|POSTED 10:57 a-m 11/19/09 The Western Big Six basketball coaches are making a few things clear: their teams will play hard this season, they like the players they have and Friday nights will be intense.
The six coaches got together at Wednesday night's 2009 Western Big Six Tip-Off Banquet at the Botanical Garden in Rock Island. This year's group features a first-year head coach, Bob Szorc at Rock Island Alleman, and three second-year coaches: Silver Streaks head coach Mike Reynolds, Moline coach and Galesburg native Ryan Webber and United Township's Marc Polite, who coached with Reynolds while the two were under coach Scott Olson.
Szorc says Alleman will play with intensity as the Pioneers open with four games in the Geneseo Thanksgiving Tournament before hosting a home game. Szorc says he's excited about all-conference senior forward Keelan Prince, one of the leading scorers in the Western Big Six last season, along with senior guard Patrick Rafferty and forward Matt Coruthers. Szorc replaces Steve Smithers as head coach. Smithers, Alleman's athletic director, stepped down after the Pioneers finished last season with a 6-22 record.
Polite says United Township will have to replace now-graduated guard Kannon Burrage by committee. Burrage averaged nearly 24 points per game for the Panthers, tops in the Big Six. Polite says U-T returns six of its top eight players - including guards Shaq Lowery and Chase Pavelonis and post players Demetrius and Demetriyone Singleton. Polite, whose team won six of its first seven games last season but finished with a 13-13 record, said Rock Island will be "strong," Quincy "solid" and Galesburg has "Davis and Davis," referring to forward Victor Davis and guard Dalton Davis.
Reynolds says Galesburg is seeking its first winning season in nine years and the Silver Streaks have a tough schedule to open the season. "We have six home games to start the year. Unfortunately we'll probably be the underdogs in five of the six," Reynolds said. "The sixth (game) is Quincy and the next week we get the nice trip of going to Rock Island, so our first seven games are pretty tough." Reynolds says his squad has the chance to compete every night with returning players Victor Davis (leading rebounder, second leading scorer), Dalton Davis (leading scorer), Brandon Thompson, Chad Thompson and Ryan McElmurry expected to play big minutes. "We're a heck of a lot better than last year in practice," Reynolds said, but he also acknowledged he doesn't know if that will equate to wins when the season begins.
Webber, the Maroons' head coach whose team is the defending conference champion, surprised everyone by winning 14 of of their first 15 games and had a 21-6 season. He jokingly said Moline will implement a new style this season - a maximum of two passes before shooting the basketball and running up and down the floor. Moline was the best defensive team in the Big Six last season utilizing a stingy 1-2-2 zone. Webber, says Moline has "high character players," although he didn't mention any of them. The Maroons return shooting guard Thomas Lindauer and forward Mikel Wismer, two key players from last season's squad.
Quincy coach Sean Taylor, now in his sixth season, says the Blue Devils return seven players who started at one time or another last season. Quincy got off to a rough start before getting hot late in the season and eventually losing in the sectional finals. Taylor says the Blue Devils return leading scorer Zach Forbes, a 6'4" guard/forward, point guard Isaiah Johnson, forward Alex VonderHaar, Robert Gay, Mitch Marold and forward Nick Doellman.
The dean of the league, Rocky coach Thom Sigel, begins his ninth season as the Rocks' bench boss. Rock Island returns premier guard Chasson Randle, who's getting major attention from Division I colleges. Sigel says his team needs to be more consistent after getting off to a good start last season before going into a rut then catching fire in the postseason. Rocky lost to Oswego in the Class 3A DeKalb Supersectional and finished with a 21-10 record. Stegal says the team played for three weeks in the summer without Randle. "It forced other guys to score," Sigel said. He says the Rocks lose second leading scorer Brandon Pullman and Julian Mayfield, a solid defender and rebounder. But the cupboard is far from bare as Rocky brings back forward D. J. Anderson, who Sigel says is a skilled player who will be asked to do more things this season, Devon Jones, Deshawn Banks, Cameron Ruiz and a host of other players from last season's sophomore team that had a strong season. Sigel says the team suffered a big blow when captain Victor Jones suffered a broken kneecap, "a freak injury," Sigel called it, and may miss the entire season.
Galesburg is the first Western Big Six team to kick off the season when the Silver Streaks play Woodruff in the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament November 23rd. Alleman opens against Geneseo on the 24th in tourament play, U-T plays LaSalle-Peru in the Geneseo Tournament on the 24th, Rocky begins play on the 25th in the Rock Island Boosters Classic Tournament, Quincy begins the season on the 26th in its own Thanksgiving tournament and Moline takes on a team from Workman, California (Los Angeles area) on November 27th in the Moline Thanksgiving Tournament.
The Maroons will play in the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament next season.
Pictures from the 2009 Western Big Six Coaches Tip-Off Banquet
Alleman coach Bob Szorc
United Township coach Marc Polite
Galesburg High School coach Mike Reynolds
Moline coach Ryan Webber
Quincy coach Sean Taylor
Rock Island coach Thom Sigel
Master of Ceremonies Thom Cornelis
(WGIL Sports Story and Photos by Mike Perry)