Greatest Athletes in SICA History

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Dwyane Wade Heat

Sports Bank #2 officer David K. and I go way back. Like myself, he’s from Palos Township and the idea of this site was tossed around in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago many years before it’s founding in 2008. Dave, myself, and our closest bunch of friends refer to our hometown not as Palos Park, Palos Heights, or “the burbs,” but “the SICA” instead.

Named after the now defunct high school sports conference SICA (South Inter Conference Association), we felt our home needed a nickname. This area stretches from Summit to Kankakee, Bolingbrook to Chicago Heights. Obviously, SICA country is more than a geographic area, it’s a state of mind like “Margaritaville.”

Now that high school football season has started, we constructed the short list of SICA-bred jocks. Our home region is so rich in talent, we probably left off a few big names but  we both agree on the all-time #1.

By Paul M. Banks and David K.

Dwyane Wade, Richards H.S. Class of 2000 (Robbins, IL)

Wade made a name for himself by becoming just the third player in the NCAA Tournament to record a triple-double when he helped lead Marquette to the Final Four in 2003. D-Wade didn’t waste much time making his mark in the NBA. He earned 2006 Playoffs MVP honors and his Miami Heat brought home the league championship. That post-season success helped ignite his fame off the court as well. He earned a major endorsement deal with Gatorade, got his own shoe from Converse, and has Charles Barkley in his “fave five” in addition to appearing in GQ and being named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.

Did I mention that he’ll be the alpha dog on a “NBA fantasy team this year?” Wade hasn’t forgotten his SICA roots as he bought a church for his mother on Chicago’s south side.

Alando Tucker, Lockport h.s class of 2002 (Lockport, IL)

As a senior at Wisconsin, Tucker was named First Team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year. He also broke the school’s all-time scoring record and helped lead the Badgers to their first-ever #1 ranking.  He was selected 29th overall by the Suns in the 2007 draft, although he did not see much playing time in his rookie season.

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Pat Fitzgerald, Sandburg H.S. Class of 1992 (Orland Park, IL)

Now the head coach at Northwestern, Fitzgerald initially made a name for himself on the field for the Wildcats. He won the Chuck Bednarik Award (given to the nation’s top defensive player) in 1995 and 1996, becoming the first player to win the award in consecutive years. He had a brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys before deciding to pursue a career in coaching at his collegiate alma mater. He’s guided the Cats to bowl eligibility in three of his four seasons at the helm. He has led Northwestern to 17 wins over the last two years, the third most for a two year period in school history. And of course, “GO CATS!”

Bryant Young, Bloom Township H.S. Class of 1990 (Chicago Heights, IL)

After a successful collegiate career at Notre Dame, the defensive tackle was taken 7th overall by the 49ers in the 1994 NFL Draft. In his fourteen seasons in the NFL, he was named to the Pro Bowl four times, became the Niners all-time sack leader, and earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors. He retired in the 2008 off-season.

Quinn Buckner, Thornridge H.S. Class of 1972 (Dolton, IL)

We’re going old-school with Buckner, who led Thornridge to back-to-back state basketball titles his junior and senior seasons. He was also an All-State football player and the only person to be named Chicago Area Player of the Year in both sports. Buckner, who attended Indiana University, played ten seasons in the NBA with the Bucks, Celtics, and Pacers, and was head coach of the Mavs for the 1993-94 season. Currently a television analyst for the Pacers.

Cliff Floyd, Thornwood H.S. Class of 1991 (South Holland, IL)

After leading Thornwood to the state championship, Floyd was drafted straight out of high school by the Montreal Expos as the 14th overall pick in the 1991 MLB Draft.  He made his major league debut in 1993; and also played with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Cubs. He has 225 home runs and a career .279 batting average.

Honorable Mentions:
Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor H.S. Class of 2005

New Orleans Hornets small forward

Rob Mackowiak, Oak Lawn H.S. (graduated from Lake Central H.S. in Indiana)
Washington Nationals utility player

Ron Coomer, Lockport H.S. Class of 1984
Former MLB All-Star

Zak Kustok, Sandburg H.S. Class of 1997
Northwestern quarterback

Jeff Alm, Sandburg H.S. Class of 1986
Former Houston Oilers defensive tackle, tragically took his own life in 1993

Paul M. Banks, Stagg H.S. Class of 1996
An impressive high school football resume- just ask him

Yes, know why I wore #5 in high school? Because my game was so strong it was a force of nature! What’s the strongest type of hurricane? Category 5. Tornadoes? F5! And my speed in the open field (before all the knee injuries) was reminiscent of the type of wind velocity you find in those storm classifications.

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Roger Powell and James Augustine (2/5 of the 2005 University of Illinois “Champaign Campaign” starting five)

Auggie is currently an NBA D-Leaguer and a Lincoln Way graduate class of 2002, the all-time leading rebounder in Illinois history and the only Illini to have 1,000 career boards and points. (Only 12 Big 10 players have accomplished this feat) Reverend Roger currently plays in Italy, but he was a member of the Utah Jazz with college teammates Deron Williams and Dee Brown in 2007. He was all-state for Joliet Township in 2001 and led his Steelmen to back-to-back SICA West conference titles. He is honored on the…

J-town, “City of Champions,” Train Station Mural

The city of Joliet, our state’s answer to Flint, Michigan and Gary, Indiana, has a mural underneath a train viaduct featuring accomplished athletes from the area. It is located across the street from Silver Cross Field, home of the unaffiliated Joliet Jackhammers. (The “city of champions” nickname is derived from the prowess of the high school and grade school marching bands.) The depicted athletes:

-George Mikan, basketball Hall of Famer (on the NBA’s Greatest all-time list)

-Tom Thayer, member of the legendary ’85 Bears and the city’s face of their civic tourism marketing campaign.

-Jesse Barfield, former New York Yankee and 1986 home run champ

-San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eric Parker should be added.

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The list of those who grew up near the banks of the Cal-Sag Channel continues:

T.F. South
Curtis Granderson, ’99

During the 2007 season, Granderson accumulated 23 triples, which led all of baseball. The American League and Detroit Tigers record is 26 triples, a feat achieved by the all-time triples king, Sam Crawford, in 1914. Granderson is the first player since 1949 to manage at least 23 in a single season.

Pierre Thomas, ’02
Thomas finished his college career ranking seventh on the Illini career rushing list with 2,393 yards and third on the Illini career all-purpose yardage list with 4,099. He ranks second on the Illini career kickoff return yardage list with 1,328, just 56 yards shy of the University of Illinois record. Pierre made NFL history on December 30th 2007. Not only did Pierre get his first NFL start in his hometown at Chicago’s Soldier Field against the Bears; he became the first New Orleans Saints player to gain over 100 yards both rushing and receiving in the same game.

Thornwood high Mark Mulder ’95…
Led American League in wins in 2001 (21) complete games in 2003 (9) and 2004 (5) shutouts in 2001 (4) and 2003 (2) AL All-Star, 2003 and 2004

…and Eddy Curry ’01

the fourth overall pick in 2001 by his hometown Bulls led the NBA in field goal percentage in 2003 before later eating himself out of the league

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Thornton Township High School: Lou Boudreau, Barry Gardner, Antwaan Randle El, Napoleon Harris, Melvin Ely and Tai Streets.

Obviously, this high school has produced more talent than anyone else in SICA, perhaps the state of Illinois. To list all their accomplishments would take quite a while! Cooperstown member Boudreau is considered the greatest player in the history of two programs with racist Native-American mascots. (Cleveland Indians and Illinois Fighting Illini)

Randle El was considered the greatest QB in Indiana Hoosier history before becoming a solid WR in the NFL. Ely was taken 12th overall by the L.A. Clippers in 2002 and is now a member of the New Orleans Hornets. Harris was the 23rd overall pick out of Northwestern in the 2002 NFL Draft. Streets and Gardner both played in the NFL during this decade.

Finally, my alma mater and hometown: Joe Ganz, Palos Heights, Amos Alonzo Stagg ’03

Earned Lou Holtz’s helmet sticker on ESPN College Gamenight after he set Nebraska records for touchdown passes (7), QB rating (239.8) and passing yards (510) in a game.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says:

    I’m sure Dave will agree with me that “thank God for Wikipedia!” fo rmaking this possible. The editorial staff of the Daily Southtown themselves would struggle to compile a list as extensive as ours.

    next we should do a SICA bred sports media list. Laurence Homes of the Score is from one of the Thorn schools. One of the CSN reporters..maybe Chuck Garfien? went to H-F

  2. paulmbanks says:

    if we missed a few, let us know here

  3. Jason Moe says:

    What about Jason Moe? He was a football god?

  4. paulmbanks says:

    Moe, tell us more about your Sandburg Eagles gridiron glory!

  5. seymourpennants says:

    Don’t you just want to pinch his cheeks? What a cute whippersnapper you were Banks. What happened?

  6. 6thandDaniel says:

    did i miss mcnabb didn’t you pick him off, sack him and return his fumble for a td for the chargers?

  7. David K. says:

    Moe used to give me the “NWO” sign when I was in the stands after he scored a touchdown or did something sweet…

  8. Jason Moe says:

    That is true about the ‘NWO Sign”…Also,Girls use to braid me hair before games also..

    I ran 75 yard kick return for touchdown against Thorton…Sweet

  9. The Statue of Harold Baines says:

    Who was on that Thorton team Moe?

  10. paulmbanks says:

    McNabb was catholic league, so he wasnt SICA. but he did grow up in Country Club Hills or Hillcrets or something so maybe that shoudl count. and Yes I did do all those things.

    Seymour, thats big talk for a man who’s playing days came against Red Grange and with leather helmets

  11. seymourpennants says:

    Leather helmets…when men were men, and then got Alzheimers. I took more head shots than Mohammad Ali. But I still have enough of my wits not to wear dirty footwear on my ears.

  12. The Statue of Harold Baines says:

    S-I- mamma andalay andalay C-A C-A SICA! Whats poppin tonight?

  13. Jason Moe says:

    I have no clue who was on that team of Thorton, but I will check the old program from back in 1999. I was a Legend in my own mind..

    I did Score two touchdowns against Lyons Township. Man I was so good.ha

    I have to check my final stats that year…

  14. The American League of Justice’s Batboy is a SICA Native.

  15. paulmbanks says:

    Batboy’s wife was in my graduating class at Stagg

  16. Joliet Jake says:

    Hey man! whats your problem with my hometown? We’ve made a lot of improvements these past few years

  17. paulmbanks says:

    Wow! they actually have internet connectivity in Joliet? you learn something new everyday. I’m sure crime control sites get a lot of hits out there. you’re right though Joliet isn’t completely the armpit of Illinois. Ive been East St. Louis and Joliet is a slightly nicer place than EStl.

  18. Tornadoes in SICA! Strong storms touched down in SICA land tonight

  19. Well I played with some I thought were pretty good Rory Lee and David Wright our running backs…Rory Lee actually ran a a few hundred yards on Bloom Township where the star Defensive player was Bryant Young and if I remember correctly…he broke his thumb this game against us. Our defense was more of a multiplayer effort… lead by a pretty impressive secondary…and fast D-line…come on guys we went down state back to back against 1 of the best teams in the nation at the time…East St Louis…lol…ok…now they did clobber us but up until then you cant deny these two running backs were some of the best in the then SICA EAST

  20. Punkinhead says:

    What about Mike Alstott? wasnt he from Joliet as well?

  21. Fred amirault says:

    Hey, you forgot Kendall Gill from Rich Central who played in the NBA

  22. Jason Frasor, currently with the Atlanta Braves, is a 2 time All-State Oak Forest High School baseball alum. He is also the Blue Jays all time appearances leader so he’s had a nice little career for himself.

    He was the starting PG in basketball his junior year, but stopped playing to focus solely on baseball.

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