Tyra Buss is Mount Carmel's best since Archie Dees

Tyra Buss is Mount Carmel's best since Archie Dees
March 2, 2013, 10:15 am
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Tyra Buss is the most celebrated athlete to come out of Mount Carmel, Illinois, since Archie Dees in 1954.

Does Tyra know who Archie Dees was?

"We just celebrated the first 100 years of basketball at Mount Carmel," said Tim Buss, Tyra's father and superintendent of schools in Wabash Community Unit School District No. 348.

"Archie (who lives in Bloomington, Ind.) couldn't come to the event. But he sent a video. He said: 'I always thought someone would break my scoring records someday. I just never thought it would be a girl.' I think everyone in town knows who Archie Dees was. He is still loved and respected in Mount Carmel."

Dees, who was born in Ethel, Miss., before moving to Grayville, then to Mount Carmel. He starred on a 22-7 team in 1953 and a 25-4 team in 1954 and emerged as one of the most prolific scorers in state history with 2,337 points in three years. As a senior, he was named an All-American.

A 6-foot-8 center/forward, he attended Indiana. He was the Big Ten Conference's MVP in 1957 and 1958, one of only three players (Jerry Lucas and Scott May were the others) to receive multiple Big Ten MVP awards.

After graduation, he was selected as the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft by the Cincinnati Royals. He played four seasons in the NBA. He was inducted into Indiana University's Hall of Fame in 1983 and named to Indiana's All-Century Team in 2001.

"He was a great player," Tyra said. "There is a big plaque in the school and his picture that says who he was and what he did."

Well, Tyra is writing her own chapter in the Illinois record book. In fact, family friend Kevin Williams has designed an entire website, TyraBuss.com, to chronicle all of her achievements.

If she lived in Chicago, she would be compared to Lou Boudreau, Bill DeCorrevont, George Wilson, Quinn Buckner, Jon Scheyer, Candace Parker and Jabari Parker among the great athletes of high school lore.

Downstaters can add her to a list of legendary athletes that includes Dike Eddleman, Max Hooper, Bobby Joe Mason, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Chico Vaughn, Jay Shidler, Don Stanhouse and Marty Simmons.

It's no exaggeration.

"She is so good," said sportswriter Scott Mees of the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale, "that we made an exception to put her in our coverage area. Normally, we don't cover Mount Carmel. She gets most of her coverage from the Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press."

Her parents, Tim and Kelly, met while attending Wisconsin-La Crosse. He is from Wisconsin Dells. She is from Wautoma, Wisconsin. He was a basketball player. She was a cheerleader. After graduation in 1985, both needed jobs to play off their college loans.

"We sent out a lot of letters, from Florida to Arizona to Illinois to Wisconsin," Tim said. "I applied at Mount Carmel for a job as a physical education teacher and head baseball coach. I got the job. Kelly came along. Usually administrators and teachers move around a lot. But we decided to stay in Mount Carmel."

Tim moved up the ladder from baseball coach to seventh grade boys basketball coach to athletic director to assistant principal at the high school to assistant principal and at the middle school to superintendent of schools in 2004.

Kelly coached at the middle school, then became the girls track and field coach at the high school in 1991. Oldest son Tyler, 27, a Mount Carmel graduate of 2004, is in his second year as boys basketball coach at his alma mater. Kyle, 22, a Mount Carmel graduate of 2008, is an elementary school teacher at nearby Allendale and serves as Tyler's assistant coach.

Mount Carmel, the county seat of Wabash County, was founded in 1815 and is located on the Wabash River, which separates Illinois from Indiana. It has a population of 7,284. The next largest town in the county has a population of 475.

Next to Archie Dees, Mount Carmel's most famous products are Brace Beemer, voice of the Lone Ranger radio program, Gil Mains, defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions from 1953 to 1961, and Don Liddle, who pitched for the New York Giants from 1952 to 1954.

Now it is Tyra Buss's time. She is going places in her 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse. In high school, she also is involved in the student council, Key Club, Interact Club and a peer leaders organization. After college, she dreams of playing the WNBA. After basketball, she plans to teach and coach basketball at the high school or college level.

She always makes time for little kids. After games, Tyra is often surrounded by little girls requesting her autograph and a picture with their mother. Now even little boys stand in line for autographs.

"She is a special kid who does everything and does it well and with a purpose," said Tim Willis, Mount Carmel's girls basketball coach. "She takes time to mingle with the younger kids."

"It isn't embarrassing to be asked to sign autographs," Tyra said. "I like being a role model for younger boys and girls. It's cool that they look up to me."