LANARK, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Kellen Henze is the starting quarterback for the Eastland-Pearl City Co-Op, a State finalist golfer, utility infielder, outfielder on the baseball diamond, but where he really shines is on the hardwood.
“Whichever sport is in season I tend to like the best, but overall I would say basketball is my favorite,” Henze said.
That’s because it’s a sport he’s been playing, practically, since he could walk. His mother, Colleen was Eastland’s girls basketball coach for nearly three decades, and his father, Karl was the school’s first 1,000 point scorer.
“[My dad] likes to brag a lot, there’s no film when he was in high school so you never know if he’s telling the truth or not,” Henze joked.
“[Kellen]’s been around basketball his entire life, in the gym since he was little when his mom was coaching, he just loves the game and just understands it from all that experience,” said Eastland head coach Tyler Zumdahl.
“My mom taught me a lot about basketball and the fundamentals and some of the things that you don’t necessarily see as much anymore but are necessary to perform at a high level,” Henze said.
It’s not just his parents who he’s chasing. As the youngest of three children, he’s also trying to live up to his siblings. His older brother Kaden was a varsity star at Eastland, and his older sister Erin led the girl’s team to a 1A State title in 2020.
“Growing up through the years watching my brother and sister lead this school it’s really made me want to get to that position and it’s really cool to be a role model for the kids at this school,” said Kellen. “With my teammates they’ll always have someone they can look to. If their backs are against the wall they know that they’ve got me right next to them.”
That competition at an early age shaped him into the athlete he is today. He’s not one for personal accolades, he just wants to win.
“I think the biggest thing is just the competitiveness,” said Zumdahl. “No matter what it is, no matter what sport, you know he’s going to be in the hunt for a win or at the top of the leaderboard just because of his competitiveness.”
In a game against Forreston earlier this season, Kellen dropped a career high 40-points. A few weeks later in a home game against Polo, he had 38 through three quarters. With a large lead, he didn’t play at all in the fourth, and finished two shy of his personal best.
“I don’t really care about that stuff too much, I’m just trying to get wins,” said Henze.
“It’s totally true. He’s not looking at the scoreboard wondering how many points he has,” Zumdahl said. “He’s just a gamer and wants to win and he embodies what Eastland basketball is all about.”
As Kellen wraps up the final semester of his impressive high school career, both in the classroom and as a member on each of his athletic teams, he hopes to leave a lasting legacy of hard work that was instilled in him by his community.
“I just want to set an example for kids, hard work leads to success and if you want to be the best person and player you can be on the court, in the classroom, on the field wherever that may be, you have to work really hard for it,” said Henze. “To have this support behind me, it’s so nice. Everywhere you look people are being like, ‘nice game last night,’ or they’re encouraging you to work harder and that just kind of fuels the fire to make ourselves better people on and off the court.”