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?
53 pages. 10,600 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.
NUMBER 25: SHELBYVILLE RAMS
(7) Shelbyville vs. (2) TBA
PG - Matt Maton (Central Florida, Quincy) 6-0, 1,000 points; Class of 1990
SG - Larry Hinton (Illinois) 6-2, 2nd all-time scorer 2,000 points, IBCA All-State 1996
SG - Malcolm Miller (w/o Illinois State) 6-4, All-time leading scorer, All-State
PF - Rich Beyers (Illinois/ISU) 6-8, 3rd points 1,850+, 1996 State Champion, Area POY; Class of 1998
C - Steven Nichols (Eastern Illinois) 6-7, 1,269 points, IBCA HM All-State (two-class system); 1992 NCAA Tournament Team vs. Indiana; Class of 1990
PG - Kevin Herdes (Southern Indiana) 1,200+ points, IBCA All-Star, State champion; Class of 1996
PG - Robert “Babe” Baptist (Beloit) 20 ppg best year SHS, HM All-America 1951, Played in 1951 NIT; Class of 1947
Steve Kessler (Abilene Christian) 1,600+ points; All-Area, Class of 1972
F - Jay Nottingham, 1,614 points, 932 rebounds, 2x HM All-State; Class of 2008
F - Roger Lotchin (Millikin) 6-5, 1,136 points, News-Gazette 3rd Team All-State, IBCA HOF, MU 3rd all-time leading rebounder 867 rebounds, 6th all-time leader scorer, 1,553 points, record – 39 Rebounds on 2/12/56
With help from: Tony Pullen, Shelbyville athletic director
(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.)
Analysis: An all-Division-I lineup. Enough said. The Rams are dangerous inside and out -- are they arguably the best shooting team in the field 1-5? The bench is something you'd expect from a Top 10 school in this field, from All-American Babe Baptist (1951 NIT when that was a major tournament), to Kevin Herdes (State champion and all-time PG), to Steve Kessler (D2 Abilene Christian), to Jay Nottingham (1,600 points and 900 rebounds) and Roger Lotchin (Millikin) who was Third Team All-State. Stacked. The Rams could be a serious 7-over-2 upset pick.
Best season: The 1996 team was legendary, from Beyers and Herdes who we've discussed, to the second leading scorer at State, Todd Wilderman (47 points in 4 games).
Enrollment: 323 (2020)
GOAT: Not a fair question! Do you take the program icon who played at the top level? That's 2,000-point scorer Larry Hinton and his four years of Big Ten ball with Illinois. Do you take the top prospect with the best skill set? That's the 6-foot-8 Beyers, who had Big Ten size and post moves plus the ability to hit the jump shot? (Not to mention a state championship.) Do you take the most accomplished high school player with the best numbers? That's Illinois State walk-on freshman Malcolm Miller, who is among the top Friday Frenzy icons of his decade for his 2,000-point heroics and humility.
Why they're seeded here: This team has a number of differentiating factors -- an All-Division-I lineup, a deep bench, balance from point guard to center, and bona fide high school stars. That's what helped them beat out the super deep pool of teams fighting for this spot. How could the Rams have gotten a higher seed? College production. Hinton and Beyers are legends, but neither had particularly eye-popping numbers in college. Can Miller be the first to do so? Herdes and Maton at the point are both excellent players, as is Nichols down low, but the same applies to them as far as college production at the highest level. Baptist is perhaps the most decorated college player, but his production (with Beloit) came at the Division-III level. So, to recap: it's an incredible roster that beat out many other state championship programs. Fans should be happy. But what kept the Rams from getting seeded higher was a lack of a double-digit Power 5 centerpiece like most of the 6 and 5 seeds (and so forth) have.
Music: Wild West cowboy rock. As I said in the video, the Rams will walk into the gym like an unknown desperado and get written off by the bigger programs. It's a school of 323 students after all, one fifth the size of some of the other schools. Big mistake. The Rams will hit five threes, go up by 10 and the gym will go silent.
Controversial decision: PG Kevin Herdes is a starter, plain and simple. That's the worst part of this project. You flip a coin and someone has to start from the bench. But he's getting 25+ minutes on any team I coach. Same with Baptist, et al.
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
No. 25: Shelbyville
February 19: The 6 seeds
No. 24: TBA
No. 23: TBA
No. 22: TBA
No. 21: TBA