Now, I know that won't be as well-received as Michael Jordan's
fax announcing his return to the NBA, but I certainly hope you enjoy
the coverage of the Lincoln Railers here at Lincoln Daily News.
There are some different things in store this year, but that is for
down the road. As for now, it's the Monday before Thanksgiving and,
as sure as "die Kuh sagt moo," that means it's time for Lincoln Railer basketball.
The pain is gone from that last game against eventual state champion
Champaign Centennial, but the memory is not. I can still hear
Lincoln head coach
Neil Alexander, disappointment drenching his post-game comments,
saying that he thought that game was for the state championship. He
felt the winner would take home the big trophy. He was right, as the
Chargers walked out of Peoria as the state's best in Class 3A.
what about the Railers? How would they bounce back?
Let's see -- here is a team coming off a season where they finished
with the sixth-most wins in a season in school history but lost
seniors, who all played key roles on the sectional final team.
Those who now call themselves alumni of LCHS not only walked out
with a diploma, but took almost half the scoring and free throws
made, as well as 40 percent of 3s. Most teams would be content
to figure a rebuilding year was in the offing.
Most teams does not include the Lincoln Railers, at least not this
Coach Alexander enters his 20th year at Lincoln with 588 wins
overall, 429 of those for the Red and Green. Sometime in early
2010, or maybe late this year if the Railers can get through the
championship game at the Collinsville Holiday Tournament undefeated,
Alexander will pick up win No. 12 of the season and the
600th in his Hall of Fame career. If you ask the coach about it, he will
start telling you about... the players. For him, it's always about the
So, what will Railer fans see, starting tonight against
Cahokia in the opening game of the 2009-2010 season?
Most experts will tell you Lincoln will win games based on the
performance of the key three, but how far they go in the season will
depend on the entire roster. Leading the way is 6-foot-5 senior Ben Brackney. Brackney, who signed with Division I Bucknell University,
will have to return to scoring over double figures. The forward
averaged 9.8 points per game last year, down from 11 in his
sophomore season. He comes into the season 17th on the all-time list
of 3s made (94) and is an 81 percent free-throw shooter. With the
departure of inside presence Kyle Young, Brackney may need to find
more points in the paint.
When you talk 3s, on this squad you have to look to Jordan Nelson.
Nelson, the 6-foot junior, is already eighth on the all-time list with
127 and is poised to make a run at the career total of current
assistant coach Gregg Alexander (281). After setting the freshman
scoring record the year prior, Nelson dazzled in his sophomore
season, averaging almost 13 points a game while knocking down 80
from long range. Like Brackney, there is certainly a comfort level
with Nelson at the free-throw line, as he enters the season as a
career 88 percent free-throw shooter. Brackney and Nelson form a
potentially explosive one-two combo. It will be hard for a team to put
the clamps on both in the same game.
However, while teams focus their defense on Brackney and Nelson,
let's not forget about junior Nathaniel Smith. The 6-foot-3 Smith brings
both an inside and outside game to the Railers and will be looked to
for an increase in his six points per game from last year. Smith can
shoot from outside, but, like Brackney, may be called on at times to
move inside and play a more physical role. He also gives the Railers
a third player who connects on over 80 percent of career free
throws, at 87 percent.
So, again, a lot of folks will tell you that how those three go, so will
go the Railers. However, Railer fans know that it is about teamwork,
and the others on the roster will have to contribute or it could be
a long season on Primm Road.
The next two experienced Railers who return are Cameron Turner (18
games) and Brant Coyne (14 games). Both will be asked to step into
roles of outside shooter and inside presence. Turner, a 6-foot-2 senior,
and Coyne, a 6-foot-5 junior, have been waiting their turn, and it is now
time to step into the spotlight for the Railers. Turner is a very
streaky shooter who can provide some instant offense, while Coyne
will be looking to step into the shoes of Young. The performance of
these two may prove as important, if not more, than the three
previously mentioned Railers.
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Others returning to the varsity level and expected to get more
court time than last year are 5-foot-11 sophomore Austin Kirby (seven
games), 6-foot-1 junior Brandon Miller (seven games) and 5-foot-11 sophomore
Jordan Gesner (six games).
Newcomers to the roster include seniors 6-foot-0 Hayden Cosby, 6-foot-3
Reuben Bowlby and 6-foot-6 Steven Green, and sophomores 6-foot-4 Christian
Van Hook, 5-foot-4 Jake Olson, 6-foot-1 Matt Hays and 5-foot-10 Andy Krusz.
We'll start to find out tonight as this four-month ride leaves the
station just how far down the track this Railer train will go. We
are certain that the trek will be interesting at the least.
As mentioned earlier, the first stop is at 7:30 against Cahokia.
Looking ahead through the Thanksgiving tournament, should Railer
fans be disappointed if Lincoln does not win the title? Not at all.
Many discussions and message boards debate that this may be, team
for team, and for traditional high school basketball, one of the top
tournaments around. Defending state champion Champaign Centennial,
Belleville Althoff and Lincoln combined to go 85-14 last year. In
fact, three of Lincoln's losses came to those teams. Add in newcomers
Cahokia and Rochester, along with longtime visitor Danville, and there
are many scenarios that could play out by end of the final game on
First things first, it's the Railers taking on Cahokia tonight. Of
course, you can read about it tomorrow here at Lincoln Daily News.
Before the season gets going, I'd like to add a couple of
personal notes. First, last season was not easy for me. My dad's
passing away on the next-to-the-last day of 2008 was difficult.
However, I didn't know then what was in store, as my wife had a brain
tumor removed just three weeks later. The kind words, support and
genuine concern from those I broadcast with and around, as well as
coach Alexander and the Railer family, the families of the players,
and fans in general made me feel so proud to be associated with you,
the Railer Nation. It will always mean a lot to me.
Secondly, a sad note. When I started doing the games on the radio,
beginning with the 2001-02 season, there was always a familiar face
near our broadcast position. Stu Wyneken was always there, taping
the games. Stu would always plug in to listen to the broadcast, and
occasionally, we would get a chuckle out of him. Luckily, when
technical issues would arise, he was always a good source of what to
do to "get back on the air." Stu lost his brave battle with cancer
on Friday night. All of our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife,
Kim, as well as his family and friends. He always had a smile on his
face. Hopefully, you have a memory or two of Stu that will put a
smile on your face.
[Special report by
Stuart Wyneken obituary
Railer basketball reports