It's an argument that never will be settled to everyone's satisfaction.
Who were the five best high school basketball players you ever saw?
After observing and covering the game for 50 years, I think my starting lineup would hold its own on any playground or in any gym.
Farragut's Kevin Garnett. St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas, Carver's Cazzie Russell, Marshall's George Wilson, Simeon's Derrick Rose.
Size, quickness, versatility, athleticism, leadership. Is there anything they couldn't do? And if you think someone else deserves a spot, who would you drop?
To back them up, I'd fill my bench with Thornridge's Quinn Buckner, Westinghouse's Mark Aguirre, Proviso East's Doc Rivers, Thornton's Lloyd Batts and Collinsville's Tom Parker.
And if you're looking for the most entertaining and exciting five you've ever seen, how about Hales Franciscan's Sam Puckett, Hirsch's Rickey Green, Dunbar's Billy Harris, Proviso East's Dee Brown and Farragut's Ronnie Fields?
I first became aware of high school basketball and the state tournament when I watched Hebron/Quincy in the first televised event in 1952. I still recall the Judson twins and Bruce Brothers in that dramatic overtime game playing out on a small, black-and-white screen with Jack Drees doing the play-by-play.
Then there was favored Du Sable with Sweet Charlie Brown and Paxton Lumpkin losing to Mount Vernon in the controversial 1954 final. John Wessels and Nolden Gentry leading West Rockford to consecutive titles in 1955 and 1956, winning a pair of two-point thrillers over Elgin and Edwardsville. And Herrin upsetting favored Collinsville to win the 1957 crown.
There was a lot of drama and excitement in the 1950s. With television exposure, it was a time when the state tournament emerged as a major attraction among sports fans in Illinois.
It reached a crescendo in 1958 when Marshall, with George Wilson, became the first all-black team and the first Chicago Public League representative to win the state title. And later in 1963 when Carver beat Centralia on Anthony Smedley's last-second shot in a game that attracted more viewers than Loyola's NCAA's championship team.
Some critics discount Garnett because he only played his senior year in Illinois. But he did and it matters. If you saw him, you immediately recognized his enormous talent and understood why he was regarded as an NBA lottery pick from the first time he was evaluated by a professional scout.
Perhaps there are two players on my 10-man list that some might question, Batts and Parker. At a time when 6-5 players were centers, Batts played guard and displayed great quickness and ball-handling and outside shooting skills. He went to Cincinnati, became the school's No. 2 all-time scorer behind Oscar Robertson, then played for 10 years in Europe.
Parker was the greatest player ever produced by legendary coach Vergil Fletcher at Collinsville, the fourth of his All-Americans after Terry Bethel (1957), Bogie Redmon (1961) and Rodger Bohnenstiehl (1964). In 1967-68, the 6-7 center/forward averaged 35 points per game, mostly on 15-17 foot jumps shots, and scored 50 pooints in the final game of the Carbondale Holiday Tourament, a milestone that still stands. The two-time all-stater later starred at Kentucky.
Until I saw Rose, Buckner had always been my choice as the fifth starter. To be honest, I can't see how anyone could argue with the other four. Buckner and Thornridge's 1972 team have always been my favorites. Nobody was a better team leader than Buckner. He went on to prove that in college and in the NBA. But a spot had to be made for Rose, a better offensive player than Buckner if not a better defensive player, and a superb leader in his own right.