Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame will be anything but ordinary

News-DemocratApril 17, 2013 

Dick Corn and others share a vision about what they want the fledgling Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum to become.

Corn, who coached the Pinckneyville High boys basketball team for 32 years, doesn't want another run-of-the-mill operation. The objective is for fans to be engaged and intrigued when they visit the site, which will be built in Pinckneyville in the coming years.

"We will not be the traditional memorabilia-type museum," said Corn, 63. "There will be some of that in there, obviously. (But) we will be more into the technological side of it."

Interactive exhibits, Corn said, will be the focus of the project.

"We'll have a display that talks about the development of the African American player and some of the hardships they encountered," he said. "We have some board members who had black teammates and they went on the road and couldn't eat in certain restaurants --that kind of stuff.

"We'll also have an area for the start of women's basketball and how that has evolved. And I think we're going to give different schools an opportunity to rent space ... and they can tell their stories. There will not be a problem getting high schools to come and tell their stories."

Corn mentioned historic programs like Collinsville, Quincy, Centralia and Peoria Manual being featured in the hall of fame and museum, which will be located on the northeast corner of the historic Pinckneyville town square.

The hall of fame and museum will occupy a space where two buildings formally resided. A massive fire in June 2011 destroyed the buildings, which housed the Pinckneyville Antique Mall and Kunz Opera House.

"It's a vacant lot up there now," Corn said. "All it's got is a sign that says it's the site for the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame."

The land for the hall of fame and museum already has been purchased. Total price tag for the project, in its fifth year, will be in the neighborhood of $6 million.

"We've got a long way to go," Corn said. "In all fairness, we haven't made that capital push yet. It is an awfully big number, but at the same time, you've got one chance to do it, so you better do it right."

Some heavy hitters are behind the project. Among those on the executive board are Jerry Colangelo, Mike Krzyzewski, Doug Collins, Jerry Sloan and Mannie Jackson and Ed Hightower, both of Edwardsville.

"We've got some pretty big, well-known Illinois high school alums that are strongly in support of what we're trying to do," said Corn, who is on the board of directors that includes Joe Wiley, of Belleville, former Okawville coach and Illinois senator Dave Luechtefeld, Bogie Redmon, of Collinsville, former major-league pitcher Kirk Rueter, and former Illinois basketball player Jerry Hester.

Redmon, who starred under coach Vergil Fletcher at Collinsville at Illinois, Collins (Benton, Illinois State) and the late Mike Duff (Eldorado, Evansville) will be among the inductees to the hall of fame in November.

The hall of fame and museum's main fund-raiser will be held May 31 at Gateway Center in Collinsville. The keynote speaker will be Illinois basketball coach John Groce.

"We've been chasing him for quite some time," Corn said of Groce, who just finished his first season with the Illini. "Jerry Hester is a member of our board and Jerry does radio for them. Jerry said that the Illinois basketball program comes first and everything else can go to the back of the line. (Groce) is very intense about building that program."

Tickets to the dinner are $100 apiece or $700 for a table of eight. Reservations can be made by calling Corn at 618-357-5205 or by emailing him at coachdickcorn@gmail.com.

Corn is confident Groce will provide an inspirational speech.

"I know he will," Corn said. "I just hope the alumni in the area will come out to not only support us, but support John and let him know that the metro area is backing what he's doing up there (in Champaign)."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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