Basketball: East Aurora unveils banner of Ryan Boatright

Story Image UConn basketball player and former East Aurora star Ryan Boatright signs autographs for basketball camp attendees at East Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill., on Wednesday July 25, 2012. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media

Updated: July 25, 2012 6:44PM

When former East Aurora standout Ryan Boatright stood in the locker room moments after his four-year varsity career ended on March 11, 2011, he had something to say before heading off to UConn for college.

“I’m from the East Side of Aurora, and I’ll never forget where I came from,” Boatright said after that 80-62 loss to Glenbard East in the sectional title game.

Wednesday, Boatright put his love for his alma mater on display once again.

He spoke to dozens of East Aurora basketball campers, supporters, friends and family members in a ceremony to unveil a banner of Boatright that will fly in the Tomcats’ gym.

“It means a lot,” said Boatright, who is preparing for his second season at UConn — where he will be the Huskies’ starting point guard. “I’ve seen all the greats be honored at their colleges and high schools and hoped that one day I’d get honored like this. I always dreamed of having my name up in the rafters. It’s a great accomplishment.”

Few athletes have roamed the halls of East Aurora and accomplished the things Boatright has. Co-Mr. Basketball in Illinois in 2011, two-time first-team All-State, three-time Beacon-News Player of the Year, 31.2 points per game as a senior, the accomplishments seem even more remarkable as time passes.

That’s why the school chose to honor Boatright before he heads back to UConn with a banner next to legendary coach Ernie Kivisto.

“It was overdue, but we wanted to make sure when we honored Ryan that he was here,” East coach Wendell Jeffries said. “It just so happened that we had a summer camp going on with a lot of the kids. It’s great for the kids to be able to see him and be able to hear him talk and for him to tell them to work hard and stay in school.”

That was part of Boatright’s 10-minute message to the dozens of youngsters who attended and received autographs of their hero.

“People don’t understand how much work I put in,” Boatright told the crowd. “If I wasn’t in the gym twice a day, I was in the gym three times a day. I always had a basketball in my hands. When other kids are asleep, you have to be in the gym, putting up shots.”

Things often came easy for Boatright during his four-year career at East Aurora. But his other message for the youngsters put his jump to Big East basketball into perspective.

“Stay humble,” Boatright advised. “No matter how many awards, no matter how good you did, always stay humble because there’s always another guy working extra hard to catch you. That’s what I learned when I got to college. You realize there are a lot of kids in other states that are just as good as you, even better.”

No matter what happens in Storrs, Conn., next winter, Boatright has been immortalized in the gym that got him started on his path to where he is today.

“I think it’s a great honor when people walk in here and say, “Hey, that’s Ryan Boatright’s school,’ ’’ Jeffries said. “It means a lot to the program.”

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