperville Sun and Positively Naperville. Follow him on Twitter @BFBaumgartner.

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