Brady Rupert earned an opportunity few in the history of the Quincy High School boys basketball program ever have when he cracked the starting lineup for the season opener as a sophomore. It was a reward for hard work and determination, but it also brought about a big responsibility to uphold the program's tradition-rich standards.
"There was pressure at first," he said. "I think it got to my head."
Rupert struggled to get comfortable offensively. In the Blue Devils' first four games, the 6-foot-1 forward went 2 of 22 from the field and 0 of 7 from 3-point range as the Blue Devils struggled to find any rhythm. Quincy coach Andy Douglas finally made a switch, starting freshman guard Jeremiah Talton and bringing Rupert off the bench. The decision paid immediate dividends as Rupert scored four points at Oswego in his first came as the sixth man.
He scored seven points in Quincy's victory at Alleman, and netted a career-high eight points Friday night in the 51-21 victory over Washington at Blue Devil Gym.
"He played great tonight," Douglas said. "His minutes have gone down a little bit, but he came out and played. I don't know if you call it confidence, but I will. I think it's confidence in his abilities. When he caught the ball tonight, he was sure of himself and knew what he wanted to do. He had a couple of really good finishes through contact."
It all stems from the fact Rupert has found his role.
"I'm getting more comfortable," Rupert said. "It's weird going into varsity as a sophomore, but I'm getting used to it. Now, I'm realizing I can play comfortable and will continue to do well in the future. I feel different now. It feels good."
The chemistry it is helping build will carry forward.
"Our guys are comfortable with him out there, too," Douglas said. "The coaching staff has confidence in him, and tonight kind of proved why."
Stepping in and taking charge
Douglas wasn't sure Talton had been willing to give up his body to take a charge prior to Friday night. The freshman took two in the first half as the Blue Devils did anything and everything to keep the Panthers from finding any rhythm.
The Blue Devils drew three charges and continue to frustrate opponents with their quick feet and ability to beat someone to a specific spot on the floor.
"It shows a bit a toughness for our guys," Douglas said.
It comes with wanting set the right tone defensively.
"It was just being aggressive," Quincy guard Lucas Reis said.
Although senior guard Jaeden Smith is the team leader in charges drawn, he wasn't involved in any Friday night. His teammates were the ones in the right position to take away a driving lane.
"We have a lot of guys who are willing to put it out there, and that's good to see," Douglas said.
Washington did its own admirable job of taking charges. The Panthers drew five offensive fouls against the Blue Devils.
"We had some big ones," Douglas said. ""And their guys answered a ton of those."
Ready for Collinsville
Although it won't be a typical game week, the Blue Devils understand the importance of being prepared for their opening game at the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic well in advance of the 10:30 a.m. Thursday tip against Edwardsville.
It starts long before they hit the road.
"Energy in practice," Rupert said. "Having a good start to the week will give us a good game on Friday. It's the same approach next week."
The Blue Devils are guaranteed an early tip the first two days of the tournament. Win or lose against Edwardsville, the Blue Devils will play their second-round game at 9 a.m. Friday.