Who are the future Hall of Famers?

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Who are the future Hall of Famers?

The inaugural class for the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville was inducted in November in a gala ceremony in the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

The class included 30 players from the pre-1960 era, 20 from the post-1960 era and 10 women.

Among the honorees present were La Grange's Ted Caiazza, Du Sable's Sweet Charlie Brown, Mount Vernon's Max Hooper, Proviso East's Jim Brewer, Champaign's Ted Beach, Lawrenceville's Jay Shidler, Canton's Dave Downey, West Aurora's Bill Small, West Rockford's Nolden Gentry, Springfield's Dave Robisch, Peoria Manual's Howard Nathan, Marshall's George Wilson, Marshall's Janet Harris and Kim Williams, Benton's Rich Yunkus and Tamms' Chico Vaughn.

So who will be in the second class of inductees? Who just missed the first time around? Who is most deserving? And how many should be inducted? Ten in the pre-1960 era, 10 in the post-1960 era and five women? Five in each category?

The board of directors and the selection committee agreed that the inaugural class should be inclusive while also being exclusive, not too many. After all, major league baseball's Hall of Fame enshrined only five players in its first class in 1936 -- Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. That's elusive.

In the pre-1960 era, leading candidates are Elgin's Flynn Robinson and Don Sunderlage, Princeton's Joe Ruklick, South Shore's Jake Fendley, Taylorville's Billy Ridley, Galva's Rich Falk, Champaign's Rod Fletcher, Mount Vernon's Junior Kirk, Galesburg's Bumpy Nixon, Fenger's Sammy Esposito, Carrier Mills' Catfish Rollins, Rock Island's Richard Litt, Paris'
Dick Foley, Moline's Whitey Verstraete, Herrin's John Tidwell, Peoria's Hiles Stout, Dunbar's Bernie Mills, Crane's Tim Robinson, Bloom's Homer Thurman, Wells' Abe Booker and Mount Carmel's Jack Stephens.

In the post-1960 era, leading candidates are St. Anne's Jack Sikma, Eldorado's Mike Duff, West Aurora's Kenny Battle, Thornton's Lloyd Batts and LaMarr Thomas, Westinghouse's Kiwane Garris, Hersey Hawkins and Eddie Johnson, Hirsch's Rickey Green, La Grange's Owen Brown and Marcus Washington, Fenwick's Corey Maggette, Manley's Russell Cross, Marshall's Rich Bradshaw, Galesburg's Dale Kelley and Joey Range, Hales Franciscan's Sam Puckett, Simeon's Deon Thomas, Vocational's Juwan Howard, Rockford East's Skip Thoren, East St. Louis' Darius Miles, Madison's Don Freeman, King's Rashard Griffith, Carver's Terry Cummings, Farragut's Ronnie Fields, St. Francis de Sales' Eric Anderson, Peoria Manual's Frank Williams, Gordon Tech's Tom Kleinschmidt, Providence's Walter Downing, Jacksonville's Andy Kaufmann, Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson and Moline's Steve Kuberski.

And what about Dwyane Wade? A Richards graduate of 2000, the NBA all-star is eligible. So is Eddy Curry, a Thornwood graduate of 2001 and an NBA lottery pick. Players aren't eligible to be considered for Hall of Fame recognition until 10 years after they graduate from high school.

How would you like to pick five players from that elite group?

Leading women candidates are Marshall's Jennifer Jones, Maria Christian, Kim McQuarter and Toni Foster, Phillips' Shirley Joiner, Maine West's Nancy Kennelly, Sandburg's Sarah Kustok, Whitney Young's Natasha Pointer and Cappie Pondexter, Downers Grove North's Terri Zemaitis and Immaculate Heart of Mary's Michele Savage.

Obviously, the selection committee's job will be no less difficult in choosing the second class of inductees than it was in paring down the list for the inaugural class.

If that isn't tough enough, many basketball fans from throughout the state are nominating players who previously were flying under the radar but certainly have the credentials to warrant serious consideration.

The names include Reggie Murray of Cregier, Perry Barclift of Quincy, Roger Powell of Joliet Central, Billy Lewis of Farragut, Doug Collins of Benton, Bo Ellis of Parker, Bob Guyette of Ottawa Marquette, Lynch Conway of Peoria, Doug Altenberger of Peoria Richwoods, Dean Ehlers of Trico-Campbell Hill and Scott Steagall of Stewardson.

According to veteran Quincy historian Tom Oakley, Barclift rates behind only Bruce Brothers as the top Quincy product in the pre-1960s era, ahead of Bill Kurz of Quincy Notre Dame and Gary Phillips of Quincy. Barclift led the Blue Devils to the 1934 state championship, beating Lou Boudreau and Thornton. He scored 22 points in the state final, then a tournament record. He was a charter member of the Quincy Sports Hall of Fame.

While Oakley strongly supports the candidacy of Barclift and Michael Payne of Quincy's great 1981 team, he admits his personal favorite is Quincy's Larry Moore, who averaged 27.5 points in four tournament games in 1972.

"I personally feel Larry was the most exciting of all Quincy players, particularly from an offensive standpoint," Oakley said. "He was the Pete Maravich of Quincy High and set records that may never be broken. In his senior year, he scored 910 points and averaged 27.6 per game. This was before the three-point shot which, had it been in effect, would have dramatically increased his scoring totals."

A Hall of Fame without a representative from Galesburg? Longtime Galesburg sportswriters Mike Trueblood and Jay Redfern rate Bumpy Nixon (1959), Joey Range (1998) and Dale Kelley (1966) at the top of the list. Galesburg coach John Thiel said Nixon was the best player he ever produced. And veteran coaches Jerry Leggett, Duncan Reid and Frank Dexter said Range was among the top five players in the history of the Western Big Six Conference.

"From my research on Lynch Conway (who scored 22 points while leading Peoria to the first state championship in 1908), I suspect he might be one of the few folks from a century ago with the athletic ability to adjusttranslate to the skills necessary in today's game," said retired Peoria sportswriter Bob Leavitt.

Bruce Parmenter cited Scott Steagall of Stewardson, who played in 1947. "I played against him twice. He scored 27 in one game and 39 in the other. He was one of the first jump shooters and the best on the dribble-drive that I ever saw. He was an All-American at Millikin University and led the nation in scoring in his senior year, averaging over 30 per game," he said.

While Steagall had impressive credentials, he didn't earn All-State recognition in 1947. Dean Ehlers of Trico-Campbell Hill did. He led the state in scoring as a senior with 920 points, including games of 54, 60 and 63 points. He scored over 2,000 points in his career.

Longtime coach, scout and recruiting analyst Bill "Flash" Flanagan of Bloomington cited a host of post-1960s players whom he believes are worthy of Hall of Fame recognition. No. 1 on his list is Roger Powell of Joliet Central, a three-time All-Stater who led his team to third place in the 1970 state tournament as a sophomore and was the leading scorer in the state finals.

"Can you imagine if they would have had the three-point shot when he played?" Flanagan said.

His list also includes Billy Lewis of Farragut, Doug Collins of Benton, Jeff Wilkins of Elgin, Bo Ellis of Parker, Bob Guyette of Ottawa Marquette, Corey Maggette of Fenwick and Terry Cummings of Carver.

Collins is an interesting case. He didn't receive All-State recognition while playing at Benton. Between his junior year at Benton and his freshman year at Illinois State, he grew six inches but still retained his guard skills. As a sophomore, he was a first-team All-American. As a senior, he was the No. 1 pick in the 1973 NBA draft. And he was as standout on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team.

"There are a couple of other reasons why I would give Doug heavy consideration for the Hall of Fame," Flanagan said. "He has always been very generous in giving to good causes when it comes to the world of sports. Just ask Illinois State about that."

Guyette is often overlooked because he chose to play at Kentucky. The 6-8 center was a high school All-America at tiny Ottawa Marquette in 1971 but still took his team to the No. 9 ranking in the state at the end of the regular season -- a year before the two-class system was adopted.

"One night when I was representing Eastern Carolina," Flanagan recalled, "I was scouting Guyette in Ottawa along with Adolph Rupp (Kentucky), Sam Miranda (Kansas), Sam Esposito (North Carolina State) and Harv Schmidt (Illinois), just to name a few. As we know, Rupp got his man. And Guyette went on to have a great career at Kentucky. He was a big boy who could really play."

With Dexter Fowler in St. Louis, Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as a potential leadoff answer

With Dexter Fowler in St. Louis, Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as a potential leadoff answer

Dexter Fowler buttoned up a white No. 25 Cardinals jersey and put on a red St. Louis hat, posing for the cameras during Friday morning’s press conference at Busch Stadium.

Fowler stood in between Mike Matheny, the St. Louis manager who now has a new leadoff guy at the top of his lineup card, and John Mozeliak, the general manager who helped structure a five-year, $82.5 million contract that goes against The Cardinal Way.

That visual might be disorienting for Cubs fans who just watched what will probably be the best two seasons of Fowler’s career. But Theo Epstein’s front office understandably wanted to get younger, upgrade defensively and preserve some financial flexibility for the future, planning to go with Albert Almora Jr. and ex-Cardinal Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare.

“I’ll be forever grateful that I was a Cub,” Fowler said. “We made history, won a World Series. But I guess that door is closed, and, you know, I’m a Cardinal now. And we’re trying to make history over here as well.”

Let’s not get carried away with all the talk about Fowler being such a great leader and magnetic clubhouse personality. There were enough questions about him that the draft-pick compensation dragged down his market to the point where he accepted a $13 million guarantee in spring training. But he is a switch-hitter who sees pitches and works at-bats (.366 career on-base percentage) and can ignite an offense when healthy.

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon might not go with a traditional leadoff hitter in 2017. But this lineup should still score 800-plus runs again, factoring in a full season of Kyle Schwarber, projected growth from MVP Kris Bryant and All Stars Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell and an anticipated bounce-back year from Jason Heyward after the $184 million outfielder had been one of the least productive hitters in the majors.

 “Schwarber is not a bad name, Kyle is not a bad name at all,” Maddon said when asked about his leadoff hitter during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland. “(Ben) Zobrist isn’t a bad name. There are different guys to consider right there.

“Actually, a couple years ago, (when) Kyle came up and Dexter was still there, I considered leading Kyle off and putting Dexter second. But I had all the dudes do all the work — all our nerds did all the work — and they really liked Fowler 1 and they liked Schwarber 2, just based on our data.

“So I went with that, and it worked out really, really well. So now all of the sudden, Dexter is not there anymore. It’s not impossible to consider Kyle in that spot, Zobrist in that spot.

“I don’t know if we’re going to do anything differently during the course of this offseason that might cause me to think differently, but there’s not a whole lot of other candidates.”

Fowler bet on himself after the Baltimore Orioles dragged out negotiations over a reported three-year deal in the $30 million range, shocking the baseball world when he showed up in Arizona in late February. It paid off with a staggering contract that will add another level of intrigue to a rivalry that has already seen Heyward and pitcher John Lackey switch sides.

Fowler will be in Cardinal red on Opening Night 2017 when the Cubs begin their World Series title defense at Busch Stadium.

“It’s bittersweet,” Fowler said. “Now they’re the rival. But you still got some boys over there. We’ll always be boys. We won a championship together. But when you get on the field, it’s ‘go time.’ Now we’re playing against each other.”

Dexter Fowler: Cubs-Cardinals rivalry 'almost even'

Dexter Fowler: Cubs-Cardinals rivalry 'almost even'

The Cubs have the World Series trophy, and that's the ultimate in bragging rights.

But new Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler — who helped the Cubs win that first championship since 1908 — thinks there's not too much separating the Central Division rivals.

Fowler officially switched sides in the rivalry Friday, signing a five-year deal with the Cardinals and getting an introduction in St. Louis.

"Playing over there and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and they weren't that far away," Fowler said at his introductory press conference Friday morning. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

Even though the Cubs are on top of the baseball world right now — and the Cardinals missed out on the playoffs last season — the numbers back up Fowler's claim.

Only one game separated the two in their regular-season series in 2016, the Cubs taking 10 games and the Cardinals winning nine. The year prior, both teams won more than 97 games and reached the postseason, with the Cubs eliminating the Cardinals in the NLDS. During the regular season, though, the Cardinals won 11 of the 19 matchups and the Cubs won eight.

The two teams have indirectly swapped All-Star outfielders in each of the last two offseasons. Jason Heyward signed a huge deal with the Cubs prior to the 2016 season. And now Fowler will be in the Cardinals' Opening Day lineup in 2017.

That ought to add even more fuel to the fire in this epic rivalry.

But the rings are the thing, of course, so can the Cardinals challenge the Cubs as the North Siders attempt to make it back-to-back championships in 2017?

"I can't tell what the future has in mind, but I feel like this team has a chance to win a World Series," Fowler said.