Prairie State Profile: Saukees’ Tomhave embraces traditions, bonds born from playing sports


Pittsfield senior Brennan Tomhave is a three-sports athlete who envisions himself as a physical therapist or working a similar job in the sports medicine field one day. | Matt Schuckman photo

PITTSFIELD, Ill. — Brennan Tomhave is a Saukee through and through.

It would be difficult not to be when you grow up sitting on the bench.

Tomhave had a front-row seat to one of the best seasons in Pittsfield boys basketball history in 2011, riding the bus and hanging out in the locker room as his father, Saukees coach Brad Tomhave, guiding the team to a fourth-place finish at the Class 2A state tournament.

“Growing up and being around that state team, that kind of made me like sports even more,” said Tomhave, a senior three-sport athlete. “Going to the gym every day and seeing those guys — growing up I thought Brad Hamilton was the best thing ever — and having a dad as a coach, that kind of made me fall in love with sports in general.”

It made him want to be a Saukee, too.

Brad Tomhave is entering his 19th season as the Pittsfield boys basketball coach and is just five victories shy of 300 career wins. He’s been a wanted man at times throughout his career, but the Pittsfield native has stayed loyal to his roots. That has allowed his sons to follow in his footsteps as Saukees.

It would have been difficult for those boys to be a Cardinal, a Wildcat or any other mascot anywhere else.

“There was a particular time he was getting interviewed for the job at Pleasant Plains, and I was not doing well,” Brennan Tomhave said. “I was crying at night. My dad says he didn’t take it because of me, but it would have been hard for him to leave this job, too. It means a lot to him. Not growing up here would have been so much different than it is now.”

Now he gets one last ride as a Saukee. His senior golf season is underway and Tomhave will be a central figure on the boys basketball and baseball teams.

Tomhave discussed his senior year, his future in the sports medicine field and steak being his favorite meal with Muddy River Sports Editor Matt Schuckman for this Prairie State Profile, brought to you by Sleep Tight.

Q: How is your senior year going a few weeks in?

A: Just getting used to the flow of things. Getting used to homework every night. I have to manage sports schedules with that. Having practices every night and then getting home and getting your school stuff done is important.

Q: How heavy of a load is homework right now?

A: Not as much as last year. With junior year, there are a lot of credits you have to get. Right now, it’s not too bad. I’m taking some classes through John Wood (Community College), and it’s senior year. I’m taking some classes that are a little easier, but I still have to make sure I’m getting things done.

Q: Because you’re a senior, are you able to take some classes that you want to take?

A: We meet with our counselor before schools starts and we write down the classes we want to take and how we’d like our schedule to look like. She’ll go in there and fix a couple things. She does a great job of getting us the classes we want and then filling in the spots with the classes we need and the things she thinks we should take.

Q: Was there a class you wanted to take this year?

A: Sports writing and literature was offered to us. I believe they started it two years ago. That class is one I’m really enjoying. We get a prompt every class and talk about sports and writing. There’s nothing better than sitting around talking about sports.

Q: Sounds like a class I would love.

A: Oh, it’s awesome. You get to write about sports everyday. I really enjoy that class.

Q: Do you enjoy writing?

A: Well, if it’s something about science, maybe not us much. But sports writing, I can do that.

Q: Have you given thought to what you’d like to study in college?

A: I think right now I want to major in sports medicine and maybe be a physical therapist or something in the medical field like that. I want to be around sports and be outside around players. I think I would really enjoy that.

Q: Do you enjoy science classes?

A: I do. Last year in (anatomy and physiology), I enjoyed learning about the body and how it works. Some people didn’t like it. So they gravitated toward me for help or answers.

Q: It would be difficult to give up being around sports, wouldn’t it?

A: Growing up, I fell in love with sports. Being around those Pittsfield teams with my dad coaching, how could you not fall in love with sports. But it’s not even sports I play. I love watching all sports on TV. If there is nothing on that I want to watch, I’ll watch a random sport. Sports is just part of my life now.

Q: With that in mind, is there a sport you’ve never played that you would like to try?

A: I don’t think I’ve ever played it, but I’d like to try tennis. Those guys hit the ball so hard. I don’t know how fast it’s going, but it’s like a blur on the screen. I’d like to give that a try. There are a bunch of sports out there I’d like to try.

Q: Is there a sport you think you’d excel at?

A; Oh, that’s tough. I always like playing volleyball. In P.E. right now, we’re going through volleyball. In college, I think I’d like to try that. I’m tall, can jump a little. I’m not saying I jump out of the gym, but for volleyball, I think I’d do OK there.

Q: What has meant to you to grow up with a dad who is a coach?

A: It showed me a lot of things. Seeing that state experience as a kid was huge. You learn a lot of things when you’re inside the program. A lot of people can’t see what goes on behind the scenes, but I was able to see that as a kid by going down to the locker room and the coaches office. Learning about our school’s tradition — Saukee tradition — it meant so much more to me growing up as a kid and it made me take things into perspective and cherish it more.

Q: What’s it like playing for him?

A: It has its ups and down. You saw it with Cade (his older brother, now playing baseball at Illinois Wesleyan). They’d butt heads all the time. They’re kind of like the same person. I’m a different personality than Cade, so I take things better. But there are definitely moments where I don’t agree with something my dad said and I can’t say anything. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the dad aspect and the coach aspect. It’s definitely a bond that we have created beyond the father-son bond.

Q: You and your brothers share the love of sports and activity with your dad. It’s truly a family bond, isn’t it?

A: Almost every day, we do something active, like going to the golf course or hanging by the pool. We like to spend time playing the sports that we love. We have different conversations out there, and we can really bond when we’re playing a sport together, whether that’s gold or shooting hoops outside or playing catch.

Q: Your dad was a pretty good athlete back in the day. Can you take him 1-on-1 right now?

A: My answer is definitely going to be different than his, but I think I’ve got him now.

Q: The height has to help, right?

A: I have that advantage. I don’t know if I can take him in the post though.

Pittsfield right-hander Brennan Tomhave delivers a pitch during the Class 2A regional championship game against Quincy Notre Dame last May. | Matt Schuckman photo

Q: Life isn’t just basketball since you play three sports. Do you have a favorite sport?

A: I love all sports. I love putting time into every sport and getting ready for the season. I do think basketball has a special place in the heart. I love the grind with every sport. I love the preseason and creating bonds with teammates, but I think basketball is definitely the favorite of the three.

Q: There is something different when it comes to playing in Voshall Gym, isn’t there?

A: Those Friday nights are special. I remember playing that stretch of games last year against Payson, Brown County, Griggsville-Perry and the stands were packed. The students got excited to go to those games because we were winning and playing well. Nothing beats playing in a full gym in Voshall with everybody on their feet. It’s a different experience.

Q: Do you have a favorite opposing gym you like visiting?

A: Payson gives me that old school vibe. When it gets packed, it’s loud. I’ve always loved going to Payson and playing. Payson is definitely one of the top gyms.

Q: What about golf? Do you have a favorite course aside from Old Orchard Country Club?

A: I like Mount Sterling (Rolling Hills Golf Course). They keep the course in great condition. There’s something about the greens that remind me of our greens. They roll real well.

Q: What’s the better feeling: Sinking a birdie putt, making a clutch 3-pointer or striking out a batter in a key situation?

A: You had to hit me with that. That’s tough. Striking out a guy in a big moment is … oh, making a three in a big moment is too. That’s so tough. Gosh, given the situation in baseball where it’s bases loaded or there’s two outs and you have a guy 3-2 and you strike him out, everybody goes crazy. That has to be one of the best feelings in sports, at least for me.

Q: After something like that, you should get the meal of your choice. What’s your favorite meal?

A: You can’t go wrong with a nice steak, mashed potatoes and corn. That’s got to be a good one.

Q: How do you like your steak?

A: Medium. Every time.

Q: I know your dad loves to grill and has a smoker. How are his steaks?

A: He made some last night, and they were pretty good. He does a good job every time.

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