When Michael Jenkins looks at his Quest Academy basketball team he thinks he’s seen this before.
I keep calling (this group) a Peoria team,” said Jenkins, the head coach of the Gators. “A guard-heavy team
that guards the ball well and gets up and down the floor.”
It’s a formula that has been successful for years at Manual, Central and Richwoods, where Jenkins was an assistant coach under Mike Ellis when the Knights marched to the 2006 Class AA state title game.
Quest Academy is a charter school in Peoria with a basketball program that has been competing in the Illinois High School Association for three years. The Gators may look a lot like a Peoria public school team because their players are all from the neighborhoods that feed into those high schools.
“We are coming from all the schools, Manual, Central, Richwoods,” said senior Ryan Hamilton. “We look
at ourselves as the same. We just want to to play the same Peoria basketball, full court, man-to-man, in your face, making it hard on defense. Getting out and making lay-ups.”
Quest has been in the face of every team it has placed this year, winning its first seven games and taking home the title of the Peoria Heights Thanksgiving Tournament. The unbeaten and state-ranked Gators are trying to make their own name on the Peoria basketball scene.
With those Peoria basketball ingredients.
“Our defense comes first,” said senior Jaylon Huff. “We score on points off our defense because we
are fast on defense. Usually the offense blends in with our defense, I guess I can say.”
Junior Terrell Walker added: “Coach gives us a lot of freedom, trusts us. We try and keep it under control.
Push it and make sure it is not easy to guard us.”
Quest advanced to the sectional last year. This year they have their eyes on state.
“Nobody’s been extremely selfish on this team,” said Jenkins. “They’ve all bought into, ‘Hey, let’s win. We’re not worried about who gets what.’ We just want to win.”