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Taking a look back at Batavia’s big night
By John Lemon | Daily Herald Staff

Retired Batavia boys basketball coach Jim Roberts shakes hands with members of the varsity team as he and his wife Sylvia were honored during the 20th anniversary of Night of Hoops at the school Saturday night.


JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

JOE LEWNARD/ Batavia's Mike Rueffer, left, takes a shot against the defense of De La Salle's Brandon Hutton during the 20th anniversary Night of Hoops at Batavia High School Saturday night.


Joe Lewnard.

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Published: 2/4/2013 10:45 PM

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Batavia’s basketball gymnasium has been host to hundreds of memorable moments through the years, the latest coming Saturday night with the renaming of the Jim and Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops.

When the former Batavia coach and his wife walked onto the court before the Bulldogs played DeLaSalle, every fan in the gym rose and applauded. The standing ovation continued the entire time Rudy Dubis read the long list of what the couple brought to the program, the applause so loud and continuous it was hard at times to hear Dubis.

The fans finally stopped clapping but continued standing when Dubis turned the microphone over to former athletic director Mike Gaspari to talk about the couple.

Gaspari started by saying: “As I was preparing my thoughts for tonight I made a list of a lot of very wonderful things to say about these two outstanding people. The more I developed that list I started to think all I would do is get very emotional if I started to go through that and probably embarrass myself and maybe Jim and Sylvia. What I really wanted to say to everyone tonight is if you ask Jim and Sylvia what the Night of Hoops is all about, the last thing they would tell you is it would be about them.”

Gaspari couldn’t have been more right. Talking to Roberts before the game was a lot like all the interviews after Batavia games with him through the years. He deflected questions away from himself to ask how the reporter was doing, he made a point of saying what a great job Jim Nazos is doing for the Batavia program, he took pride when talking about how some of his former players were doing in their lives away from basketball, and when asked his thoughts about Saturday’s honor all Roberts wanted to say was how thankful he was.

Gaspari closed his thoughts by telling the crowd: “So again, if you were going to ask these two fine people if this event had anything to do with them they would defer to everyone else, so that’s why I don’t think there could be more appropriate of an opportunity to from this day forward to call this event the Jim and Slyvia Roberts Night of Hoops.”

Batavia’s current team, many of whom played for Roberts last year, stood at one end of the floor during the ceremony and then presented Roberts with a plaque when Gaspari finished.

Benet and West Aurora had just completed their game and both teams stayed and watched the ceremony.

Longtime Blackhawks coach Gordie Kerkman applauded along with all the Batavia fans for a fellow Hall of Fame coach.

“He and Sylvia are very deserving of that,” Kerkman said. “You won’t find two finer people who have really helped kids, not just coaching on the floor but in life as well. Very, very deserving. Not many coaches around are finer than Jim Robets I guarantee you and Sylvia is right there with him.”

Making just their second appearance at Night of Hoops, Benet coach Gene Heidkamp is already a big fan.

“It was a great experience,” Heidkamp said. “Our kids love coming to playing here. First-class treatment with great fans of basketball. Just a great environment to play in. It’s a real positive experience for us.”

DeLaSalle made its first appearance at Night of Hoops and defeated the hosts 59-47.

Islanders coach Tom White couldn’t say enough good things about the 20th annual event.

“I’ve never played in it but I‘ve scouted many games here so it was cool to be back here,” White said. “I’d love to come back. If they invited me back I’d come back as long as they’d have me. I love playing in front of this crowd, this atmosphere, this is high school basketball. Not that AAU crap. This is pure basketball right here. High school fans enjoying a high school game.”

Nazos said he is still working on finalizing the 2014 Jim and Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops field but expects to have Benet and West Aurora back, and among the new schools Batavia is looking to add will be Stevenson and St. Patrick.

“It’s a great experience,” Nazos said. “These players grow up looking forward to it and playing these type of teams. Throw in Coach Roberts and recognizing him and his wife makes it a special night.”

Follow John Lemon on Twitter@jlemonDH