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Little Ten Conference Boys Basketball Tournament History

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This page will be for players that had outstanding high school careers and may also have taken thier skills to the college level.  Feel free to nomiate someone.
 
On this page
 
Jack Smiley
Marv Straw
Ron Shoger
Duane Swanson
Dave Olson
Justin Allen

JACK SMILEY
 
WATERMAN (Class 1940)
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (1942-1943, 1946-1947)

Jack Smiley
smileynbacard.jpg
1948 Fort Wayne (BAA)

jsmiley.jpg
Jack Smiley - 1940

Jack Smiley – Wolverine, Whiz Kid, and War Hero – His Story

 

   Many sports historians feel the 1940's were the golden age of basketball.  The National Basketball Association was starting to take shape, the NCAA tournament was slowly becoming the highlight of the college season and passion was at an all-time high at the prep level - especially in Illinois.

 

   In the small town of Waterman folks took their game of basketball and love for their players and coaches seriously.  Small gyms, particularly those in the Little Ten Conference, were packed to the rafters every Friday night to see their heroes battle on the hardwood.  As for those in Waterman in 1939 and 1940 seasons, it was a boy named Jack Smiley that most came to watch.

 

RED AND BLACK

 

   In his junior season, Smiley helped lead Waterman to championships in both the regular season LTC standings and league tournament.  The Wolverines also that season captured the first of two consecutive DeKalb Holiday Tournament titles.  In 1940, Smiley’s senior season Waterman again won the LTC tournament championship as he led the tournament in scoring.  Smiley netted 16 points in a semifinal win over Plano and then fired in a game-high 19 markers in a 61-28 trashing of Earlville in the title contest.  The regular season top spot came down to the final Friday night as Serena traveled to Waterman with both clubs 9-0 in league play.  The home team led most of the game until the Huskers sank two hoops in the final moments to capture the game and the regular season LTC title.  He was named to the All-Little Ten team following the season.  The next stop for Smiley was Champaign and the University of Illinois.

 

ORANGE AND BLUE

 

   The Illini were Big Ten Conference champs Smiley’s sophomore year going 18-5 overall and 13-2 in the loop.  He had joined forces with four other small school players, fellow sophomores Gene Vance, Ken Menke, Andy Phillip and junior Art Mathisen to form what many believe is the greatest Illinois basketball team in school history.  All were around 6-foot-3 and excelled at every facet of the game.  It was in 1943 where the “Whiz Kids” really made a name for themselves.  Longtime WGN broadcaster Jack Brickhouse commented during one of their games, “Those kids really whiz by you” and the name stuck.

 

1943

 

   It is said numbers speak for themselves, well that would hold true for Illinois in Smiley’s junior year.  Ranked number one in the nation for most of the season U of I finished 17-1 overall and unbeaten (12-0) in the Big Ten.  The Illini averaged 58 points per game and set league records in most points in a game (92), a season (755) and largest margin of victory (67).

 

“We just had five guys who played off each other well, didn't have specific roles, and nobody cared who scored all the points as long as we were winning,” said Gene Vance.

 

Smiley was named to the All-Big Ten team but one game stands out among the rest.

 

LOCK DOWN

 

   On February 20th, defending national champ Wisconsin, with their two-time All-American and 1941 NCAA tournament most outstanding player John Kotz invaded Huff Gym, Illinois home floor.  Kotz, the Badger captain and twice a All-Big Ten selection, entered the game averaging over 20 points per game.  But as they had done earlier in the season, the Illini dominated play, crushing their neighbors to the north 50-26.  Smiley put a defensive stranglehold on Kotz, holding him scoreless on just two shot attempts.

 

CHANGING TIMES

 

   A little over a week following their drubbing of Wisconsin, the Illini defeated Northwestern 92-25 and were odds on favorite to win the title in the upcoming NCAA tournament.  No one knew at the time, but that game would be the last time that all five Whiz Kids would take the court together for battle, there was a different war looming.

 

CALL TO DUTY

 

   Following their game with Northwestern, Mathisen, Menke and Smiley were handed their induction notices into the military and were shipped over seas for World War II.  Illinois and head coach Doug Mills were forced to make a tough decision on whether they should still play in the NCAA tournament minus three of their top players.  Coach and players agreed that if all five couldn't play, then none of them would, so Illinois declined their invitation.  The tournament went on with Wyoming defeating Georgetown.  Vance and Phillip answered their call to duty a month later, each serving 16 month tours.

 

WAR

 

   Smiley, an artillery corporal in the Army’s 106th Division, was involved in one of the bloodiest skirmishes during the Second World War.  Manning a 105mm Howitzer for infantry support, Smiley at one point fired his gun for 96 hours straight during the Battle of the Bulge.  The Howitzer was designed to fire shells over miles, but during the battle in which the 106th suffered a 90% casualty rate during that battle, he was shooting completely horizontal over feet and yards.

 

RETURNING HOME

 

   After the war ended, four of the five (Mathisen was a senior in 1943) returned to Illinois in hopes of regaining the swagger that had them on the brink of an NCAA championship four years earlier.  The chemistry wasn't the same as the Illini and the four Whiz Kids went 14-6 during the 1946-47 season, with Smiley named the clubs most valuable player.  Understandably the time away, shooting weapons instead of basketballs had taken its toll as they finished in second place in the Big Ten with an 8-4 record.

 

PRO BALL

 

   Smiley took his basketball talents to the professional ranks, playing for the Fort Wayne Pistons of the Basketball Association of America in 1949.  In 59 games that season he averaged just less than seven points per game.  The next year the BAA merged with the National Basketball Association and Smiley split time with the Anderson Packers (12 games) and Waterloo Hawks (47 games, 6.6 ppg), while also playing the part of player/coach for 27 games compiling an 11-16 record.  Around an 11,000 dollar a year NBA salary and a growing family (five children) made the decision to step away from pro ball an easy one.

 

LIFE AFTER BASKETBALL

 

   Smiley returned to the Waterman area in 1951 and took a job driving a seed truck for Farm Service in DeKalb.  He knew Tom Roberts Sr., who was general manager of The DeKalb Agricultural Association, and became district sales manager in Atlantic, Iowa in 1955.  A few years later he took a job with Walnut Grove 4X4 Products and this job took him on stops at Iowa City, back to Atlantic, Galesburg and Peoria, Ill. and finally Des Moines.  In 1973, Smiley started his own family business, which is still going strong today.  X-L Seed Treatment in Granger, Iowa sells fertilizer and water treatment products.  Smiley passed away July 30, 2000.

 

   His life and career are quite a story.  His spot in Little Ten Conference history seems diminutive compared to his accomplishments on and off the court following his days at Waterman, but to those who saw him play it’s a big part in their memories.   

 

Other Notes:

 

Also lettered in baseball at Illinois in 1946.  He batted .667 in high school and pitched two no-hitters while in the Army at Fort Wallace Texas.  Also asked to play for the Chicago Cubs, but chose pro basketball.

 

Was inducted into the inaugural Illinois Basketball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame in 1973 as a player and his 1943 Illinois team was inducted as well.

 

Twice won the Ralf Woods Memorial trophy, presented annually by the Rockford Illini club to the player on the Illinois basketball team who makes highest percentage of free throws. 


All-American
1942 - Honorable Mention (Sporting News)
1943 - Third-Team (Converse)
1947 - Third Team (Helms), Honorable Mention (Converse)
 
All-Big Ten
1942 - Second Team (International News Service), Honorable Mention (Associated Press).
1943 - First Team (Associated Press, Untied Press International, International News Service)
1947 - Second Team (Associated Press, Untied Press International, International News Service)

MARV STRAW

SHABBONA (1957-1959)

IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY (1961-1963)

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Marv Straw - 1959

Senior season at Shabbona, helped led the Indians to a 32-1 record and was named to the LTC All-Confernece First Team as well as the fifth team all-state by Champaign News Gazette. 
 
Moved on to Iowa State.
 
1963 - Selected to All-Big Eight Team.  Led Cyclones in scoring and free throw percentage.  Named Iowa State Male Athlete of the Year.
 
Awarded the George Clarkson Award, given to the top senior player in Iowa Collegiate basketball.  The award is no longer given.
 
Nominated for selection to Iowa State's All-Century Basketball Team in 2007.
 
Selected by the St. Louis Hawks (N.B.A. draft) with the second pick in the eleventh round, but never played professionally.
 
 
Career Stats at Iowa State
 
Marv Straw - 6-foot-4 - 200 lbs. - Lee, Il.
Years  GP  FG-FGA   %   FT-FTA   %  REB  AVG  PTS  AVG
60-61  25  60-149 .403  55-90  .611  97  3.9  175  7.0
61-62  25 112-253 .443  57-102 .559 162  6.5  281 11.2
62-63  24 114-307 .469  69-88  .784 110  4.6  357 14.9
 
Totals 74 316-709 .446 181-280 .646 369  5.0  813 11.0
 

Waterman High School
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Ron Shoger - Sophomore year

RON SHOGER

WATERMAN (1965-1987)

DE KALB (1968)

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY (1969-1972)

In the great history of the Little Ten Conference there have been many great players, many with interesting stories.  Ron Shoger would be one of those players.

Shoger quickly made a name for himself in the 1965-66 season by leading the LTC in scoring as a sophomore, averaging 23.4 points per game.  Waterman, under head coach Bernie Langheim, finished 10-12 overall and tied for third in the conference with a 7-2 record.  Shoger was held under 20 points only four games all season was named to the first team All-LTC team.  His junior year Waterman finished 20-7, 7-2 (2nd) in the LTC and he again was named All-LTC and led the league in scoring (24.2), but things would change for Shoger after that season.

 “I lived on a farm on the west edge of Aurora, then our family moved to a farm outside Waterman in eighth grade,” said Shoger.  “(At Waterman) we always had a pretty good team.  Our rival was Hinckley-Big Rock and it just so happened (Hinckley-Big Rock star) Mark Voreis and I moved into DeKalb our senior years and joined up together.”

 “My dad was in the farming business. We didn’t own the farm, but we had a lot of cattle die and we had to make ends meet.  Dad got a job in DeKalb and Voreis’ dad worked in town, so it just so happened we moved at the same time and it turned out okay.”

 His senior year at DeKalb was sort of a dream come true as the Barbs finished the regular season 22-2.  In the regionals, DeKalb opened up with convincing wins over Genoa-Kingston (88-45) and St. Charles (86-61).  They then moved on to the sectionals after a 63-50 win over Kaneland, with Shoger leading the way with 21 points.  The Barbs moved onto the super-sectional after back-to-back victories over Aurora East and Elgin.  With a trip to Assembly Hall and the IHSA state finals on the line, Shoger fired in a game-high 25 points and DeKalb defeated Rockford Auburn 73-53.

 “That was something great,” Shoger said of the trip Champaign and the University of Illinois. “From the first time I started playing basketball while living in West Aurora, I dreamed of playing in the state basketball tournament.  Then to actually play in Assembly Hall, it was a lot of fun.”

 "The bad part was I became ill just before the quarterfinal game and I wasn’t very effective down there, so that hurt the team a little bit.”

In DeKalb’s quarterfinal game against LaSalle-Peru, Shoger being less than 100 percent was limited to just eight points, but Voreis led four players in double figures with 20.  The Barbs who trailed 42-26 at halftime, but put up 56 second half points to advance with a 82-77 comeback win.

The next day however the Barbs dropped a 63-60 decision to Galesburg in the semifinals to halt their hopes of a state championship. In the third place game later that night, Chicago Crane scored early and often in defeating DeKalb 82-62.  Voreis (17 points) and Shoger (16 points) finished fourth and fifth respectively in tournament scoring.

“The thing I remember the most was that (my DeKalb teammates) were such good friends and remain good friends,” said Shoger. “Voreis is my best friend, he lives in Sturgeon Bay now, but we see each other whenever we can and talk to each other all the time.”

The next step for Shoger was the courts of college basketball and he had a few choices as he explained.

 “It was sort of a toss up,” recalled Shoger.  “I visited three colleges during my senior year - Dartmouth, Michigan and Northwestern.  I was looking at everything (each school had to offer) and I don’t think I could have gone wrong with any of those schools.  I thought I had a pretty good chance to play my sophomore year at Northwestern and add in the education, you can’t beat it.”

 “I always thought I could play at the (high college level).  I saw other guys I played against in high school in Big Ten basketball too.  It’s a different type of experience, it is more like a job.  It really took up a lot of time, it’s tough to hit the studies hard and play big time athletics too.”

In his first year at Northwestern 1968-69, Shoger led the freshman team in scoring (23.2 ppg) as the NCAA still imposed the rule that freshman could not play varsity.  His sophomore season he played sparingly, appearing in just 13 games, but it was his junior year that made headlines. He had nine 20-plus points games that season, three of 30 or more and averaged 16.7 points per game. Had a career high 35 points against third-ranked Kentucky.  He went 16-of-17 from the free throw line against Iowa and 10-of-10 against Michigan.  Was named honorable mention All-Big Ten and ranked 14th in the nation in free throw percentage. That Kentucky game is the single game that sticks out in Shoger mind, even though Northwestern fell 115-100 to the Adolph Rupp led Wildcats.
 
“If I had to talk about one game, that would probably be it because I think Kentucky was ranked #3 in the country and that was our first game of the year,” Shoger recalled. “We may have had the lead at halftime, but lost by 10 or 15.  We had the place (McGaw Memorial Hall, Northwestern’s home court) excited for a little while.  After my junior year it was kind of down hill.”

 After struggling in a 2-7 start in Shoger’s senior season, Northwestern head coach Brad Snyder decided to change his team’s high tempo brand of play to a more slow it down half court attack.  This switch changed Shoger’s playing time dramatically as he appeared in just 11 games his final season.

 “The coach decided to change our style of play after the start of the season,” said Shoger. “The coach looked my way and said ’Shoger, why don’t you grab some pine’.  As I look back it now it’s not that big of deal.”

 After Northwestern, Shoger taught junior high at West Aurora for a year before teaching for six years West Aurora High School.  He coached basketball and tennis, working with former Northern Illinois University head basketball coach John McDougal.  He then quit teaching and became an air traffic controller, but got caught up in the PATCO Strike and after deciding they weren’t going to hire the controllers back, he was lucky enough to get a job a St. Charles High School (now St. Charles East) and has been there ever since (26 years).  He will be retiring following the 2007-2008 school year.

Shoger has been married since 1979, his daughter is a Iowa grad and works at a bank in downtown Chicago.  Son is attending the University of Illinois study mechanical engineering.  He is an avid golfer and elected a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001.

 “That was nice,” said Shoger on the election to the Hall of Fame. “That was mostly because of former Dekalb head coach Jack Tosh pushing that through somehow.  I have to thank him for doing that, he was a great guy and a great coach.”

Although he did not graduate from Waterman High School he still has his part in Little Ten Conference history.  How would of things been different if he would have been able to stay a Wolverine is senior year?  We’ll never know, but his career on the hard court and life have been something very special and memorable.

Duane Swanson
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1936 U.S. Basketball Olympic Gold Medalist

DUANE SWANSON

 

Waterman (1929-1931)

 

United States Olympic Basketball Team (1936)

 

Duane Swanson was a star player in his time at Waterman High School.  In a poll of Waterman residents in the 1960s to which they were asked which former Waterman cager was the best all-time, only Jack Smiley was picked above Swanson. After his high school career his stops are sketchy, but it’s thought he played at Illinois Wesleyan and Iowa before transferring to the University of Southern California.  He at some time in those years played on an Amateur Athletic Union of the U.S. (A.A.U.) team sponsored by Universal Pictures, a team that won a tournament that awarded them a chance to represent the U.S. in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.  In those games, Swanson and the United States captured the gold medal in the first year basketball was a recognized sport. He played at least one more year of A.A.U. with the Laemmle Stars, who made an appearance in Waterman to play area stars in an amateur contest.  Here is a quick run down on Swanson’s career.

 

Waterman High School

 

Sophomore Year (1929) – Waterman goes 23-7 on the season and win both the regular season and tournament titles.

 

Junior Year (1930) – Waterman goes 28-3 on the year, losing first two games, and then winning 25 in-a-row.  Duane’s older brother William is the team’s captain. Again they win the regular season and with a 20-1 victory over Hinckley, in which Duane scored a game-high 10 points, the tournament title.  Upset Sycamore, who had won 23 straight games, 13-5 to capture the DeKalb district title.  At Joliet Sectional, Waterman put together back-to-back come from behind wins over Waukegan and Elgin before defeating Wheaton 18-15 to earn a trip to the state finals, with Swanson netting a game-high 10 points.  His play earned him a place on the All-Star team of the sectional voted on by the officials.  There opening game is one that has gone down in history as one of the greatest, as they battled Beardstown for four overtimes, before falling to defeat.

 

Senior Year (1931) – For the third straight season, Waterman won both the regular season and tournament titles.  In the tournament’s title game, Swanson scored a game-high 15 points and Waterman defeated Sheridan 29-14.

 

College

 

It is believed Swanson played at Illinois Wesleyan and then Iowa.  He transferred to USC, but it is unknown if he ever played for the Trojans.

 

A.A.U and Olympics

 

Played for Universal Pictures and Laemmle Stars.  In 1936 Olympic Games, Swanson’s U.S. team went 5-0 on its way to the gold medal.  Playing on outdoor courts composed of clay and sand, the U.S. first won in a forfeit over Spain, who had return home because of the Spanish War.  They then defeated Estonia (52-28), Philippines (56-23), Mexico (25-10) and finally Canada (19-8) in the gold medal game, a contest marred by a driving rainstorm that turned the court’s surface into mud.

 

Life after Basketball

 

I found an article that had Swanson working at a plastics company in North Hollywood and he passed away September 13, 2000, but other than that not much is known of his post basketball life.

 

 

DAVE OLSON

 

Newark High School (1986-1988)

 

Eastern Illinois University (1989-1992)

 

 NEWARK

 

Newark’s Dave Olson was arguable the most prolific scorer to play in the Little Ten Conference.  He took his skills to the colligate level at Eastern Illinois and also played in the NCAA Tournament.

 

As a sophomore started on Newark team that finished 29-1 on the 1985-86 season, their only loss to Ohio in the sectional finals by one point.   Averaged 18.0 points per game and was selected to the Little Ten All-Conference team.  Had an 18 point/11 rebound game in LTC Tournament championship game in which the Norsemen defeated Shabbona 86-60.

 

His junior season, the 6-foot-6 Olson averaged 24.1 ppg, named All-LTC and LTC Player of the year in basketball.  In the LTC Tournament he had a 34 point/10 rebound game in an opening round 87-64 victory over Malta.  In the semifinals against Somonauk, Olson poured in 30 points to go along with eight rebounds to lead the Norsemen to a convincing 75-51 triumph.  In Newark's 70-47 title game win over Shabbona, Olson scored a game-high 26 points.  Newark ended the season with a 26-3 record.

 

The 1987-88 season brought with it the inception of the three-point shot into Illinois high school basketball.  Olson wasted little time using the arc to his advantage as he scored a career-high 52 points in the Norsemen's season opener at Plano. 

 

Olson entered the LTC Tournament leading the state in scoring, averaging around 35 points per game.  In Newark's 87-62 opening round win over Malta, Olson canned six treys in a 43 point performance. Against Serena in the semifinals, Olson scored 46 points, including eight 3's, and grabbed 10 rebounds to pace the Norsemen to a 75-66 victory.  The title game was more of the same from Olson and Newark as they scored a 59-53 title game win, with Olson tallying 40 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking four shots.

 

 He finished the season the state's leading scorer with 1,004 points (35.9 ppg) as well as Newark's all-time leading point getter with 2,123, passing Sheldon Thompson (1,780).  For his three-year varsity career, Olson hit a sizzling 62.6-percent of his shots from the field and averaged 9.1 rebounds a game.  He was named All-LTC for the third straight year and Player of the year for the second consecutive time.  Norsemen finished season 21-7.

 

Named United Press International's Class A Player of the Year after hit 73.4-percent from two-point range, nailing 129-of-242 threes and 83.4-percent from the line.  Selected to the first-team All-State by Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (teammate Matt Myre honorable mention), Associated Press and both the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.  Scored 40 or more points 10 times and was held under 23 points just once.  Newark 76-11 his three years on NHS varsity.

 

EASTERN ILLINOIS

 

Eastern Illinois longtime head coach Rick Samuels discovered Olson while recruiting Larry Hilt in Olson's sophomore season.

 

The Panthers went 16-16 in Olson's freshman year, he averaged 3.5 ppg and 1.2 rpg.  A starter in his sophomore year, he averaged 12.4 points per game as EIU went 10-18.  His junior season the team went 17-12; he averaged 11.2 ppg and sank 80 three-point shots, which is tied for fifth at EIU for a single season.  Also in his junior year ranked 8th in the NCAA in 3-point percentage (.500).

 

He was named captain his senior year at EIU.  He averaged 11.6 ppg/3.2 rpg and made a then EIU record 10 three-pointers (on 14 attempts) in a victory over Wright State in February, a game in which he scored a career high 34 points.  Made 89-of-207 from the arc as the Panthers ended the season 17-14.  In the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament, EIU opened with a victory over Wright State and then in the semifinals upset tourney favorite and top seed Wisconsin-Green Bay as Olson canned six trifectas.

 

The title game with an 83-68 victory over Illinois-Chicago, the Panthers earned the school's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.  Olson was named to the All-Tournament Team.  A 15th-seed in the West Regional, EIU faced Indiana in Boise, Idaho.  The Hoosiers advanced with a 94-55 win, Olson finished with six points and two assists, Indiana went on to reach the Final Four.

 

Olson ranks 2nd all-time in EIU history in career threes made (262) and three-point attempts (562), while leading in all-time 3pt FG percentage at 46.6-percent.  His accuracy from the arc is also 3rd best in NCAA Division I Men's Basketball history.  Ranks 30th on EIU scoring list with 1,100 points.

 

Justin Allen
jallen.jpg

Justin Allen
Malta (1996-1999)
Arizona State (1999-2000, 2001-2004)

 

Allen was a four-year starter for the Mustangs, he is Malta's all-time leading scorer and rebounder with 2,453 points and 929 rebounds.  Averaged 26.7 points, 15.0 rebounds and 4.7 blocks his senior year in leading the Mustangs to a 23-4 record and both the Little Ten Conference regular season and Tournament titles.  In his junior year he posted 28.0 ppg and 11 rpg for Malta.  A Little Ten All-Conference pick and Team MVP in 1997, 1998 and 1999, selected Chicago Sun Times All-State in 1998 and 1999 and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State pick in 1999.  Shot over than 80 percent from the free-throw line in his career and over 40 percent from beyond the arc in his junior season.  Also an outstanding soccer goalie (All-Little 10 in 1999) who entered senior season the school's record holder with 27 shutouts.

 

Justin Allen became the first player in Malta history to sign with a Division I school (Arizona State University).  The beginning of his sophomore (September 2000) season Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease so he was redshirted that season and finished his chemotherapy in May of 2001.  Allen made his comeback in May of 2001.

 

His junior year (2002-2003) he helped ASU earn a trip to the NCAA tournament, earned first-team Pac-10 All-Academic honors.  Senior season Allen was second-team Pac-10 All-Academic and earned degree in justice sciences in May of 2003 with a 3.46 grade point average.

 

Allen was the recipient of the 2003 Jimmy V. Comeback Award and in 2002 the Gene Autry Courage Award.

 

Justin started his professional playing career with a short stint in Argentina. He then moved on to Australia where He played for the NW Tasmania Thunder and averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds. After one season in Australia, Justin accepted a job to play for the Oita Heat Devils in the BJ league Japan. In his first season with the Oita Heat Devils he averaged 10 points and 9 rebounds and the team finished 3rd in the playoffs. In 2007-2008 with the Heat Devils, Justin had his most successful season as a professional averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. This summer (2009) Justin played in Venezuela and this year he played in Kuwait and Korea.