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Inside this issue. . . Former Coach Virgil Motsinger

Basketball Coaches’ Wives


February 2011, Vol. 4 No. 7

Like father . . . Like son There’s mutual admiration on and off the court for Trico Coach Shane Hawkins and his top assistant (and Dad) Tom Hawkins

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The Line Up February 2011


Volume 4, No. 7


Publisher/Editor Jim Muir

Account Executive Cheryl Hughey


Christopher Kays Ceasar Maragni

Contributing Writers Teri Campbell Don Gasaway John D. Homan Chris Hottensen Roger Lipe Ceasar Maragni Jim Muir Mike Murphy Joe Szynkowski Nathan Wheeler Tom Wheeler

Cover Story Like Father . . .Like Son



For more information regarding Southern Illinois Sports Connection call Jim at 618-525-4744. For advertising information, call Cheryl at 618-353-8515.

41 Features The Past and the Future 12 Trifecta 24 Elite 60 26 Success on a Shoestring 28 From X’s and O’s 32 Hustlers 41 Photo Album 44

Columns Publisher’s Greeting Ask the Coach In Focus Murf’s Turf The Great Outdoors Faith on the Field Safe at Home RLC Report The Hot Corner From Where I Sit JALC Journal

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Publisher’s Greeting


reetings and welcome to the February issue of Southern Illinois Sports Connection magazine.

Six months ago we started our SISC Elite Basketball series listing the top 60plus high school players from each decade beginning in the 1950s. I knew before we started this arduous process that there are literally thousands of die-hard hoops fans in Southern Illinois. I have to admit that the response that we received went even far beyond I imagined. To say that basketball fans are serious about their favorite players would be a major understatement. This month we sort through the more than 120,000 votes that were cast to come up with a list that you will be able to vote on when we list our top 15 players in the March issue. As you will see as you thumb through this month’s magazine even some of our columnists jump into the fray as far as the greatest high school players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers here in Little Egypt. And speaking of great high school basketball players this month’s cover story focuses on one of the all-time best to every play in Southern Illinois, Shane Hawkins, who is now having great success as a coach at Trico High School. As of the date when I’m writing this Hawkins and the Pioneers are 20-2, ranked in the top 10 in Class 1A Associated Press statewide polls and on a short list of teams in the deep south that could make the trip to Peoria on March 11-12. But perhaps the best angle to the Hawkins story involves the guy sitting next to him on the bench – his assistant coach and father, Tom Hawkins. The father/son duo makes a great team on and off the court and it is clearly a mutual admiration relationship. I think you’ll enjoy the story both from a basketball and a family standpoint.

Another feature that I know will be a hit with readers was written by Chris Hottensen, a talented freelance writer that joined our staff only last month. Chris came to me with the idea of writing a story he wanted to title – ‘Hustlers.’ It’s about the players who sometimes don’t show up in the box score but contribute to their teams’ success in a variety of other ‘hustling’ ways. I told Chris to take the ball and run with it and gave him the option of picking any players he wanted from throughout the region. I was impressed with his selection – Cody Smith, Benton, Christian Shopinski, Pinckneyville and Dennis Froemling, Trico and after reading the story I’m certain we’ll include this as a semi-regular feature in SISC. And as always we have our usual collection of diverse columns to choose from again this month. So, as I seem to say often, this month’s edition of SISC is a true smorgasbord of quality reading. Finally, thanks again to our loyal readers and faithful advertisers for your continued support of our efforts at SISC. All the best to you and God Bless!

This month we also feature a story written by Joe Szynkowski about the life of a high school basketball coaches’ wife. It’s a story guaranteed to make you understand the time involved by coaches and the time away from family and also a story guaranteed to make you smile. Jim Muir l February 2011 l


In your first year as a varsity basketball coach, what is the biggest difference from when you were a varsity assistant?

Mike Chamness, Chad Harper and Gabe Seveda all moved up to the head coaching position in top programs. Harper has past experience as varsity coach at Sandoval and was an assistant with Seveda on Coach Clarence Gross’ Sweet Sixteen run at Webber Twp. in 2006. M i k e Chamness, A n n a Jonesboro v a r s i t y basketball coach “There are a lot of d i ff e r e n c e s I think, whether it be dealing with all aspects from fundraising, to setting bus departure times to making the final call on different situations I think the biggest difference is the time consumption. In years past I would be home in 15 minutes after practice, now after practice I like to break down things we did right and things we need to work on which will hopefully make tomorrow’s practice better. Not to mention this year a lot more time watching and breaking down film or making game plans and getting out on nights we don’t play to watch an upcoming opponent. I think any coach or coach’s wife will tell you there’s a lot more to it than wearing a suit and sitting on the bench, however I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

C h a d H a r p e r, Waltonville v a r s i t y basketball coach I think the biggest change is preparation. As a JV coach you help implement the practice and game plans but as the head coach you (with the help of your assistants) have to create and make sure the team executes them. Another big change for me was now basketball is constantly running through my brain. During school, after school, before and after practice when I’m at home, I’m always trying to think how I can get our team better. Reflection is the change that is most important to me. What we do as a program both on and off the court is a reflection of what we teach and preach here. As the head coach it will fall on my shoulders rather its positive or negative results. Gabe Seveda, DuQuoin High School varsity basketball coach “Many people often ask me what the difference is between being an assistant coach and a head coach. There are many subtle changes and differences that are encountered throughout the transition from varsity assistant coach to varsity had coach. However, the best way I can explain

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the difference is by understanding the contrast between suggestion and decision. An assistant coach may suggest or provide input on a variety of circumstances, but the head coach must decide, and live with the final decision. As a varsity coach, many decisions must be made for the best interest of your team. Topics range from the type of shoe that will be worn to instilling discipline or using positive reinforcement for individual actions. Daily practice schedules and working with media outlets must also be planned. Many other decisions are made on a daily basis and I try to stick to my own coaching philosophy to make the best choices for our team. An assistant coach can and will have many suggestions on many of the issues that are encountered throughout the season. The importance of a good assistant and their suggestions is vital to a successful team. Our assistants do a very good job of this and are most helpful. It is the process of collaborating suggestions with the decisions that help make our kids into both successful members of society and basketball players that make this job more enjoyable for me.”

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In focus


love baseball nicknames. Always have. No other American sport features them as much as baseball. However, it seems to me that there has been a decline in the use of nicknames in the game in recent years. That’s too bad. I think player nicknames add an important layer to the fabric of what was once our national pastime. Even people with limited interest in baseball know that “The Great Bambino,” “The Sultan of Swat” and “The Babe” was Babe Ruth. Many other Yankee greats had memorable nicknames as well, like Lou Gehrig, “The Iron Horse,” Mickey Mantle, “The Mick” & “The Commerce Comet” Don Mattingly, “Donnie Baseball” and Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.” St. Louis Cardinals fans have had their share of great player nicknames too. Refer to “The Man” to any Redbirds fan and they know immediately that you’re talking about the great Stan “The Man” Musial. Then there was “Gibby,” Bob Gibson, “The Wizard,” Ozzie Smith, “The Mad Hungarian,” Al Hrabosky, and “Vinegar Bend,” Wilmer Mizell.

By Ceasar Maragni C u b s fans have had their s h a r e of nifty nicknames for their players as well. There was “Mr. Cub,” Ernie B a n k s , “Penguin” Ron Cey, “The Lip,” Leo Durocher, “Gracey,” Mark Grace, and their great second baseman, “Ryno,” Ryne Sandberg. The Philadelphia Phillies sported some of the funniest game day handles. There was “Wampum” Dick Allen, “Nails,” Lenny Dykstra, “The Bull,” Greg Luzinski, “Harry The Hat,” Harry Walker, “Wild Thing,” Mitch Williams and my all time favorite, “Puddin’ Head,” Willie Jones. Every major league roster was peppered with these great nicknames. But, like expanded strike zones and

90-minute games, nicknames now seem few and far between. Most players don’t seem to mind them, and in fact many even embraced them. Dizzy Dean was one, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio another. But, some, like former Cardinals outfielder Lonnie Smith really didn’t take well to theirs. Smith’s nickname was “Skates.” It turns out that he was given that label because of his slipping and sliding on the bases and in the field. Smith once told a writer, “I was pigeon-toed as a child, even worse than I am now. Sometimes when I’m running, my feet turn in and my legs bump together.” Not a good thing for a major league baseball player. But then again, “Skates” doesn’t sound as bad as the nickname former Red Sox Dick Stuart was given by a teammate. While playing for the Bean Town bunch in the mid-1960s, Stuart’s poor defensive play at first base earned him the tag “Dr. Strangeglove.” While that may sound a bit harsh, you should know that Stuart made 29 errors in 1963 and 24 errors in 1964 – not exactly Gold Glove material.

Lonnie “Skates” Smith greeted by his Cardinals teammates after hitting a home run at Busch Stadium.

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Plantar Fasciitis by Dr. Kent McMahon, D.C. Plantar Fasciitis is a painful condition caused by overuse of the plantar fascia or arch tendon of the foot. The Plantar Fascia is a broad, thick band of tissue that runs from under the heel to the front of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is traditionally thought to be an inflammatory condition. This is now believed to be incorrect due to the absence of inflammatory cells within the fascia. The cause of pain and dysfunction is now thought to be degeneration of the collagen fibers close to the attachment to the calcaneus (heel bone). Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. Over time this can develop into a chronic condition. What causes plantar fasciitis? 1) High arches or flat feet. 2) Excessive pronation (your feet roll inward too much when you walk). 3) Walking, standing or running for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces. 4) Being overweight. 5) Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or are worn out. 6) Tight Achilles Tendons or calf muscles. 7) Abrupt changes in physical activity endured by the feet (starting a new workout). What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis? 1) Burning pain on the sole of the foot. 2) Heel pain when taking the first steps in the morning. 3) Tenderness when touching the sole or heel.

4) Pain in the foot with climbing stairs. 5) Pain when standing on tiptoes. How is it treated? 1) Give your feet a rest. Cut back on activities that make your foot hurt. Try not to walk or run on hard surfaces. 2) Ice-Apply ice or a cold pack to the heel and arch for 15 to 20 minutes, 4 times a day to relieve pain. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. 3) Do calf stretches and towel stretches several times a day, especially when you first get up in the morning. 4) Get a new pair of shoes. Pick shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole.

Dr. Kent McMahon is a chiropractic physician who practices at Alternative Healthcare in Herrin, IL with Dr. Angela Baxter. Their office is located at 1508 North Sioux Dr., Suite B, Marion, IL and 120 East Herrin St., Herrin, IL 62948. 618-993-9910 (Marion office) 618-942-6355 (Herrin office)

120 E. Herrin St. Herrin, IL 62948 618-942-6355

1508 N. Sioux Dr. Marion, IL 62959 618-993-9910 10 l February 2011 l

What can my Chiropractor Do? 1) Perform a gait analysis to determine if you overpronate or oversupinate. 2) Prescribe custom molded orthotics or insoles. An insole can restore normal foot biomechanics if overpronation is a problem. 3) Adjust the ankle joints to increase range of motion and ankle function. 4) Prescribe massage therapy to reduce the tension in the plantar fascia and also stretch the calf muscles. 5) Use modalities such as ultrasound, cold laser, interferential therapy or even acupuncture. 6) X ray to see if there is any bone growth (calcification). An X-ray can determine if bone growth or abnormalities are contributing to the problem. 7) If the condition is unresponsive, referral to a podiatrist or other specialist for further evaluation and/or treatments. l February 2011 l



The Past and the Future

By Jim Muir


illard Dame and his son Brandon loved to hunt loved the outdoors and the camaraderie with fellow hunters that go along with the sport. But tragedy struck the Dame family on December 28, 1994 when 16-yearold Brandon was critically injured in a two-car crash south of Sesser. He died the following day in a Cape Girardeau hospital. Willard died on January 26, 2007 at the relatively young age of 59. And it’s that knowledge that has spurred a Sesser businessman to initiate an annual event to honor the memory of father and son while at the same time helping a Sesser-Valier High School student through a scholarship fund. Randy Gutzler, co-owner of the Double R Bar in Sesser, kicked off the Annual Willard & Brandon Dame Hunt, held at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. Gutzler said the ‘why’ involved with the start of the yearly hunt is two-fold. “Willard loved to hunt and Brandon started hunting with him when he was really young,” said Gutzler. “We think this is a good way to keep their memory alive and also help a deserving student continue their education.” Gutzler said all the money raised is donated each year to the Sesser-Valier 12 l February 2011 l

High School Outdoorsman Club – a group that has received statewide recognition for its annual handicap deer hunt and other community-oriented programs. The money generated through the Double R fundraiser goes through the Brandon & Willard Dame Scholarship Fund. Chrissie (Dame) Vickers, Willard’s daughter and Brandon’s sister, gave high marks for the effort by Gutzler and the host of people that help to make the event a success. Despite his youth Vickers said her brother was an avid hunter and was also proud of his association with the popular Outdoorsman Club at S-V High School. “I think it’s tremendous what they have accomplished with this event,” said Vickers. “As the years go by this is a way to keep my dad and my brother’s memory alive and at the same time help a young person with their education.” She recalled that the November deer season of 1994 – only a few weeks before her brother was fatally injured – found Brandon torn about a tough decision. “He loved the Outdoorsman Club and the handicapped deer hunt,” said Vickers. “He wanted to go to that but he really wanted to hunt with my dad. In the end he went with my dad to hunt and it was the last time they hunted together.”

Gutzler said there are certain criteria that must be met each year to qualify for the scholarship. “The scholarship must go to a member of the Outdoorsman Club and also to a student that has a financial need,” said Gutzler. “And the scholarship has to go through Rend Lake College.” And from a somewhat humble beginning three years ago the event has grown in both numbers and popularity, according to Gutzler. The most recent hunt held in January raised more than $8,200 bringing the total money raised during the four years to nearly $20,000. The event is an all-day affair for the hunters involved who each pay $25 to participate. After an early morning breakfast at Double R the hunt is held and then lunch is served again at the bar. Gutzler said vendors from throughout Southern Illinois donate items to be raffled off during the daylong event, including three new guns this year. Gutzler said he believes the event will continue to grow each year. “We’re happy to do it each year,” said Gutzler. “To raise $8,200 in one day in a little bar is a pretty good sum of money and of course it all goes for a great cause.”

Keeping alive the memory of two avid Sesser hunters while providing a scholarship for deserving high school student is the two-pronged goal of the annual Willard & Brandon Dame Hunt

“Willard loved to hunt and Brandon started hunting with him when he was really young. We think this is a good way to keep their memory alive and also help a deserving student continue their education.” – Randy Gutzler, Sesser businessman – l February 2011 l


Murf’s Turf

By Mike Murphy

Hold Your Breath A

s we went to press, there is still no word on how the Albert Pujols drama will shake out and Cardinal Nation is waiting and watching. Most think the cards will pony up and sign Pujols and that the slugger might take a little less to stay in St. Louis, a town where he is beloved. One thing is certain, if a deal is not done before training camp and for the Red Birds that’s February 13, Pujols says he will test the free agent market. Maybe the Cards are waiting to announce a big deal the day Spring Training begins? Pujols says he doesn’t want his contract to be an issue through the season but that’s exactly what it will be and what every reporter in every city the Cards play in will ask first. Pujols is known as a baseball good guy but if terse “no comment” keeps coming out he may be viewed differently. With the possibility of an NFL strike and NBA strike looming, this could be a golden opportunity for baseball to win back some fans or get a bigger piece of the entertainment pie. But really, if Pujols leaves would the Cardinals collapse, of course not. The Red Birds are one of the more successful major league baseball franchises. They would still draw their fans. Oh sure, there would be rumbling and grumbling but fans would still pour into Busch Stadium and Pujols would become the enemy just like LeBron James in basketball. The upcoming

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baseball season could be one of the most interesting in a long, long time. Congrats to the Rams for signing Josh McDaniels as their offensive coordinator. They could have taken a much different route but to pay for McDaniels they are saying ‘OK we are ready for the next step.’ Remember McDaniels was the offensive guru for the Patriots during the 2007 season where they scored points like a pinball machine gone wild. Under McDaniels, the Pats sent NFL records for scoring (75 touchdowns and 589 points). Now the Rams have to get some wideouts via free-agency or through the draft to make Sam Bradford even better. Football is over and hopefully there will be no work stoppage. The NFL is at the top of the scale as far as a league powerhouse. Greed and money are powerful influences and can take down even the most successful business or league. Maybe cooler heads will prevail. Let’s hope we have pro football camps opening on time this summer. Meanwhile, college and high school basketball takes center stage. Southern

Illinois has some exciting teams that should make this month be memorable. Is there any team that can handle Murphysboro? Will the Devils be undefeated when/if they face Herrin at Herrin in the Regional? Could Carterville be the giant killer? There’s also Harrisburg, Meridian, Trico, Pinckneyville, Du Quoin, Crab Orchard, Sesser-Valier, Nashville, and Woodlawn that have high hopes in February. We get to sit back and just watch it unfold. Let’s Meet Here Next Month.

By Don Gasaway

The Great Outdoors



othing succeeds like success. One of the most important aspects of teaching a child to fish is catching fish. If he or she is unable to catch a fish they quickly lose interest. Both fishing and non-fishing parents need help in locating a good place to teach a youngster this lifetime sport. The following fishing holes are available in Williamson County. The opportunities for success are good. There are several ponds in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge that make a good choice. Spread throughout the refuge, the ponds provide an uncrowded area for family fun. Each of the ponds is a walk-in area with parking in close proximity. For information about the ponds, their locations and fishing information check in at the Visitors Center on Illinois Route 148, two miles south of the Williamson County Regional Airport, or call them at 618-997-3344. Another good location on the refuge is the Wolf Creek Causeway which dissects the lake about midway. The causeway is a three-mile long gravel road. Parking facilities are available at both ends of the roadway. On the north end there is more parking space than at the south end. One can walk to the fishing areas from both locations. As one travels south on the causeway there are some paths going down to the water level. About half way across is a bridge with floating docks on the east and west sides. To the west of the north

parking areas are floating docks and handicapped fishing docks. The key to finding fish along both shorelines is the submerged brush fish attractors placed near the shore. Others can be found as much as 20 feet out in the water. The best fishing seems to be tight to the brush. One can expect to catch crappie, catfish, bass, common carp, channel catfish and bluegill. Another good area for bank fishing with the family is along side Illinois Route 13 just west of the former marina. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and volunteers have placed a number of fish attractors there within close proximity to the shore. Parking is available at the parking lot on the east side of the bay on both the north and south sides of the highway. Shore fishing at the Devils Kitchen Lake is more limited due to steep embankments. But, this lake about 12 miles southwest of Marion in the refuge has bass, crappie, trout, bluegill and redear sunfish. There is a primitive campground but no marina

facilities. For more information about fishing in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, visit the Visitors Center, 8588 Illinois Route 148, Marion, IL 62959. Their telephone number is 618-9973344. Additional information about accommodations, fishing, and a four-color fishing brochure, contact the Williamson County Tourism Bureau. They can be reached at 1-800-GEESE-99 or at 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, IL 62959. The office is open during regular business hours. Additional information is available on line at Email can be addressed to l February 2011 l


Faith on the Field

By Roger Lipe

Dynamic Ministry I

n a recent conversation with a local sports reporter I was asked the question, “After 16 years of serving as a sports chaplain, why do you still do it?” I had not thought about this before, but replied, “Because it’s dynamic. It changes all the time.” I am usually more of a short-term project oriented person rather than long-term. For me to stay at anything for 16 weeks is rare, let alone 16 years. I have given more thought to the dynamic nature of sports chaplaincy and some of those thoughts follow. In a university setting like mine, there is constant turnover in players. One fourth of the team leaves and another fourth comes in every year. There is a new opponent at least once a week, often twice. In 16 years we have worked with four different coaching staffs in American football and five staffs in women’s basketball. We’ve also gained and then lost our relationship with women’s volleyball, have recently gained a relationship with men’s basketball and have a growing presence with women’s softball. These things change constantly; some for the better and some for the worse. Each week there are new problems to solve, there are new crises to meet, new questions to answer, new injuries to be healed, new hearts to love, minds to challenge, souls to inspire and new Christ-followers to mentor. In addition, as each year unfolds my own life changes dynamically. When I began in this role I was thirty-eight years old and the father of a seventeen year old son. A few years later, Sharon and I were empty nesters. A little later we became in-laws and now I’m a prospective grandfather with responsibilities for aging parents and in-laws. I believe that these daily, monthly, seasonal and annual changes keep this

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ministry f r o m becoming routine, formulaic a n d mundane. By staying relationally oriented rather than programmatic, this ministry keeps my heart, mind and body fully engaged, challenged and reliant upon the Lord’s provision. Please join me in maintaining a relational approach and thereby experiencing the Lord Jesus’ best in dynamic ministry with the people of sport.

Perspective -

season of mediocrity, multiple injuries and surgeries than I remember in our more “successful” seasons with high national rankings, media adulation and community approbation. The quality and commitment of our service with the people of sport should not be affected greatly by the relative success or failure of those whom we serve. If we pull back in times of loss and struggle, we’re showing less of the Lord’s unchanging love than we might. If we act just like the fans who jump on the team’s bandwagon as they finally prove their worth, we’re so fickle that the coaches and players will be rightly slow to trust us. However, if we maintain a proper perspective, if we hold tightly to the Lord’s way of loving without respect to class, status or rank, we will be in the perfect spot to serve faithfully.

The past college football season brought some perspective to my role with the SIU football team. For the previous seven seasons we had enjoyed unequaled success in the history of the program. We have won numerous conference championships, have been in the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs for the last seven seasons in a row and entering the season, had expectations for more of the same. However, after a losing season in football – suddenly – perspective.

I say all this knowing the incredibly competitive nature of my heart and the incredibly contentious nature of my flesh. I really like to win and I abhor losing. To keep my flesh at bay I must maintain a perspective on why I am with the team and who I am serving. I’m here to represent the Lord Jesus and to bring His gracious presence to the locker room, coach’s office, and sideline and onto the field of competition. I am here to serve the Lord Jesus and those whom He has given me, not my own ambitions nor the weakness of my underachieving flesh.

When our teams are performing well it’s easy to see our value to the team, to individual coaches and players, reflected in the win/loss record or in gaudy championship rings we receive because of our association with the program. When the team is not so successful, we gain some perspective regarding our true worth. I have had more and better quality conversations with some players this

The challenge for each of us is to maintain the proper perspective on the days we experience thrilling wins as well as on the days we feel the gut wrenching pain of bitter loss. Let’s be the ones who carry the Lord’s grace of perspective and unconditional love to the people of sport and thereby share the love of God in word, action, facial expression, gesture and embrace.

Grab your copy of Southern Illinois Sports Connection


or Visit our website: l February 2011 l


Cover Story

There’s mutual admiration on and off the court for Trico Coach Shane Hawkins and his top assistant (and Dad) Tom Hawkins By Jim Muir


s a youngster growing up in basketball-crazy Pinckneyville Shane Hawkins lived only one block from Duster Thomas Gymnasium and knew well that one door that was always open – and it goes without saying that he used it often. While honing his skills as a hoopster Hawkins also spent countless hours with his dad Tom, picking his brain and talking basketball, traveling to and from Pinckneyville games. It’s fair to say that the father/son duo lived and breathed high school basketball action. “Basketball has always been a very big part of our life,” said Shane. “And I think anytime you get to spend more time around your dad it’s just going to make the relationship stronger.” And as an added incentive to the relationship, two years before Shane entered high school Tom, who had played under the legendary Pinckneyville coach Duster Thomas, was asked by thenPanther coach Dick Corn to be an assistant, 18 l February 2011 l

providing another opportunity for dad and son to spend more time together – once again centered on basketball. The success that the younger Hawkins had during his career at Pinckneyville and later at SIU-Carbondale is well documented. As a four-year starter from 1990-1994 and with his dad on the bench

“As far as basketball is concerned my dad has been around. He played for Duster Thomas and coached with Dick Corn. We try some things that work and try some things that don’t work but just having him there to bounce ideas off of is great.” – Shane Hawkins, talking about coaching with his dad, Tom –

as an assistant the Panthers had an overall record of 104-20. Adding even more luster to that record is the fact that 16 of those losses coming during Hawkins’ freshman and sophomore season when the Panthers went 20-8 and 22-8 respectively. But, it

was during his junior and senior seasons when Hawkins rewrote Pinckneyville’s scoring record while leading his team to an overall record of 62-4 that included a berth in the sectional finals in 1993 as a junior and a Class 2A state championship in 1994. Hawkins is the all-time leading scorer in Pinckneyville’s long and illustrious basketball history, tallying 2,429 points, good enough for 31st on the IHSA all-time state scoring record. During his career as a Panther Hawkins hit 283 3-pointers (13th on the all-time IHSA list) and scored in double figures 114 out of 121 varsity games (3rd on all-time IHSA list). After capping his stellar high school career with a Class 2A state title Hawkins took his considerable basketball talents to SIU where under the direction of another legendary coach, Rich Herrin, he picked right back up where he left off at Pinckneyville. Hawkins signed with SIU and became the most prolific 3-point shooter in Saluki history. From 1995-98, Hawkins made l February 2011 l


Cover story continued. . . in 2006 where shortly thereafter he was hired at Trico. And there was no doubt who Shane would call when he landed the Trico job – his first as a head coach. “It was my first time ever being a head coach and I wanted somebody that was familiar with how I wanted things taught and the terminology I wanted,” said Shane. “He knew how I wanted to guard and what I wanted to offensively. There are so many unknowns as a head coach, particularly in your first year, I wanted somebody there in my corner and I knew he would be. He really made the transition easy for me in those first couple years.” Shane said he is “thrilled” to be working with dad and said every practice and every game is a “new memory.” “I think our relationship is a little different than most fathers and sons,” said Shane. “We work together, spend time together at games and talk on the phone sometimes three or four times a day. It’s not always basketball-related but from November to March it normally is.” His dad’s experience is something that Shane said he still draws from. 314 shots from 3-point range and scored 1,348 points. He still ranks second in career assists at SIU with 435. Hawkins’ remarkable career included a trip to the NCAA Tournament during his freshman year, in which he made 7-of-8 3-point shots in a 96-92 loss to Syracuse. After his playing days ended, Hawkins found his first coaching job at Barton County Community College (Kansas), where he served as an assistant from 19992001. In 2001, Hawkins joined the staff at Southwestern Illinois College where he also served as recruiting coordinator. In three years as a JUCO assistant coach, Hawkins’ teams had a combined 85-18 record. He helped coach 10 future Division I players and three All-Americans. 20 l February 2011 l

In 2002, Saluki head coach Bruce Weber asked Hawkins to return to his alma mater as a graduate assistant. He was promoted to

And then when you look at his resume, he played four years for Dick Corn, four years for Rich Herrin and coached under Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Chris Lowery. He’s worked and played for some great coaches.”

“As far as basketball is concerned he’s been around,” Shane said. “He played for Duster Thomas and coached with Dick Corn. We try some things that work and try some things that don’t work but just having him there to bounce ideas off of is great.” Tom is a 1958 graduate of Pinckneyville High School and recalls the transition when Thomas, one of the all-time great coaches in Southern Illinois history, retired.

– Tom Hawkins, talking about coaching with his son Shane –

“I played for Duster in 1957 … well, I actually sat on the bench for him, as a junior,” Tom laughed. “Then my senior year I played for Don Stanton, but I was there when that transition took place.”

full-time assistant in the summer of 2004 by Chris Lowery and then left the Salukis

Tom attended college but then took a job with the Operating Engineers in 1959 and

worked at that until 1977 when he went to work at Captain Mine, in Perry County. He worked there until 1995 when he returned to the Operating Engineers before retiring in 2005. Prior to the 1988-89 season, Pinckneyville assistant coach Wes Choate left to take a position at Christopher, and Corn asked Tom to take the assistant’s position. Recalling the years with Corn and the Panthers, even before Shane entered high school, Tom labeled it “a great experience.” “Being a part of some of the game plans and the success and working with Dick Corn,” Tom said. “Yeah, it was a really special time and then of course to be a part of it while Shane was playing and winning the state championship in 1994, there are a lot of good memories.” Always playing the role of coach, when asked about his time at Trico, Tom said working with his son has been “very rewarding” but said helping him build a program has also been an added bonus. “Trico has had some good teams in the past,” said Tom. “But we’re in the middle of a nice stretch right now and the program has gotten better each year. He’s building a program here and it’s fun to be a part of that.” Tom said he recognizes the great situation he has as his son’s assistant coach but also understands the parameters of his role as number two. “I usually don’t interrupt his thought process during the game, unless it’s something really important,” said Tom. “Of course we talk before the game, at the quarter breaks and halftime. I really enjoy what I’m doing. It’s a thrill for me to coach with Shane.” Tom gives his son high marks in all aspects of coaching but said preparation

and particularly scouting an opponent are his strongest assets. “Shane’s got the game covered but he is a great scout and great at preparing a team off a scouting report,” said Tom. “I think it comes from him being a college coach, he can see a weakness, call a timeout and draw up a play and be successful more times than not. And then when you look at his resume, he played four years for Dick Corn, four years for Rich Herrin and coached under Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Chris Lowery. He’s worked and played for some great

– but it wasn’t in a bad way,” said Shane. “We always had a real open dialogue. Some of my best memories are when I would go scouting with him when I was a kid and he would tell me stories about games he’d seen and gyms he’d been in.” Corn, who won two state titles at Pinckneyville and had a record of 681-263 (15th on the IHSA all-time coaching list) said it comes “as absolutely no surprise” to him that the father/son combo has been successful at Trico. “Obviously, both Shane and Tom have a great love for the game,” Corn said. “They are both students of the game and are always searching and looking for ways to make their team better and give them an edge. They both stay hungry and that’s a key ingredient to being successful.” Corn said Tom was not a typical parent coaching his son.

coaches.” Shane Hawkins is in his fifth year at Trico where his teams have won three Black Diamond Conference titles, a regional championship and notched 91 wins in four years. Shane said he looks at playing at Pinckneyville while his dad was an assistant similar to how he looks at coaching with his dad.

Shane said that during his high school career the player-coach relationship was not left at the gym.

“He was Shane’s biggest critic but he did it in the right way,” said Corn. “I can remember games when Shane would do something wrong and Tom would elbow me and say, ‘get him out of there.’ He helped me to push Shane and then with his work ethic that’s why he became the player he did and also the coach he is. They’ve got a great relationship and it shows on and off the court.” Acknowledging that his dad has always been an authority figure in his life, Shane said he often takes a good natured approach to the fact that his dad, at age 70, is now his assistant. “I have a little fun with it, especially at our basketball banquet where I point out jokingly that now I’m in the authority position,” he said. “But, the bottom line, he is still my dad and I’ve got great respect for him. It’s an honor for me to have him on the bench next to me.”

“We did take it home with us – good practice/bad practice, good game/bad game l February 2011 l


Safe at Home

By Joe Szynkowski

For my money, O’Rear and his sideburns deserve top spot


ith all of the excitement surrounding next month’s announcement of SISC’s Elite 60 Basketball Standouts, one player stands out in my mind as being the best I’ve ever seen. Big, bad No. 44 Lucas O’Rear was a tower of a kid - probably as soon as he was out of diapers. I started covering Southern Illinois sports in 2004 and I quickly got a taste of what Nashville basketball was all about. O’Rear was a sophomore that winter and he was the poster-boy for what Hornets’ basketball will always be known for - hard-nosed stinginess. He dunked, he dominated and, when he was double-teamed, he dished to sharp-shooting teammates like Andrew Wilson, Clint Harre and his older brother, Calvin O’Rear. He finished with more than 2,000 points and 1,100 rebounds in his career - both Nashville records. He played out of his mind his senior season, shooting 76 percent from the field and averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game. He was named Illinois Class A Player of the Year by and first-team all-state by the Chicago Sun-Times. Nashville lost in the state tournament to Teutopolis that season. It was the only blemish on a 33-1 campaign. I guess that could be the only knock on O’Rear - that he never won a state championship. But he helped the Hornets win three SIRR Mississippi titles. And even if I didn’t think he was the best ever, I certainly wouldn’t tell it to his face. Or his sideburns. Those mutton chops have their own Facebook page. Seriously. He is also in the midst of putting

22 l February 2011 l

together an outstanding collegiate career at Northern I o w a , terrorizing the Salukis and helping the Panthers earn some national recognition. He sparked UNI’s Sweet 16 run in last season’s NCAA Tournament and he was the first player in Missouri Valley Conference history to win back-toback Sixth Man of the Year awards. But college accomplishments are not criteria for SISC’s ultra-popular poll. O’Rear’s high school career was peppered with unbelievable individual performances. One game in particular, still stands out in my mind. O’Rear was a sophomore when Nashville hosted Goreville in the Class A sectional semifinal. The Blackcats were solid that year, led by their own big man Derek Yocum. But O’Rear effortlessly poured in 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds that night to lead the Hornets to a 20-point win. More impressively, he limited Yocum to only three field goals. Talking to O’Rear after the game, I realized why Yocum and so many other Southern Illinois big men struggled against Nashville’s standout. He was huge. I’m about 6-foot-2 and that was the first time I ever remember anybody towering over me. He was listed as 6-foot-6, 230 pounds back then. Maybe it was just the light in Nashville’s gym, but he seemed to be about seven feet tall. What a gentle giant, though. Well-

spoken and articulate, O’Rear always made for an interesting, intelligent quote. Teammates raved about him, too. His work ethic and selfless attitude made him a leader, no matter what sport he was playing. That’s right, with all of the publicity he has garnered as UNI’s hustling power forward, some people might forget what a beast he was on the baseball diamond. His Hornets fell one game short of a state title in 2005 and he was drafted as a pitcher by the Cincinnati Reds in last year’s Amateur Draft. But back to basketball. What makes the debate over the best high school players such an interesting topic is that nobody’s opinion is wrong. You base your selections upon your own personal experiences, state your opinion and let the arguing with your friends begin! I never saw Kent Williams or Scott Gamber dominate at Mount Vernon in the 90s and I wasn’t alive to witness Jack Sutter of Galatia or Jerry Sloan in McLeansboro own the 60s. I only know what I saw over the years of following O’Rear’s career - an overpowering presence in the paint. I am surely not alone, especially considering the passion and loyalty of Nashville sports fans, in my sentiment that Lucas O’Rear is the best high school basketball player I have ever seen. Joe Szynkowski is a freelance writer for SISC. He can be reached at

By Nathan Wheeler

RLC Report

RLC indoor track season gets off blocks T

he indoor track and field season got underway for Rend Lake College on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Saluki Open, inside the Southern Illinois University Rec Center in Carbondale.

Also at SIU, Rend Lake’s DuShane Farrier (Toronto) is the top seed in the men’s 60-meter dash. Farrier’s 6.85 seconds will be tested by Alabama State’s Sylvester Byrd and Shawn Lockhart, as well as Southern’s Brandon Deloney.

The Warriors and Lady Warriors will fight hard through a five-meet indoor schedule that ends March 4 and 5 at the National Junior College championships in Lubbock, Texas. Stops along the way include the Gladstein Invite, Jan. 21-22, in Indiana; the Indiana Relays, Jan. 28-29; Arkansas’ Tyson Invite, Feb. 1213; and the Region 24 Friday Night Special, Feb. 19, at Eastern Illinois University.

Dennis Bain (Freeport, Bahamas) is entered in the first heat of the 60m hurdles and Chandler Kirsch (Mt. Vernon) will compete in the 400 dash, shot put and high jump.

“Hopefully each week we can get a little bit better,” RLC Coach Eric Alberter said. “That’s the way our training program is set up - to be at our best when we get to Texas in March.” Alberter said the Saluki Open will be just the beginning with his athletes only back from break for a week now. SIU’s meet will be a way for the Warriors to “have some fun.” Herrin state champion Zach Riley will make his RLC debut as the high jump favorite at the Saluki Open. SIU’s Kendrick Branch, and Rudy Hayes with Speedway, will bring tough competition in the event. Riley is also listed among the best entered in the long jump. “I think Zach is pretty excited about it,” Alberter said. “In talking to him about it the last couple of weeks, he says he feels stronger than what he was last year. I’ve also talked to Coach Smith at Herrin and he sees it, too.” The NJCAA Indoor qualifying mark Riley will be shooting for is two meters flat. With a seed mark of 2.10m, he should easily qualify for nationals at SIU, maybe even on his first jump. But his real goal this season is to beat his personal record of 7-feettwo-inches. “We’ll use this first meet to get back into the swing of things,” Alberter added. “It’s kind of a fun meet for them. We’ll be relaxed as a team. If Zach goes out and jumps 7-2 ... that’s great. If he doesn’t, that’s OK too.”

Ernest Downing (Lakewood, Ohio) will also be running the 400, Sadric Cherfils (Miami) has the third best mark going into the triple jump, and freshman Ryan Hershner’s 1:55 puts him among the leaders going into the 800m. Bryan Minnich will represent The Lake in the men’s 3,000 meter run. In the mile run, it will be Anthony Allen representing the RLC men, and Aleigh Eggemeyer (Walsh) and Region 24 cross country champ Sammie Grove (Belleville) in the women’s race. Nichole Bressner (Fairbury) will compete in the pole vault for RLC. It’s an event the Warriors haven’t entered until the sophomore came to RLC last season. Bressner is in the top eight going into the event. l February 2011 l


academics • leadership • athletics


Sponsored by

Peoples National Bank

Lacey Gibson – Carbondale

Senior Lacey Gibson finished 21st in the IHSA Class 2A cross-country meet last November in Peoria and was named “The Southern Illinoisan’s” Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year but her talents and what she contributes to Carbondale Community High School and her community go far beyond athletics. Gibson is a straight-A student, a member of the National Honor Society, ranks near the top of her class academically and scored a 31 on the ACT. Gibson was also a co-organizer of the Grand Avenue Pumpkin Run where $1790 was raised for Green Earth, Inc., the Carbondale nature preservation group. Cross-country coach Gary Holda said Gibson has the two-fold quality of being “very coachable” while possessing a “great work ethic.” “Lacey is just a wonderful young lady,” said Holda. “She is just one of those rare athletes that does exactly everything that is asked of her. Beyond athletics she has been a great asset to her school and her community.”

Brandon Boester – Crab Orchard

Brandon Boester (pronounced Bee-ster) is a senior starter and a mainstay for the successful Crab Orchard Trojans basketball program but has left his mark on the Williamson County high school in a variety of ways. Boester is ranked third in his class and maintains a 4.85 grade point average (5.0 scale). On the court he is one of the Trojans top rebounders and averages 5 ppg. Boester is also highly-involved in the school Future Farmers of America club at the high school. Crab Orchard basketball coach Jon Brown gave high marks to Boester both on and off the court. “Brandon is just a super kid, a really hard worker and always shows great sportsmanship on the court,” said Brown. “I think the most important thing I can say is that he is a true role model for our younger students – as an athlete and as a student. He takes both very seriously and it shows.”

Brent Kennedy – Meridian

Brent Kennedy is a three-year varsity player for the Meridian Bobcats and has battled back from a wrist injury earlier this year to regain his shooting form for a possible post-season run. Meridian Coach Jeff Mandrell says while Kennedy has been a key cog in the Bobcats success during the past three years when Meridian has a combined record of 79-10 he is also an integral part of the student body and a role model. Kennedy is an honor roll student and also a member of the student council “He’s done a great job for us in basketball Brent is a really good student also, very conscientious,” said Mandrell. He has been a good role model for our younger players on the court and off the court. He’s dependable as a student and as an athlete, in four years I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about him.”

Tayler Cypin – Marion

Taylor Cypin is a student/athlete in perpetual motion. Cypin is a mainstay on the Marion tennis team and according to coach Carrie Watson has been a driving force behind the success of the program and on an individual level she has been a South 7 champion, a sectional champion and state qualifier. Aside from tennis Cypin, who maintains a perfect 4.0 grade point average is involved in a big way in a myriad of extra-curricular activity that includes National Honor Society, French Club president, Math Honor Society, French Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Rotary Award, Best French Student, MVP tennis junior and senior seasons, Lion’s Club Award Recipient, John A. Logan Top 6 juniors, Illinois State scholar, IHSA All-Academic Team and Alpha Mentor Leader. On top of all that Cypin has participated in more than 20 musicals throughout Southern Illinois. “Tayler never folded when the pressure was high,” said Marion tennis coach Watson. “I think she used her experience of performing in plays and musicals onto the court. The more eyes were on her the better she competed. She is also a strong team leader with a spunky attitude that will be missed. It’s been a pleasure being her coach!”

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With more than 100,000 votes cast and thousands more sent by snail-male we’re ready to announce the top high school players decade by decade from 1950 to present By Jim Muir


erhaps the best way to begin this story is to simply say: Let the cussin’ and discussin’ begin. The task of picking the top high school basketball players during the past 60 years is complete and this month we announce the top 15 players from each decade. While you might have scanned the list before reading this, let me tell you how these names were determined. First, with more than 120,000 votes total during our six month campaign it’s obvious that Southern Illinois basketball fans are passionate and dead serious about their favorite teams and players. As a refresher, the question we asked is this: Who’s the greatest high school basketball player from Southern Illinois to ever lace up a pair of sneakers? First, we had to decide what geographic area our player selection would encompass and quickly decided to basically use the same coverage area where SISC is distributed. Perhaps the easiest way to describe this would to draw a line from Carmi to Okawville and then include everything south. Next, we determined that 26 l February 2011 l

we would include the years 1950 through 2010 and break our selections down by decade (1950-59, 1960-69 etc). Another stipulation is that this has nothing to do with collegiate career, professional career or coaching career and is based only on the success each player had in high school. After voting closed out on the players from 2000-2009 we decided to pick 15 players (five more than we first determined) from each decade. And the point that needs to be stressed is that those players have been determined by three methods: on-line voting, ballots sent in the mail and also by a committee of individuals who witnessed games and the talents of players in all six decades. A few other points should be noted. First, some decades (particularly the 1960s and the 1980s) were virtually impossible to trim down to only 15 players. So, clearly some outstanding players did not make the final cut – and that holds true for all six decades. I believe it was an honor to even be in the 60-plus players named each decade. Now, with the final 90 players determined we will open up voting again for one more month so that readers can pick the top 15 players from the past

six decades. I want to stress that there are no guidelines on picking players from a particular decade. In other words, if you want to vote for eight players from the 1960s and seven players from the 1970s that’s OK. However each on-line ballot and mail-in ballot must contain 15 players. Also, in order to get an accurate vote on-line voting will be limited to one vote per computer. Again, our website is Also, mail in ballots can be sent to: SISC PO Box 174 Sesser, IL 62884 So, there are your guidelines to vote for the top 15 players of all time here in Southern Illinois. Have fun, enjoy it and as I’ve told you for the past six months … let the voting begin.

SISC Elite 60 (Vote for 15 total) 1950s

Tim Ricci – West Frankfort


Al Avant – Mt. Vernon

Billy Smith – Benton

Byron Bailey – Massac County

Harold Bardo – Carbondale

Roger Steig – Nashville

Kyle Cassity – Pinckneyville

Butch Steigman – Nashville

Dennis Smith – Eldorado

Derek Sloan – Galatia

Frances Florian – West Frankfort

Mike Dixon – Ridgway

Tim Bauersachs – Pinckneyville

Ronnie Maddox – Sesser

Keith Tabor – Benton

Justin Dentman – Carbondale

Joe Aden – Dongola

Charlie Hughlett – Carbondale

Dana Ford – Egyptian

Max Hooper – Mt. Vernon

Steve Stewart – Benton

Nick Hill – Du Quoin

Dave Luechtefeld – Okawville


Lucas O’Rear – Nashville

Bobby Joe Mason – Centralia

Bruce Baker – Benton

Zack Hawkins – Pinckneyville

Charlie Vaughn – Tamms

Sean Connor – Zeigler-Royalton

Ryan Patton – West Frankfort

Walt Moore – Mt. Vernon

Derek Nowicki – Waltonville

Justin Barrington – Carterville

John Tidwell – Herrin

Mike Johnston – West Frankfort

Matt Shaw – Centralia

Stan Luechtefeld – Okawville

Wade Graskewicz – Pinckneyville

Thad Hawkins – Pinckneyville

Oliver “Big Cat” Rollins – Carrier Mills

Monty Kuhnert – Du Quoin

Derek Winans – Shawnee

Arlen Bockhorn – Trico

Phil Kunz – Carlyle

Ryan Fraulini - Benton


Glenn Martin – Carbondale

Bobby Brown – West Frankfort

Tommy Michael – Carlyle

Moose Stallings – Ridgway

Jimmy Mitchell – Zeigler-Royalton

Jim Burns – McLeansboro

Lucis Reece – Cairo

Danny Johnson – Benton

Brian Sloan – McLeansboro

Jerry Sloan – McLeansboro

Bryson Baker – Benton

Rich Yunkus – Benton

Scott Shreffler – Marion

Dickie Garrett – Centralia

Curtis Smith – Benton

Greg Starrick – Marion


Danny Hester – Mt. Vernon

Danny Cross – Carbondale

Terry Gamber – Mt. Vernon

Shane Hawkins – Pinckneyville

Terry Thomas – Benton

Troy Hudson – Carbondale

Jack Sutter – Ridgway

Reed Jackson – NCOE

Nate Hawthorne – Mt. Vernon

JoJo Johnson – Benton

Les Taylor – Carbondale

Tyrone Nesby – Cairo

Doug Collins – Benton

John Pruett – Massac County


Scott Gamber – Mt. Vernon

Cast your vote today!

Mark your favorite ten players on this page, clip it and mail the page to: SISC PO Box 174 Sesser, IL 62884

Name_____________________________ Address___________________________ Town_ ____________________________ Phone No._________________________ Cell No.___________________________

Rob Dunbar – Benton

Jeremy Payne – Webber

Mike Duff – Eldorado

Jared Payne – Webber


Buster Zimbro – Sesser-Valier

Tim Holloway – Mt. Vernon

Donnie Gaddis – Johnston City

Scott Burzynski – Sesser-Valier


Brent Browning – Ridgway

Jamar Sanders – Mt. Vernon

Eddie Lane – Eldorado

T.J. Wheeler – Christopher

Keil Peebles – Johnston City

Kent Williams – Mt. Vernon

You can also vote online at or email:

Success on a Shoestring Budget “I always said if you have good players then don’t screw them up.” – Virgil Motsinger –

Former junior college coach Virgil Motsinger won more than 600 games without the luxury of the essentials that coaches enjoy today Virgil Motsinger laughs during a recent interview recalling a humorous story from his long coaching career.

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FEATURE “My dad was a basketball super-fan,” Virgil said. “When he was 16 years old he went to work in a coal mine, which was what you did back then if you lived around Crab Orchard. He always loved basketball. Every Friday and Saturday night he liked to pick the best games and take me to them. That was OK with me. I never heard him speak unkindly of any coach. If you were a coach, you were just about it to my dad. Well, that’s why I decided I wanted to be a coach.” It’s undisputable that Motsinger made the correct career move. He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1989 and retired from SIC in 1997. He was also inducted into

“My dad influenced the way that I coach more than anybody. My earliest memories are being a water boy and towel boy for him, and then coming up eventually to helping him keep stats and those types of things.” Virgil and son Mark Motsinger, who coaches at Carrier Mills.

– Mark Motsinger, Carrier Mills coach – By Joe Szynkowski


here were no fancy dorm rooms or a renovated gymnasium at Southeastern Illinois College back in 1962. Heck, there was no gym at all. The Falcons’ men’s hoops program was only a year old and shared a gym with Harrisburg’s high school team. Scholarships to play at SIC were nonexistent and the team finished 2-10 in its first season. So why did Virgil Motsinger decide to leave his secure post as Woodlawn High School’s head boys basketball coach to take a chance on the Falcons? Not even Motsinger knows for sure. But it didn’t take him long to establish a winning attitude at the small community college. Not that anyone outside of Harrisburg noticed. “Nobody back then even knew what a junior college was,” Motsinger said. “I think it was a pretty big question mark about how the basketball team would be.” Thirty-five years later, Motsinger had put together a hall-of-fame resume that

included 605 career victories. He helped shape the foundation for all sports at SIC during a time when community-college athletics still had no identity. Now 77 years old and in failing health, Motsinger lives through the accomplishments of his son, Mark, who is the head coach of Carrier Mills’ boy’s basketball team. Just like his own father, Virgil passed on his love for basketball to his son. “We’ve got a picture that was probably my last year at Woodlawn,” Virgil said. “I’m sitting in the bleachers holding Mark. He had to be a year-and-a-half. Like father like son. He’s like me. He works hard and gets the job done.”

An Easy Career Choice

After graduating from Crab Orchard High School in 1951, Virgil spent three years in the Marines. He took the job at Woodlawn on the advice from his dad, who some joke saw more high school basketball games than anyone in the history of Illinois.

the National Junior College Athletic Association in 2000, ranking among the top 25 most-winning coaches in the NJCAA. Those are gaudy accomplishments for a simple man, but even more impressive was the way that Virgil achieved his coaching success. “Virgil was probably the most successful community college coach in the state,” said longtime local coach Rich Herrin, who played basketball with Virgil at McKendree. “And he did it on a shoestring budget.” Virgil was a pioneer in many respects. He took it upon himself to provide housing to student-athletes before it was an essential aspect of college athletic programs. He and Mark spent hours fixing up various houses that eventually accommodated SIC basketball players. “Back then we didn’t have a choice,” Virgil said. “We had to come up with the housing. We’d buy a place, clean it up, replace the windows, patch holes in the wall. We got aid from the federal government back then to help with the l February 2011 l


Feature continued. . . utilities. We bought a bunch of books and loaned them out. It was a different time, that’s for sure.”

Mark remembers that time well.

“My junior high and high school days, every year before school started we would get the houses ready,” he recalled. “He’d always say, ‘I bet John Wooden isn’t doing something like this.’ We would paint the houses and buy furniture to put in them. He eventually bought some places, too. He would rent out big houses and turn them into dorms. Later on, I did the same things as the women’s coach because that’s just what I was used to seeing from a coach.”

Coaching Philosophy

Virgil Motsinger was pictured in the McKendree yearbook with longtime friend Rich Herrin.

The Falcons were 16-9 in Virgil’s first season and they beat every Illinois team they played. His success continued over the years as he worked with limited recruiting opportunities. That’s not to say he never landed prized players. He coached Bill Patterson, an honorable mention on the 1968 All-NJCAA AllAmerican team. Almost thirty years later, he coached another all-American Gerard Moore. He fielded many more great players in between, including the trio of Brent

Three generations of Motsingers - Virgil “Copper” Motsinger, Virgil Motsinger and Mark Motsinger -- are in the IBCA Hall of Fame.

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Browning, Dennis Pierce and Danny Stevens from the dominant Ridgway teams of the ‘70s. “I always said if you have good players then don’t screw them up,” Virgil said. “We were shorter than everybody else so we ran a spread offense. As time went on and we got bigger players, we would slow it down a little bit. “You could either do one of two things in order to have the kids play the kind of defense you wanted. You can spread it out and count on your little guys with good ball-handling skills. Or you can squeeze and surround the other team.” Players weren’t the only ones who bought into Virgil’s coaching philosophy. Mark spent his childhood watching and learning. “My dad influenced the way that I coach more than anybody,” Mark said. “My earliest memories are being a water boy and towel boy for him, and then coming up eventually to helping him keep stats and those types of things.” Mark played for his dad at SIC from 1979 to 1981. He later coached SIC’s women’s team for 16 seasons, compiling 398 career victories and leading his ’89 squad to the national JUCO tournament. He joined Virgil in the IBCA hall of fame in 2009. “Dad was always a pretty calm coach,” Mark said. “He didn’t ride the refs and he had a real calming influence about him. There are things that I took from his practices, too, that I still use every day like starting out every practice with a fast-break drill. That’s how he always did it.” But Virgil and Mark aren’t the only Motsingers in the IBCA hall of fame. Virgil’s father is in the hall as a “Friend to Basketball” inductee. “People used to tell him that he had seen more basketball games than anyone in the state,” Mark said of his grandfather, who was best known as “Copper.” “When he was 95 years old he was still going to a ballgame every night. One story he told was that there was one year that he only got to go to about 12 or 13 ballgames. That was in 1926.”

place for so long,” Virgil said. “But the truth was I was in several different places. Every five or six years, things would change in the junior college movement and we changed with them.” Virgil and Herrin coached in the same era and bounced ideas off each other during their careers. They still chat about the good old days, and like everyone near and dear to Virgil, it’s hard for Herrin to watch his longtime friend suffer from such a debilitating disease. “He’s a pretty dedicated individual,” Herrin said. “He did it differently than most individuals. He’s very easy-going and his players really liked him. He let them have fun when they played and if they made a mistake he didn’t get in their face about it. He corrected them in a calm manner and I think that helped his players appreciate his style of coaching. “He’s as good a person as anybody I’ve ever known.” Joe Szynkowski is a freelance writer for SISC. He can be reached at

A Painful Disease

Virgil is still sharp as a tack, even as his body breaks down. He suffers from amyloidosis, which pertains to a variety of conditions in which certain types of proteins are abnormally deposited in organs and tissues. The disease is painful at times and Virgil spends a lot of his days entering and leaving doctors’ offices. Even as he suffers from pain, Virgil still occasionally makes his way into a high school gym to enjoy the sport that he loves. “He still has good advice to give about game-planning and how to handle kids,” Mark said. “He’s always up for talking about basketball.” Virgil often looks back upon his 35-year career at SIC and his more than 40 years experience in basketball. He is proud of the amount of time he served with the Falcons, especially considering the uncertainty that clouded the program when he was hired. “People always asked me if I ever got bored being in one

Virgil coached during the 1997-98 basketball season at SIU.

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From X’s and O’s By Joe Szynkowski


ou may think it’s stressful for a boy’s high school basketball coach this time of year with lots of film to watch, games to win and young men to inspire. Coaches look downright anxious during a game as they stomp, yell and call their game plans from the bench.

You think they’ve got a lot on their plates? Look into the stands a few rows up. There sits the glue that holds their family together during the winter months of basketball – the coach’s wife. Often overlooked - though never by their husbands - coaches’ wives are constantly busy behind the scenes. A monumental



Mount Vernon boys coach Scott Gamber did the smart thing. He married a basketball fan. His wife Jessica, who played high school hoops herself at Webber Township, estimates that she will see more than 100 games this season after adding up varsity, junior varsity and freshman contests. On top of that, she teaches at basketball-crazy Waltonville High School. “Ever since I dated him he was coaching,” Jessica said. “I feel so blessed that he coaches in a great basketball community in a great school district. The same goes for Waltonville. I feel lucky to work at such a basketball-oriented school.” Scott and Jessica have been married for threeand-a-half years. Scott has been coaching since they first started dating, and he got the Mount Ve r n o n h e a d coaching job three years ago. A move up the coaching ladder has obviously translated into more work and 32 l February 2011 l

amount of responsibility is dumped into their laps when the sports calendar changes to basketball season. Whether it’s taking care of the kids, keeping up on other family duties or just trying to fill the monotonous time alone, these women stay as busy, if not busier, than their roundball-focused husbands.

longer hours. “It’s definitely tough,” he said. “We don’t get to see each other as often as we would like during the season. Our gym situation is like a lot of other schools in that we practice from 6 to 8 p.m., so most of the time I’ll just stay at the school when classes get out and work on basketball stuff in between instead of going home.” Practices are one thing, but game nights are another. Friday and Saturday night games make for a long weekend for a head coach. And sometimes just as long for a coach’s wife. “After a game on Friday night, you know it’s going to be at least an hour until you get out of the gym,” Jessica said. “He’s got radio and newspaper interviews that take a while. Then on Saturday, he’s got three or four radio shows and will have a lot of film to watch. So I really don’t get to see or talk to him much when he’s busy like that. “We don’t even have kids yet, so I can’t imagine what that’s going to be like.” Jessica may not be a mom yet, but her motherly instincts are strong. “I always joke that the players are my adoptive kids,” she said. “You just get to know them so well that you really become close to them. And the former players will come back and give you hugs and ask you how it’s going. I’ll always get caught up on their dating lives. It’s just a special relationship. It’s one of the things I love and hate most about the coaching job because it’s such a sad night on senior night when they go.”

Jessica and Scott

… to XOXOXOX Juggling jobs, kids, late-night video sessions and popcorn for dinner being the wife of a high school basketball coach is not an easy task



Gabe and Alechia Sveda were high school sweethearts at Christopher, went to the same junior college at Rend Lake and transferred together to Murray State. After spending so much time together early in their relationship, they might be making up for that now. In his first year as Du Quoin’s head coach, Gabe is spending a lot more of his evenings in the gym while Alechia is spending hers at home looking after their two sons. “She’s amazing,” Gabe said. “We’ve got the two young boys, 7 and 2, and she’s got to take care of them pretty much every night. It’s not just the games that I’m gone. Even after practice I’m not getting home until 6:30 or 7 p.m.. Then you’ve got freshman games to go to. A lot of the times she has to grab the kids and take them with her to games on long road trips. She’s wonderful.” Alechia - a professional in the marketing industry - knew what she was getting into when she married Gabe, who has been coaching for six years. “He always wanted to be a teacher and he’s always been so interested in sports,” she said. “So it seemed like a natural fit.” Alechia regularly goes scouting with Gabe as they try to make time for each other during the jam-packed basketball season. She also shows her support by coming to as many games as possible children permitting. “It’s difficult with two boys,” she said. “We’ve got the one in school so you get homework thrown in there with everything else that goes on. We go to as many as we can but sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

One of the more enjoyable things about being married to a coach, Alechia says, is watching her husband develop bonds with the boys he leads. She says Gabe has a special way of passing down his love for basketball. “Gabe really loves kids,” Alechia said. “He cares about each one of his players. Our youngest is too little to go to practice but Gabe takes our oldest quite a bit. And it’s already in his blood. The players give my son high-fives and it’s so cool to see those kinds of things.”

Alec hia and G abe l February 2011 l


Feature continued. . .



Whitney Winemiller says she practically grew up in the gym. “I was raised on hot dogs and popcorn,” she said. “My mother was a cheerleading sponsor for 26 years, so our family outings were at the gym.” It’s only natural that she married a coach. Ron Winemiller has been the head man at Benton for two years. They met in September 2007 while working together at Marshall County High School in Kentucky – Whitney’s home state. They married in July 2009 and ended up back in Benton so Ron, of McLeansboro, could take his “dream job.” “I miss Kentucky, but I love Southern Illinois,” Whitney said. “It took me a while getting used to it. We got married, moved and bought a house all in the span of a year. So that was a very busy time.” Their lives have only gotten busier as Ron has tried to build Benton basketball back up to prominence. He says he wouldn’t be able to do so without Whitney. “That support is the most important thing you can have,” Ron said. “This job is tough enough. It would make it that much more difficult if you didn’t have that understanding person to come home to.” Whitney understands because she, like Ron, comes from a basketball family. Having that knowledge of the lifestyle in common helps make their relationship remain strong, even during the busy winter months. “It’s a huge commitment,” she said. “He grew up with his dad and uncles coaching so he had a huge family of coaches. They were all good about telling me what to expect and what goes along with marrying a coach. “It’s stressful at times. It’s just like anything else in any marriage. It has its positives and negatives. I hardly ever get to see him during the season, but I know it’s a very big commitment to be a coach. He’s gone every night.” Ron tries to make things easier on his wife by not taking the stresses of coaching home with him. Bad practices, blown calls and tough losses are all common occurrences during a basketball season. But they’re better off left in the gym. “My dad was a coach and I take that from him,” Ron said. “He really never took it home. Everybody has their own things but when I leave the office or the gym, I

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try to leave the work there. I’m not on the phone all of the time.” Whitney appreciates the fact that Ron keeps things separate. “Any wife can tell you that it’s better when they are winning,” she said. “But he does a good job of not bringing it home if it’s a bad loss or he’s not in the best of moods. He definitely doesn’t take it out on me. And he really doesn’t have the time to dwell on a loss because the next game is right around the corner.”

n o R d n a y e n t i h W

Unlike Gamber, Sveda and Winemiller, Pat Smithpeters has been at this marriedto-a-coach thing for a long time. “Forever,” she calls it. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. She has learned to take things as they come, since her responsibilities are countless during the basketball season. “If we don’t get something done before Thanksgiving, then it’s not getting done until after basketball season,” Pat said. “That’s just our life. Everything else pretty much stops because there’s so much going on.” Randy Smithpeters landed the head

the coaching job at Harrisburg in the early 1990s. Lots of wins and six kids later, Smithpeters is still having success on the hardwood. A lot of that success is due to Pat. “Over the years it’s been a pretty hectic time during basketball season,” he said. “Basketball is a full-time affair and Pat has been left on her own on a lot of stuff. That’s just how it is. I think she realizes it now. I don’t know if she realized it back then. “For me to focus on what I’ve got to do as a basketball coach, she does a great job of taking care of all the other stuff. She gets everyone delivered where they need to be delivered because I’m just very seldom home.” Pat has watched her husband compile many more winning seasons than losing ones during his two decades at Harrisburg. That’s good for nearby DVD players because “he will watch the film after a loss over and over to find out what we’re doing wrong. Winning solves everything, though.” Winning or not, being a basketball wife is still hard work. “Really the hardest part is being left alone to take care of everything,” Pat said. “He can only be a dad and a husband when he can, so I’ve got to be there to pick up the slack. But I’m not complaining at all. It’s what we’re used to. I know he’s hated missing a lot of the kids’ games and things like that. But we just make sure we take lots of pictures and videos and we sit at home and watch them when we can.” Pat related an interesting and amusing story about how everything centers around high school basketball – sometimes even the birth of children. And with six children – Kyle, 28, Kolby, 25, Matt 20, Ryan, 19, Tyler 16 and daughter Bailey, 15 – the Smithpeters know a thing or two about child birth. First, Pat pointed out that three of the children are born in December on the same year that McLeansboro or Harrisburg teams advanced to state tournament play in March – or nine months after the state tournament. She said she also found out that even a scheduled birth that falls during basketball season can cause scheduling conflicts. The first four Smithpeters children were born under routine circumstances however with fifth child, and fifth son, Tyler childbirth took a dramatic turn. The Smithpeters were on their way to Evansville to the hospital


when Pat realized she was not going to make it. The couple went to White County Hospital, which didn’t deliver babies, and a doctor came outside and delivered the baby Tyler in the backseat of the van. “Tyler doesn’t like that story,” Pat said. “And his older brothers have been unmerciful through the years teasing him about it.” Pat said when daughter Bailey was born plans were made to induce labor so the same scenario couldn’t play out again. She said even planning a birth involved a basketball schedule. “I picked out at a date (December 12) and told Randy and he said, ‘no’ because he would be scouting that night, it was a Tuesday,” Pat said. “So we moved it up a day to December 11 so it wouldn’t conflict with basketball. Not only do our lives revolve around basketball so does births and deaths and everything else.” Pat jokes that her advice to any young lady considering marrying a coach is “go

the other way!” “Just be prepared to be left a lot of things to take care of by yourself,” she said. “If you’re a person who wants support and help all of the time, you’re not going to get it. If you can’t accept that, then it just won’t work out.” Joe Szynkowski is a freelance writer for SISC. He can be reached at joeszynkowski@

y d n a R d Pat an l February 2011 l



HOT Corner by Chris Hottensen

Cheating’s Blurry Line I

was taught honesty is the best policy, but I was also taught long before Herman Edwards made it a mantra that you play to win the game. So when the runner and I met at the plate in a cloud of dust, and the umpire asked if I had made the tag I had a dilemma on my hands. There’s a line between gaining an edge and cheating. But where is that line? The line’s a blurry one and appears to move like the freezing line in a February storm. Is it gaining an advantage when a baseball coach steals the signs of an opposing team? Is it cheating when a punter falls down to draw a roughing the kicker penalty even though no one actually ran into him? Is it getting an edge when a basketball player grabs the jersey of the opposing player while the referee isn’t looking? According to Edwards’ “you play to win the game” speech, all of the above are acceptable options if they help the team get closer to the goal of winning the game. But sports do more than just determine winners and losers. Games of skill are supposed to develop character. High school coaches assist parents, teachers, and school administrators with the job of turning young boys into men. If that is the case, how you win the game is just as important as winning the game. Part of a coach’s job in building character is to show kids where the line is between working to gain an advantage and scheming to cheat an opponent. Is there a principle to follow that will help clear up this blurry line between cheating and strategy? I think there is. If a team does something that an opposing team or player can defend against within the rules, then that is simply gaining an advantage and is ethically permissible. But if a team does

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something that leaves a team defenseless within the rules of the game, that is cheating and violates the spirit of the rules. Let’s look at the three previous examples. Stealing signs is perfectly permissible under this principle. The opposing team has the ability to change its signs, mask its signs, or throw in some deceptive signs. The exception is if technological equipment is used to steal the signs, leaving the opposing team at an indefensible disadvantage. Just ask Ralph Branca. He gave up a game winning home run to the Giants’ Bobby Thompson, giving the Giants the pennant in 1951. Later, it was discovered the Giants had a telescope in center field to pick up the signs from the catcher, allowing Thompson to know the next pitch was a fastball. How about the punter falling down to draw a penalty? This is cheating because it leaves one team that has stayed within the rules defenseless against a team that is trying to deceive the referees into thinking it hasn’t. There is no strategy a team can use to defend against this form of deception. Soccer has decided it is unethical. In that sport, penalties are issued to players that fake a fall or fake an injury in order to draw a yellow card. The player grabbing another player’s jersey clearly is a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the rules. When a player’s movement is impeded from the natural flow of the game by having his clothing held hostage, there is little a coach can draw up to defeat this tactic. There are some things that are wrong

even in the spirit of competition. But let’s not carry this too far. I’ve heard it said that a pump fake is unethical in basketball because it is trying to deceive the opponent. There is a technical word for this thinking: nonsense. Sports are built around deception. Should the pitcher tell the batter that he’s going to throw a curve ball a couple inches off the plate? Should the coach text the opposing coach before the play to tell him he’s running off-tackle with his fullback? Should the point guard announce that the pick is going to be set on the low block against the power forward? The answer to all those questions is ‘no.’ Both teams understand that deception is part of the game. They know before the game starts that players will look one way and pass the other and quarterbacks will use voice inflections to draw player’s off-sides. These are both strategies that are expected and defensible. Back at home plate, I looked at the umpire and nodded my head up and down. The umpire called the runner out, and I ran into the dugout, laughing about how I had pulled one over on the umpire. It didn’t dawn on me that I had violated the spirit of the rules. Part of the blame goes to the umpire. You don’t ask a 12-year old kid to do your job for you. I was just playing to win the game. Herman Edwards would have been proud, but my father sure wasn’t when I told him the story. I learned that day you don’t just play to win the game. You play to bring out the best within you, because life doesn’t just imitate art. Life imitates sport as well. I don’t remember whether we won that game or not. But the lesson I learned that day on the playing field, I use every day in the arena of life.

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From Where I Sit

By Tom Wheeler

Gotcha thinking, don’t we?


ou have to admit it’s been a fun ride and the ride isn’t over yet!

I’m speaking about SI Sports Connection Elite basketball polls of the “greatest” high school players in Southern Illinois. In the August introduction SISC editor Jim Muir said “it’s an opinion, and there is no correct answer.” I think besides picking great players, we have also shown “most popular” players as well as technology genius. Let me explain. I heard the story of the organization whose company was voting on the Internet. This company had some sharp computer wizards who found how to vote more than the contest allowed. So, they simply hired people to vote 8 hours a day for two weeks. Guess who won? Since I was in on the beginning of this venture, let me go back to clarify how I produced my ballot (which was turned into the committee). When Jim decided to try this contest I spent two days in my garage. I first listed each years all-staters, Chicago Daily news, AP (the best) and the IBCA list which usually consisted of four teams. Then I went to the Sundays Evansville Courier and Press’s All South teams compiled by Pete Swanson’s staff. I then listed the Southern Illinoisan’s Player of the Years and their all south teams (paying attention to how many times each player made this list). On some occasions I checked old programs for tournaments MVP’s and all tournament teams. I felt, for the most part, this list would get me the top players. I found that every year, all state etc., there was a dozen or so “sure” candidates. Then the troubles began, because, there has been a lot of great players in the South, so it now became ones “opinion” of who was better than whom. I also found that this “opinion” depended on who viewed these players. Example: the Al Severs family is great friends and basketball fans. Geri Sue, a past Mounds cheerleader couldn’t understand why Brent Vines of Meridian wasn’t on the list. She remembers cheering for him and her “opinion” is that he was a great player. Sons, Nick and Len had different picks, Nick thought Pinckneyville’s Shay Hagel should be on the list because as Nick put it “he was the best defensive player to ever guard me.” Len thought all three Cleland brothers, (Pinckneyville), should have made the list because he “played in a 3-on-3 tournament with them a couple of years and knew how good they were.” Just a point to prove that everyone’s “opinion” is based on THEIR evaluation and experiences with these players

38 l February 2011 l

Coach Rich Herrin got on me for leaving a Cave-in-Rock player off who graduated in 1950. I could only answer, “Coach. I was only 6 years old “Goreville assistant Matt Crain asked why his dad Ernie wasn’t on the list and I admitted he should have been but sometimes we overlooked a player. Roger Lee was freshman coach at Norris City when Jeff McKenzie, Mark Wheeler and Cal Johnson played, and wondered where their names were. I missed seeing “Creekbottom” Lewis from Cobden play in the 70’s, but understand he was the best at running the “picket fence.” So a lot of good players were omitted, therefore the write in ballot was created. As in all selections there was also a personal touch for me, after they met the above criteria. Were they ex-Little Wheels, how did they act at SIU team camp or Martin, Tenn. team camps, did I coach against them, and did they make their teammates better players. Again, this is only my opinion. If you really want to have some fun with these lists, pick the best all star team from a certain era – a fantasy team that could beat the best. Personally I would pick guys from the 90’s. My point guard would be JoJo Johnson, Benton, off guard Kent Williams, Mt. Vernon, my son TJ at the small forward, NCOE’s Reed Jackson at power forward and Cairo’s Tyrone Nesby in the middle. This five may not have been the best players but they all competed very, very hard and would have done what it took to win. This team wouldn’t back away, would run over you and then step on your shooting hand as they helped you up. Yeah, that would be a fun team to coach. Let me know your favorite era and why you picked your five, and yes, we still have you thinking. Basketball in Southern Illinois, I love it, love it, love it! That’s the way it Looks from Where I Sit.

By Teri Campbell


Logan Basketball Teams Battling in the GRAC


he John A. Logan College men’s and women’s basketball teams are in the midst of Great Rivers Athletic Conference action. The Volunteers won the GRAC crown last year and are averaging over 70 points per game this season. Sophomore forward Connell Crossland from St. Louis leads Logan in scoring and rebounding with 14.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, which ranks ninth in the nation. Nathaniel Butler, a sophomore guard from Dorado, Puerto Rico, is averaging 13.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and a team-high 3.9 assists per game. Sophomore center Stan Simpson of Chicago is also scoring in double figures for the Vols with 13.1 points while grabbing 8.9 boards per contest. “Connell Crossland and Nathaniel Butler have been our most consistent players so far this season, but as a team, we’ve been pretty up and down,” said Mark Imhoff, head coach of the Volunteers. “We don’t have the depth on the squad that we’ve had in past seasons so we need everyone to step up. The league is pretty balanced this year, and we need to bring more consistency in terms of energy and defense to every game if we’re going to have a shot at defending the conference

title.” On the women’s side, the Lady Vols are averaging over 80 points per game. Kyra Watson, a sophomore guard from Montgomery, Ill., is averaging a double-double for Logan with 20.3 points, which ranks 13th nationally, and 10.3 rebounds per game. Sophomore center Cheshi Poston from Chicago is contributing 12.4 points and a team-best 12.2 rebounds an outing, which ranks No. 5 nationally. Herrin product Austyn Ridings, a freshman guard, provides 10.5 points per game, and sophomore guard Haley Hewitt from Windfall, Ind., leads the Lady Vols in assists, ranking 12th in the nation with 5.7 per tilt. In addition to the team’s statistical leaders, Marty Hawkins, head coach of the Lady Vols, says he’s getting solid play from sophomore forward Sasha

Warmington from Kitchener, Ontario, and Brittany Wood, a freshman guard out of Pope County High School. “Sasha has done a good job coming off the bench,” Hawkins said. “She can score both inside and outside and has been a good rebounder. We’ve also gotten a big boost from Brittany Wood. She’s a good three-point shooter and has provided much-needed offense in a reserve role.” Hawkins believes there’s still room for improvement as his team heads down the stretch in the GRAC. “Our strength is our rebounding. We’ve outrebounded just about every opponent we’ve played, but we’ve had way too many turnovers,” Hawkins said. “We need to get more consistent and make better decisions with the ball. It’s important that we stay healthy and continue to get bigger contributions from some of our players.” For more information on Logan basketball, visit the John A. Logan College athletics website at: www.jalc. edu/athletics. l February 2011 l


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SISC salutes three of the many players around Southern Illinois who do ‘the little things’ to help their respective teams win By Chris Hottensen


obert Horry was not a superstar. He never went to an All-Star game, and he averaged only seven points a game for his career, but as a role player he won seven NBA championships with three different teams in 16 seasons. He was one of those guys who would just do whatever his team needed him to do to win games. The talent quotient is not the only thing that determines success on the basketball court. Teams also have to factor in to their formula for victory the grit, the hustle, the tenacity, and the mental toughness of players whose names don’t always appear on leader boards. Three Southern Illinois players resurrect the spirit of Robert Horry and exemplify this kind of hard-working, hustling, heads-up basketball that helps their teams win.

Dennis Froemling

Trico’s Dennis Froemling stood his ground at the SIU Arena while Carbondale’s Ty Neal drove for the basket. Froemling was able to draw a charging foul, which led to a technical foul that turned the championship game of the Carbondale Holiday tournament Trico’s way. In the box score, the 5-feet-10-inch inch junior appeared to have little impact on the game, scoring only two points on one field goal, but his toughness on that play definitely changed the course, if not the score, of the game.

Dennis Froemling drives the baseline against Murphysboro in the championship game of the Sparta Mid-Winter Tournament.

FEATURE “I’m not the guy who is going to score 30 points a night,” Froemling said. “I realize that. I just try to play as hard as I can.” Froemling knows his ticket to stay on the court is hard-nosed, in-your-face defense. Three times already this year he has forced

“His whole goal is to take the other team’s point guard and make life miserable for him. Dennis kind of sets the tone for our defense just by getting up and guarding for 84 feet, putting pressure on the basketball.” – Shane Hawkins on Trico guard Dennis Froemling – a five-second call on the opponent’s first possession of the game. Plays like these again don’t make the scorebook, but they help set the tone for the rest of the game and put an element of fear in the opponent’s mind and heart. “His whole goal is to take the other team’s point guard and make life miserable for him,” Trico coach Shane Hawkins said. “He kind of sets the tone for our defense just by getting up and guarding for 84 feet, putting pressure on the basketball.” He is an unselfish player, a hard commodity to find these days. In this SportsCenter age, most guys want the ball when the cameras are rolling. But Froemling is willing to sacrifice himself so that his team gets the glory, a concept that is working very well for the state-ranked Pioneers. “He’s going to be a kid that averages four or five points a game for us,” Hawkins said. “He’s going to get open shots, or he’s going to get a steal and get a layup. But he’s not a kid who goes and hunts shots offensively, which is very rare today. He just has that team concept that we can be pretty good if we can defend, and he’s going to be the leader for us defensively.” Froemling works hard off the court, as well. He’s a straight-A student at Trico High School. Hawkins believes an athletes’ work ethic on the court will spill over into his life off the court. “If you’re a disciplined basketball player and you’re in the right position; if you’re doing the right thing offensively l February 2011 l


Feature continued. . . or defensively; if you’re doing the right thing on the floor; if you’re disciplined in the team concept during the game that’s going to translate to you being a more disciplined person off the court, whether that be with homework or staying out of trouble or treating people the right way. I think there’s a very good correlation there.”

Holiday Shoot-out. As soon as the ball left his fingertips, the Olney coach knew his team was in trouble.

“He gets hounded every game. He’s a kid who always rises to the challenge and doesn’t back off. It seems the more people come at him the more he kind of likes that.” – Ron Winemiller on Benton guard Cody Smith –

Benton’s Cody Smith drives to the basket during recent action at the Benton Invitational Tournament.

Cody Smith

Cody Smith is a small guy with an extra large heart. He stands only 5-feet-10 inches tall, but he sees no challenge too big for him to handle. Playing in the rough and tumble Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference, Smith relies on his mental toughness to lead his Benton Rangers. He averages playing nearly 31 minutes a game, usually coming out of the game only if he runs into foul trouble. “He gets hounded every game,” Benton coach Ron Winemiller said. “He’s a kid who always rises to the challenge and doesn’t back off. It seems the more people come at him the more he kind of likes that.” It’s not just his own coach that recognizes the gamer that he is. Opposing coaches have noticed it too. Smith hit a big shot down the stretch to give Benton the lead against Olney in the Pinckneyville

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“Rob Flanagan told me after the game, ‘I knew Cody was going to make that shot because that’s the kind of kid he is,’” Winemiller said. “I think that says a lot for an opposing coach to say that about a kid.” Winemiller challenged Smith to make the team his team by December of his junior year. Keeping in character, the junior did not back down from the challenge, and he truly is the leader now out on the court. Often, he will see something on the court and suggest a change. Winemiller has learned to trust Smith’s instincts and judgment. Like Froemling, Smith will not light up the scoreboard too often, but he will always work hard to put his team in the best position to win. He knows at his position he has done his job well when he makes someone else look good. “I think being the point guard, having the ball in my hands all the time, people depend on me and want me to do well, and I just try to put people in good positions to score,” Smith said. It hasn’t always been easy for him. He’s had to deal with some adversity, but those struggles have made him appreciate and get the most out of every moment he’s on the court. When he talks about it, wisdom well beyond his years oozes out of him. “I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and stuff, and it taught me every time I’m out there to give it 100 percent because you never know when it might be over,” Smith said. “You might twist an ankle or do something wrong and your season’s done. So, you want to go out there and give everything you’ve got while you still can.” Smith is in the top five in his class

academically. But beyond sports and grades, he has learned the little things you do are most important. Winemiller’s four-year old nephew wanted more than anything else for Smith to come to his birthday party. “I just mentioned it to him, and he showed up and it made his day,” Winemiller said. “That may seem like a minor thing, but to a little kid that’s the world. I think that says a lot about his personality, his character and how he conducts himself on and off the floor.”

Christian Shopinski

Sometimes a player has to take a step back for him and his team to take a step forward. Christian Shopinski began the year as a starter for Pinckneyville, but so his team can get better he has to go from being one of the starting five to being the first guy off the bench. “If you look at how we played in the Christmas tournament, whenever we made

“Christian is the type of player that usually guards the other team’s better player. He gets a tough defensive assignment every night.” – Bob Waggoner on Pinckneyville guard/forward Christian Shopinski –

that switch he really led us,” Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner said. “He ended up becoming one of our better scorers and rebounders coming off the bench. He changed his role and did what was best for the team, and I think that’s the kind of player you’re going to have to have if you’re going to have a successful team or program.” Shopinski can score the basketball, but the strongest aspect of his game is keeping the other team from scoring. He plays a tenacious defense, which earns him a difficult challenge each night. “Christian is the type of player that usually guards the other team’s better player,” Waggoner said. “He gets a tough defensive assignment every night.” Shopinski welcomes the challenge that his coach throws his way. “I like that he thinks I can guard their best player,” Shopinski said. “I like having the challenge and seeing if I can come

through and keep their best player from scoring a lot.” Shopinski’s defense is as much about will and desire as it is ability. Some of that will and desire may be a product of playing in a tradition rich program like Pinckneyville. With three state championship banners hanging in Duster Thomas Gymnasium, Waggoner said kids like Shopinski grow up understanding what the expectations of Pinckneyville basketball are. It makes it easier to find kids who are willing to do more than just shoot the ball to win basketball games. “It’s a little bit of an unwritten rule that you’re going to try to do the things it takes to be successful, whether that’s practicing hard or listening to scouting reports or working in the weight room to get stronger for the next year,” Waggoner said. “It’s easier to coach kids that are self-motivated. I think a lot of that comes back to tradition.” Shopinski’s hustle on defense has had a domino effect on the rest of his team. “Just by having one person work hard, it makes other people want to work just as hard,” Shopinski said. Waggoner also understands the power of one. Anytime you hustle, it makes your defense better,” Waggoner said. “Other players feed off someone playing like that. It’s an example that they want to be a part of when they see that you can have success and get playing time because of that.” Players like these three ‘Hustlers’ can be found in gyms all across Southern Illinois. They work hard in practice, hustle in games, and do the little things their teams need them to do to win. You won’t always see their names at the top of the scoring column but when they start cutting nets down around this region in March it may be the Smith’s, Froemling’s, and Shopinski’s who make the difference between a good season and a championship one.

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Christian Shopinski, Pinckneyville, is a key cog in the success the Panthers have had this season. l February 2011 l


Photo Album

By Ceasar Maragni


Austin Webb, 8, works on his swing under the watchful eye of Coach Santana.

The four seam grip.

alph Santana says he’s been in love with the game of baseball since he was old enough to pick up a ball. Growing up in Orlando, Florida having nice weather to learn and play the game was never a problem for the personable player. One of the original Southern Illinois Miners in 2007, Santana proved to be not only a superb player with the team, but soon became a crowd favorite with his acrobatic plays from the middle infield and his hustle when running the bases. When he reached the Frontier League age limit of 27 after that initial season, Miners Manager Mike Pinto asked Santana to stay with the team as a member of the coaching staff. When the team opens their 2011 season on May 20th at the Gateway Grizzlies, you’ll find Santana filling his duties as their hitting coach and third base coach. Ralph says he loves southern Illinois and the Miners’ fans and was thrilled when the opportunity came up recently for him to return to the area early to head up a baseball and softball academy at the newly opened Sports Academy indoor sports complex located near Herrin. It’s a good fit according to Santana, “I’ve always known that I wanted to be a coach somewhere when my playing days ended. These young kids are a lot of fun to work with.” He works with players as young as 7 and as old as seniors in high school. He added, “The younger ones haven’t developed a lot of bad habits yet, so they’re very, very coachable. They seem to light up when I explain something and they actually get it.” Santana will continue working with his students at Sports Academy through the year as well working for the Miners. And although his dream of playing in the big leagues was dashed thanks to several knee surgeries, Santana seems to be a a happy place in his life, stating “I love what I’m doing now. There’s nothing like it. Teaching is me.” Samuel Alstsat, left, and Garnett Peach, both 9, line up with others to practice the correct way to field a ground ball.

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Corbin Preston, 10, learns how to throw a four seam fastball.

Corbin Preston, 10, pays close attention to Santana’s coaching.

Baseball Academy instructor Michael Stalter with participants.

Matthew Brandon, 9, works on his batting stance.

Youngsters work out in the spacious facility. l February 2011 l




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February 2011  

Volume 4 No. 7