There’s a chance Wayne and June Cox are not the biggest fans of Edwardsville High School’s basketball team. But they are, beyond a doubt, the longest-tenured fans.
Wayne has watched Edwardsville basketball teams since 1935, before he attended Edwardsville High School.
“I got a call from the Boy Scout leader” with an invitation, he said. “I’ve been going ever since. I even got in a few games during the war.”
He was in the Air Force on a B-24 as a bombardier and navigator in Italy during World War II.
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By his count, he’s seen close to 2,000 varsity games in 75 gymnasiums in eight states. Wayne, 94, and June, 91, were recently honored at Edwardsville’s senior night with plaques touting his 80 years of being a Tiger fan and her 70 years. They have attended games of smaller schools as well.
Edwardsville’s loss on Tuesday night in the state playoffs to Simeon High School of Chicago was the first time he’s been inside Redbird Arena.
“He almost can remember all the scores,” June said. She used to keep score and track fouls from her seat in the stands, and once corrected an official during the game.
Wayne does know a lot. He retired as a general practice physician 30 years ago, and conversation is peppered with “don’t write this” as he shares his opinions unrelated to basketball. For basketball, he cites scores and percentages and player statistics as if they are written in front of him.
That’s the secret of Edwardsville. They’re tremendously well prepared. It’s not based on luck.
Wayne Cox, basketball fan
Coach Mike Waldo is well on his way to being the winningest coach in Illinois, with more than 700 wins. Wayne knows that senior A.J. Epenesa has 13.3 rebounds per game, and senior Oliver Stephen shoots a 61.5 percent from the 3-point range. He knows Mark Smith is a candidate for Illinois Mr. Basketball. He knows their heights and weights and what colleges the seniors have committed to or are considering.
“We’ve really got a good ball team,” he says.
Wayne also knew that Simeon would be tough, having won six state titles between 2006 and 2013.
“That’s the secret of Edwardsville. They’re tremendously well prepared,” he says, with 15-page scouting reports on upcoming opponents augmenting Waldo’s practices.
“It’s not based on luck,” Wayne said.
Wayne and June’s social activities have centered around basketball from the early days of their courtship. Even as newlyweds in the January after their Dec. 29, 1945 wedding, they went to a basketball game. Even in the snow, even though Wayne had a cold and a fever.
The couple has modified very little of their dedication. June says because of their age, they’re more careful climbing the bleachers, and more likely to sit closer to the court.