It's WAND's "All-Time 5"! Which local high school has the best all-time, all-star lineup of basketball players from any era, together on one court in a tournament of 33 teams? Tune in every Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. through March 18 as Gordon Voit announces a new group of seeds in the bracket!
53 pages. 12,000 words (and counting). Countless conversations, messages, box scores, All-State lists and school records. Now that Gordon Voit's research packet has been compiled, we begin the fun. (Quick reminder: It's not who was the best player in high school, or who had the best stats. It's which player [evaluated at his peak] would help the team stay competitive against other professional-caliber teams.
NUMBER 2: LINCOLN RAILSPLITTERS
(1) Lincoln vs. (8) TBA
PG - Dan Duff (Notre Dame) 6-0, First Team All-State (two-class system); 1st assists 622 (210 higher than No. 2), 8 apg senior year; 991 points; State team 1980 (4th, 30-3) and 28-1 senior year; IBCA All-Star MVP 1981; 4 apg best year ND; Class of 1981
SG - Gregg Alexander (Illinois State) 6-4, 1st points 2,085, 1st steals, 1st FT %; IBCA 1st Team All-State (two-class system); 24 ppg senior, State team 1999, 28-4 record as sophomore (1999) with Brian Cook; 4-year starter ISU, 1,023 points ISU, 11-3 best year ISU, 2nd 3FG all-time (224), .460 3FG one year, .411 career; Class of 2001
SF - Chuck Verderber (Kentucky) 6-6, McDonald's All-American (1978); 2,032 points (2nd), 1,014 rebounds (1st), Sectional title and 28-2 record 1978; 26 ppg senior year; 8-4 best year at Kentucky; Played all four years UK, started last two; Class of 1978
PF - Norm Cook (Kansas, NBA) 6-9, All-American at LCHS, 2x All-State (one team) 1972 + 1973, Led Railers to 25-0 record and No. 1 ranking; 1,697 points (4th); 15-8 best season Kansas; Big 8 Freshman of the Year and started all 30 games on '74 Kansas Final Four team; All-Big 8, co-captain; First Jayhawk to leave early since Wilt Chamberlain; 16th overall pick in 1976 NBA Draft to Celtics; Class of 1973
C - Brian Cook (Illinois, NBA) 6-9, McDonald’s All-American (1999), All-American at Illinois; Big Ten Player of the Year (2003); 24th pick in 2003 NBA Draft; 3x All-Big Ten, Big Ten Freshman of the Year 10 years in NBA with LAL, LAC, HOU, ORL, WSH; Best year in NBA 8-3; Class of 1999
Minutes off the bench
G - Joe Cook (Duke) 6-2, 1,237 points 13th, 18-5-6 apg for Big 12 champs his senior year LCHS; “He’s a competitive person and an excellent defensive player. He’s intelligent and expresses himself well.” – Coach K to H&R’s Joe Cook in April of 1987; Chose Duke over Purdue, Marquette and Evansville; Class of 1987
F/C – Seymour Reed (Bradley) 6-6, 5th round NBA Draft pick of Lakers; 1,478 points LCHS (6th); 871 reb (3rd); 16-9 best year BU; double figures scoring all three years BU; 1,138 points BU; Class of 1970
G - Josh Komnick, one of the Alexander Era GOATS; Dominant HS player who suffered injury; 1,289 points; Class of 1998
C - Jermaine Hamlin (Illinois) 6-9, High-ceiling dunking and blocking machine whose best days of basketball are ahead of him; Soared in AAU season 2019 on EYBL; Class of 2019
G - Gavin Block (Ohio) 6-7, 3-year starter at Ohio, 9-3-4 best season; Now coaching at Duquesne; 1,603 points (5th); Led State team to 2nd place in 2014 (3A); 34-3 record; 454 rebounds (13th); Almost every FT record LCHS; Class of 2015
G - Jordan Nelson (Evansville) 6-0, 3rd points 1,930; Class 3A All-State Second Team; 2 ppg best year UE; 48 points in a game (vs. Lanphier 2011); tied record with 9 3FG twice in 2010, record 3FG career (346); Class of 2011
PG - Brandon Farmer (UIS) 5-10, 2x CS8 POY 2006 + 2007, Led Railers to State (two-class system) 2007 and was a part of 2005 State team as well, 64 wins combined those two years; 1,285 points; Class of 2007
G - Frank Froschauer (Illinois, professional) 6-1, One of the Railer OGs! Illinois Class of 1935; Played for Chicago in the Midwest Basketball Conference
C - Dave Cadwallader, 6-4, 1st rebound in season (458 in 1956); 736 rebounds (4th), 16 ppg senior year, 1,028 points; Class of 1956
F - Jerry Alberts (Kansas) 6-3, reserve forward for 1952 National Champions, 1953 runners-up; coach/guidance counselor for 34 years LCHS; Navy 1955-1957; Class of 1951
C – Charles Ott (Nebraska) 6-7, NU 1 year 1951-52; Article from 1951 says: “Fairly agile, a lefty who comes around fast off the post. Lacks ball-handling ability.”
G – Geoff Alexander (Western Illinois) 6-5, 5-5-3 best year WIU, 1,310 points (9th); 591 rebounds (7th); Class of 1995
Cory Farmer (UIS) Led team to NAIA Tournament; 5th all-time assists at LCHS (290); Class of 2003
John Harmsen (Millikin) 2005 CS8 POY, 666 points; record 3 FG in season (111) in 2005; Class of 2005
G – Ben Brackney (Bucknell) 6-6, 8-4 with .430 3FG best year BU, Class 3A All-State Second Team; 7th points 1,409; Class of 2010
Matt Schick, (Illinois Wesleyan) 1,386 points; Started a record 128 games in a row; Class of 2007
Larry Lessen (Illinois Wesleyan) 1,178 points, 2x First Team All-Big 12 1983 + 1984; Class of 1984
F - Paul Kendrick (UMKC) 6-4, 1,104 points; Helped lead State team 1980, 28-1 1981 team; 16 ppg senior year; Class of 1981
Brian Brackney, First Team All-Big 12 1984, 501 points in 1984 was 21st
F - Tim Bushnell (Illinois) 6-6, 971 points; Class of 1973
Terry Biggs, Part of 1980 4th place team at State; Really that entire roster deserves to be on here; Double figures in multiple State games; 430+ points in a season on loaded team
G - Dave Williamson, 6-0, 19 ppg senior led Big 12 (282 points); Class of 1968
G - Isaiah Bowers (Lincoln College) 6-3, Apollo Conference POY; 1,000+ points; Class of 2018
G - Kaden Froebe (Current, Missouri S&T) 6-2, 2nd Team All-State (3A) 2020; Led team with 18 ppg and 2nd assists (97); Class of 2020
Kam Whiteman (Current) 6-0, First Team All-Apollo, 76 3FG led LCHS (.396); as rest of 2019-20 team that got robbed of a magic season; 28-2, 12-0 in the Apollo Conference with an average margin of 31 points (!). Salute to that group, which won a Sectional title including Second Team All-Apollo guys Will Ewald, Dylan Dingleton, Landon Hullinger. They systematically dismantled other teams all season despite having basically five guards. One of the most impressive groups pound-for-pound I’ve seen.
Mike Swingle, 4th round MLB Draft pick, Part of legendary 1973 team that was No. 1 in the state heading into the playoffs; Class of 1973
F - Scott Lynn Betzelberger (Southern Illinois, SIU-E) 6-6, Special Mention All-State Led 1972 team that was Top 5 in State polls, finished 24-3; 7x Oregon Sportscaster of the Year; Class of 1972
Nathaniel Smith (Loras College) 1,018 points; Class of 2011
Donnie Aeilts (Western Illinois baseball) 1,034 points
Brandon Booth, 537 points in one season (1989)
Jason Osborn (Illinois Wesleyan) 1,012 points; tied for record 9 3FG in a game LCHS; Won National Championship D3 in 1997; Class of 1996 and brother Adam Osborn (Illinois Wesleyan)
Dave Hauffe, 971 points; 303 rebounds in 1964 is 8th all-time; Class of 1965
Derek Schrader, 964 points; Class of 2003
John Alberts, Record .560 3FG in a season
Brock Werner, tied record 3FG in a season (9) in 2002
PG - Max Cook (UMSL) 6-1, 936 points; PG for State runner-up 2014; 3rd assists career (381); Class of 2014
Erik Young, 897 points, 521 points in 2003 was 20th; Class of 2003
Greg Guy (Illinois State) 484 points in a season LCHS (1967), 1 season at ISU (1971); Son Greg Guy led the nation in scoring 1993 (UT-Pan Am, 29.3 ppg)
Bryson Kirby (Blackburn) .415 3FG this season at BC
Bob Patterson, 515 points in a season was 21st
Chris Bunch (Parkland, Robert Morris), All-CS8, 541 career points; Class of 2003
Aron Hopp (Webster) 5-11, HM All-State; All-Conference in both baseball and basketball, school's single season FT record 86% percent; Class of 2016
(Did we miss a player? Email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can update the roster! Thanks for your help in making this special project complete. If you submit a name for consideration, please remember to include height, position, graduation year, college destination as well as a list of accolades. Please also remember that this is a fun hypothetical basketball project.)
Overview: Death. Taxes. Railers playing Railerball. This season was a perfect representation of the program: they played the "beautiful game", as they say in the soccer world. If Greg Popovich had to pick a high school team to root for, it'd be the Lincoln Railers. Perfect spacing. Perfect timing. Perfect jumpers. They just dismantled other teams. Year after year legendary coach Neil Alexander shows that his reputation is 100% earned. Players enter the system, learn the principles, develop, get stronger and then they go out and win 25-35 games a season no matter the talent level of a given year. As you will see with this roster, the community has also been blessed with some truly gifted players as well. Coach Al just won 28 games (maybe more if the season wasn't canceled) with five guards this year. So imagine what you'd get if you combined Alexander's greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts magic with the elite parts on this roster. Scary.
Upside of roster: There's literally every kind of player you'd want on this team. It's as complete as it gets. Two All-American, skilled 6-9 big men who were All-Conference for powerhouse D-I programs and were first round NBA Draft picks. Another McDonald's All-American at the three (Chuck Verderber), one who is totally comfortable playing a 6-6 facilitator role like he did at Kentucky for four years. Then at guard you have a 6-4 sniper in Gregg Alexander (program-record 2,085 points LCHS) who put up an eye-popping .460 3-point percentage his final year at Illinois State. And mixing it all together you have a Notre Dame point guard who is totally comfortable being a pass-first floor general and scoring when called upon. In a school with 115 years of unselfish players, Duff's 622 assists is more than 200 above No. 2 on the list. Let that sink in. Then the bench is worthy of a 2 or 3 seed by itself. We'll discuss that below.
Lineup strategy: It's a bold strategy: put the All-Americans in the game. Gasp! Am I crazy? Possibly. But I'll give it a whirl. On a serious note, this lineup has insane balance to it, but if you wanted to amp up the height even more you could slide 6-6 Seymour Reed (5th round pick to Lakers) in at the wing. Or if you wanted to go maximum defensive pressure you could slide Duke's Joe Cook in. Or maybe you want to go All-Grinder Team and go with an all-6-feet or under group like Josh Komnick, Jordan Nelson, Brandon Farmer, Dave Williamson and then crafty big man Geoff Alexander to scrap in the post at 6-6.
Bonus: Shout-out to all the great kids who have come through this program. Titus Cannon, Ben Grunder just a few we've had a lot of fun with in the Friday Frenzy over the years. The student section is probably the best in the viewing area too. Captain Austin O'Donoghue deserves a mention for the juice he and his buddies bring to RSA every game.
Bonus bonus: The community support of this program needs to be mentioned. The fact the program hosts watch parties at sold-out movie theaters for away playoff games says it all. It's special. The pep band. The student section. The light show. The attendance number. That goes for the media crew as well, from the incredible guys at WLCN (including Shabadoo...) who give so much of their time to the kids on the radio, to Teena Lowery who makes memories for the kids with her newspaper writing at the LDN.
Downside of roster: There's a 90s-era Duke guard coming off the bench. I think they're doing fine.
Highlights of bench: I highlighted a bunch of names above in the strategy portion, but this bench would likely be competing for a No. 2 seed in the field if it were a standalone school. To have the bevy of small-but-accomplished guards like Josh Komnick and Jordan Nelson, tons of D-I talent like Gavin Block and Jerry Alberts plus Reed's star power and Jermaine Hamlin's rim protection (just to name a few names) is an absolute luxury.
Bonus bench shout-out: Mike Swingle and Kevin Seitzer. Let's just go all-baseball lineup.
Best season: Oddly enough this program has yet to secure a state championship. Call it bad luck. Nine trips to State is something to be proud of. Remember this is a school that has just over 800 students! And around 1,110 at its peak. Making deep runs in the two-class (and even one-class) systems was an incredible achievement. The 2014 team came incredibly close as well. It'll happen eventually.
Enrollment: 831 (2020), 1,152 (1973)
GOAT: Brian Cook spent 10 years in the NBA and made $17.6 million in contracts. He was a first round pick, Big Ten Player of the Year, All-American in both college and high school (McDonald's, one of just four in 217 history). Made a mark on all three levels of the game. Salute to BC!
Music: Retro hip-hop sample. Just like the famous Railer warmup tops: at first you think it's outdated, then you realize it's cool and you start jamming with it.
ALL-TIME 5 OVERVIEW
WHAT: A competition to see who has the best all-time all-star squad of any high school basketball program in the 217 area code.
WHEN: February 5 - March 21 (Phase 1 - Releasing the Teams)
March 22 through April 18 (Phase 2 - Bracket Challenge)
March 22: Selection Sunday
HOW: Gordon Voit will release four more teams every single Wednesday night, two during the 6 p.m. show and two during the 10 p.m. show. This is Phase 1. Phase 2 consists of a bracket challenge pitting the teams against each other in a simulated tournament.
RELEASING THE TEAMS
February 5: The 8 seeds
No. 33: Mt. Pulaski (Play-in game)
No. 32: Okaw Valley (Bethany-Findlay) (Play-in game)
February 12: The 7 seeds
February 19: The 6 seeds
February 26: The 5 seeds
March 4: The 4 seeds
March 11: The 3 seeds
March 13: 2 seed (Note: The schedule has been changed in light of all local sports being cancelled by coronavirus concerns.)
March 16: 2 seeds
March 17: 2 seed
March 18: 1 seed
March 19: 1 seed
March 20: 1 seed
No. 2: Lincoln (6 p.m. and 10 p.m. show)
March 21: 1 seed
No. 1: TBA (6 p.m. and 10 p.m. show)
March 22: "Selection Sunday"
- Revealing the Bracket (Half of the bracket at 5 p.m. and half at 10 p.m.)
- Fan voting begins for First Round Games
First Round Results Announced
Sweet 16 Results Announced
Final Four Results Announced