POTW: Garrett emerging as rising star

CHICAGO -- Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin approached sophomore guard Billy Garrett, Jr. with Louisville recruit Wayne Blackshear on the bench in foul trouble.

Irvin needed someone to take over for Blackshear if Morgan Park was going to have a chance against a tough Brooks team on the road in a recent Public League match-up.

"I told him, ‘It's your time,'" Irvin said. "He said, ‘Man, I got you coach. I'm going to carry you.' I said, ‘Go ahead and do it, young fellow.'"

A season ago, Garrett wouldn't have been able to say those words, or back them up. While a talented freshman on varsity, Garrett took a back seat to the Mustangs' other top players.

That's changed this year. Taller -- he's 6-4 now -- a better shooter, a smarter player and much more confident, Garrett believes he can play with anyone, and he has the skills to prove it.

Against Brooks, Garrett -- the ESPNChicago.com/Muscle Milk Player of the Week -- didn't let his coach down. With a mixture of long 3-pointers, strong drives to the basket, clutch free throws, strong defense against two of the Public League's better guards in George Marshall and Roger Powell and a team-high 21 points, Garrett helped the undefeated Mustangs to a three-point win.

Blackshear, who ended up fouling out, was impressed by Garrett's poise.

"Coach is always getting on him in practice, and he's just taking it and stepping up his game," Blackshear said. "He doesn't rush a lot of his shots. He doesn't take a lot of bad shots like he did last year."

Irvin does admit to being tough on Garrett, but it's been for his own good. When Garrett stepped into Morgan Park's gym last year, he was tentative and scared to make mistakes. Irvin wasn't going to have that. Irvin's players get creative. They don't hold back. While they make their share of mistakes, they also become better players for it.

"Go out and play your game," Irvin said. "I'm going to live with your mistakes. He's loosened up. You don't have to look at the bench when you make mistakes. I'm going to give you the freedom to grow."

Billy Garrett, Sr., who is a DePaul men's basketball assistant coach, has witnessed the positive effect Irvin has had on his son.

"What Nick has done is he's opened up his personality where he can do some of things on the court and grow as a player," Garrett, Sr. said. "Nick does such a great job of encouraging guys. He gives them more freedom than I would give them. They have to make good choices. It's helped Bill as a player because sometimes coach's sons play too close to the vest because they're around the game and don't want to make mistakes."

Being a coach's son comes with the good and bad, but Garrett, Jr. wouldn't change either.

"The good is he knows a lot about the game," Garrett, Jr. said. "I can learn so much from him. The bad is he's tough. He's really, really tough. That's the hardest thing."

In recent years, Garrett has become less tough as a father and coach. Where he used to have to motivate his son to get into the gym, Garrett, Jr. now wants to put in the work. The day before the Brooks game, Garrett, Jr. sought his father out to get some shots up at DePaul.

"Just like anything else, if you want to get paid, you have to go to work," Garrett, Sr. said. "If his payday is going to college or being a Division I basketball player, he has to put the work in. What I try to do is just be there to work him out whenever he has time or push him along the way."

Colleges have taken notice of Garrett, Jr., who will likely be a point guard who can shoot the ball at the next level. DePaul was the first to offer him. Stanford and UNLV have since offered him. Illinois, Kansas and others have been in contact.

Garrett, Jr. may just end up playing for his father at DePaul, but there's no rush.

"It's difficult," the younger Garrett said. "I want to play for him, but then I want the experience to look at other schools. Right now, DePaul is a definitely a possibility."

In the end, Irvin believes DePaul will have to fight off a lot of others programs for Garrett, Jr.

"Bill's going to be a pro at the end of the day," Irvin said. "Right now, he's getting better and better every day. If I'm North Carolina, Syracuse, I'm going to come get Bill. I tease with big Bill a lot, ‘You're going to have some heat on you. Everybody is going to be on this boy.'"