High School Winter Sports Put "On Hold" following Mitigation Changes
SIJHSAA Board Postpones Jr High Basketball & All Winter Sports
The SIJHSAA Board met by Zoom and decided to "Postpone" Jr High Boys & Girls Basketball and all Winter sports to later date. No games to be played at this time. In a unanimous (19-0) decision, the association voted to postpone all winter sports until the Illinois Department of Public Health Return to Play Guidelines are agreed upon and made available to the SIJHSAA.
IHSA Makes Basketball Announcement to Defy the Governor's Press Conference
The IHSA took a bold position today against the Governor and the IDPH, stating that Basketball can begin as scheduled with practices November 16, and games begin Nov 30. This statement comes despite what Governor Pritzker said on Tuesday. The IHSA says that Masks are required by all players, coaches, and personnel. Teams will play in your Covid Region. Each school makes their own determination of whether they choose to participate. In their statement today (Wednesday) the IHSA said that "our organization has not been presented any evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any health organization natonally or internationally. The IHSA has looked to bordering states who sponsored medium risk & high risk sports in the fall, and they noted that there was a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread."
As for the fact that each school will make their own decisions of whether or not to participate, the IHSA offered this comment: "We understand that this decision will impact each high school and district differently. Some schools who remain in remote learning may not be able to start winter sports on time, and we feel for those in that situation. However, we have also learned that we cannot continue to look down the road to a season that may never come."
Former Mt Vernon Head Football Coach Passes Away
We are all saddened by the passing of Hall of Fame football coach Brad Pancoast (shown here instructing players in 2008). He was the varsity head coach of the Mt Vernon Rams for 17 years (over two stints) and took multiple teams to the playoffs. Despite his success, he would often say that he found as much joy in guiding teams with mediocre talent to work extra hard and overachieve by winning 4 or 5 games, as he did the obvious talented Rams teams that won 7 or 8 games in a season. Had the playoff structure been different in the 80’s and 90’s as it is today, more of his Rams teams would have been in the playoffs. During his tenure, the IHSA structure was such that some 7-2 or 6-3 teams didn’t get in.
In later years Coach Pancoast enjoyed working with the Freshman Rams, building work ethic and character in those boys at a young age. He also impacted the lives of many students in the classroom and taught many to drive. Brad was inducted into the Illinois HS Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, as well as the Mt Vernon HS Sports Hall of Fame. He had 92 career Varsity coaching victories at Mt Vernon, the most in Rams football history. He was also a former Assistant Coach at Duke University.
Another amazing fact is that 5 of his former Assistant Coaches later became head coaches, which speaks volumes. Coach Pancoast was a true class act, and we are all better for knowing him. Prayers to his wife, Joyce, and all of his family. Brad left a positive impression on this community and he will be missed. Pancoast was 70.
Longtime Scorekeeper at Mt Vernon High School Passes Away
The Athletic Department at Mt Vernon High School received a sudden jolt this week as longtime basketbal and football scorekeeper, Randy Odle, passed away at age 69. He had been hospitalized recently due to symptoms of Covid. Odle has been the official scorer of Rams varsity basketball games since 1995, and he has not missed a Rams game, home or away since 1967. He was also the scorekeeper for Rams football since 1978. Odle is a member of the Mt Vernon High School Sports Hall of Fame, and the Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was also very actve in his church, and was directly involved in establishing the food pantry at Park Avenue Baptist Church, which was one of his passions.
Max Puckett Recruited to Join Olney Central College Blue Knights
Local right-handed baseball pitcher, Max Puckett, of the Fairfield Mules has verbally committed to attend college and play baseball at Olney Central College for legendary coach, Dennis Conley next year.He recently reached this decision ahead of the November signing period.“I am really impressed with Coach Conley and his staff,” said Puckett.“OCC’s record and reputation speaks for itself, and I am extremely excited to have this opportunity.”
Puckett is a Senior at Fairfield this year and has been routinely clocked on the radar gun in the mid to upper 80’s.At 6’4” and 245 lbs., Max has the frame to be a rugged and dominant figure on the mound for the Blue Knights.Coach Conley has a track record of developing young arms and helping them advance to a four-year school.This will be the 39th season for Coach Conley at OCC, where he has seen 302 Blue Knight players go on to sign scholarships at four-year colleges during his long and successful tenure.Olney Central College has had 35 consecutive winning seasons under Coach Conley, including thirty-one years of 30+ wins in a season.
Despite missing this high school season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Puckett has continued to work out regularly, and improve his pitching skills.He has enjoyed success with the Kentucky Diamond Kings travel team.His coach of the travel team, Jim Grief, was happy to learn about Puckett’s verbal commitment to OCC.“Max is a talented hard-working young man who will be an asset to both the baseball team and the college.Olney Coach, Dennis Conley, will develop Max to his potential and move him on to a four-year school,” said Grief.Max is hoping that he will be able to play some high school baseball for the Mules as he enters his Senior year.He is the son of Fred and Marcia Puckett of Fairfield.
Woodlawn High School Selects Verhines as New Boys Head Coach
The new head boys basketball coach at Woodlawn High School will be Dawson Verhines. Following a stellar HS career with the Cardinals from 2008 to 2011, Dawson played at Rend Lake and at SIU-Carbondale, where he was able to play alongside his big brother, Bronson, at the D-1 level in the Missouri Valley Conference. Dawson and Bronson also played at Rend Lake College on the 2013 National Championship team (#24 in team photo). Dawson brings a strong work ethic and winning experience as he takes the reins of the Woodlawn HS program.
Dawson was part of an incredible run by the Woodlawn Cardinals under coach Shane Witzel, during which they were 86-12 during his Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. Those seasons saw them bring home a 2nd Place and a 3rd Place trophy from the Class 1A State Tourney. (They would later win a State Title in 2012).
Verhines takes over the program from Brian Gamber, who resigned to take the head coaching position at Rend Lake College.
Flora School Board Votes to Join the Black Diamond Conference
The Flora High School Board of Education voted unanimously July 9th to accept an invitation to join the Black Diamond Conference. The Wolves are expected to compete on the East side of the BDC in basketball, and will replace Chester in the conference football schedule. The move will take effect in 2021, as Flora departs from the Little Illini Conference. The opening in the BDC was made possible with Chester announcing that they were leaving to join the expanding Cahokia Conference.
Basketball Legend Max Hooper Passes Away at 88
Sad to report that southern Illinois has lost an amazing basketball icon. Max Hooper, formerly of Mt Vernon, passed away in Birmingham, Alabama at the age of 88. Max enriched the lives of everyone he encountered. Although he lived in Alabama after his high school and college career, Max was a tremendous ambassador for Southern Illinois, the City of Mt. Vernon, MVTHS, the athletic department, and Rams Basketball. A member of the inaugural MVTHS Sports Hall of Fame, Max was the main cog (#47) on the Mt Vernon back-to-back State Championships in 1949-1950. He went on to have a stellar career for the Fighting Illini at Illinois, where he played on the 1952 National Final Four team that placed Third, and the 1954 Big Ten Championship team.
Max and his wonderful wife, Janie, returned often to Mt Vernon and southern Illinois. They attended several Hall of Fame Banquets, Ram games, class reunions, and other community events. He was great at encouraging current and former athletes,and took great interest in their development. Max played for legendary coach, Stanley Changnon. He was at the forefront of passing the Changnon name from the original gym to the new gym, by attending multiple school board meetings to express his opinion and passion for what Coach Changnon gave Mt Vernon as a coach and educator. That mission was accomplished. The gym at the new school is also known as Changnon Gym.
A strong man of Faith, Max used his communication talent to develop a radio devotion known as "A Moment in God's Word" which aired for about 5 years on local Christian Radio WVYN 90.9 The Vine. He also authored a devotional book of the same name. All of our lives have been enriched by knowing and spending time with Max Hooper. He will be missed.
Gamber Recruits Brandon Anthony to Play for the Warriors
Congratulations to Brandon Anthony, versatile guard #5 of Herrin, for committing to play college hoops at Rend Lake College for new coach Brian Gamber. He will be a great addition to the Warriors program. As point guard, Anthony was a 1,000 point scorer for the Tigers, selected IBCA All-South in 3A two straight years, River-to-River All Conference three straight years, finished HS career as Top-5 at Herrin in scoring, steals, and assists. He has shown the ability to make things happen on the court to put his team in a position to win.
Boys State Basketball Tournament Returns to Champaign
The IHSA announced a move back to the Assembly Hall (State Farm Center) in Champaign on the campus of the University of Illinois. The boys state tournament will be held March 11-12-13, 2021 after seeing a steady drop in attendance at Peoria. This move is welcome news by many fans, and should increase attendance. Meanwhile, the Girls State Tournament will remain at Redbird Arena in Bloomington-Normal on the campus of Illinois State University.
HOLLOWAY PICKED TO LEAD THE BASKETBALL RAMS
Another former Mount Vernon Ram basketball player will carry the torch as the new Boys Head Basketball Coach. Tim Holloway, a 1994 graduate of MVTHS was selected and approved by a vote of the school board on Wednesday evening. He replaces Doug Creel, who has retired as head basketball coach. Holloway is the fifth All-Time leading scorer in Rams basketball history, amassing 1,355 points, and he was inducted into the Mt Vernon High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, as a result of his athletic prowess in both basketball and baseball.
During his basketball career as a Ram, Holloway was an All-State Honorable Mention player, helping to lead the team to three 20-win plus seasons, and an overall record of 86-24 while playing under Coach Lee Emery, and Assistant Coach, Doug Creel. Those Rams teams won the Regional four straight years, also grabbed a Sectional Championship and a berth in the Super-Sectional in 1992 when they finished at 25-5. In addition to All-State honors, Tim was the team MVP, All-Conference First Team selection, and named to the IBCA All-South team.
Following his athletic career at Mount Vernon High School , Holloway received an athletic scholarship for both basketball and baseball, and went on to have a successful basketball career at SIU-Edwardsville where he scored 786 career points for the Cougars, while grabbing 294 rebounds with his 6’5” frame. He made 62 treys during his career at SIU-E, connecting on 34% of his shots behind the arc, and made 45% of his shots inside the arc.
Holloway is no stranger to Mount Vernon student-athletes, parents, or fans. He has been the Head Baseball Coach of the Rams for the past sixteen years, accumulating 334 baseball wins, the most in school history. His teams have won 7 Regional Championships, 1 Sectional, 1 Super-Sectional, and a 4th Place Trophy at the State Baseball Tournament in 2013. During his 16-year span as the head baseball coach, Holloway has had only 2 losing seasons, and won 20 or more games in ten of those sixteen seasons. (No games were played in 2020 due to the pandemic and school closure). Holloway also served as an Assistant Basketball Coach for seven years under Creel from 1999 to 2006.
The 2013 Rams Baseball team, coached by Holloway, was recently inducted into the Mount Vernon High School Sports Hall of Fame. That team is the only Rams baseball team in school history to bring home a State Tournament trophy. As it stands now, Holloway is expected to continue to be the Rams Head Baseball coach as well. There were two board members who voted no on his selection as the new basketball coach, and one member abstained from voting.
The MVTHS Board of Education has not reached a decision on the hiring of a new Athletic Director to replace Creel. That decision is expected to be made and announced sometime later in the year. Creel will still be on staff for roughly 100 days to help in the transition with the new Athletic Director.
Our 30-Minute Interview with the Late Jerry Sloan
Hall of Fame Player & Coach, Jerry Sloan, passed away on May 22. He was a legend, and a winner at every level of basketball: High School, College, and the NBA. He was enshrined int he Hall of Fame in 2009. He amassed over NBA 1,200 coaching victories in his career. He sat down with us for this 30-minute interview, during which we discussed his entire career, his work ehtic, and we talked about the players of today. Rest in Peace, Jerry. You will be missed.
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Video Archive of "The Sports Couch" featuring Jay Shidler
Enjoy our interview with basketball legend, JAY SHIDLER, last August on "The Sports Couch" show. WATCH on the Video Screen above. We took a stroll down memory lane with "The Blond Bomber" discussing the State Tournament runs at Lawrenceville in the 1970's, the National Championship while playing at Kentucky, and the important focus and passion that he has in his life today. Watch & Enjoy!
My Interview with Rick Horton in KMOX Studio
This was the interview I had with Cardinal broadcaster, Rick Horton, in the KMOX studios at St Louis which led to my selection as the KMOX Cardinals Spring Training Correspondent.