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 15: MT. ZION BRAVES
(4) Mt. Zion vs. (5) TBA
G – Brett Andricks (Northern Illinois, UT-Pan Am) 6-3, 1st 1,986 points, MC POY 1986, 23 ppg senior year, 10 ppg best season UTPA; Class of 1986
G – Matt McCollom (Ball State) 6-2, 12 ppg sophomore BSU; Offers Utah, Tulane, ISU, nearly Michigan State and Missouri; Class of 2001
G/F – Neil Plank (Wisconsin, Illinois State) 6-5; 8-4-3 senior year ISU; 2x MC POY 2000 + 2001, 18 ppg, 6 rpg for team that spread ball; 1st team IBCA All-State (Class AA), 2nd Team AP All-State; High-flyer; Class of 2001
F – Mark Yelovich (SIU-Edwardsville) 6-6, 17-6 best year SIUE; 6th 1,119; Class of 2008
C - Mick Yelovich (Indiana State) 6-10; IBCA All-Star; Anchor post at 265 lbs; Class of 2004
SG – Jonah Smith (Quincy) 6-2, 2017 MC POY; (2nd all-time points 1,504) (Assists, steals leader) 2016 3A state 3-point champion
PF – Jake Sams (Indiana State) 6-8; 2001 IBCA All-Star; Good range, role player at ISU
SF – Michael Sams (Illinois State, SIU-Edwardsville) 6-7; IBCA All-Star 00s
F - Gary Brown, 6-6, (569 points in season is record, 74-75) (Rebounding records: 1041 career, 377 season) Class AA South Team in All-Star Game; Class of 1975
G - Albert Lowe, 5-8, 3rd all-time points 1,309, 20 ppg senior; Class of 1974
PG - Drew Gensler (Millikin) 6-0, 2005 MC POY, 17 ppg Millikin
C - Zach Freeman (Olivet Nazarene) 6-9, 18-8-55 blocks; Class of 1997
F – Logan Glosser (SIU-Edwardsville) 6-5, First Team All-County 2002, 20-5, 3FG ace
Matt Yelovich, 2002 AA 3-point 2nd place
G – Caleb Long (w/o Southern Illinois) 5-11 (42 pts in game is record) 5th points 1,204
G – Colby Long (w/o Southern Illinois) 5-11; 4th points 1,257
G/F - Jason Edgar, 6-5, First Team All-MC 1995, 19-7 senior year MTZ; Class of 1995
F - Phil Taylor, Jr. (E. Illinois FB) 6-2, 23 ppg, 8 rpg junior; First Team All-MC; Class of 1998
Zach Lewis (Illinois-Springfield) 7th points 1,127; 00s
G – Charles Kuhle 6-0 (w/o Illinois State football) 8th points 1,114; Class of 2017
G – Shane Davis, 5-11, 17-4-6, 42% 3FG; Class of 1988
F – Greg Scharf, 6-4, 19-8 junior year; Class of 1989
Dick Marshall, HOF
Larry Fonner, HOF
G – Zach Birkey (Olivet Nazarene) 8 ppg, 6.5 apg, Second Team All-County; Record for assists in a season: 184; Class of 2002
Nick Birkey (Olivet Nazarene)
Steve Davis, First regional championship in school history
Jeff Schultz, First regional championship in school history
Jeff Park (Olivet Nazarene)
F - Jeff Anderson (Southern Illinois) 6-6, One year SIU after Richland CC; 1980s
Darcy Grinestaff, record 18 2-point FG in a game (vs. Pana 1973-74)
Todd Claytor, record 8 3-point FG in a game (vs. Monticello 1992-93)
Brian Chunn, record 27 rebounds in a game (vs. Taylorville 1991-92)
Brody Rothrock, record 9 steals in a game (2000-01)
F - Shawn Zeck, 6-3, First Team All-Macon County; 15 ppg, 10 rpg senior year; Class of 1994
(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: Dudes who stack plates. Rowdy student sections. This team would be so. much. fun. Get the dunk contest panel ready.
Upside of roster: The sheer size and athleticism of this group will just flat-out overwhelm other teams. Plank, Yelovich squared (cubed?), the Sams brothers and 6-9 Zach Freeman will put on a show above the rim down low, with guards McCollom and Andricks having fun themselves. When you watch highlights from the 90s-00s teams it's just a bull-in-a-china-shop situation: guys going through defenders at will. Physically imposing players all up and down this lineup.
Downside of roster: Truthfully there is no weakness on this team. Size, strength, pedigree, depth. Perhaps they could use another top-end scorer? Counterpoint: they have three players who scored in double figures at the D1 level (Andricks, McCollom and Mark Yelovich). No NBA stars I suppose. But this team will share the ball and just be an overall problem for other teams, no matter who they match up against.
Highlights of bench: Depth City. Jonah Smith (Quincy) is a gamer, plain and simple. School record holder in assists and steals plus the 2016 3A state 3-point champion whose 1,504 points are No. 2 all time to Andricks. Then Brown and Lowe bring an incredible list of credentials from the 1970s. As I discussed above, the Sams brothers off the bench should be illegal -- just a nasty pair of 6-7, 6-8 weapons to have. Freeman, Glosser, Gensler, the Long brothers (!). This whole article could be about the Long brothers, who combined for 2,461 points and walked on at Southern Illinois. Caleb's 42 points in one game is the school record. Again, Mt. Zion is Depth City.
Best season: The school has two sectional championships: 2001 and 2004, both during the two-class system and both as among the very smallest school in Class AA. The 2001 team knocked off star-studded Lanphier for the sectional crown before losing to Richwoods 48-44. In 2004 the Braves made it to the Super-Sectional where they had to play eventual Class AA champion Peoria High led by No. 4 NBA draft pick Shaun Livingston.
Enrollment: 779 (2020)
GOAT: This one's a toss-up. The strength of the team is that it will be highly unselfish. The player who was most heavily recruited out of high school would be 6-5 dunker Neil Plank, who caught the eye of Wisconsin. As for college production, Mark Yelovich had the most fruitful career (17 ppg, 6 rpg best season at SIUE). Pure high school stats? Probably Jonah Smith. But this is a team that's greater than the sum of its parts, so for the first time in All-Time 5 I am not declaring a GOAT.
Music: A 90s hard rock jam that you listen to in the weight room. It just feels right for this group. Brute strength, confidence, acrobatics. The late 1990s and early 2000s was the Golden Era of Mt. Zion basketball.
Controversial decision: Someone's got to come off the bench, and when you're dealing with such a deep group that means having record-breakers like Jonah Smith, Gary Brown and 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9 forwards (no exaggeration) coming off the bench. In fact, if I were to watch a group of starters face off against the so-called "second team" I think Mt. Zion might be the most entertaining game. The bench is that good.
Bonus: I love family connections when I research these teams. I would pay to see a lineup of Yelovich, Yelovich, Yelovich, Sams and Sams.
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 18 (Phase 1)
March 18 until the NCAA Final Four in April (Phase 2)
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
No. 12: TBA (6 p.m. show)
No. 11: TBA (6 p.m. show)
No. 10: TBA (10 p.m. show)
No. 9: TBA (10 p.m. show)
March 13: The 2 seeds (Note: this is a Friday)
No. 8: TBA (6 p.m. show)
No. 7: TBA (6 p.m. show)
No. 6: TBA (10 p.m. show)
No. 5: TBA (10 p.m. show)
March 18: The 1 seeds
No. 4: TBA (6 p.m. show)
No. 3: TBA (6 p.m. show)
No. 2: TBA (10 p.m. show)
No. 1: TBA (10 p.m. show)