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Highland Park Native Competed in March Madness

Josh Bartelstein's high school injuries didn't stop him from becoming a star Giant.

Highland Park Native Competed in March Madness Highland Park Native Competed in March Madness

Cornell University basketball player Chris Wroblewski still wonders what kind of basketball career Josh Bartelstein would have had if injuries didn't slow down the former Highland Park star.

"I felt he was unlucky with dealing with those injuries," Wroblewski said.

Now it's true Bartelstein did have a hamstring problem during his junior year at Highland Park High School (2006-07). And his sophomore season was lost to a broken ankle.

"I had two screws in my ankle," Bartelstein said. "At the time it was awful. I wish I could have redshirted."

You might think this player would have hung his head a little. Not Bartelstein. In many ways he was the perfect teammate.

"He never got down," Wroblewski said. "I never saw him pout. He had the best outlook. He cheered for all of us."

It's been four years since these two teammates helped lead the Giants to 45 wins in two seasons. And they still text each other regularly.

However, Wroblewski might not be texting as much recently as his University of Michigan Wolverines played in the NCAA basketball tournament. The team lost to Ohio on March 16.

Highland Park basketball coach Paul Harris certainly enjoyed watching Bartelstein play for some of his best teams.

"Josh loves the game of basketball," Harris said. "He was a gym rat who was always trying to improve as a player. Most impressively Josh was a tremendous teammate. He set the bar for how to support teammates during his three years as a varsity player."

Bartelstein knew better than complain about his bad fortune with injuries. After all, how many young basketball players grow up learning the game with help from an NBA team?

When his father, Mark, a sports agent, met with his NBA clients, Josh went along.

"I would shoot with Steve Kerr and Randy Brown," Bartelstein said of the former Chicago Bulls players. "We would go to Bulls games and watch his clients and how hard they worked."

Bartelstein gave baseball a look but realized quickly that the weather didn't agree with him.

"I hate cold weather,'' he said. "It would be snowing and I would standing in the outfield."

So it was basketball that Bartelstein took to Northwood Junior High.

"I played all three years there and we were very good,'' he said. "We won or tied for the conference titles."

Bartelstein must have made a positive impression because he was asked to play for the varsity in the summer of his freshman year. He decided freshman basketball was the way to that first year.

By the time his ankle healed, he was beginning to grow. He was approaching 6-foot-3.

"It still took me awhile to get started," he said. "But I started playing more and more."

And then the Giants began to win. Aided by the likes of Zach Mueser and Steve Mandell, Highland Park won the conference.

"We won the regional and lost to Stevenson in the sectional," he said.

And next up was the senior season for this potent club.

"I was most excited about that year," he said. "We were in the top 20 the whole year. Every home game was sold out. Chris (Wroblewski) and I still joke about that year."

Wroblewski was just glad to have a healthy Bartelstein along for the ride.

"He was really blossoming as a player," Wroblewski said. "I was so fortunate to play with him. We played tremendously that year."

This big winner from Highland Park didn't make it to state. The Giants fell to Schaumburg in the sectional.

"That was one of the worst nights ever," Bartelstein said. "Highland Park has the greatest program."

There was still more basketball for this determined player. He was off to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

"It was a year of prep school," he said. "They played in a really good conference. It was a different group of guys. And it was good to play against some of the best kids in the country."

That's where his scoring average picked up and his 52 three-pointers attracted attention. He was a preferred walk-on at the University of Michigan.

"He is doing the same thing at Michigan," Harris said. "Everything you read about Michigan this year talks about their great team chemistry. That's not surprising with a guy like Josh on their roster."

And this Michigan team with Bartelstein on it, just won a Big 10 championship.

"There are no words to describe it," he said. "It was because of all the hard work we had done."

Bartelstein may want to follow in his father's footsteps as he is a sports management major.

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