As the basketball season winds down, Senior Khalil Small prepares for his final home game; his one and only game at the Kress.
There is quite a big difference playing at the Kress compared to the Resch – and compared to what Small was used to in high school. “They called our school Castle… It looked like one,” he said. “We saw some good fights, and the police were always riding by.”
This is an upbringing a majority of the student body cannot relate to, yet Small didn’t allow it to hinder him. He used his childhood to motivate him to greatness. He learned – at an early age – to surround himself with people he can trust. “The environment and the city itself is tough in some situations. My family and my parents, we helped each other to be careful. Smooth upbringing for me because I was careful and had people around me.” His caution and his care came in handy early in his collegiate basketball career. Small would face adversity early and was tested often.
Small came to UWGB ready to play; he was not prepared to be limited to six minutes a game in his first season, “It was disappointing because I came from prep school and playing full game; playing really good basketball. The team I joined was good already, but I supported them the whole way and kept working. It was a blessing for me to learn from everyone on that team – not just on the court, but off, too.” Small referred to teammates and fellow Chicagoans Keifer Sykes, Alfonzo McKinnie and Josh Humphrey.
Big Decision for Freshman Small
That summer, Small had a big decision to make. Coach Brian Wardle – the guy who recruited him – was leaving for Bradley University. After talking with incoming coach and Division II National Champion Linc Darner Small said, “I felt like the direction of the program was progressing. I had support and I believed in myself,” and Small stayed true to his school.
Small’s loyalty paid off in his first season with his new coaching staff. Coach Darner brought a different style of basketball that better played into Small’s abilities. He started 28 games in his sophomore year and helped the Phoenix go to March Madness – the first appearance for the Phoenix since 1996. Small’s experience at March Madness was “sensational and eye-opening,” he said.
From his coming out party in the NCAA Tournament – scoring a game high 22 points – to becoming a mainstay on the team, Small’s leadership grew throughout the years. This year, his final year, he has become the team leader.
First time ever; the last time, too
On Friday, Khalil will Krash the Kress for the first time, and the last time – ever. Not only will the night be significant for that reason, it will also be Khalil’s final home game. The opponent will be the University of Illinois at Chicago, a university not far from where Khalil grew up. When asked how it will feel to play his last home game in front of a big crowd, friends and family he said, “All coming together… opponent being Chicago, and my family and friends coming to the game. I feel like it’s going to be a great night.”
Small is averaging a team high in points per game (18.1), rebounds per game (6.7) and total assists (77). When asked about any final messages he had for the fans coming to Krash he said, “Let’s fill it up and enjoy yourselves. We feed off the crowd; it brings energy so we can perform for y’all.”
With all the emotions coming from Khalil – on Senior Night in the Kress – it is sure to make for one emotional game indeed.
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