Counting down time, while counting up the score
Counting down time, while counting up the score
Hannah Barczak

Counting down time, while counting up the score

Senior Joel Bulka enters his final season of basketball determined to make the community proud.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are widely regarded as the best NBA team in the league’s history, with 72 wins during the regular season and the best offensive and defensive rating. No team could take down the starting lineup consisting of iconic basketball legends such as: Micheal Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley and Ron Harper. The Chicago Bulls at their peak were seen as the best Illinois professional sports team. However, another sports team in Illinois considered themselves “Legends”. 

The Legends basketball team was part of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). The team played during the basketball off-season and in multiple local tournaments. Although the team was far from 1995-96 Chicago Bull status, in 2019, the boys won a local tournament and qualified for the One Day Nationals. With confidence at an all-time high, the group of seventh-grade boys played the best of the best AAU teams in the area at Nationals. Against all odds, the Legends were able to place second out of 20 teams at the AAU National Tournament. After being introduced to the harsh competition, now senior Joel Bulka, can step up and lead the Antioch Community High School Sequoits to success.

Bulka has been playing basketball since fourth grade, he has now been selected as one of the varsity team captains alongside senior Carter Webb. Both captains were selected by head coach Sean Connor, along with full support from the rest of the program. 

“Joel knows the game and we want to see him share that with his teammates,” Connor said. “One of his goals is continuing to grow and to be a vocal leader because he is going to be integrated into the offense naturally.”

Bulka has not only expanded his leadership skills this season but has also shifted focus to the point guard position. This new position allows Bulka to apply his decision-making skills on the court. In previous seasons, Bulka was more of a post player who shot from the outside on occasion, but this year he has honed his dribbling skills and the basketball team is now leaning on him to play point guard. 

“Being a decision-maker, he has one of the highest IQs on the team,” Connor said. “He has studied and learned the game.”

Alongside offense, Bulka has also taken pride in his defensive skills. During his junior year he rarely was a starter for the varsity team, so every minute Bulka got, he played his hardest. Bulka was a skilled shooter last year, however he rarely took shots and often passed the ball to his fellow teammates. Due to this Bulka shifted focus to defense and was seen as one of the most skilled defenders on the team. 

“Joel really picked up at the top of our defense when we go a 1-3-1 zone, and he has figured out that position well causing a lot of havoc for the other teams,” Connor said. “He just keeps getting better every year, which is cool to watch.”

The Sequoit basketball program is focused on the core theme of family. Every group from the freshmen team to the varsity team is all part of the same Sequoit family. Bulka not only looks for friends and family in the stands but also looks towards his team for support.

“I look for my teammates, typically teammates that are also seniors because I have been playing with them since I was little,” Bulka said. 

Bulka started playing basketball at an early age to try something new and he came back every year afterwards as he made many friends and found success. Most of the friends he made continued to play with him through Antioch Upper Grade School, Legends AAU and the ACHS Basketball team. 

Unfortunately, only two members from the Legends team are currently playing on the ACHS Basketball team, after most of the players entered high school, the Legends AAU basketball team disbanded.

Most of the players from Antioch’s sophomore team during the 2021-22 season also did not make a return the following year. Some of the original friends that Bulka had made when starting basketball have since quit leaving Bulka and a few others to take charge to make up for the loss of the team during their junior and senior seasons. 

One former teammate, Justin Crow, lost his passion for the sport sophomore year, which led to his decision to quit the program. Like Crow, many players quit due to the physical and mental toll the long season had on them. Some weeks the team had to practice seven days straight which placed a huge physical strain on the body. 

Crow participated on the sophomore and varsity team during his final season. Crow also played many years alongside Bulka and speaks very highly of the impact he left on him and the team every game. Crow believed that Bulka was mentally tough and was able to find more success with his strong mindset. 

“He still finds a lot of success in the game,” Crow said. “He is a great player, he has a great attitude towards the things he does and he was a great teammate. Even though I am not on the basketball team, we still like to go the park and just play pickup games with friends.”

Bulka is ready for his best season yet, with huge goals ahead of him and the rest of the team such as winning conference and winning more games than last year. Although Bulka is not planning on playing basketball in college, expect an amazing final season. Bulka is now playing for the Sequoits, but he will always remember the Legends and the friends made along the way. 

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About the Contributors
Tyler Miller, Tom Tom Staff
Hannah Barczak, Visual Director
Hannah Barczak is a senior this is her fourth year on staff as well as her second year as the Visual Director on the Executive Board of the Tom Tom.  Along with her interest in media, this will be her fourth year as an ACHS cheerleader. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends, taking pictures, and traveling during her free time. Barczak is excited to make the most of her senior year.

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