Kaneland's Dave Dudzinski, left, is the Honorary Captain of the Tri-Cities All-Area team.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
Dave Dudzinski has a problem many of us would pay good money to have.
"I've never been able to put on weight - like really put on weight," said the Kaneland senior.
Poor kid. And it's not like his parents, Barb and Dave Sr., padlocked the pantry.
"I eat everything," he said. "If somebody were to be on my diet they'd be eating a lot and very often."
A lot and very often. Those exact terms describe the statistics Dudzinski's compiled and the times his actions impact a game.
"I feel extremely lucky to be able to coach a player of his caliber," said Kaneland coach Brian Johnson, citing not only Dudzinski's basketball skills but also his lead-by-example character and a 5.12 grade-point average that ranks second in his class.
"I don't know that it'll happen too often in my tenure," Johnson said. "He's just a phenomenal worker and just a great kid."
A three-time All-Area player and a double-double magnet who will play at Holy Cross in Massachusetts, Dudzinski is the honorary captain of the Daily Herald 2009-10 Tri-Cities All-Area Boys Basketball Team.
"We always knew he was going to do something with basketball," said Kaneland teammate Ryley Bailey, the point guard who, like Dudzinski, is a three-year varsity starter.
"He's a great player," Bailey said, "and when he got that scholarship it was just awesome, just for someone you know to have success like that. He's a great friend and he deserves everything he's getting, because he put in the work for it."
Marked in neon Highlighter on all Kaneland scouting reports, offensively and defensively, Dudzinski in the off-season finally was able to add some bulk to his frame. Twenty-five pounds of muscle helped him dominate this winter like never before.
After a junior season in which he averaged 16.8 points and 9.6 rebounds, entering Kaneland's own Class 3A regional semifinal on Wednesday his numbers were 18.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocked shots. His 97 blocked shots were 16 more than his sophomore and junior totals combined.
"A lot of people probably wouldn't give him credit since he's 6-9, saying, 'It comes to him easy,'" Bailey said. "But he's one of the hardest-working kids I've played with in any sport."
Dudzinski's 453 points represented more than 35 percent of the Knights' total. Bottom line, Kaneland's record of 16-9 and 7-7 in the Western Sun surpassed last season's marks of 13-13, 5-9.
"When his junior year ended he worked out very hard, he didn't stop," Johnson said. "He didn't stop when the summer ended. He was in the weight room every day for about nine weeks."
Dudzinski felt he had to be. Though his junior weight of 195 pounds - itself a step from his 180-pound sophomore days - wears a bit heavy on most normal-sized men, it's slender given his height, and the competition.
He had to clash with the likes of Batavia's 220-pound Cole Gardner and 6-foot-10, 215-pound Illinois State recruit Jordan Threloff of DeKalb. Even Geneva's Brandon Beitzel, undersized in the post at 6-3, is a muscled 210-pounder with the advantage of a lower center of gravity.
"This summer and in fall I really, really got at it and was able to put on 20 pounds in like a month and a half. That's kind of how hard I had to work," Dudzinski said. "It's just the way I had to do it to bang with the big boys like Threloff and (Batavia's 6-6) Elliott Vaughn and all them."
He'd done well enough at it coming into this season. Dudzinski already owned two All-Area and two all- Western Sun Conference honors. Add the scholarship offer from Holy Cross assistant coach Sean Ryan, and he was Kaneland's most accomplished boys basketball player at least since P.J. Fleck graduated in 1999.
Yet Dudzinski was not content simply to fill his yap with protein shakes and burgers and do six sets of clean and jerk. In addition to playing with the Velocity AAU team out of Naperville, he continued to work with John Pavlak, Kaneland's varsity assistant in charge of working with the big men.
It paid off.
"He's started to grow into his body and gotten his coordination and his footwork. His footwork has improved tremendously. He has some of the best footwork I've seen both offensively and defensively," Pavlak said.
"One of the big things that has improved this year with his strength is, he doesn't fall for a lot of shot fakes anymore," the coach said. "He's become very confident in his shot blocking and to be able to just know that he's 6-9 and he's got that long reach. He really doesn't have to jump until the shot's going up. He's become a much more disciplined defensive player."
Dudzinski has also increased his presence on backside help.
As Bailey said, "Just knowing that we have him back on defense totally changed our defensive philosophy. We try and force people (to the) middle because we know we have him there to help us on blocks."
Offensively, Pavlak noted Dudzinski's work on creating spacing against his defender - or multiple defenders, as is often the case - has worked to his benefit. He's also got body control and quickness. His long arms and fast hands have snaked out to capture 75 offensive rebounds.
Dudzinski has also been Kaneland's top 3-point shooter by percentage, making 16 of 43 shots beyond the arc, 37 percent.
His shooting percentages are impressive across the board - 59.8 percent on 2-point attempts, 81.4 percent from the foul line.
They've translated to outstanding performances. Kaneland lost twice to Western Sun champion DeKalb, but Barbs coach David Rohlman praised Dudzinski's work against Threloff, including a 22-point, 13-rebound game in DeKalb's 44-40 win on Dec. 4.
Capping a Knights title at Plano's Christmas Classic, Dudzinski earned MVP honors after scoring 32 points with 13 rebounds in a 47-39 win over Rockford Christian.
In the first of two wins over Glenbard South the pivot had a monstrous game of 20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocked shots. He opened the regular season with 26 points in a win over Aurora Christian. He closed the regular season with 26 points in a win at Batavia.
And, of course, Dudzinski broke a Kaneland backboard on Feb. 22 while practicing dunking.
"That was fun," he said.
Not that Dudzinski, whose 6-foot-4 father played left tackle at Northwestern before a knee injury ended that, is the type who glorifies backboard-breaking.
"He's just an all-around good kid, a good player," Johnson said. "He is a student-athlete. He takes that to the highest extreme, being No. 2 in his class. I think he'd be any coach's dream."
Pavlak seconded that opinion.
"He's a coach's player," said the Knights assistant. "He's very receptive to any kind of ideas, any kind of things you want to go through that might help him."
All sorts of suggestions will be thrown Dudzinski's way when he starts his career at Holy Cross, which won out over offers from Loyola, Austin Peay and Lafayette among the 30 Division I programs that contacted him.
If he displays the same desire and work ethic that packed 25 pounds of muscle on that frame of his, success should follow.
"This is great, but once you get to college it's going to be something else. Everybody is the best player on their team" Dudzinski said.
"It'd be really nice to work for maybe an all-Patriot League Rookie Team or something, and just keep working from there, you know. Can't settle for anything."
1998: Eric Dodson, St. Charles
1999: P.J. Fleck, Kaneland
2000: Pete Schmit, St. Charles
2001: Eric Regan, St. Charles East
2002: Brian Schmit, St. Charles East
2003: Dan Izzo, St. Charles East
2004: Shaun Pruitt, West Aurora
2005: T.J. Marion, West Aurora
2006: T.J. Marion, West Aurora
2007: Nick Fruendt, Batavia
2008: Nick Fruendt, Batavia
2009: Jeremy D'Amico, Geneva