Preps Talk

IHSA to significantly limit attendance during remainder of state basketball tournament


IHSA to significantly limit attendance during remainder of state basketball tournament

The IHSA is limiting the number of fans allowed to attend the boys basketball state tournament amid growing public health concerns from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The organization announced plans to reduce fans to only 60 spectators per school for each contest with an official release on Thursday morning. Working media will also be allowed to attend IHSA games as long as they adhere to working guidelines.

This IHSA's announcement impacts this weekend's Class 1A and Class 2A boys basketball state semifinals and championships, as well as Friday's scheduled Class 3A and Class 4A boys basketball sectional finals. 

According to the IHSA's release, the decision to limit fans came after consultation with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Peoria City/County Health Department.

Hinsdale South postponed its second Class 3A sectional semifinal game on Wednesday night amid the growing public health crisis. The Hornets were scheduled to face Benet Academy for the right to play Bogan on Wednesday night in a game that's been postponed until at least Thursday. That potential Class 3A sectional final has also been postponed from Friday until Saturday.

Other IHSA events impacted outside of the aforementioned boys basketball state tournament events by this ruling includes the following:

- Scholastic Bowl Sectionals on March 14.
- Class 3A and Class 4A Super-Sectionals on March 17.
- Scholastic Bowl State Finals on March 20.
- Class 3A and Class 4A State Finals on March 20 and 21.
- Debate State Finals on March 20 and 21.
- Drama/Group Interpretation Sectionals on March 20 and 21.
- Drama/Group Interpretation State Finals on March 27 and 28.  

While having limited fans at the state tournament is going to be a strange experience, organizations across the country are taking similar steps to ensure public safety.   

Wednesday night saw the NBA postpone its regular season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. The NCAA also took the unprecedented step of banning fans from the 2020 NCAA men's and women's tournaments. Conference tournaments across college basketball also limited fans from attending games, beginning with Thursday's action.

The IHSA taking this step falls in line with what other basketball-related organizations have done in the midst of a global pandemic. With the way things are continually evolving with this story, we could see further changes to IHSA events in the coming days. 

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.