All-Star games are typically free-flowing. Fast breaks, dunks, ridiculously deep 3-pointers — those plays bring a crowd to its feet.
And Friday’s Area vs. County Boys All-Star Game at Millikin’s Griswold Center should have plenty of that.
If MacArthur’s Reggie Anderson doesn’t elevate for a dunk attempt — or two or three — it will be surprising. The same will be true if Mount Zion’s Brody Rothrock, St. Elmo’s Connor Beasley and likely several others aren’t wearing out the 3-point line. Or if LSA’s Bobby Cherry or Central A&M’s Spencer Garner aren’t making a beeline for the basket when they get the ball in their hands.
But this year’s game could add a decidedly different wrinkle. Both squads almost have an embarrassment of riches in the post.
County coach Ryan Brown could put together a formidable front line, with Decatur Christian’s Michael Houran (6-foot-8), Meridian’s Dylan Smith (6-5) and Mount Zion’s Grant Pyatt (6-4) all available.
“I think that’s going to be what our strength is,” Brown said. “I noticed that right away on our roster. That’s about as good as it’s going to get.
“You’ve got Houran with huge size inside. You’ve got Dylan Smith with some pretty good touch from the outside, and he gets it done in the middle. And you’ve got the speed game with Grant Pyatt and the strength too.
“That could end up being the highlight — whose bigs are going to be better.”
As strong as the county post play could be, the area team isn’t left wanting inside. In fact, coach Carey McVickers has even more size at his disposal with six players checking in at 6-4 or taller. McVickers’ front line could even go 6-6, 6-7, 6-8 with Monticello’s Bryan Phipps, Effingham’s Jake Stombaugh and Shelbyville’s Brody Bence.
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So it shouldn’t be surprising if either team slows it down every once in a while and lets the big guys go to work. That’s something that would go over quite well with Smith.
“The first all-star game at Warrensburg there were quite a few more guards than post players,” Smith said. “It was really just me and Houran on our team. With Pyatt too, we’ll be able to get down low, post up and play our game.”
That wasn’t always the case in the Lions Club Heart of Illinois All-Star Game on March 20 in Warrensburg. Smith said he and Houran had to play more of the guards’ game with more of them on the roster.
“That first all-star game was about the first time I’ve ever experienced something like that,” Smith said. “It just seemed like a fast pick-up game where everybody was good.
“I played the pick-and-roll and stayed out at the 3-point line. This time, I’m going to stay around the basket and call for the ball.”
Smith, who is still deciding on his college choice (Millikin, Lake Land, Lincoln Land and MacMurray are in the mix), said the opportunity to keep playing with his high school friends and rivals was one he appreciated. Friday’s game will be the second of three all-star games Smith is playing in this spring — the max allowed by the IHSA for athletes that also play a spring sport.
“I love the sport, and it was hard to know my senior season was over with,” he said. “Just being able to put that jersey back on and go out there and play another basketball game with those high school guys, that’s something I’m not going to be able to experience again.”
The boys game starts at 8:15 p.m., following the 6:15 p.m. girls game. The girls county team features three prodigious scorers in Argenta-Oreana’ Kandie Bloch, Eisenhower’s Shay Robinson and St. Teresa’s Ann Duncan. The area will counter with state runners-up Jessica Awe and Andrea Dickerson from Mount Pulaski, Pana’s Charley Lett and Allie Schoonover and Clinton’s Morgan Hickman among others.