O'Fallon High School coach Rick Gibson has the enviable job this weekend of presiding over the high school basketball equivalent of a "Dream Team" that includes many metro-east stars.
Gibson is head coach of the Class 3A-4A South All-Stars at the annual Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Games on Saturday at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.
Among the stars at his disposal are Illinois recruit Malcolm Hill from Belleville East, former Edwardsville standouts Garret Covington (Western Illinois) and Division I prospect Tre' Harris, Belleville West graduate Nick Van Osdale (Lindenwood-St. Charles) and a pair of Southwestern Illinois College recruits in Cahokia guard Keenan Minor and Collinsville guard Falando Wilkinson.
"This year we had a lot more locals than usual," Gibson said. "We've had a few guys from our team that have made it in the past, so I've gone up and watched a few times. Usually getting a couple from our area has been about the most we've had recently."
Along with six metro-east players on the 3A-4A South squad, the Class 1A-2A South team is also well represented. Chosen to play in the small-school all-star game were Madison guard Marquis Borney (SWIC), Okawville's Jeremy Weeke, Mater Dei point guard Adam Etter and Roxana's 6-foot-9 center and SWIC recruit Hunter Reine.
Both teams will practice Friday prior to a banquet. The 1A-2A all-star game is set for 5 p.m. Saturday and the 3A-4A game set for 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available at the door.
Gibson said having six metro-east players on the 3A-4A South roster with geographical boundaries including Southern Illinois, western Illinois, the Quad Cities and parts of southern Chicago is impressive.
"I think it shows how strong our area was, how strong our Southwestern Conference was and how strong southwestern Illinois basketball is," Gibson said. "We had a great group of seniors this year."
Gibson said the players enjoy being on the same team after years of competing against conference and area rivals.
"You're looking at all those guys that battled each other throughout the year," Gibson said. "Now they're all on one team and representing the south, so to coach them is an honor. It's a fun experience for everybody to get to see all that talent in one gym. You're taking the best seniors from the entire state and putting them out there on one team, plus those kids getting to finish their careers in a game like this."