One Man’s Overview on Illinois HS Basketball

[h2]Illinois Top Five All-Time State Champions[/h2]
(The Dusable 1954 team with Payton Lumpkin and Charlie Brown would have been high on the list of most decorated teams, but the selection process started after 1957)

1. (31-0) Chicago Marshall (1958) Coached by: Isadore “Spin” Salario
Regarded as the most celebrated teams to win the state title; was the city’s first team to capture that feat. They were led by future NBA player George Wilson  MC Thompson  Bobby Jones  Steve Thomas and Tyrone Johnson. Marshall H. S. defeated Rockfalls (33-2) 70-64. With the conditions this group played in back in then 50’s this was a remarkable accomplishments.

2. (33-0) Thornridge (1972) Coached by: ron Ferguson
Arguably many consider this team of Quinn Buckner  Boyd Batts  Mike Bonczyk and Co. as the no. 1 team of all-time. This was the 2nd title appearance in a row. Falcon’s had won the previous season defeating Oak-Lawn community 52-50. This time around they won convincingly crushing Quincy 104-69. Buckner went on to win titles in college and the NBA. He’s now currently a NBA broadcaster.

3. (32-0) Chicago King (1993) Coached by: Landon “Sonny” Cox
Many long-time observers insist this was the state’s most powerful team loaded with plenty of talent and depth. The team was anchored by its two seven footer’s Rashard Griffith and Thomas Hamilton and a supporting cast of Michael Hermon  Jerrad Billingsley  Dewarren Stewart  Toporis Nash  Eddie Washington  Larry Allaway  Leonard Miles. They trounced Mike Miller’s Rockford Guilford’s team in the state title game 79-42.

4. (33-0) Quincy (1981) Coached by: Jerry Leggett
Now this was a team that many down-staters viewed as the greatest state champion of all time. Fast-break oriented group was led by the trio of Michael Payne (Iowa), Bruce Douglas (Illinois), and Dennis Douglass (Northern Illinois). They blitzed Proviso East in the title game 68-39.

5. (32-1) Proviso East (1991) Coached by: Bill Hitt
Led by the three amigos Donnie Boyce (Colorado), Sherell Ford (UIC), Michael Finley (Wisconsin), Kenny Davis (Robert Morris) was the point-guard, a true general. The Pirates lone lost during the season was a road game to Rock-Island. They defeated Howard Nathan and Peoria Manual in the state final 68-61. A memorable group.

Most Long-Time Observers Argue About the Other Group of 6 Teams Taken into Consideration

6. (32-1) Chicago King (1986) Coached by: Landon “Sonny” Cox
Some observers feel this was Cox’s best team led by junior stand-out Marcus Liberty and high-jumping senior Levertis Robinson. They went on to beat Kendall Gill and the Rich-Central (31-2) squad in the state final 47-40.

7. (29-2) Chicago Hirsch (1973) Coached by: Charles Stimpson
This squad was a devastating transition team; they literally smoked opponents. They were led by the eventual University Michigan tandem of super quick Ricky Green and the burly forward John Robinson. The unsung hero on the team was 6’5” forward Joshua Smith and the supporting cast of Robert Brooks  Mike Matthews. During the title game the Huskies defeated New Trier (21-5) 65-51.

8. (32-2) Peoria Manual (1995) Coached by: Wayne McClain
This group was a tough, hard-nosed bunch that enjoyed coming from behind during ball games. The “95” title was the second of 4 consecutive state titles. The key component to this team was the leadership qualities of Willie Coleman (DePaul), Ivan Watson (DePaul). Sergio McClain (Illinois) and Marcus Griffin (Illinois) were young players who performed well on the big stage. They beat Thornton (30-2) for the second year in a row in the title game 65-53. They played a heck of a schedule including national opponents during this banner season.

The Other Six (Cont.)

9. (28-1) East St. Louis Lincoln (1987) Coached by: Bennie Lewis
The Tigers featured a potent line-up of Laphonso Ellis (Notre Dame), James Harris (6’7”), Mark Chambers (6’1”) guard, Rodney Chavis (6’1”) guard. The “87” state title was the first of three consecutive. 1987 beat Chicago King (28-5) in the state final 79-62. King’s Marcus Liberty finished with 41 points in the defeat.

10. (32-1) Chicago Phillips (1975) Coached by: Herb Brown
This team had a heck of a cast led by three sport star Marty Murray (Western Michigan), Larry Williams (Louisville), Robert Byrd (Marquette), and stellar role players Vincent Robinson and Norman Perry. Phillips went on to beat Audie Matthews and Bloom (23-10) in the state title game 76-48.

11. (30-3) Springfield Lanphier (1983) Coached by: Bob Nika
Received some strong consideration. Led by senior Kevin Gamble (Iowa) and sophomore 6’8” stud Ed Horton and surrounding cast of seniors Leslie Lee 6’1” combo guard, Moose Nika 6’3” banger and point-guard Clarence Briggty. They defeated Peoria Manual in the title game 57-53.

[h2]Illinois All-time Top 5 Greatest High-School Players[/h2]
“This was a tough task assembling 5 layers from a traditionally talent rich state.”

Note: Chicago area had four players selected number one over-all in the NBA draft: Larue Martin (Portland Trail-Blazers), Cazzie Russell (New York Knicks), Mark Aguirre (Dallas Mavericks), and Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls).

Arguably All-Time Top Five

1. Art Hicks 6’5” F Chicago St. Elizabeth (1956-1960)
Combo forward who had all-around skills; could really pass; a scorer before his time. Played at Seton Hall after beginning his freshman year at Northwestern.

2. Cazzie Russell 6’4” G/F Carver H. S. (1959-1962)
His senior year lost in state finals 49-48 to Stephen Decatur High School. Went on to have a stand-out career at University Michigan in which he was the no. 1 pick in the NBA draft. “1967”

3. George Wilson 6’8” C Chicago Marshall (1958-1961)
Outstanding talent; guided Marshall H. S. to the city’s first title in 1958. Big-time Scorer in high school became defensive magnet at University Cincinnati; played in the NBA for a few seasons.

4. Quinn Buckner 6’3” PG Thornridge (1968-1972)
The ultimate winner – can’t argue with his resume. Far more individually talented players from his era, but no one won more frequently then Buckner with his football frame and tough-minded mentality; he led Thornridge H. S. to two consecutive state titles in “1971-72”. He went on to Indiana University where he did suit-up a season or two in football, had an illustrious career in basketball. Won national championship at IU and NBA title with the Boston Celtics. A pure winner!

5. Maurice “Bo” Ellis 6’9” F/C Parker High (1969-1973)
Symbolic trend-setter; can’t dispute his over-all body of work throughout his high school and collegiate career. Lost by one in city championship game to an eventual state champ Hirsch in 1973. Won National Championship at Marquette in 1977. Drafted first round by Denver Nuggets. Highly regarded in Chicago area.

Players who Received Considerable Amount of Consideration

1. Isiah Thomas “79” (Indiana) Enjoyed a remarkable career at IU and with the Detroit Pistons. One of the NBA’s 50 greatest of all times.

2. Mark Aguirre “78” (DePaul) Westinghouse product will always be remembered as one of DePaul’s all-time greats; was instrumental in leading the Blue Demons as a freshman to the final 4 where they lost a memorable contest to Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979. Aguirre was drafted no.1 overall by the Dallas Mavericks. Won two titles with the Detroit Pistons.

3. Ricky Green “79” (Michigan) One of the fastest players from end to end; won a state title at Hirsch H. S. in 1973; won junior college national championship at Vincennes; lost in national championship game to Indiana in 1976; played over 10 years in the NBA

4. Darius “Pete” Cunningham “60” (Central State) At 6’4” he once scored 90 pts in a game for Chicago Carver. One of our states all-time prolific scorers; played for the US Army team; participated in USA Olympian trials in 1964.

5. Billy Harris “69” (Northern Illinois) The Dunbar Vocational grad was a sensational scorer; played with a special flair. If the 3pt line was enforced during his era, he would have easily averaged over 40 points per game. Tremendous long-range shooter. Did play some in the old ABA league.

Note: Ben Wilson “84” 6’8” G/F Chicago Simeon who was rated no.1 player in the nation was killed a few days before the start of his senior season; gifted prospect; unfortunately wasn’t able to finish his body of work; he won a state title as a junior.

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