CHICAGO – With a proud basketball tradition from their high school level to the pros, every men’s Final Four is bound to have a few players or coaches with a connection to the Chicago area and Illinois.
Despite it being a very unique national semifinals in Houston — there is no No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed featured — there are a number of connections to spotlight before the games get going at NRG Stadium this Saturday.
Johnell Davis – Florida Atlantic Guard – Gary – 21st Century School
One of the standout performers of the tournament so far is a native of Gary who has found his rhythm to aid one of the best stories of the tournament. Davis was named to the All-East Region team after four double-digit scoring performances in victories by the Owls in Columbus then New York City. In the second round game against Fairleigh Dickinson, Davis had 29 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and five steals, becoming the first in tournament history to have at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and five steals in a game. The former 21st Century School standout is in his third season at Florida Atlantic as the program makes its first appearance in the Final Four.
AJ Casey – Miami Forward – Chicago – Whitney Young High School
The former Whitney Young High School standout, who also spent time at Simeon and Tinley Park High Schools as well, has been a reserve in his first season with the Hurricanes. He’s seen action in 28 games with an average of 6.5 minutes a contest, including three of the four NCAA Tournament wins for Miami in the Midwest Region. He’s averaged a point and a rebound during his time on the floor.
Cam Lawin – San Diego State Guard- Chicago – Orr Academy
The guard is in his first year at San Diego State after a strong senior season in 2021-2022 with the Spartans where he set the program record with 87 three-pointers and was a Class 2A All-State honorable mention. He has yet to see playing time in a game during the 2022-2023 season.
Brian Dutcher – San Diego State Head Coach – Illinois Graduate Assistant –
While many remember him from his time as an assistant for Steve Fisher at Michigan then San Diego State, Dutcher got his start in Champaign. He was a graduate assistant at Illinois for head coach Lou Henson from 1983 through 1985, with the Illini winning the Big Ten in his first season while advancing to the Elite Eight.
Todd Abernethy – Florida Atlantic Assistant – Former Head Coach – Trinity International University
An assistant for the Owls since 2019, Abernethy served as the head coach for the NAIA school in Deerfield for the 2018-2019 season. His team went 15-15 before joining head coach Dusty May’s staff after that campaign.