Beasts from the (Metro) East

Beasts from the (Metro) East

Beasts from the East

The current eight-school Southwestern Conference in Illinois has produced 19 Illinois men’s basketball letter winners throughout the program’s history. Malcolm Hill, a Belleville East product, is in line to become the 20th. We asked staff writer MATT DANIELS, an Edwardsville graduate, to trot out his all-Metro East rotation.

Mannie Jackson

Future Harlem Globetrotters owner was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree and a 1960 honorable mention All-American. Had his No. 30 jersey raised to the State Farm rafters on Jan. 9 when Illinois hosted Minnesota.

Govoner Vaughn

Had his No. 35 honored this season when it was raised to the rafters. First player from the Metro East to top 1,000-point mark at Illinois, finishing with 1,001 career points in three seasons from 1957 to ’60.

Andy Phillip
Granite City

A first-team All-American in 1942 and 1943, along with the Sporting News National Player of the Year in 1943, Phillip scored 40 points against Chicago on March 1, 1943, which is still fifth all time in program history. The leader of the Whiz Kids came back in 1947 after serving in World War II to land second-team All-America honors before embarking upon an 11-year NBA career that featured five All-Star selections.

Bogie Redmon

A two-year starter for Harry Combes at Illinois, the former Kahok standout spearheaded Vergil Fletcher’s undefeated 1961 state champion team that finished 32-0. Redmon was one of three Illini (Tal Brody, Skip Thoren) during the 1964-65 season who received All-America accolades.

Don Ohl

A two-time All-America selection (honorable mention in 1957 and second-team in 1958 by Converse) and two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection, Ohl went on to appear in five NBA All-Star games during his 10-year professional career (1960 to 70).

Off the bench

Larry Smith

A role player who helped push the frantic pace on which the Flyin’ Illini thrived during their run to the 1989 Final Four, Smith turned into a capable starter in his final season (1990-91), finishing third on the team in scoring (13.6 points) behind Andy Kaufmann and Deon Thomas, and leading the Illini in assists.

Richard Keene

Started 113 of a possible 122 games during his four-year Illini career. A 1992 McDonald’s All-American, Keene is fourth all time in career three-pointers (237) and 36th on the all-time scoring list (1,145).

Bryan Leonard
Belleville East

Would provide a needed post presence on this squad. Leonard was a key reserve for the 1980-81 Illinois team that made the NCAA tournament and a starter alongside Bruce Douglas, Derek Harper, Efrem Winters and Anthony Welch on the 1982-83 team that advanced to the NCAA tournament.

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E.Nygma wrote on July 02, 2013 at 9:07 am

Matt: how can any list of the Metro East Greatest Illini not include Don Freeman?  You've got Larry Smith and Richard Keene on the list?  And no Don Freeman?

Don Freeman was one of the greatest basketball players ever to wear an Illini uniform. A 6'-3" forward out of Madison, Illinois, Don scored 1449 points for a 20.1 points per game average in his three varsity seasons. This ranks him 12th all-time in career scoring.

He still holds the Illinois career record for most points in a season despite playing fewer games than players of recent vintage. His 27.8 scoring average in 1966 may never be exceeded. He also averaged 10.3 rebounds per game for his career.

Freeman had a distinguished 9 year pro career as well, playing for Minnesota, Miami, Utah, Texas, Dallas, Indiana, and San An


Jim Rossow wrote on July 02, 2013 at 10:07 am
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E. — An editor's note. Freeman wasn't listed because his high school, Madison, isn't in the Southwestern Conference. On the radio Monday, I left out that most important part of Matt's criteria.


VAIllini wrote on July 02, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Having grown up in Alton, it's good to read about the Illini connection to THE downstate conference.