Bears

The Illinois stars who never made it to the state finals

600388.png

The Illinois stars who never made it to the state finals

The state high school basketball tournament has begun, Illinois' signature event, the original March Madness. For decades, it has been the dream of every kid who began shooting hoops in a playground or at a rim nailed to a garage or a tree to play in the state finals in Huff Gym or Assembly Hall or Carver Arena.

It has been a showcase for some of the best players in state history...Lou Boudreau, Johnny Orr, Ron Bontemps, Max Hooper, Walt Moore, Deacon Davis, Ted Caiazza, Nolden Gentry, Mannie Jackson, George Wilson, Bogie Redmon, Cazzie Russell, LaMarr Thomas, Bob Lackey, Jim Brewer, Owen Brown, Quinn Buckner, Rickey Green, Russell Cross, Marcus Liberty, LaPhonso Ellis, Jamie Brandon, Rashard Griffith, Sergio McClain, Darius Miles, Eddy Curry, Jon Scheyer, Derrick Rose.

But the list of elite players who didn't play in the state finals is just as long and distinguished, Hall of Famers who went on to stardom in college and the NBA but never realized the dream of every high school player in Illinois--to play in the finals of the state tournament.

How about this five? Proviso East's Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Batavia's Dan Issel, McLeansboro's Jerry Sloan, Du Sable's Maurice Cheeks, Carver's Terry Cummings.

Or this five? Centralia's Bobby Joe Mason, East Leyden's Glen Grunwald, Richards' Dwyane Wade, Mount Carmel's Antoine Walker, Springfield Lanphier's Andre Iguodala.

These players from the pre-1970s era? Mount Carmel's Archie Dees, Collinsville's Rodger Bohnenstiehl, Marshall's Rich Bradshaw, Madison's Don Freeman, Dunbar's Billy Harris, Lockport's Jeff Hickman, Canton's Dave Downey, Peoria Manual's Al Smith, Tamms' Chico Vaughn.

These Public Leaguers? Parker's Tom Hawkins, Crane's Eugene Ford, Dunbar's Ronnie Lester, Simeon's Bobby Simmons, King's Efrem Winters, Westinghouse's Eddie Johnson and Hersey Hawkins.

These suburban stars? Thornton's Lloyd Batts, Maine South's Pete Boesen, St. Joseph's Evan Turner, Homewood-Flossmoor's Julian Wright, Glenbrook North's Chris Collins, Proviso East's Shannon Brown, Downers Grove North's Rick Howat, Proviso West's Michael Ingram.

Talk about frustration.

Rivers, now coach of the Boston Celtics, was an All-Stater in 1978, 1979 and 1980. His teams were 23-5, 26-2 and 26-2 and won regional titles. But they never won a sectional.

Grunwald, now interim vice-president of the New York Knicks, was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the nation in 1976, ahead of future Louisville star Darrell Griffith. In four years at East Leyden, his teams were 20-3, 21-4, 28-1 and 25-1. They won 108 games in a row in the regular season but never qualified for the Elite Eight. They lost three times in the regional. In 1975, they lost to Proviso East in the supersectional.

Mason, whose No. 14 jersey hangs next to Dike Eddleman's No. 40 in Centralia's Hall of Fame, was a two-time All-Stater in 1954 and 1955. His teams finished 25-7 and 29-3 and were ranked No. 3 in the state but lost twice to Pinckneyville in the sectional final.

Issel was a 1966 All-Stater at Batavia in Chicago's far western suburbs. He and future NFL quarterback Ken Anderson were boyhood friends and teammates. Issel was recruited by Adolph Rupp and became an all-time standout at Kentucky and an ABANBA Hall of Famer.

Batts was the leading scorer in Thornton history. He averaged 29 points as a junior and 35 as a senior for teams that won 47 of 56 games. As a junior, he starred on a team that was ranked No. 4 in the state after the regular season. He had 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 63-61 loss to Waukegan in the supersectional. As a senior, his team lost to Joliet Central and Roger Powell in the sectional final.

Smith wasn't rated among the top five players in Peoria history according to a 2000 survey in the Peoria Journal-Star. But legendary coach Dick Van Scyoc and former Bradley coach Joe Stowell insist that Smith was best of all, even better than 2004 NBA lottery pick Shaun Livingston. A three-sport star, he pitched Peoria Manual to the 1965 state baseball championship. He played basketball and baseball at Bradley.

Boesen was Player of the Year in the Chicago area in 1975. His team was 23-4 but lost in the supersectional.

Ingram was Player of the Year in the Chicago area in 1985. His Proviso West team was 25-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state at the end of the regular season. But the Panthers lost to East Leyden in the sectional final.

Downey was a two-time All-Stater at Canton and went on to become one of the greatest players in University of Illinois history. As a junior, his team started 13-1 and was ranked among the top five in the state. But he suffered a broken ankle and missed eight games. Despite his 33-point performance, his team lost a one-pointer to Kewanee in the sectional. As a senior, his team again lost in the sectional and finished 18-8.

Freeman, who also became an all-time performer at Illinois, led Madison to a 29-1 record as a senior in 1962. The team was 24-0 and ranked No. 3 in the state at the end of the regular season but lost to Collinsville in the regional final.

Vaughn, a 5-foot-11 guard, is the state's all-time leading scorer. From 1954 to 1958, he scored 3,358 points, averaging 32.3 points in 104 games. He attempted more shots (2,583) and made more (1,282) than anyone else before or since. His 1958 team at tiny Tamms was 26-4 but lost to defending state champion Herrin in overtime in the sectional. He played for eight years in the NBA and ABA before retiring in 1970.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

usatsi_10349127.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Joe Maddon has no easy decisions.

With the way his tattered bullpen has pitched this postseason, there's a very real possibility that any guy he calls on to pitch is the "wrong" guy or the right guy in the "wrong" spot.

For everybody wanting Maddon to ride Wade Davis as a workhorse this fall — something the Cubs skipper has already done just to get to this NLCS — remember how much flak he took for overusing Aroldis Chapman a year ago at this time.

Davis also hasn't been superhuman this postseason, allowing a pair of runs (including a homer) and seven baserunners in 4.1 playoff innings, good for a 4.15 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

So when Maddon sat in the dugout late Sunday evening watching helplessly as John Lackey served up a walk-off homer to Tormund Giantsbane Justin Turner, the "Madd Scientist" immediately found himself in the crosshairs of Cubs fans and the media.

The first question he fielded in his postgame press conference was about not using Davis and there were several follow-ups. That and the offensive futility is about all anybody wanted to talk about after the Cubs fell down 0-2 in the NLCS.

Maddon explained Davis was available only in a save situation due to workload issues — the Cubs closer was in uncharted territory Thursday night/Friday morning, throwing the most pitches (44) and innings (2.1) he's thrown since Aug. 24, 2013 when he was still working as a starter. That's a span of 1,511 days.

"Wade knew that going into the game, it was going to be with the say," Maddon said. "We caught the lead, he's in the game. So whatever the narrative was, it's really a false narrative. He was not coming into that game until we grabbed the lead. He was not going to pitch more than three outs. That's it."

How does Maddon respond to his second-guessers?

"Doesn't matter," Maddon said. "First of all, social media, the moment I start worrying about that, I really need to retire. Second of all, that was all predetermined [Sunday] night again."

Davis also has a recent history of arm troubles (he was on the disabled list twice in 2016 for a forearm issue) and also saw his workload jump in September just to help the Cubs get to the postseason. In the final month of the regular season, Davis threw 237 pitches, 42 more than he threw in any other month of 2017. The last time he topped 200 pitches in any month was May 2015.

TV cameras showed Davis throwing in the Cubs bullpen alongside Lackey at one point in the ninth inning, leading to surprise by a huge faction of the (*looks around and whispers*) social media fanbase when the game broadcast resumed after commercials and the pitching change was to bring Lackey — not Davis — into the game.

"Wade was not warming up to come in that game," Maddon said. "Wade was probably just testing his arm at that point. We had talked about it before the game — up and in. 

"For those that aren't involved in Major League Baseball and professional baseball in general, when a guy's throwing too much, it's very important to not dry hump him, as the saying goes. Get him up and put him back down and bring him back in later. So I wasn't going to do that."

(Wow, really was not expecting to hear or write the phrase "dry hump" regarding this story.)

Maddon insists health is not the problem with Davis.

"Yes [he's healthy]. Oh yeah," Maddon said. "Listen, this guy just did yeoman kind of work — I love that word — in Washington and was not prepared to go more than three outs. I don't understand why that's difficult to understand.

"And furthermore, you have to also understand it wasn't the last game of the year or the second to last game. It was about winning eight more games. All these things are factors."

Maddon has a point. This isn't a Buck Showalter case where the Baltimore Orioles manager failed to use his best reliever — Zach Britton — in a non-save situation in a winner-take-all American League wild card game because he wanted the closer to be ready for a save.

The Cubs went down in a game that was tied 1-1 with their best reliever failing to get in the game even though he hadn't pitched in the last two days. 

But Davis can't cover every inning in relief, especially when the Cubs' two starters (Jose Quintana and Jon Lester) lasted just 9.2 innings against the Dodgers, leaving the Cubs bullpen to account for the other 8+ innings somehow.

The rest of the Cubs bullpen has to step up, too, which they did before the ninth inning of Game 2.

Still, Maddon couldn't resist getting one more defensive shot in before putting the matter to bed:

"I really hope you all understand that social media doesn't count at all," he said. "Twitter doesn't count at all. And really, as sportswriters, you should do a better job than relying on Twitter to write a story, quite frankly."

Well then.