By John Ring
Published January 6, 2022 in The Burg
After the Galesburg Silver Streaks had destroyed the Geneseo Maple Leafs in a basketball game at John Thiel Gym, Koen Derry reflected on a big week for him.
Just days earlier, Derry-- a 6’7” senior post for the Streaks-- had a monster game against Peoria Manual, leading Galesburg to a road win over the Rams with career highs in both points (29) and rebounds (19).
Then he dominated inside against the Maple Leafs, leading the Streaks to a running clock rout of Geneseo and a spiffy 8-1 record.
It seems like Koen Derry has come out of nowhere since the season started. Part of it is because of last year’s covid-shortened season. There were no fans, few games and he started just one game because of an injury. The year before that, he played sparingly off the bench on the Jaylin McCants 29-4 team as a sophomore.
But this year is the coming out party for Koen and a lot of other Silver Streaks. He’s exploded on the scene, has a great inside/outside game, is athletic and personifies the Streaks version of their game which has resulted in a great record.
“I got my confidence this past summer,” said Koen as he relaxed after the Geneseo game. “I played on an AAU team with some of my teammates and that made a big difference for me. That confidence I built this summer has carried over into the season.”
“The other factor that helped me was Jaylin McCants. He was like a role model for me. He was so cool on the basketball court. He dunked on me in practice, I had to guard him every day but I didn’t care. He helped me lot. He helped develop me into a good player.”
“That game against Manual,” continued Derry, “was a really nice game. Looking back on it, I want to build off it and do something better.”
In Galesburg’s win over Geneseo, Silver Streak guards Jeremiah Babers and Alex Egipciaco harassed, stripped and stole the ball from the Maple Leaf guards on numerous possessions.
There was no trapping zone, no gimmicks, just man to man pressure. One of those turnovers wound up in the hands of Derry, who burst to the basket for a slam dunk but was then called for a technical foul by the referee.
“On that one, I was getting fouled from behind but I never said anything to the player,” said Derry with a smile. “I just got too loud when I celebrated.”
Derry has been playing basketball “as long as I can remember.” He had steady growth to reach his current height, had no idols as a kid and thinks his inside/outside game is the best asset he
has. “I’ve struggled shooting from the outside and it will come, but I keep it simple,” said the Streaks senior. “If a taller player is guarding me, I take him outside. If he’s smaller, I take him inside.”
“Anybody on this team can put the ball in the basket,” said Derry. “Ian [Dominique] can shoot.
Alex is one of the strongest guards in the State. He’s a great defender. Carl [Dortch] out works everybody in the Conference.”
Derry also praised Babers, the Streaks point guard. “J.B. is huge. We struggle when he’s not on the court. He’s a great point guard.”
Koen has been a lot of phone calls and letters from colleges who want to talk to him about
attending their respective school and playing basketball. “Yeah, that’s my dream,” said Koen.
“To play at the next level.”
Derry also talked highly of new Streaks Coach Chad Thompson. “I love him. He’s the best
coach that I have ever had. He’s involved in our lives. If we have a problem, we can go to him. He helps us and he works hard. He lives basketball, he’s always watching film.”
With the season about half over, Derry thinks the Streaks can compete and play with just about any team around right now. “I think we can,” he said. “We have confidence in each other as a team and if we keep moving the ball and everyone scores, it’s a great feeling.”
I’ve thought long and hard for a past Silver Streak to compare Koen Derry to. The way he plays, the versatility, the athleticism. I’ve considered and rejected several-- including Dave Woodward,
Jim Reinebach, Robbie Dunn and Sean Hanlon. Koen is tougher inside than Sean, and has more range than Woodward.
Ultimately, I gave up. There’s only one Koen Derry. And he’s having a great year for the Silver Streaks.