All in the sports family
Updated: March 23, 2011 9:54AM
Mark Schanowski may have won last year's NCAA tournament pool at Comcast SportsNet, but that doesn't necessarily make him a champion in his own household.
Schanowski's son, Eric, and daughter, Brooke, outpicked their dad when it came to predicting March Madness winners last year within the family's house in Wheaton.
When your father has been a veteran sportscaster for over 20 years in the nation's third largest television market, following sports becomes an everyday reality for the Schanowskis.
"We're an all-sports family," Brooke said.
What brings Mark and his wife Susan out to Wheaton North for a basketball game at 9 a.m. on a Monday? Their only daughter is a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard and playing in her second varsity season for the Falcons. Brooke Schanowski scored four points in Wheaton North's opening game, a 58-44 victory over Willowbrook Dec. 20 in the Neibch Falcon Classic.
The Falcons finished fourth in their own holiday tournament and will play on an even bigger stage at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 15 when Wheaton North (9-4) plays 13th-ranked Proviso East (14-2) in the 21st annual McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook in Villa Park. The game features a pair of Division I recruits: Wheaton North's Fantasia Vine (Bradley) and Proviso East's Ivory Crawford (Illinois).
The Falcons beat St. Ignatius 69-47 last year in their McDonald's Shootout debut. Vine, who went to the same middle school as Schanowski, scored a game-high 22 points in that game. Schanowski was on the roster, but played mainly at the JV level last season. Brooke has seen plenty of playing time this season and has even started several games.
For a younger player such as Schanowski, the McDonald's Shootout provides an opportunity to play in front of dozens of college recruiters. Brooke started taking basketball seriously at Monroe Middle School and then played at the Chicago Bulls-White Sox Academy in Lisle. In the offseason, she plays for the Lake Forest-based Full Package AAU team.
"One of her strengths as a player is that she sees the court well," Mark said of Brooke. "I take pride in the fact that she's an intelligent player."
Mark played basketball in high school and is clearly a major influence on his kids' interest in the sport. His blog on Comcast SportsNet Chicago's website is called "Beyond the Arc." Mark has been a primary co-anchor for SportsNet Central since 2006 and hosts the Bulls' pre- and post-game studio show with former Illinois star Kendall Gill. Gill even provides Schanowski with some basketball tips to give to Brooke, usually on ways to improve her quickness and strength.
"I remember, with my dad, watching basketball with him every chance I got when I was a little kid," Brooke said.
Mark was a sports reporter with WLS-TV Ch. 7 from 1990 to 1998 during the Bulls' run of NBA championships. He was a sports anchor at WMAQ-TV Ch. 5 before joining Comcast SportsNet.
"I'm used to it. My dad's on TV. It's OK. It's not a big deal," Brooke said. "I think it's more him and my brother that talk sports every chance they put into it."
Eric, a senior, played basketball up until this season at Wheaton North and competed in cross country in the fall. In the spring, Eric's focus turns to track and field.
Mark is now a familiar face at Wheaton North girls basketball games this season. He tries to attend every game -- home and on the road -- and has juggled his broadcast schedule at times to see Brooke play.
"I'm watching the same game I watch every day of my life," Schanowski said. "But now I squirm in my seat when Brooke plays. I'm anxious. I hope she does well."
The Schanowski kids played all kinds of sports growing up. Eric also was involved in soccer, baseball and football. Brooke was a former soccer player.
"(Sports) always has been not only my job, but it's my hobby," Mark said.
Mark has taken his kids to Bulls games as fans. When they were younger, Eric and Brooke tagged along with their dad while he was covering Bears training camps.
"I try to get to as many games as I can," Mark said. "It's hard to believe my son is off to college soon. That goes by so fast."
Mark is a native of Milwaukee. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Pulaski High School, but his Polish roots are exposed when he pronounces the name of his high school alma mater as Puh-la-ski. Before coming to Chicago, he was a producer and weekend sports anchor for ABC's WISN-TV in Milwaukee for three years.
Brooke is not the only child of a Chicago area sports broadcaster playing basketball for Wheaton North this winter. Sam Otto, the son of part-time Cubs broadcaster Dave Otto, is a junior guard for the Falcons.
Sam played golf for Wheaton North in the fall. Sam followed his older brother Travis, who tied for 32nd in the Class 3A state golf tournament in 2007 as a senior.
Schanowski and Otto are two of four current or former Chicago sportscasters now living in Wheaton, joining Bears play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak of WBBM-AM and former White Sox color commentator Jimmy Piersall.
Dave Otto is a former all-Mid-Suburban League basketball and baseball player at Elk Grove and pitched in eight major league seasons for five teams, including the Cubs in 1994.