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Rapt crowds cheer 3-on-3 players

[AUG. 6, 2001]  Wearing shorts and sunglasses, sitting on lawn chairs and blankets, hundreds of family members and friends cheered on the 75 3-on-3 basketball teams competing at the Logan County Fair Saturday.

[Click here to see photos from the 3-on-3 contest]

Their eyes glued to the 10 courts, the fans called out encouragement to the players: "Good play," "Nice shot," "Pick up the dribble, pick up the dribble," "Way to go," "Good block," "Stay with him, stay with him," "Defense, girls," "Yes!" Bursts of applause were frequent. When a player went down on the asphalt surface, a gasped "Oooh" from everyone near that court was followed by tense waiting. At least in the early rounds, the crowd was polite and positive.

A few cameras were aimed at the action as well. A pair of greyhounds, former racers, were the only ones not paying rapt attention.

Loud music with a pronounced beat poured from the loudspeakers, but not so loud as to prevent players from hearing their coaches or spectators from carrying on conversations. Despite the pleasant breeze, fans used every defense against the hot sun: caps and sun visors, sunglasses, awnings and one black-and-white umbrella. In the morning the lucky ones supporting teams playing on the east courts sat with their backs to the sun.

 

Already at 9:15 the refreshment tent had some customers. Coolers, thermos jugs and water bottles were everywhere.

Dave Renfro, one of the organizers of this and downtown 3-on-3 events, praised the tournament for drawing players and families to the fair. He anticipated an all-day total attendance of 1,000 to 1,500 people. At least 750 had gathered at 10 a.m.

Teams were asked to register at least an hour before they played, and the sidelines were dotted with waiting teams wearing matching shirts and occasionally whole uniforms. If competing teams of boys both had white shirts, one group stripped theirs off for the match. The girls sponsored by MKS Jewelers wore pink-and-black shirts with matching hair bows. In a couple of cases family members also sported matching shirts.

 

 

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Allen Pickering, Lincoln College dean of students and former basketball coach, said, "Itís a good 3-on-3 because they have referees. Itís competitive but also fun. It also provides a chance for different kids to play together."

Pickering, there to cheer on his son David, said he usually coaches a team, but this year one of the players acted as team leader. Substitutions are handled by the coach if the team has one; otherwise one of the challenges is for team members to agree on who plays when.

Players ranged in age from a few entering second grade to high-school seniors. For the youngest, shooting from the foul line required a major heave of the ball. Girls played on four of the courts, each devoted to teams of a different age range, and boys played on six courts.

The number of points a team needed to win a match ranged from 10 to 17, depending on the number of competitors in that age range. Shots from the 3-point line garnered two points, the rest one. Any winning team had to be at least two points ahead.

The most crowded class had a possible 28 games scheduled 20 minutes apart. Other matches were allotted 30 minutes.

[Lynn Spellman]

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Cook plays in world competition in Japan

[AUG. 2, 2001]  Brian Cook has been named to the official 12-man squad team representing the United States at the 2001 FIBA World Championship For Young Men, Aug. 3-12.

Cook is the only player from Illinois to make the team, since fellow Illinois teammate Frank Williams injured his right wrist during a practice session down in Dallas, Texas.

The team is now in Saitama, Japan, for the world championships. They begin by competing against 11 other teams and will start the tournament in Pool B with Argentina, Croatia, Israel, Japan and South Korea. The other teams in Pool A are Australia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Qatar, Slovenia and Spain.

[LDN]


Area Cub fans enjoy view from the top

By Jeff Mayfield

[AUG. 2, 2001]  As I talk with area baseball fans, I find that many are disappointed with the White Sox and the Cardinals, while others are thrilled with the success of the Cubs. Of course we here at the LDN have been telling anyone who would listen that we felt that this could be the Cubsí year. That prediction is looking better every minute, especially after they went down to Houston and came away with the split. That was HUGE!

Why did we feel so good about Chicagoís chances this year? It started with their off-season front office moves. Everything they did seemed to make sense to us, and ó without being too offensive ó that has rarely happened. Shoring up their pitching staff first and plugging their lineup deficiencies next is the type of thing that will not only help them to stay in the race this year, but it will also enable them to compete for the immediate future as well. Isnít this what all good teams do consistently? They donít mortgage the future for a chance to finish .500.

As a baseball fan, I applaud the moves they made. I know it wasnít easy. They had to be crying in their cold frosty ones when they let Mark Grace slip away to Arizona. But isnít it interesting that theyíre having one of their best years ever without him. That may not be just a coincidence. In an upcoming story, the LDN hopes to prove how the addition of even one player here or the subtraction of another player there can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

We knew the Cubs meant business when they acquired Bill Mueller from the Giants and Matt Stairs from the As. These guys were not just good players, they came from "winning" organizations. Mueller carried the Cubs for almost two months, and when he went down he was hitting .317 and playing terrific defense. Stairs has contributed 10 home runs, and his 41 RBIs are second in the ball club. And although he wonít make you forget Gracie down at first, heís certainly been solid.

Rondell White and Ricky Gutierrez havenít been chopped liver either. Ricky is tied for second in RBIs with Stairs at 41, and White has banged out 13 dingers (second behind Sosa) to go along with his .302 average and 36 RBIs. Ron Coomer, Eric Young and Gary Matthews have all had their moments too. In fact this Cub conglomerate is a true epitome team. One guy does the damage today and another guy comes through tomorrow.

And what can you say about Sammy? Can you say "one of the most underrated superstars in professional sports"? All we know here at the LDN is that the guy bats over .300, hits a million homers and drives in a few million runs. For you purists, Sammyís numbers are actually .302 with 34 taters and 98 RBIs. Not to mention a few great plays in the outfield on a pretty regular basis.

As a matter of fact, Iíve only been watching baseball for 41 or 42 years, and the kind of defense that the Cubs have displayed so far this year has been as good as Iíve seen. If Iím wrong, would you agree that it has helped get them this far, so far?

And the pitching staff has been downright amazing. Their miniscule 3.72 ERA is second only to the "best pitching staff money can buy" ó that of none other than the Atlanta Braves. Cub pitchers are first in wins, third in saves, and first in runs allowed and in strikeouts. Iím not too smart about sports, but arenít these the most important categories out there? Tom "Flash" Gordon has 19 saves. Area product Jeff Fassero has 11, and most of those were big, while the Cubbies were waiting for the Flashman to return. Kerry Wood, Jason Bere and Kevin Tapani have made major contributions and at times have probably deserved a better fate. Kyle Farnsworth and Todd Van Poppel have been better than anyone hoped for, except for maybe Greg Taylor. And Jon Leiber has simply been unhittable most of the time.

 

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Some fans were waiting for the Cubs to collapse in June while others were expecting a July swoon. Now I hear some talking about the wheels coming off in August. The LDN doesnít think so. We still see the Cubs in the playoffs. How far they go may be the real story.

Some concerns still do remain. Their hitting woes at times have reached the anemic stage. Theyíre in the bottom half of most team hitting stats. If they could really pull off the trade for Fred McGriff or some other slugger, that would really improve their chances of going deeper into the playoffs. Donít hold your breath for Jason Giambi. While many of us would like to see him hitting some bombs for our favorite team, his Oakland As have snuck back into the wild-card race. I donít see the Cubs landing him this season.

It probably wouldnít hurt to add maybe one more pitcher to the mix either. Maybe someone who could eat up a lot of innings in long relief and maybe deliver a respectable spot start here and there the rest of the way.

But anyway you slice it, if youíre a Cubs fan, you gotta be loving this season. The LDN encourages you to stop with the gloom and doom. Part of the enjoyment of any achievement is the journey. The Illini hoopsters had a great year even though they lost in the Elite Eight, but it was a great ride. A few years ago when our Railer hoopster teams went to state, we didnít win the championship, but they were the adventure of a lifetime.

On behalf of the LDN: Cub fans, enjoy the ride!

[Jeff Mayfield]

 

Update

While yesterdayís one-run loss, 4-3, due to late-game errors against the San Diego Padres, left the Cubbies stinging, it was only their fourth loss in 11 games. It still leaves northern Illinoisí favorite National League ball team in first place in the Central region.

National League, Central Division standings

L Pct. GB
Chicago 62 44 .585  0
Houston 58 49 .542  4.5
St. Louis 54 51 .514 7.5
Milwaukee 45 60 .429 16.5
Cincinnati 43 63 .406 19
Pittsburgh 41 65 .387 21

 

 


Cook vies for a spot on Team USA

[JULY 27, 2001]  Lincolnís Brian Cook is now the lone Illini representative trying to garner a roster spot on Team USA.

Thatís because fellow Illinois teammate Frank Williams injured his right wrist when he fell on it during a Monday morning practice session down in Dallas, Texas. He and Cook were hoping to be named to the official 12-man squad that was scheduled to be named sometime July 27. Williams had his wrist examined and X-rayed on Monday night. The X-rays proved to be negative. However, since he was not able to work out at the practices on Tuesday or Wednesday, he made the difficult decision to withdraw from the team. Cook and Williams had been in Texas all week hoping for a slot on the team that will represent the United States at the 2001 FIBA World Championship For Young Men.

Players trying out for the team are Troy Bell (Boston College / Minneapolis, Minn.); LaVell Blanchard (Michigan / Ann Arbor, Mich.); Carlos Boozer (Duke / Juneau, Alaska); Caron Butler (Connecticut / Racine, Wis.); Nick Collison (Kansas / Iowa Falls, Iowa); Brian Cook (Illinois / Lincoln, Ill.); Chris Duhon (Duke / Slidell, La.); Reggie Evans (Iowa / Pensacola, Fla.); Dahntay Jones (Duke / Hamilton Square, N.J.); Jason Kapono (UCLA / Lakewood, Calif.); Jameer Nelson (St. Josephís / Chester, Pa.); Michael Sweetney (Georgetown / Oxen Hill, Md.); and Marcus Taylor (Michigan State / Lansing, Mich.).

 

 

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Tryouts were limited to males who were born on Jan. 1, 1980, or later, making this the 21-and-under team.

Once the team is announced, they will take off for a weekend stint of training in Oakland, Calif. Then, itís on to Saitama, Japan, for the world championship. The U.S. team will compete against 11 other teams and will start the tournament in Pool B with Argentina, Croatia, Israel, Japan and South Korea. The other teams in Pool A are Australia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Qatar, Slovenia and Spain.

[Jeff Mayfield]


Announcements

LCHS swim team practices start

[AUG. 3, 2001]  The Lincoln Community High School swim team for girls will have its first day of practice and tryouts on Aug. 13.

Practice will start at 8 a.m. at the Lincoln College pool. Physicals and athletic permit cards must be completed prior to participation.


3-on-3 basketball at Delavan Fall Festival

[JULY 17, 2001]  A 3-on-3 basketball tournament will be part of the Delavan Fall Festival on Saturday, Sept. 1.

There will be numerous divisions for males and females age 8 and up. This is a double-elimination tournament with awards to first-, second- and third-place teams in each division. Each player will also receive a T-shirt.

The tournament will include 3-point contests and free-throw contests throughout the day, with prizes awarded.

For more information or to obtain an entry form, call Jack Wheeler at (309) 244-9881 or Dennis Moehring at (309) 244-9241. Entries must be received by Friday, Aug. 17.

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