Jon Scheyer scored 21 points in 75 seconds and 52 points in that same game, and that’s not his favorite Illinois high school basketball holiday tournament memory.
Scheyer knows that’s what everyone assumes would be No. 1 on his list. But for him, that isn’t a happy memory.
“I think people would think the Proviso West memory for me would be the points, but that was the most heartbreaking loss I had,” said Scheyer, who is now an assistant coach at Duke. “That’s not the one. For me, just growing up, I always loved Proviso West and it had so much history for me. I thought if I could play in that one day.
“My sophomore year we beat Schaumburg. I had a really good game [he scored 38 points]. We were going to play in the semifinals against Homewood-Flossmoor and Julian Wright, one of my good friends. That was a cool moment to be in the semifinals and have a chance to play against them.”
Scheyer admitted holding Proviso West’s records for most points in a game (62), single tournament (140) and career (386) was something to embrace as well, especially since Proviso West’s other past single-tournament scoring leaders include Isiah Thomas, Ronnie Fields, Juwan Howard, Doc Rivers, Hersey Hawkins, Marcus Liberty and Shannon Brown.
“I’ve never been a big record guy,” Scheyer said. “I know records are made to be broken, but it’s knowing that happened and knowing how special that tournament is.”
Scheyer does have one funny story that arose out of the pain of losing the game in which he scored 52 points. Among the fans in the gym that day was a child named Jabari Parker. He was a big fan of Scheyer’s and sought his autograph after the game. Scheyer didn’t give it to him.
“He was waiting for my autograph after the game, and I was so upset that I didn’t sign any autographs,” said Scheyer, who later coached Parker at Duke. “He always jokes he was a heartbroken kid for not signing an autograph.”
Fields rises up
One longtime high school basketball fan once told me he had five favorite Illinois high school players, and Ronnie Fields filled three of those spots.
That was Ronnie Fields. He built up unrealistic expectations in high school, but somehow never let anyone down.
A crowd packed Proviso West’s gym at 9 a.m. in the opening round of the holiday tournament in 1996 to see how Fields could top what he and Kevin Garnett did together for Farragut the year before. This time it was just Fields, but he and his 50-plus-inch vertical were more than enough to get fans up early.
Fields once again proved worthy of the admission price. He not only scored 51 points – a record Scheyer would later break – but he converted one of the most memorable dunks of his career when he nearly jumped over a Loyola Academy defender.
When Fields was posed the question about his favorite holiday tournament memory, he didn’t have to think about it.
“When I jumped over that kid at Loyola,” said Fields, who now trains players, runs a club program and is a motivational speaker. “I remember going baseline. I knew he was going to come over, wanting to take the charge. He didn’t realize I was going to take off and jump. He was just standing there. I knew I was going to dunk the ball by any means – if I had to step on him, jump over him. I remember that.
“It’s funny. I was just sitting there recently watching my nephew playing against Loyola. I thought I remember destroying this team.”
As for it being a 9 a.m. game, Fields loves that fact.
“That’s what was so scary about it; it’s at 9 o’clock,” Fields said. “Most players and kids don’t play well in the morning. The kids now are lazy.”
So, he was awake?
“If I had 51, I had to be,” Fields said with a laugh.
The morning crowd
Tracy Dildy will also never forget the crowd that came out to see him and King play at Proviso West in 1981.
“We had the first game, an 8 a.m. game,” said Dildy, who is now the head coach at Chicago State. “It was sold out. I still think we have the record for the most attended game. That stayed with me forever.”
King was one of the main attractions for Chicago high school basketball for a few decades. It produced McDonald’s All-Americans Rashard Griffith, Jamie Brandon, Marcus Liberty, Efrem Winters and Teddy Grubs from 1979-1993. There were plenty of other talented players, including Dildy, to come out of the program.
Dildy, who was a freshman in 1981, started for King at point guard along with Winters and Reggie Woodward, both who earned all-tournament honors. Dildy’s job was to distribute, and that he did his entire career. He owns the record for 81 career assists at Proviso West. He was modest when asked what made him such a good passer.
“I had great players,” said Dildy, who later starred at UIC. “I had a guy in Efrem Winters where you could throw a bad pass, and he’d still catch it and dunk it. The guys I played with through my career at King, I just laugh. I just had good players around me. They made me look better than I was.”
Winning Mr. Basketball may be the most prized individual award in Illinois, but the A.C. Williamson Award at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament isn’t far behind.
It’s past winners include Derrick Rose (twice), Jabari Parker (three times), Frank Williams, Sergio McClain, Alando Tucker, Roger Powell, Walter Downing, among others. The list is full of McDonald’s All-Americans.
Bobby Simmons, who played at Simeon, understood the award’s history, and that’s why winning it in 1996 was so special to him.
“I think that award means a lot,” said Simmons, who played in the NBA and is now involved with a variety of businesses. “It’s a who’s who and made a statement in Illinois. Just having the opportunity to be in the record books as an A.C. Williamson Award winner to go along with some of the greats from Frankie Williams, Sergio McClain, Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, a lot of those guys before and after me.”
Simmons loved the challenge of playing at Pontiac against teams outside of Chicago. In 1996, Simeon defeated West Aurora in the championship.
“It was very competitive,” Simmons said. “For a city school playing a downstate team, having the opportunity to play against those guys was important. For us being in the city, there was just one team allowed out of the city to go to state at that time. Those games were important for us to measure against the competition.”
Simmons and Simeon measured themselves just fine on that day.
“If I’m not mistaken, we won by almost 30 points,” Simmons said.
Coming of age
Derrick Rose and Tim Flowers won two state championships together at Simeon. But before they could do that, they needed to establish themselves in Chicago.
Flowers thought they began to do that in one game at the Chicago Public League’s holiday tournament during the 2004-05 season. It was Rose, Flowers and Simeon against Crane, Sherron Collins and Brandon McGee.
“That was the coming of age,” said Flowers, who was an all-state forward at Simeon and now coaches a Team Rose club team. “We were sophomores, and they were a year ahead of us. Just being on the floor with someone like Sherron Collins, he was dominating the city at the time. Brandon McGee was one of the better post players.”
The game was a battle with Collins and Rose going up against each and McGee and Flowers going head to head. Both teams also had a number of other players who went on to play in college.
“It was one of those games,” Flowers said. “It could have gone either way. They almost got us. They almost got us.”
Simeon pulled it out and earned some respect. Crane later made it downstate that season, but Simeon lost in a super-sectional. Rose and Flowers would lead Simeon to state titles the following two seasons.
That Crane game is still one Flowers doesn’t forget.
“It was one of the best high school games,” he said.