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 16: RANTOUL EAGLES
(4) Rantoul vs. (5) TBA
PG - Kareem Richardson (East Carolina, Evansville) 5-11; 9-4-4 best year UE; 2x Area POY, first time that happened, 1st 1,819 points; 1st Team All-State; NCAA tournament in 1992-93 season at ECU. NIT preseason Final 4 at Evansville 1996-97.
PG - Jerry McGreal (Illinois State) 6-2, All-American, drafted 4th round ABA; 7th all-time scoring 18.1 ppg at ISU (9th 1,542 points,) Class of 1964
G - Bill Gibbs (Northwestern) 6-2, 9-4 best year NU, 32-1 season 1959, ranked No. 7 in state; Made Elite 8; Class of 1959
SF - Donnell Bivens (Iowa State) 6-4, 2nd points, 1,584; 1990 Area POY; 4-2 rpg best ISU; Class of 1990
PF – Tarrie Monroe (UIC, Lewis, Overseas) 6-7, 1 year UIC then best year at Lewis 17-10 rpg; Has played professionally in six countries
G – Tom McGreal (Southern Illinois) 1,203 points is 25th SIU, 17th reb (581); Class of 1958
PF – Dave Moran (Bradley) 6-8, 225, role player for elite BU teams 1957-58 + 58-59
G – Travis Britt (Southern Indiana) 6-4, 2012 Area POY, 18-5-3-2.4 bpg senior year RTHS, 6-2 rpg senior USI
G – Mark Thornton (Southern Illinois) Near top of Big 12 in scoring, ~18 ppg; 1980s
G – Mike Mennenga (Morehead State) 6-2, D1 assistant, bit player for MSU; Class of 1988
F - Brian Wilkins, 6-4, All-Big 12, 1st in league in reb, 3rd scoring
F - Roger Wissmiller (Colorado football) 6-4, tackle at CU, 32-1 and Elite 8; Class of 1959
F - Dale Christensen (Colorado football) 6-1, Made Elite 8 basketball too; Class of 1959
Mike Brown (Western Illinois, Millikin) 17 ppg, led team in rebounds; Class of 1980
G – Ruffner Francis (EIU basketball/track); Class of 1997
F – Larry Exton (Illinois State football) Lineman who helped basketball squad to 50-10 record; Class of 1954
(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: Two words: Top Gun. Chanute Air Force Base was Rantoul's most prominent feature from 1917 to 1993, and this lineup runs on jet fuel.
Upside of roster: Speed, explosiveness and tempo will be the Eagles' friends as they try to blow past other teams in transition. Is PG Kareem Richardson the fastest player in the All-Time 5 project? Some might argue that. With him, explosive 6-4 Donnell Bivens (Iowa State), 4th round ABA draft pick Jerry McGreal (Illinois State) and a Big Ten captain in Bill Gibbs you've got the potential for some slick ball handling and pace-pushing. PF Tarrie Monroe (UIC, Lewis) will help rebound and can get out in transition too at 6-7.
Downside of roster: Size. Dave Moran coming off the bench at 6-8 is critical for the Eagles, who lack a classic center like most other teams have.
Highlights of bench: Tom McGreal (Southern Illinois) is Top 25 in SIU history in both points and rebounds! Should be a starter, but someone's gotta log 25 minutes off the bench, you know? In Bradley's heyday (1957-59) Dave Moran provided quality support. As mentioned above, he will be essential to this team's success because it is 5-11, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 as the starting lineup stands now.
Best season: 1959. The Eagles, led by Gibbs, were an incredible 32-1 and made it to State. Forwards Roger Wissmiller and Dale Christensen both played football at Colorado. The 1956, 1931 and 1932 teams also reached State. To put that run in perspective, the program has two regional crowns (1990 and 2011) since 1971.
Enrollment: 763 (2020). The population of Rantoul is less than half of what it was in 1970 (25,000+) and the enrollment has declined since the 1990s when the base shut down.
GOAT: Kareem Richardson is a player that nobody will want to guard, even at 5-foot-11. He proved his blazing quickness was no fluke when he averaged 9-4-4 in his best year at Evansville. Needless to say, his high school credentials are eye-popping: First Team All-State, 1,819 points, the first-ever two-time News-Gazette Area Player of the Year. GOAT.
Music: Top Gun 80s rock. Gas up the fighter jets. This team will fly.
Controversial decision: Nothing too crazy in this selection process. As I explained above, Tom McGreal is basically a starter.
Bonus: Two Division-I coaches are on this team: former UMKC head coach Richardson (now an assistant at Indiana State) and Oregon assistant Mike Mennenga, who played at Morehead State.
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)