I've been covering and observing high school basketball for more than 50 years and my memories of the way it was are as fresh as the way it is.
I enjoyed it more when I was covering as many as seven or eight games in a week for the old Chicago Daily News or spending every waking minute at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament or attending as many as six holiday tournaments in one day.
Driving to Pontiac to see the top-seeded team, usually Bloom or Quincy, play at 10:30 in the morning.
My first trip to the Centralia Holiday Tournament.
Watching Collinsville's Tom Parker score a still single-game record of 50 points in the championship game of the Carbondale Holiday Tournament in 1967.
Being caught up in the electric atmosphere when East Aurora, East Leyden and Maine South battled in the East Aurora tournament in the mid-1970s.
Watching the Proviso West tournament come of age in the late 1970s with the performances of Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre and Doc Rivers.
Admiring how Landon Cox built his dynasty at King in the 1980s and 1990s with Efrem Winters, Marcus Liberty, Levertis Robinson, Jamie Brandon, Johnnie Selvie, Rashard Griffith and Thomas Hamilton.
My first you've-never-seen-anything-like-it experience at Quincy...the Devil, the smoke, the student body, the atmosphere, the fans, the hoopla, the team, Jim Wisman, Sherrill Hanks, Jerry Leggett, Bruce Douglas, Michael Payne.
Meeting legendary Collinsville coach Vergil Fletcher for the first time. And the second time. And the third time. And the fourth time.
Meeting Larry Hawkins before the 1962 state tournament, before everybody in the state heard of Cazzie Russell.
Watching Carver's Anthony Smedley come off the bench to pull off the most extraordinary play in the history of the state tournament, stunning favored Centralia to win the 1963 state title.
Spooling spaghetti at La Grange coach Ron Nikcevich's house while his unbeaten 1969-70 team celebrated its championship season.
Sweating it out while watching any game at Du Sable.
Traveling to Galesburg in December to watch coach John Thiel's team hand Jim Brewer and Proviso East its only loss of the 1968-69 season.
My eight-week odyssey around the state to research my first book, "Sweet Charlie, Dike, Cazzie, and Bobby Joe: High School Basketball In Illinois," which included stops in Marion, Benton, Cairo, Mounds City, Tamms, East Cape Girardeau, Anna-Jonesboro, Cobden, Pinckneyville, Nashville, Mount Vernon, Centralia, Moline, Quincy, Pittsfield, Peoria, Collinsville, East St. Louis, Rock Island, Staunton, Paris, Pekin, Springfield, Winchester, Rockford, Bunker Hill, Decatur and Champaign.
The duels between Thornridge/Thornton and Thornridge/Bloom in the early 1970s.
Thornridge's great 1971-72 team, still the best there ever was.
The Phillips/Westinghouse city championship that drew 12,000 to the International Amphitheater in 1977.
Climbing the steps to the fourth floor gym at old Westinghouse.
Climbing the steps to the fourth floor gym at old Cooley.
The first time I saw the great Russell Cross.
Admiring the leadership qualities of Quinn Buckner. There never was nor ever will be anyone like him.
The gym at old Cregier, which was so small that the mid-court circle overlapped the two free throw circles. No exaggeration.
My Fab Five? Quinn Buckner, Lloyd Batts, Glen Grunwald, Darius Clemons, Sam Puckett.