There will be no high school basketball in Illinois anytime soon, but St. Bede star Paul Hart still will be playing.
Hart and his family moved to northern Arkansas last week, where he and his younger freshman brother, Isaiah, are attending Flippin High School and playing basketball.
Bob Hart, the boys’ father, said they were led to that area by his uncle, who lives near Flippin. Bob said he and his family have been thinking about relocating and this was a good time to do it.
“The coronavirus hit, and we thought we’d come down here and let them play some basketball and check it out and see how we like it,” Bob said. “The people are friendly and most of them go to church. It’s a good environment. There’s like a church on every corner. I don’t think I’ve even seen a bar.”
Bob described Flippin, which has a population of 1,300, as a diversified small town. The high school is Class 2A school in a six-class system in Arkansas with an enrollment of 861.
The Harts made the eight-hour trip to Flippin on Monday and the boys played the next night.
When the Illinois season was postponed, Paul said he just wanted an opportunity to play some basketball and was excited to make the move south.
He came off the bench and scored 12 points with eight rebounds for the Bobcats in Tuesday’s win over Conway Christian. He likely will be in the starting lineup soon.
“He [the coach] just wants me to be comfortable and learning the plays and stuff. I’ll be good,” he said.
Josh Robins, who is in his third year as Flippin head coach, likes what he sees from Hart with four practices under his belt and said he has fit in nicely with his teammates.
“It is easy for me to see he is a competitive player that has really taken the development of his game seriously. I anticipate him coming in and immediately impacting the competitive level of our practice,” Robins said.
“We have six seniors on this year’s squad, and they have really accepted Paul and believe he is going to help us win games this season. I am confident when Paul is playing in a game he is going to have an impact on the game with his ability to rebound, score, contest shots on the defensive end of the floor, as well as his ability to handle the ball and make decisions.”
The Arkansas season started Oct. 20 and the Bobcats already have played nine games and are 6-3. Flippin went undefeated (10-0, 27-11 overall) in conference last year and won the district championship and also was runner-up in the regional championship. The 2019 team also qualified for the second year for the state tournament.
The freshman, Isaiah, 14, is playing on a team of eighth graders and freshmen at Flippin, Bob said. Like his brother and sister, Hanah, Isaiah attended and played basketball at Princeton Christian Academy.
From his initial observations, Bob said they seem to play more of an old-school style of basketball in Arkansas.
“They play more inside-out. They throw it to the big guy and he tries to kick it back out, instead of just out like they do up [in Illinois]. That will take a little getting used to,” he said.
Paul, 16, burst on the area hoops scene last year with a sensational sophomore year, averaging 24.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks a game. He was a unanimous First Team TRAC East All-Conference pick.
He had scored 1,082 points in two years and was on target to overtake leader J.A. Happ (1,459) as the academy’s all-time leading scorer.
Bob is continuing working from home answering phones for an insurance company and said his wife, Lai, will be looking to work from home as well.