To get a better understanding of the edgy intensity permeating the Kenwood vs. Riverside-Brookfield girls basketball regional championship game (Feb. 20), the battle, at least verbally, extended beyond the court into the stands. While it was a far cry from the NBA’s “Malice in the Palace” brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers a decade ago, heated words and thankfully no physical contact was exchanged between supporters of Kenwood and RBHS hoops.
Leave it to RBHS star baseball pitcher and starting two-guard, Will Kincanon, to diffuse the escalating situation with some well-timed levity. As fans from both schools continued to engage in some animated trash talk, Kincanon calmly removed the school’s “Character Counts” placard off the wall and modeled it in front of the verbal combatants like a boxing ring girl with a round card.
Although Kenwood won the game 68-55, Kincanon stole the show.
“I had to bring out the ‘Character Counts’ sign, just had to do it,” Kincanon said with a laugh. “I think some of the Kenwood fans didn’t appreciate it, but the RB fans got a kick out of it. It was all meant in fun and to kind of calm everybody down.”
Welcome to the world of Will Kincanon, the clowned prince of local preps sports.
“Will is one of the funniest people I know,” RBHS forward Sam Johnson said. “He gets along with everyone and makes people laugh.”
Kevin Fitzgerald, who plays basketball and baseball with Kincanon, relishes his teammate’s fun-loving antics.
“Will is definitely the clown of the group and just a really great guy,” Fitzgerald said. “When I see him in the hallway, he doesn’t even need to say a word to me, and I just start laughing.”
All kidding aside, Kincanon’s easy-going personality provides a stark contrast to his demeanor on the basketball court and baseball diamond.
“Will has a competitive nature unlike anyone I’ve seen before,” Johnson said. “He has a clutch gene. I think that’s what makes him a Division I pitcher and very good basketball player.”
Kincanon commonly refers to the personality change, as “throwing the switch.”
“My teammates and I crack jokes and bust each other a bit,” Kincanon said, “but when it’s game time, I’m all business and very competitive.”
Kincanon’s athletic approach coupled with natural ability has translated well to the basketball court this season. He also comes from good basketball genes, as his dad, Bill, was a former hoops star at Oak Park and River Forest.
“When my dad was a senior at Oak Park, he averaged 19 points and won the conference scoring title over [NBA coach Glenn] ‘Doc’ Rivers who was a sophomore at Proviso East,” Kincanon said. “My dad played against Doc, Isiah Thomas and Sonny Parker. I love hearing those stories, and he always gives me good advice about my game.”
After missing virtually all of last season due to an ankle injury, Kincanon has resurfaced as a steady scorer and leader for RBHS, which opens the Class 4A playoffs this week against the winner of Wheaton North vs. Willowbrook. If the Bulldogs win their opener, they’ll advance for Friday’s 7 p.m. Elk Grove Regional final, to most likely face Proviso East.
“This year has been great,” Kincanon said. “Last year was so frustrating for me with the injury. Honestly, I didn’t know how good we would be this season. We’ve had a great season and we have so many weapons. Everybody in the rotation has stepped up and contributed for us. I’m very excited and focused for the playoffs.”
Kincanon actually considered not returning to the hardwood this season, in order to focus on his best sport, baseball. Kincanon, an all-state pitcher who went 11-1 with a 1.06 ERA and hit .427 last year, will play college baseball at Middle Tennessee State.
“Last summer I was playing baseball all the time and getting scholarship offers. I just didn’t have a lot of time for basketball,” Kincanon said. “Once the basketball season got closer and I went to open gyms, I got the urge to play basketball. I talked with [RBHS head] coach McCloskey and he wanted me to play basketball as long as I was all in in terms of committing to it. I have no regrets about choosing to play basketball rather than making baseball a year-round focus. All I am thinking about now is the [Class 4A basketball state] playoffs.”
Along with Kincanon, the Bulldogs feature a plethora of talented players including Jack VandeMerkt, Mark Smith, Daniko Jackson, Fitzgerald and Johnson. The Bulldogs turned in another typically solid season under McCloskey, racking up at least 20 wins for the sixth consecutive season and 13th straight conference title. They also employ an entertaining brand of up tempo basketball with plenty of shooters along the perimeter.
“Our sectional is loaded with good teams like Proviso East, Oak Park, York and LT,” Kincanon said. “It’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”