I'm a child of the 1950s and I insist the best high school basketball I've seen over the last 50 years was played a long time ago--when Collinsville dominated the 1960s, when Thornridge produced the best team of all time in 1972, when Quincy and East St. Louis Lincoln dominated the 1980s, when Peoria Manual and King dominated the 1990s.
With the exception of Simeon's 2007 team, you don't see great teams today. The caliber of competition in the state tournament, two classes or four classes, isn't what it used to be. And have you seen anyone in the last decade, excluding Shaun Livingston and Derrick Rose, who reminded you of the great stars of yesteryear?
Today's legion of basketball fans, whose sense of historical perspective began in the 1990s, insists old-timers have lost touch with reality, that the great players and great teams of the 1960s and 1970s couldn't play today's style, that today's kids are too athletic, that the game has changed.
Garbage. Anyone who thinks Sweet Charlie Brown or Paxton Lumpkin or George Wilson (1950s) or Tom Hawkins and Cazzie Russell (1960s) or Thornidge's 1972 team with Quinn Buckner and Boyd Batts or Quincy's 1981 team with Bruce Douglas and Michael Payne couldn't compete with today's kids needs a big dose of reality. Check the film. Talk to people who saw them, people who played against them.
Meanwhile, for those fantasy folks who think Bobby Bonds did more for baseball than Babe Ruth, let's conduct a survey of the state's leading programs since 1960. Which program was most dominant? Which produced the most outstanding players?
* Collinsville. Coach Vergil Fletcher won two state titles in the 1960s and a second in 1957. His starting lineup is Terry Bethel, Bogie Redmon, Rodger Bohnentstiehl, Tom Parker and Richard Keene.
* King. Coach Landon Cox won 500 games in a shorter period of time than any coach in state history. He won three state titles. His starters are Marcus Liberty, Levertis Robinson, Jamie Brandon, Rashard Griffith and Leon Smith.
* Quincy. Coach Sherrill Hanks built a dynasty that Jerry Leggett helped to preserve. Their starters are Bruce and Keith Douglas, Michael Payne, Jim Wisman and Larry Moore.
* East St. Louis Lincoln. Coach Bennie Lewis won four state titles in the 1980s with Todd Porter, LaPhonso Ellis, Cuonzo Martin, Vincent Jackson and James Harris.
* Proviso East. Coach Bill Hitt won two of the school's four state titles in the 1990s. The Pirates' top five players were Jim Brewer, Sherrell Ford, Michael Finley, Shannon Brown and Doc Rivers.
* Peoria Manual. Coaches Dick Van Scyoc and Wayne McClain won an unprecedented four state titles in a row in the 1990s. Their all-time best were Howard Nathan, David Booth, Sergio McClain, Marcus Griffin and Frank Williams.
* Peoria Central. Coach Chuck Buescher won back-to-back state titles in the 2000s. But the school has a long and distinguished tradition. How about a starting lineup of Hiles Stout, Tony Wysinger, Chris Reynolds, A.J. Guyton and Shawn Livingston?
* Simeon. Coach Bob Hambric built the program into a dynasty in the 1980s and his disciple, Robert Smith, carried on in this decade. It would be tough to beat Derrick Rose, Deon Thomas, Nick Anderson, Ben Wilson and Tim Flowers.
Let the debate begin.