Updated: 9:52 p.m.Ever since Alex Renchen began manning the sidelines at Kankakee in 1993, the current Bradley-Bourbonnais boys basketball coach has spent his holiday weekends coaching in the Kankakee Holiday Tournament.
But starting in 2020, Renchen and the Boilers will head south.
Through a tweet from the school’s boys basketball Twitter page (@BBCHSBOYSHOOPS), the program announced it will be departing the KHT for the State Farm Classic in Bloomington.
Happy to announce next Christmas the Boilers will be playing at the State Farm Classic! 🔴⚫️🏀— BBCHSBOYSHOOPS (@BBCHSBOYSHOOPS) January 16, 2020
Renchen had too many memories to pick one favorite that stood out to him during more than 20 years of tournaments but did know he was excited for the new challenge that will await the Boilers in Bloomington.
“A fine memory is nine championship runs at the [Kankakee Holiday Tournament] and all the players from the BBCHS and Kankakee communities that made that happen,” Renchen said. “[We’re] excited for a new opportunity.”
Boilers athletic director Mike Kohl said there wasn’t any particular reason the program felt any need to leave the tournament, but having the chance to compete in a new tournament will provide the program and kids who are in it a chance at some fresh experiences they haven’t normally had as Boiler basketball players.
“I think the biggest thing for us is getting kids the experience and an opportunity to get out of town and play in a different tournament,” Kohl said. “There’s no one reason other than give these kids a different experience.
“Our program hasn’t had the chance to get away, and it’s good for the culture and team building.”
The Boilers won’t be the only local school in town when they head to Bloomington in December, as the Kankakee girls team and both the boys and girls at Bishop McNamara played at the State Farm Classic in 2019 and plan to return next year, the Irish boys nearing 20 years of State Farm Classic appearances.
Irish coach Adrian Provost said the different schools and styles seen at Bloomington, as well as a different type of setting, are some benefits of playing in the tournament.
“There are multiple advantages for us. I can see central and southern schools we may see down the line and seeing a different style of basketball against some of our opponents is a plus,” Provost said. “If your ultimate goal to get to the Final Four, it’s a good experience for your kids to spend the night in the hotel, have to prepare for the next game and have that experience.”
Kays coach Chris Pickett said on one hand, he is sad to see the lone other local school in the tournament’s maroon (large school) division go but also understands the Boilers’ move from a coach’s perspective.
“Speaking from a [Kankakee School District] perspective, you don’t want to see a local team leave because there’s a relationship between the communities, the students and the players,” Pickett said. “But from a coach’s perspective, I get it. Bradley’s state route has changed and a few of the teams in their sectional will be in Bloomington-Normal, so that may help prepare them for the IHSA playoffs.”
Kays athletic director Ronnie Wilcox echoed similar thoughts to his coach and added the search for a replacement will start right away.
“You wish they’d be in it, but at the same time, whatever the best is for each school and program is what you have to do,” Wilcox said. “They’ll play in another tournament, and the KHT will go on and be successful.
“We’ll start looking immediately. We’ll sit down, look and see and use the resources between the connections coach Pickett has and some of our own.”