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Night of Hoops to honor Roberts
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Columnist

Batavia boys basketball coach Jim Roberts leads his team against Geneva during Saturday's High School Hoops Showdown game at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.


Joe Lewnard.

Laura Stoecker/ Geneva's Megan Beitzel dismounts from the bars at the end of her routine on Wednesday, January 23.


Laura Stoecker.

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Published: 1/31/2013 9:51 PM

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It is an expression that has probably outlived contemporary usefulness but in the case of former Batavia boys basketball coach Jim Roberts, behind this good man stands a good woman.

Saturday is the night of the annual Batavia Night of Hoops, which Roberts started in 1994. In light of his retirement from coaching after last season, it was since decided to rename the event after him.

He’s not alone, however. In a rare and classy move signifying the support and influence his wife, Sylvia, provided her husband as well as the Batavia program, she’s included as well.

“An unbelievable influence,” Jim Roberts said.

A ceremony dedicating the Jim and Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops will be held at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday, before Batavia’s game against DeLaSalle to cap the triple-header.

Games pitting Wheaton North (Bulldogs coach Jim Nazos’ former team) against St. Joseph at 4:30 p.m. and a whopper of Benet versus West Aurora at 6 lead the schedule.

“It’s very humbling and greatly appreciated,” said Jim Roberts, whose wife took seriously ill some two years ago, causing him to take a leave of absence from school in the spring of 2011 and eventually helping hasten his retirement from coaching to spend more time at home.

Happily, Sylvia Roberts is back teaching third grade at Schneider Elementary School in North Aurora, School District 129, where she’s been since the couple moved here from Missouri in 1984 — Jim returning home, San Antonio native Sylvia making a new home.

“Sylvia was tremendously supportive of Jim all throughout his career,” said retired Batavia head football coach and athletic director Mike Gaspari, who in 1985 became a head coach the same year as Roberts. Dave Andrews, Gaspari’s successor as athletic director, tabbed Gaspari to speak at Saturday’s presentation.

“She was instrumental to the success of the basketball program behind the scenes, I think, just from the support she gave her spouse,” Gaspari said.

“I just think it’s extremely appropriate. I’m very proud of the fact the school district is doing this for the two of them. I can’t think of a better way to honor them.”

Grabbing a greased pig is as easy as getting the chronically humble Jim Roberts to talk about himself. Nazos said Roberts needed repeated persuasion to put his name on the Night of Hoops banner.

This must run in the immediate family. Appreciative of and pleased with Saturday’s honor, Sylvia Roberts nonetheless admitted feeling “self-conscious,” and displayed her husband’s brand of dry humor.

“I’ve been trying to get my name off of it,” she said. “It’s too late. The posters are out.”

In season, she said she’d have “the boys” over to the house for lunches of bratwurst and “big pots of chili.” For the Night of Hoops she made the hospitality room welcoming for coaches and officials — “made it a special time,” said Jim Roberts. He noted that on long Bulldogs road trips it was his wife who acted as disciplinarian.

“She definitely made her mark as far as how the kids should behave on the road,” he said.

Sylvia Roberts made brownies for the boys for their birthdays during the season. She said Corey Williams, who led Batavia to the Elite Eight in 1991, complained he never got his brownies. His birthday was in March, though, lending Mrs. Roberts an easy comeback.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to keep playing to get them.’ And he got them one time.”

From what she called the “old Batavia” she remembers upon arriving in 1984, Sylvia Roberts said she’s appreciated the community support for the Bulldogs players, for her husband, for “the fantastic crowds.”

And over the past several years undoubtedly, for herself.

“Things have worked out,” she said.

There should be a fantastic crowd Saturday to acknowledge Sylvia and Jim Roberts, the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association hall of famer who compiled a record of 455-269 in 27 seasons all at Batavia.

“As it’s getting closer here I’m hearing more and more people talking about coming,” Nazos said. “It’ll be nice to see Coach Roberts one more time on his court.”

Kick-a-Thon results

Orders are specific — the final amount of money earned at the 19th annual Kick-a-Thon, jointly produced by the St. Charles East and St. Charles North drill teams last Sept. 7 cannot be revealed until this Saturday evening.

“We’d like to keep it as a surprise until that night,” said Diana Artman, one of the Kick-a-Thon co-chairs along with Molly Craney and Rosanne Grenfell.

Representatives from LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva and the Fox Valley Chapter of the American Cancer Society, in Batavia, will be on hand as drill team members flip up big placards with numbers indicating the final haul. It’s scheduled to happen around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, after the sophomore boys basketball game between the rival schools at St. Charles North.

A record 150 kickers signed up for last year’s Kick-a-Thon, breaking the 2011 record of 144.

“I think a lot of people are excited to see what the number will be,” Artman said.

Don and Leon

This Sunday’s Super Bowl marks the 20th anniversary of ESPN’s first “Play of the Year.”

It was the play where Aurora Christian football coach Don Beebe, then a Buffalo Bills receiver, ran down Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett — who had a 40-yard head start — to deny him a fumble-return touchdown in Super Bowl XXVII. That’s Super Bowl 27 for us non-Romans.

CBS flew both Beebe and Lett in to Dallas a couple weeks ago to film the two for an 8-minute interview, the only major feature interview on the show, that will air as part of the noon pregame show with Phil Simms. Perhaps Beebe will also get in a plug for his new book wrote by Denise Crosby, “Six Rings from Nowhere.”

The station will claim this is the first meeting between the Beebe and Lett in the 20 years since the Cowboys beat the Bills 52-17, but Jim Gibson of Big Talk Media said it’s actually the second and maybe the third.

Beebe and Lett were interviewed in and around Aurora this past August for a separate documentary film yet to be finished. Prior to that, Gibson said, their only contact was a “Hi” in passing at the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay four years ago.

Tune in Sunday.

Catching up with ... Megan Beitzel

Just a sophomore, Geneva’s Megan Beitzel is in her second year competing on the Vikings’ varsity gymnastics squad.

Friday she and teammates Ashley Puff, McKenna Merges, Dominique Brognia, Claire Scatterday and sisters Jenna and Grace Ginsberg will compete at Geneva’s own IHSA regional, which feeds into Tuesday’s Glenbard West sectional.

Beitzel, a vault and bars specialist, qualified to sectionals last year and comes off a second-place Upstate Eight Conference finish on vault.

She lived in Bartlett till she was 3 years old, when Joe and Cindy Beitzel moved to a bigger place in Geneva. A bigger place was required for Megan and her three younger sisters.

Her favorite gymnast is the former U.S. Olympian Shawn Johnson. A high honor roll student who plays viola in high school orchestra, Beitzel has thus far earned a 4.3 grade-point average.

Q: Neither your parents were gymnasts; why did they get you involved?

A: I think they just kind of saw how much we were jumping and bouncing around and we needed to get our energy out. They put us in gymnastics and we loved it and just stuck with it.

Q: You said your high school coach, Kim Hostman, has been your coach since you started competing with the Geneva Park District as a little girl. What’s your relationship like?

A: We have a really close relationship since we’ve been together so long. We’re just really close because of everything we’ve been through together, since she’s seen me grow from being very little and getting better and better. She’s really a great coach and she’s helped me a lot.

Q: You won state all-around competitions while with the park district. How’d that feel?

A: I think it just gave me more confidence and even more drive to be good and keep on improving because I saw the potential I had. So winning state just made me work even harder.

Q: What’s your go-to move?

A: The one that’s really helping me out this year in vault is the pike tsuk.

Q: Can you describe that?

A: What you do is you start by running to the vault and after you jump on the board you turn your hands halfway onto the vault, then you push off with both hands and with your body you do a flip. But for the pike your legs are going to be straight and close to your chest.

Q: That’s all? Just kidding. I must ask, are you related to former Geneva quarterback Brandon Beitzel?

A: We’re cousins. We live in the same neighborhood.

Q: Did you two ever engage in head-to-head competition in any sport?

A: We never really had any competition between us. I just saw how successful he was and it just helped me reach my goals because I saw how determined he was.

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