2019 Organization of the Year Awards
McLean County Tournament
The McLean County Tournament can lay claim as the oldest boys tournament in Illinois as it celebrates its 108th edition this January. The first tourney was played in 1911 with only one break in 1933. Thirteen schools currently play in the tournament and for the past 48 years has been held on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University. The largest number of schools entered was in 1924 when 22 teams played over a three day period. LeRoy and Lexington are the only two of the original schools that play today. Due to the fact that only 5 McLean County schools are entered, the tournament actually is a Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament. The rest are outside of McLean County.
The girls portion of the tournament began in 1981 making the McLean County Tournament the longest running Boys & Girls combined tournament in the state. It would be very difficult to find any other tournaments that host both girls and boys teams for as long as the McLean County Tournament.
University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball Teams
When Dr. Tim Nugent sought rehabilitation and recreational avenues for veterans returning from WW-II, he found that wheelchair basketball fit the bill. Forming the “Gizz Kids” in 1948 and the “Ms. Kids” in 1970, Dr. Nugent established a sport that many cannot successfully play. But at the U. of I., championships became a habit and players went on to play in the Para-Olympics and even adult leagues in the United States. The National Wheelchair Basketball Association, which Dr. Nugent helped organize, today boasts over 200 team nation-wide at several levels – from Juniors to Adults.
Current Women’s Coach Stephanie Wheeler, a former player at the U of I, also was a Paralympic Gold Medalist with the USA team in 2004 and 2008. She currently coaches Team USA. Men’s Coach Matt Buchi also played for the Fighting Illini and after a few assistant coaching positions became the youngest men’s wheelchair coach in the nation. Matt also was an assistant women’s coach for the USA at the 2012 London Paralympic games.
To date, the U of I Men’s teams have won 15 national championships followed by the Women’s teams capturing 14 titles. Both Men and Women’s Collegiate Wheelchair Nationals will be played at the State Farm Center on March 14-16.
Princeville Holiday Tournament
With a town population of only about 1,500 people, and a high school of 251 students, the humble town of Princeville boasts the longest running holiday basketball tournament in the state of Illinois. This December the Princeville Holiday Tournament will celebrate 91 years of buzzer beaters and defended school rivalries.
The series of games was first held on December 26-28 of 1928 at the gymnasium of the oldPrinceville Public School building on W Main Street. Bill Cordis, who later became the Princeville School District superintendent, started the tournament along with colleague Keith Wehner.
The first night of the tournament is always blocked out as a Princeville game. Coaches have taken to nicknaming the night “celebrity night,” due to the large number of college students and Princeville alumni who return to watch. “It’s kind of like a homecoming game for basketball,” said former Princes’ Coach Dan Sullivan.
But this year is especially unique. The tournament will be honored by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA). Said current Varsity Coach Jeff Kratzer, “Because we’re one of the oldest tournaments in the state they decided to honor us this year. It’s a pretty big deal.”
The 91st Princeville Holiday Tournament will take place on December 26-28. Old tournament trophies and pictures can be found at the Princeville Heritage Museum year-round while some will be on display at Princeville High School during the tournament.
Written by Emily Green
2018 Organization of the Year Awards
For the first time, the IBCA will recognize three long running and prominent tournaments as the 2018 Organizations of the Year. The award will be given annually for those groups whose volunteers work endlessly to promote basketball for their respective schools and communities in Illinois. These programs may include tournaments, booster clubs, school sponsored youth organizations or other groups that promote basketball in Illinois. This year, each of the three tournaments was selected for their longevity as well as their success at sponsoring such prestigious events. All were honored during their perspective tournaments in December. They will also be honored at the annual IBCA Hall of Fame Banquet on May 5.
What started as an idea for Coach Arthur Trout to keep his team at home over the holiday break has become a history lesson of many of the great high school players, coaches and teams in Illinois. Add a loyal fan base from the nation's high school victory leader and that equals the Centralia Holiday Tournament. Beginning in 1943, legendary Coach Dolph Stanley and his top gun Johnny Orr lead the Taylorville Tornadoes to the first ever tourney championship. They defeated Champaign High School and their great coach Harry Combs in a thrilling 41-33 game. The next season, Arthur Trout's Orphans brought home the crown in the first of thirteen titles.
Other great teams that have played at Trout Gymnasium include: Lawrenceville, Champaign, Quincy, Pinckneyville, New Trier, 18 different schools from Chicago, Rockford West & Auburn, and Peoria schools Central, Richwood, Woodruff, Spaulding, and Manual - just to name a few.
Champaign's Lee Cabuti, Benton's Rich Herrin, Collinsville's Virgil Fletcher, Chicago Manley's Willie Little, Pinckneyville's Merrill "Duster" Thomas, Mt. Vernon's Lee Emery, Madison's Larry Graham and Centralia's own Bob Bogle, Rick Moss, and Lee Bennett are just a few of the IBCA HOF Coaches who have participated in old Trout Gymnasium and the newer CHS Gym.
Players John Kerr, Bobby Joe Mason, Archie Dees, Dave Scholz, Clyde Turner, Lloyd Batts, Russell Cross, Donovan McNabb, Tracy Webster, and Matt Shaw are just a few of the hundreds of great players who have graced the floor at the Centralia Holiday Tournament.
Congratulations to all of the volunteers, school staff, fans, and administrators who have helped make the Centralia Holiday Tournament one of the finest tournaments in the state. Pictured below receiving the IBCA Organization of the Year Award from Board of Director Steve Allen are Centralia Coach and Tournament Director Lee Bennett and Centralia Superintendent Chuck Lane.
The Pontiac Holiday Tournament was founded in 1926 by Basketball Coach Don Cash Seaton, who wanted his players to keep in shape during the holidays and envisioned a tourney that would bring teams from all parts of the state. It has the distinction of being the original and oldest high school Holiday Tournament in the nation. Despite a hiatus during WWII, the Pontiac Holiday Tournament will enjoy its 88th edition this year.
Only the best Illinois teams stormed the court in Pontiac. Quincy, Chicago Simeon, Centralia, Peoria Manual, Pekin, LaSalle-Peru, Springfield, Danville, Westchester St. Joseph, and Waukegan. To illustrate the competitive nature of the PHT, Aurora West placed 3rd in the 1999 tournament and were the 2000 Class AA State Champs that same season with a 32-1 record. And in 2009, Chicago Simeon lost to Waukegan in the PHT final and then won the 2010 State Tourney with a record of 25-9.
Nine teams have won the PTH and later were crowned state champs. Centralia (1941-42), Freeport (1950-51), Lockport (1977-78), Quincy (1080-81), Providence-St. Mel (1984-85), Peoria Manual 1994-95 & 1995-96), Chicago Simeon (2006-07, 2010-11, 2011-12, & 2012-13).
Some of the legendary coaches who have guided teams to Pontiac include: Pekin's Dawdy Hawkins, Westchester St. Joseph's Gene Pingatore, Peoria Manual's Dick Van Scyoc and Wayne McClain, Aurora West's Gordie Kerkman and John McDougal, Dolph Stanley of Mt. Pulaski, and Arthur Trout of Centralia, just to name a few.
A handful of all the great players who have graced the court at the tourney are: Centralia's Dike Eddleman (who later officiated the tourney), Aurora West's Kenny Battle, Quincy's Bruce Douglas, Peoria Manual's Sergio McClain and Frank Williams, Springfield's Dave Robisch, Providence St. Mel's Lowell Hamilton, and Derrick Rose of Chicago Simeon.
Congratulations to all of the volunteers, school staff, fans, and administrators who are responsible for the great history and the success of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Pictured below with PHT Director and former Principal Jim Drengwitz are: former Pontiac Twp. High School Athletic Director Russ Munch, former PHT Director and former Principal Roger Tuttle, IBCA Board of Director and West Aurora Coach Brian Johnson, and current Pontiac Twp. High School Athletic Director Gary Brunner.
There are many High School Holiday Tournaments in the State of Illinois, but none as old and as continuous as the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament. The tourney was started in 1928 by NIU's Varsity Club members. In 1942, Chuck Dayton came to DeKalb and later became the school's first athletic director. Chuck Dayton was involved in the tournament for over 30 years, and was probably the one most important force in the success of the DeKalb Holiday Tournament. Mr. Dayton retired in 1971 and after 37 years in education and coaching. After retirement, Chuck attended all of the tournaments until passing away in 1998. Because of his dedication and support, the tournament was renamed: The Chuck Dayton Holiday Classic.
Some of the great teams that have played in the tournament include: first champion Rochelle, West Aurora, Kankakee, Oak Park, Rock Island, St. Charles, Evanston, Hinsdale Central and South, Chicago Hyde Park, and defending champion Geneva.
Hall of Fame Coaches are familiar with the Chuck Dayton. Ron Johnson of St. Charles, Ken Johnson of Hinsdale Central and Elgin Larkin, Dick Campbell of York, Jack Tosh and Al Biancalana of DeKalb, and the great Ernie Eveland of Waterman - now part of Indian Creek High School.
Names of players still remembered include: Mark Vitali of St. Charles, Larry Saunders and Chris Schweer of York, Ron Shoger of DeKalb.
Pictured below is current DeKalb Coach Al Biancalana accepting the Organization of the Year Plaque from IBCA Board of Director and Basketball Museum of Illinois Chairman Bruce Firchau.