IN THE SPOTLIGHT
In a hallway near Highland Park High School’s new main gym, a smiling Daniel Michelon — about to answer a post-game question after a big varsity basketball win — spots his father, Rick, walking the other way.
“Dad!” the senior guard shouts.
Dad turns around.
“You once scored 35 points in a game against Maine West, right?” the son asks.
Rick Michelon, a Highland Park HS graduate, stops. Pauses.
And then he reveals a humble smile.
“Yes, Maine West,” the former guard replies.
“He was a shooter,” the proud son says, adding his father has suffered a pair of knee ligament tears and an Achilles tendon rupture in his post-HPHS days. “Scored a lot of points. He gives me pep talks before games. My dad is positive, always positive, around me after a game, no matter what the outcome was. If I had a tough night with my shot, he tells me, ‘Keep shooting; you’re a shooter.’ ”
Daniel Michelon (pronounced Michael-on) had just scored nine points against … Maine West.
Yes, Maine West, on Dec. 1, the date HP’s varsity played its first game in the new home venue and won 72-59 in a Central Suburban League North opener.
But the game, in the Michelon household and beyond, won’t be remembered for any of the shots taken by Daniel. Nobody will forget the crossover dribble he had executed before nailing a trey in the final minute of the third quarter.
The Warrior guarding Michelon got all tied up and stumbled backward because of the 5-foot-11, 160-pounder’s Harlem Globetrotter-ish move. The Giants’ vociferous fans roared their approval as Michelon prepared to elevate from three-point real estate.
“That was the loudest the crowd got tonight,” Giants senior guard Ziv Tal would say later.
Michelon got another delightful earful from the fans the moment his shot hit nothing but twine. The entertaining possession upped the hosts’ advantage to 47-38 — after Maine West (which trailed 37-23 at the half) had found life with a 13-2 run from the 6:18 mark to the 1:41 mark of the third frame.
“Daniel is an excellent shooter,” Giants coach Paul Harris says. “The team responds well when he shoots well; the guys get excited. He’s good at hunting for his shots. He’s a crafty dribbler in traffic, and he changes speed well, uses screen well.
“When he plays with a bounce in his step,” the coach adds, “we play better basketball.”
HP ended a season-opening four-game losing streak with the win against Maine West last weekend.
Michelon averaged eight points, nearly two assists and a steal per game as a first-year varsity hoopster last winter. Through five games this season, he was averaging 8.8 points per game, with his season-high point total (14) coming in a 61-58 loss to Evanston in a St. Viator Thanksgiving Tournament opener on Nov. 20.
“Daniel is playing with more confidence this year,” says HP senior guard Lucas Fleisher, a former “rival” of Michelon when the two battled for backcourt playing time on teams at Lincoln Elementary School. “That shot of his … it’s pure, [Cleveland Cavaliers guard] J.R. Smith-pure. He’s good at navigating around big guys, and he’s added a nice pull-up jumper to his game.”
Michelon’s favorite game on Sundays in the fall and early winter months is football — fantasy football, to be exact. He welcomes friends, sometimes as many as 15, to his house to watch NFL games each Sunday.
“I’m in charge of the snacks,” Michelon says.
Viewing NBA games also consumes his free time, particularly when the Milwaukee Bucks and his favorite player, 22-year-old Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo, are in action.
“He does it all — scores, rebounds, plays good defense, gets his teammates involved,” Michelon says of the 6-11 guard/small forward with the gaudy averages (29.4 points, 10.2 rebound, 4.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks). “Big NBA fan; I’m a big NBA fan.”
Fleisher, meanwhile, is a Daniel Michelon fan, a big Daniel Michelon fan.
And not just when Michelon is doing his thing on hardwood.
“He’s a ball of energy, always smiling, always making people laugh, always ready to brighten everybody’s day in school,” says Fleisher, who, with his all-out hustle and willingness to suffer a floor burn or two, kept a key possession alive in the third quarter of the game against Maine West last weekend. “He’s caring … he genuinely cares about others and our team.
“Daniel,” he adds, “loves our team, loves being a part of it.”
A Miles Michelon is a member of the school’s freshman hoops team.
“Plays guard,” Daniel Michelon says of his brother. “Likes to shoot, too.”