Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

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Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

Johnny "Red" Kerr didn't earn All-State recognition while playing at Tilden. And Jack Sikma, from tiny St. Anne near Kankakee, was the first small-school player in Illinois to take advantage of the newly adopted two-class system and make a big reputation for himself.

They are two of the 25 male and female players who will be inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville. As members of the second class of honorees, they will be recognized at the annual banquet on Nov. 3 in Champaign.

Kerr's first passion was soccer but an eight-inch growth spurt compelled him to turn his attention to basketball. At Tilden, he led coach Bill Postl's team to Chicago Public League championships in 1949 and 1950.

He starred on Tilden's 1949 team that finished 20-9 and lost to John Biever and West Aurora 34-33 in the state quarterfinals. But he was a mid-year graduate in 1950 and wasn't on the tournament roster for the 27-5 team that lost to Elgin 59-50 in the state quarterfinals.

Later, the 6-foot-9 center scored 1,299 points in three years at Illinois, helping the Illini to the Big 10 championship and the NCAA's Final Four in 1952. He was elected to Illinois' All-Century Team in 2004.

In 1954, Kerr was chosen by the Syracuse Nationals as the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft. As a rookie, he averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as the Nationals won the NBA championship. He had over 12,000 points and over 10,000 rebounds in his career and held the NBA record for most consecutive games played (844) until 1983.

He retired from competition after the 1965-66 season to become the first head coach of the new Chicago Bulls franchise. Later, he became a popular color commentator on the Bulls'television broadcasts, overseeing the Bulls' six NBA titles in the 1990s. He died in 2009.

Sikma was the Chicago Daily News' Class A Player of the Year in 1973, leading St. Anne to a 30-3 record and fourth place in the Class A tournament. He was the second-leading scorer with 100 points and 73 rebounds in the final four games.

The 6-foot-11 center went on to become the leading scorer and rebounder ever to play at Illinois Wesleyan, then was chosen by the Seattle SuperSonics as the eighth overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. He was named to the All-Rookie team, was a seven-time all-star and helped Seattle to win the NBA title in 1978-79. In his career, he scored over 17,000 points and grabbed nearly 11,000 rebounds.

One of the most accurate shooting big men in NBA history -- he led the league in free throw percentage (92.2) in 1987-88 and averaged 84.9 for his career -- Sikma had his No. 43 jersey retired by Seattle in 1992. He currently is an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA.

Kerr is one of 10 inductees from the pre-1960s era. The others are Bumpy Nixon, Galesburg; Rich Falk, Galva; Lynch Conway, Peoria Central; Joe Ruklick, Princeton; Rod Fletcher, Champaign; Jake Fendlay, South Shore; Homer Thurman, Bloom; Bob Owens, Paris; and Tom Cole, Springfield.

Sikma is one of 10 inductees from the post-1960s era. The others are Lloyd Batts, Thornton; Joey Range, Galesburg; Darius Miles, East St. Louis; Michael Payne, Quincy; Steve Kuberski, Moline; Russell Cross, Manley; Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young; Sergio McClain, Peoria Manual; and Greg Starrick, Marion.

The five women are Cappie Pondexter and Marie Christian, Marshall; Diana Vines, South Shore; Natasha Pointer, Whitney Young; and Alicia Ratay, Lake Zurich.

Legendary Galesburg coach John Thiel once described Lawrence "Bumpy" Nixon as "the best player ever to grace the halls of Galesburg High School." As a junior, he led Quincy to the Sweet Sixteen. As a senior at Galesburg, he led his team to a 29-2 record and third place in the state tournament.

Falk was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A guard at Galva, he averaged 29.8 points per game as a senior. He scored over 2,000 points in his career. He ranks second in state history for scoring more than 50 points in five games with a high of 57. Later, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection at Northwestern and was head coach at his alma mater from 1978 to 1989. In 2009, he retired as associate commissioner of the Big 10.

Conway was the leader of the Peoria Central team that won the first state championship in 1908. He scored 22 points in the state final and his mark of 11 field goals stood for 42 years. He also was the first African-American to play on Bradley University's basketball team.

Ruklick, a 6-foot-9 center, led Princeton to fourth place in the 1955 state tournament and finished as the leading scorer with 104 points in four games. He later was a standout at Northwestern. But he is best remembered as the Philadelphia 76er who passed the ball to Wilt Chamberlain for his 100th point, most ever scored in an NBA game.

Fletcher started on Champaign's 38-1 state championship team in 1946 and its 38-4 state runner-up in 1947. As a senior in 1948, he was named to the All-State team while playing for a 13-15 team that reached the Sweet Sixteen. At Illinois, the 6-foot-4 guard was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior. He led Illinois to two Big 10 titles and two NCAA Final Four appearances.

Fendley was a two-time All-Stater at Chicago South Shore in 1946 and 1947. He played on South Shore's 1944 team that finished third in the state tournament. The 6-foot-1 guard was his team's leading scorer and an all-tournament selection on the 24-3 team that lost to state champion Paris in the 1947 quarterfinals.

In the 1950s, when Bloom Township of Chicago Heights was the dominant high school sports program in Illinois, Thurman emerged as one of the best all-around athletes in state history. He was an All-Stater in basketball in 1959. As a sophomore, he started on a 22-2 team that lost in the Sweet Sixteen. He also excelled in football and track and field.

Owens was a two-time All-Stater at Paris in 1946 and 1947. In the 1940s, when Paris was one of the most dominant programs in the state, Owens was the standard-bearer. The 6-foot-2 center was the leading scorer in the 1947 tournament while leading Paris to a 40-2 record and its second state title in the decade. He scored 22 in the state final as Paris crushed Champaign 58-37.

Cole was a two-time All-Stater at Springfield in 1958 and 1959. In 1958, he led the Senators to a 24-9 record and the state quarterfinals. In 1959, he led his 33-1 team to the state championship. The 6-foot-7 center was the second-leading scorer in the tournament with 90 points, including 26 in a 60-52 victory over West Aurora in the state final.

Batts emerged as the all-time leading scorer at one of the state's most storied programs. The 6-foot-5 guardforward was a two-time All-Stater who averaged 29 points as a junior and 35 as a senior on teams that won 46 of 57 games. When he graduated from Cincinnati, he ranked behind only Oscar Robertson among the school's all-time leading scorers.

Range and Nixon are generally regarded as the two best players in Galesburg history and two of the leading players in the history of the Western Big 6 Conference. In four years, Range scored 2,390 points and averaged 21 per game. He missed only one of 114 games in his career.

Miles, a 6-foot-9 forward, was Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 2000. He led East St. Louis to a 24-6 record and the state quarterfinals in 1999 and to a 21-11 record and third place in the Class AA tournament in 2000. Afterward, he opted to go directly into the NBA draft and was the third player chosen, highest for a high school graduate up to that point.

Payne, a 6-foot-11 center, joined with guard Bruce Douglas, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the inaugural class, to form one of the greatest teams in state history. Payne averaged 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds and intimidated opponents at the top of the ball-press defense as Quincy went 33-0 in 1980-81. A McDonald's All-American, he later played at Iowa.

Kuberski graduated as the highest scoring player in the history of Quad-Cities basketball. As a junior, he averaged 30 points per game. As a senior, he averaged 27.7 points for a 25-3 team that lost to Chicago Marshall 75-72 in the state quarterfinals. He scored 50 points in one game.

Cross was a high school version of Bill Russell. The 6-foot-10 center put Chicago's Manley High School on the map by leading the Wildcats to a 28-3 record and the state quarterfinals in 1979. He was the state's most dominant player in 1980, leading Manley to a 31-1 record and the state championship. At Purdue, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection.

Richardson was the leader of Whitney Young's 1998 state championship team, one of the best teams in state history. The 6-foot-6 guard played only two years at DePaul but is the only player in school history to score over 1,000 points, grab over 500 rebounds and convert more than 100 three-point shots. He was the 18th pick in the 2000 NBA draft.

All you need to know about Sergio McClain is one statistic: 32-0. In four years, McClain led Peoria Manual to a 32-0 record and an unprecedented four championships in state tournament play. Recognized as a consummate floor leader and Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 1997, he was selected as one of the 100 legends of Illinois high school basketball in 2007.

Starrick was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A 6-foot-2 guard at Marion, he averaged 30.3 points per game as a junior and 33.5 points as a senior. He set South Seven Conference records with 70 points in one game and 511 points or 36.5 points per game in conference play in 1966-67--all in an era before the three-point line.

Pondexter was Illinois' Player of the Year in 2001. As a sophomore in 1999, she led Marshall to the state championship. At Rutgers, she scored over 2,000 points, was Player of the Year and led her team to the NCAA tournament four times. She was voted one of the top 15 players in the 15-year history of the WNBA.

Christian was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1983. She led Marshall to the biggest upset in the history of the girls' state tournament, beating East St. Louis Lincoln with Tina Hutchinson and Toni Wallace 72-71 in overtime in the 1983 quarterfinals.

Vines was an All-Stater in 1985. She led South Shore to three straight Final Four appearances in the Public League playoff. She was the first city player to score more than 2,000 points. Later, she was a four-year starter at DePaul and until recently was the all-time leading scorer in the program.

Pointer was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1995. She led Whitney Young to a 25-4 record and the state quarterfinals in 1995. In one game, she scored 56 points. She ranks with Dominique Canty and E.C. Hill, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, as the best players in school history.

Ratay ranks No. 13 on the state's all-time scoring list with 2,740 points in 1995-99. At Lake Zurich, she was recognized as the best three-point shooter in state history and also played on a National AAU championship team. She led Notre Dame to an NCAA title and was the nation's leading three-point shooter.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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