Adan Petroza is well aware of his priorities in life. The 6-foot-3 junior, the leader of Solorio Academy's 17-2 basketball team, missed two games last week because he was attending a journalism class at Columbia College. Move over, Bob Costas, make room for Adan Petroza.
"I want to be a sports journalist," he said. "I'm enrolled in an internship at Columbia Links, a journalism program for youth. I want to major in journalism in college. I like talking sports and getting more involved in sports around Chicago."
Petroza, who commutes via the Orange Line train to the downtown campus from his home at 57th and Kedzie in the Gage Park neighborhood, is looking forward to his next assignment. He is planning to interview Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah for a story.
He loves to compete in sports--he played wide receiver, tight end, linebacker and kicker on the football team last fall--and he would like to play football or basketball in college, probably at the Division III level. But he acknowledges that sports journalism is his future.
"I like both sports," he said. "In football, I like to hit someone and get angry but it's legal. I can't do that in basketball. But when I make shots and plays in basketball, when I am in a zone, it's a great feeling. Winning is the best part of both sports.
"But work is my first priority. I must work toward my future. Who knows if sports will be there? Some coaches say that if I continue to work hard I might be able to play at a Division III college. But who knows? I like sports but I know sports journalism is my future."
Last week, Petroza was attending class when Solorio defeated Gage Park 55-47 on Tuesday and Hancock 72-35 on Thursday. He will be in the lineup when Solorio meets Epic on Wednesday. Epic handed Solorio one of its two defeats last month. But he'll miss Thursday's game against Kennedy for another class session.
While Petroza was attending classes, his teammates stepped up. Kejuan Thornton had 20 points, seven rebounds and four steals and 5-foot-6 junior James Partee came off the bench to score 11 points against Gage Park. Thornton had 34 points, five rebounds and five steals and Thomas Jones scored 12 points against Hancock.
"This is our first varsity team," coach Corey Bradford said. "The school is only three years old. We only have freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the building. Am I surprised? Yes. It is one of those things. We've had some tight games but the ball has fallen our way.
"We have a great group of guys. They play football and basketball. They have a great work ethic. They aren't a real talented team but we have some good pieces and they play well together. Every game someone steps up. We don't have any Division I players in basketball, only in football. All of them are better at football than basketball.
"A lot of people don't even know we are there yet. We just keep winning and building a system. We'll start getting basketball players out of elementary school. It will take us to win the Green Division and move up to the Blue. Then people will start to know who we are."
Bradford, 30, a Julian graduate of 1999, played basketball with Sean Dockery (Duke) and Lance Williams (DePaul). He coached in Sonny Parker's youth program and coached AAU ball before being hired as Solorio's first coach three years ago.
"I wanted to build a program from the ground up," Bradford said.
Solorio, located at 5400 S. St. Louis in the Gage Park neighborhood, has an enrollment of 1,000. It is a Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) school that is connected with Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Its mission is to equip students with the discipline, knowledge and skills necessary to graduate from college.
Bradford has built his program around Petroza (11 ppg, 12 rpg); Thornton (23 ppg), a 6-foot-1 junior who transferred from Bogan; Jones (20 ppg), a 6-foot junior who has just returned after sitting out since suffering a broken foot in Game 4; 6-foot-2 sophomore Lamont Smith (10 ppg, 10 rpg); and 5-foot-11 sophomore point guard Emontrey Bates (8 ppg, 8 assists). Other contributors are Partee, 6-foot-6 junior Marco Flores (8 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-foot junior Fabricio Lopez.
"Our goal is to win our conference this year, move up to the Blue Division and play tougher competition next year," Petroza said. "We want to build a tradition and make a name for ourselves and the school. People don't know about us. We want to make a reputation.
"We want to make a good image around the school and get the word out around the community that we are here. I'm surprised by our success so far. Last year, we played a varsity schedule as sophomores and didn't do too well (8-7). We learned we had to get better if we wanted to play at the varsity level.
"We lost one game in three overtimes and another in double overtime. We had to learn how to finish games. I wasn't worried about missing last week's games because I felt we would win. I'm sorry I'm going to miss the Kennedy game. But work is my first priority. I must work toward my future."