It might seem strange that a former high school basketball player from Lincoln, Ill., has written the only book on Thornridge's great 1971-72 basketball team. But it has happened. To obtain a copy of Scott Lynn's "Thornridge: The Perfect Season in Black and White," contact email@example.com.
Lynn captained coach Duncan Reid's 24-3 team that included All-Stater Norm Cook and was ranked No. 4 in the state in 1971-72, finally losing to Springfield Southeast in the regional. He went to Southern Illinois on a basketball scholarship but soon realized radio/TV was his future. After working in Decatur and Tampa/St. Petersburg, he has been sports director of KEX radio in Portland, Oregon, for the past 20 years.
So how did he come to write a book on Thornridge?
"I was at Assembly Hall in Champaign when Thornridge beat Quincy for the state championship. It was the best team I ever saw," Lynn said. "For decades, I had been trying to locate a video of the game. Finally, I persuaded Thornridge coach Ron Ferguson to give me a copy.
"One night, I woke up in the middle of the night. I looked at the Internet to see if anyone had ever written a book on Thornridge. The only thing I saw were Taylor Bell's articles. I said to myself: 'Someone should write a book about that team.' A seed was planted.
"One night, I woke up, sat up and said to myself: 'I'm going to write it.' That was June, 2008. Right then, I started writing down names of people I wanted to talk to. I wanted to take a 'Boys of Summer' approach. Whatever happened to the five starters? I tried to sell it to a publisher. I talked to a lot of agents. But nobody wanted it. So I decided to self-publish."
The search was the most interesting aspect of the adventure, part of the challenge, the fun of trying to locate the players...Quinn Buckner, Boyd Batts, Mike Bonczyk, Greg Rose, Ernie Dunn, Nee Gatlin. Then finding the Quincy players and Dick Van Scyoc, Wayne McClain, Bob Basarich, Gene Pingatore, Steve Goers, Duncan Reid and Lee Cabutti.
Lynn also interviewed Bob Knight and John Wooden about their recruitment of Quinn Buckner. And he talked to Jerry Tarkanian about his two years with Boyd Batts at Nevada-Las Vegas. And former Michigan coach Steve Fisher, whose Rich East team played Thornridge in the opening game of the season, Fisher's first as a head coach.
Finding Rose and Batts were adventures in themselves. On Google, Lynn uncovered a video of Rose singing in a jazz club in Los Angeles. He was still there when Lynn found him. Even Lloyd Batts, Boyd's older brother, didn't know where Boyd was. Lynn finally found him in Madison, Wis.
"I went into it from a basketball standpoint," Lynn said. "I'm a sports guy. But every single guy talked about the black/white element. It was the days of the civil rights issue and it was something that impacted all of their lives at the time."
Race wasn't the only issue that Lynn had to confront. He was fighting colon cancer and undergoing chemotherapy while he was writing the 292-page book.
"I had my first book reading/signing at Powell's drugstore in Portland last week and had 75 people turn out--most of them Thornridge alumni and a couple from Blue Island Eisenhower who had played football and basketball against Buckner. It made for a very interesting evening for all concerned," said Lynn, who is a seven-time Oregon Sportscaster of the Year.
"The first thing I learned when I realized I had to self-publish the book is that you don't make any money in this business. But when I completed all the work, after going through my health problems, and looked at the finished product in my hands, it made it all worthwhile."
To jog your memory, Thornridge is generally regarded as the best high school basketball team in state history. In a 33-0 season, the Falcons didn't allow an opponent to come within 14 points. They averaged 87.4 points per game while allowing only 56.3. They capped their season by overwhelming Quincy 104-69 for the state championship, the most one-sided final in tournament history. In 1994, a poll by Reidel's Roundball Review ranked Thornridge as the No. 4 high school team of all-time, one spot ahead of an Indianapolis Crispus Attucks team led by Oscar Robertson and two spots ahead of a Philadelphia Overbrook team led by Wilt Chamberlain.
If you saw Thornridge play in 1971-72, and even if you didn't, this is a book that you'll want to read. Thanks for the memories, Scott.