It's simply been that long.

First-year Homestead boys basketball coach Sean Crider has been working around the building in one capacity or another for some years, but he hasn't been around long enough to have met the late Homestead hoops coaching legend John Chekouras.

But Crider and everyone associated with Homestead basketball knows the story of the 17-year leader of the Highlanders who passed away much too soon in June 2006 after suffering heart arrhythmia while out on a run.

In that sudden, sad moment, the Saturday Slammers youth program was without its vocal leader; his special needs education classes were without a kind and thoughtful mentor; a family was without its husband and father; and the world was suddenly a less joyful and energetic place without him.

His wife, three children and extended Homestead hoops family (longtime Homestead assistant and dear friend Steve O'Brien especially) have worked hard to fill the gaps and make sure his memory is maintained because Chekouras was always about providing opportunity and helping everyone reach their potential.

That's why in its several iterations, the John Chekouras Classic Basketball Tournament still remains in its 11th year.

Though more a showcase than a tournament these days, it still fills the fieldhouse with a joyful noise just like it did all day Saturday, Feb. 4, as six intense, entertaining games were held. The host Highlanders came up just a little short against Brown Deer, as a game-tying 3-pointer came up a bit off the mark, but Chekouras would have appreciated the effort.

As is tradition, daughter Kira Testin read the lovely, detail-filled homage to her father that is on the second page of the program.

At the heart of that message follows:

"John was a passionate educator, who paid attention to detail and whose heart was always full of joy. He viewed teaching classes and coaching basketball teams as an opportunity to help mold character ... his care and concern for our special needs population endeared him to many outside of the basketball world. There is no question, Homestead High School is a better place because of the impact John made while teaching and coaching."

The Showcase itself is in good hands, too. Mark Miller of the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook was a co-sponsor this year, and Highlander Athletic Director Erich Hinterstocker made a fine announcer.

"I never got a chance to meet John," Crider said, "but I have a lot of respect for him and OB (O'Brien). We all know how much he means to Homestead. Marquis (former Highlander coach Hines) also had a lot of respect for him. It really is a privilege to be here. You see the former players come out, and you know it's an honor to continue this."