Common but catchy basketball terminology on the offensive end of the floor includes terms like pin-down screens, zipper cuts and the pick-and-roll. For the Fenwick High School basketball team, one of its primary “actions” (hoops lingo for fast-paced, short executions based on reads of the defense) is the high-low game practiced by 6-foot-8-inch center Dan Dwyer and 6-foot-5-inch forward Tom Planek.
“The high-low game has been emphasized this season because Dan and I can both pass and finish around the basket,” Planek said. “A lot of the time if we’re not into anything offensively right away, Dan or I flash to the top of the key and the other guy ducks into the paint. That’s where we score a lot of our points.”
The chemistry shared on the court took root during their days playing youth sports in town together. Dwyer, from River Forest, and Planek, an Oak Park native, played Oak Park Pony baseball and were also teammates on the OPRF Friars, a youth basketball travel team.
“I played against Tom in the OPRF Village Tournament when I was at Roosevelt and he was at Ascension,” Dwyer said. “He was really good. I think he scored like over 1,000 points in grammar school, but we had the better team and won that game.”
On the OPRF Friars, Dwyer and Planek played with current Fenwick teammates Charlie Walsh and Nick Labarbera, along with Fenwick football star Robert Spillane and former OPRF football player Nile Sykes.
At Fenwick, Dwyer and Planek started together on the freshmen A team and are part of one of the premier frontlines in the Chicago Catholic League. Northwestern-bound Scott Lindsey holds down the small forward position to complete the trio.
“Dan and Tom are very unselfish players,” Lindsey said. “They can both finish and also look for me and everybody else on offense. Obviously, they bring a lot of size to our lineup and make us better at both ends of the floor.”
In terms of style, Dwyer (12 points, eight rebounds per game) and Planek (13 points, six rebounds per game) are versatile, the former inclined to drift out to the perimeter to knock down jump shots. While he’s also a capable outside shooter, Planek tends to do his best work in the paint or on the fast break. He has also thrown down some serious dunks this season, most notably against cross-town rival, OPRF. Defensively, both players use their height to disrupt opponents’ forays to the bucket.
“They complement each other well,” Fenwick coach Rick Malnati said. “Both guys have good size and a good feel for the game. I think they make each other better as well as their teammates.”
Their personalities complement their basketball skill sets.
“Dan and I are pretty no-nonsense kind of guys on the court,” Planek said. “Off the court, we like to crack jokes and goof around.”
With the Class 4A playoffs opening this week, the Friars (19-8, 8-3 Catholic League North) are optimistic they can produce a deep postseason run. Fenwick takes on the winner of Voise Academy vs. Noble Street Rauner in the opener at the Farragut Regional. If the Friars win, they advance to the regional title game on Friday (7 p.m.) most likely against the host Admirals.
Despite a brutal schedule of games and playing without Lindsey (injury) for over half the season, Fenwick still flirted with 20 wins, including notable victories over Benet, Proviso East, Hinsdale Central, St. Rita, and St. Joseph.
“Coach Malnati told us we had the second toughest regular schedule in the state,” Dwyer said. “I think that’s really going to pay off for us in the playoffs. We’re confident that we can play with anybody, but we need to string together a few wins in a row in the playoffs.”
Regardless of how the Friars’ first campaign under Malnati plays out, Dwyer and Planek have been models of selflessness and consistency on the court.
“It’s been a lot of fun playing with Tom,” Dwyer said. “I think we’re both really excited about the playoffs and finishing the season well.”