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 the Lanphiers and Lincolns of the tournament, who have All-Americans up and down the lineup.)
NUMBER 3: CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL
(Champaign High 1904-1967, Champaign Central 1967-present)
(1) Champaign Central vs. (8) TBA
PG - Verdell Jones III (Indiana, G-League, overseas) 6-5, 15-4-3 best year IU, 1,327 points Big Ten; 9th all-time IU assists 389; HM All-Big Ten 2009; 2x Area POY 2007 + 2008, 3rd place State 2008; 16-4-3 G-League with Santa Cruz Warriors in 2015-16; Class of 2008
G – Rod Fletcher (Illinois) 6-4, Consensus First Team All-American (1952) because of defense and rebounding, 2x Final Fours; 2nd Team All-State (one team) 1948; Best year UI 11 ppg; Drafted by Lakers 6th round 1952; Class of 1948
- or -
SF - Ted Beach (Illinois) 6-2, All-Big Ten, 1946 CHS State Champion (No. 1 poll), 2x Final Fours, Led Maroons to three state championship games; Best year UI 11 ppg; Drafted by Indianapolis Olympians (NBA) 7th round 1951
G/F – Tim Finke (Wright State, Grand Canyon) 6-6, C-U’s all-time leading scorer 2,015 points, 21-9-3 senior; One-time Top 75 player in nation; Entering redshirt sophomore year at WSU; Class of 2018
SF – Jordan Caroline (Nevada, SIU, G-League) 6-7, Wooden Award finalist; 2,045 points in college, 1,164 rebounds, 17-10 best year, Mountain West record for double-doubles (not Kawhi, Bogut, PG13 ...); Graduated from Montverde (Fla.)
PF – Clyde Turner (Minnesota, overseas) 6-7, 2x All-Big Ten, 18-6 rpg both years UM and outscored Jim Brewer + Dave Winfield; 29 ppg senior year CHS; Drafted by Bucks 4th Round 1973; Class of 1969
Minutes off the bench
G - Larry Jackson (Northern Illinois) 6-2, 14-8 best year NIU, Helped CHS to State in 1967 with Clyde Turner; NIU Hall of Fame; Drafted by Bucks 5th Round 1973; Class of 1968
PG – Anthony Coomes (UIC) 6-1, helped UIC to 1998 NCAA Tournament, 13-6 apg with 1.2 spg best year at UIC, 6 apg was second in conference; Area POY 1994
F/C - Don Hepler (Southern Illinois) HM All-American, 10th career scorer at SIU at time (1,000+) and is 11th in rebounding; 3x All-Conference and started for four years; Class of 1957
F - Spencer Johnson (UMKC) 6-6, All-Time leading rebounder and games played at UMKC; Class of 2006
G – Jason Sempsrott (South Dakota State D2) D2 All-American, 1,378 points; Led the competitive NCC in scoring (23.9 ppg) and assists (5.9); Class of 1993
F – Russell Steward (Columbia) First Team All-Ivy, 2nd all-time CU with .440 3FG; Class of 1988
C – Jay Simpson (Purdue), 6-10, 4-star recruit, 4-4 redshirt freshman year Purdue then forced to retire due to heart condition; Graduated from La Lumiere (Ind.); Class of 2012
G - Joe McNeal, 6-0, 1969 State team, 2nd Team All-State Tournament 1969
G/F - Mack Turner (Southern Illinois) 6-6, All-State 1972, 6-4 best year SIU
G – Noah Wells (Western Illinois) 6-2, 11 3FG one game T-13 IHSA; Class of 2015
F – Howard Laidlaw (Rice) 6-6, 4-3 rpg one year Rice (SW Conference); 1970s
G – Nate Mast (w/o Illinois) 5-10, Spot duty for Illini; 16 ppg CC; Class of 1997
G - Jim Cottrell (Illinois) 5-10, All-State Tournament Team on 1946 Champion (No. 1 poll)
F – Jordan Lee (JuCo, St. Francis IL) 6-4, 230 lbs, Area POY 2006, All-Decade N-G, 1,335 points; Class of 2006
G – Donald Stewart (Lane College) 6-5, 16-7 rpg for 2008 State team, 20-7 D2; Class of 2008
F – Keith Biggers (Dakota State) 6-6, 250 lbs, 12-9 rpg for 2008 State team; Class of 2008
C – Joe Daniels (UIndy) 6-9, 245 lbs, 3-4 rpg best year UI; Class of 2010
F - J Leman (Illinois) 6-2, Consensus First Team All-American at LB 2007; All-Big 12 basketball 2003
Bob Butler, All-State 1960, Led Big 12 with 19 ppg, 9.4 rpg, North-South All-Star Game
G - Clayton Jones (w/o Illinois) 6-0; 10th player to score 1,000 points, 14 ppg senior year, and First Team All-Area; Graduated with 3FG record (190)
G - Jesse Clements (St. Augustine football) 6-2, 3x Sweet 16 at CHS, All-State Tournament 2x; Class of 1945
Dick Petry (St. Regis) Part of 1946 State Champions and 1947 Runners-Up, HM All-State, superstar in football and golf too, All-Star NAIA as a senior at St. Regis; Class of 1947
G – Edwind McGhee (w/o DePaul) 6-3; 15-5 senior year CCHS; Class President; Class of 2010
SF – Nick Finke (Army, current) 6-7; Class of 2015
G – Kamron Reaves (Florida A&M) 6-2, 8-2-2 best year FAMU; Class of 2017
SF - Doug Wallen (Illinois Wesleyan, current) (STM three years, one year CCHS) 2,000-point scorer between two schools
SF - Leo Terry (Current) 6-4, Jaw-dropping dunker who does 360s in games, etc. Named HM All-State in Class 3A 2020; Class of 2021
G - PJ Keaton (Arkansas State) 6-4, 4 ppg final year at ASU; Third Team NJCAA-II All-America, First Team All-Midwest Athletic Conference, First Team All-Region 24; 16.3 ppg and 3.8 rpg; Class of 2005
G - Kam Rowan (Western Illinois, Upper Iowa, Emporia State D2) 6-0, First Team All-Big 12; Class of 2014
G - Pryce Punkay (Current) 6-3, 3rd Team All-State IBCA (3A/4A), only player in school history to hit 100 3FG in a season; Class of 2020
(Did we miss a player? Email email@example.com 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: This program has 1,747 wins and the talent to back up that statewide Top 10 number. Consider that the starting lineup has five all-conference players (four Big Ten, one Mountain West) plus the area's all-time leading scorer -- who's primed to make a dent in the college world this next season. That's astonishing. All-American-caliber players all up and down the lineup.
Upside of roster: Incredible pedigree and production in college -- I mean, you're talking about an entire lineup of nationally recognized stars. Caroline and Turner are double-double machines, VJIII is a 6-5 distributor who can score with the best of them too (16 ppg in G-League) and then Beach, Fletcher and Finke are elite glue guys who can do any number of things to help a team win. Beach and Fletcher might not be elite athletes by 2020 standards (my grandpa played in the Big Ten in this era and he would be the first to agree), but they were both All-Big Ten and that's deserving of recognition as an incredible achievement. The bench has tons of fun pieces to add too. Overall this roster isn't huge but there's consistent length at every position when you have a 6-5 PG and a 6-6 swingman in Finke. Versatility and lineup flexibility are key and this team has both.
Lineup strategy: This starting lineup wasn't as difficult to decide on as others because the six at the top stood out so much. There was also good balance in terms of positions, so another reason it was an easy call.
Bonus: I think it'd be hilarious if childhood friends Ted Beach and Rod Fletcher did the hand-over-hand-on-the-baseball-bat thing to decide who gets to start. Or if they arm wrestled for it like they were back in the Champaign parks growing up. As I say in the video, this is one of my favorite human stories that I've learned about while doing this project. To go from childhood friends to All-Big Ten at the same school in your hometown is something special.
Downside of roster: Height. This team is 6-6, 6-7, 6-7 across the front line. As explosive and capable defensively as those guys are, it'd make it all the more dangerous if they were 6-6, 6-10 and 6-10. But then again, height isn't everything. Especially when you're dunking on top of other teams' big men.
Highlights of bench: I love this bench, there are so many diamonds in the rough. NIU's Larry Jackson is a great scorer to bring in for instant offense, UIC's Anthony Coomes is as capable a PG in this tournament as any, Don Hepler was Honorable Mention All-America at SIU, Jason Sempsrott was an eye-popping 24-6 apg guy at the D2 level (SD State), Russ Steward was First Team All-Ivy at Columbia, Jay Simpson (Purdue) was a 4-star prospect and on and on and on. I want to give a special spotlight on 6-6 forward Spencer Johnson (Class of 2006) because the fact he has the career rebounding record at UMKC is incredible and shows what kind of heart he has to be able to do that at 6-6. I want him on my team no matter the situation. He might even be first off the bench for this team. I didn't give him enough attention in the video, and that was my mistake.
Bonus bench shout-out: Junior forward Leo Terry was just named Honorable Mention All-State 3A by the AP.
Best season: The 1946 team won State, but I think you'd find that most Central/CHS lifers would argue the 1967 and 1969 State teams had more talent (Clyde Turner in both, Larry Jackson in '67). The Maroons have placed 10 times overall, which is a strong number. The 2008 team might have had the most impressive upset, knocking off star-studded, undefeated Eisenhower with the likes of Tubby Smith in the stands.
Enrollment: 2,200 (1967), 1,100 (1969) (First year after formation of Centennial), 1,416 (2020)
GOAT: If Jordan Caroline makes it to the NBA then I think the crown rightfully belongs to him. His college career was spectacular and he is an amazing example for the kids of Champaign because of how hard he worked to transform both his body and his game. Historically speaking, the title of GOAT has rested with Clyde Turner, who has a tough-to-beat combination of high school success in a Maroon uniform (2x State) and an All-Big Ten career at Minnesota. (However, don't forget Tim Finke scored more than anybody in his high school career, 2, 015 points!)
Music: Serious, intense, ready for battle. That's this team. They won't flap their gums, they'll just lace up and go to war.
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 22 (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
No. 3: Champaign Central (6 p.m. and 10 p.m. show)
March 20: 1 seed
No. 2: TBA (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