▪ Take 1: How good is this current group of metro-east senior basketball players?
My Take: Crazy good. You’ve got a wealth of Division I talent in East St. Louis center Jeremiah Tilmon (Illinois), Althoff’s Jordan Goodwin (Saint Louis University), Edwardsville guard Mark Smith (undecided), Belleville East guard Javon Pickett (Illinois) and the best of the small-school players in Okawville’s Noah Frederking (Evansville). I still want to see a 3-point showdown between Edwardsville’s Oliver Stephen and Althoff’s Marvin Bateman. Don’t forget three-sport all-stater, two-sport All-American and Iowa football recruit A.J. Epenesa from Edwardsville. These guys have been piling up points, throwing down dunks, nailing 3-pointers and filling area gyms for four years now. Don’t forget this group. It’s really, really special.
▪ Take 2: Germantown’s own Brooke Schulte, a Mater Dei graduate and senior guard at DePaul, was a unanimous pick Wednesday as Big East Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Year.
My Take: What an incredible honor for Schulte, whose two-sports exploits at Mater Dei in basketball and volleyball were extraordinary and included a pair of state volleyball titles. Here’s a small-town girl who had big game, took it to the Division I level and keeps playing in NCAA Tournaments. A great example for area players, including her high grade-point average and being named the Big East’s Scholar-Athlete Award winner as well. Picking a team of recent Clinton County female athletes, I’d start with Schulte and Central’s Jena Hemann.
▪ Take 3: Two of the area’s most successful coaches can be found coaching two sports at Edwardsville High School.
My Take: Edwardsville boys basketball coach and baseball pitching coach Mike Waldo has combined with Edwardsville girls basketball and softball coach Lori Blade to help guide their teams to more than 3,100 victories and 10 basketball state tournament trips. That total includes the more than 1,100 baseball victories Waldo has been part of as the Tigers’ pitching coach. The combined boys and girls basketball record at Edwardsville this season is 58-1 and the 31-0 girls team is about to make its fifth state tourney appearance under Blade. The boys team, ranked in the top 25 nationally by USA Today and MaxPreps, has a good shot at making a state trip as well. Waldo has 706 wins in basketball while Blade has 1,310 victories as Edwardsville’s basketball and softball coach. Those are some awe-inspiring numbers and show why Edwardsville has become such a multi-sport powerhouse in the Southwestern Conference.
▪ Take 4: Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams loses some weight, changing his batting stance and adds another tattoo.
My Take: While it’s admirable that Adams shed an estimated 25 pounds and worked his way into better shape in the offseason, also changing his stance, what matters most is his production at the plate. Right now he’s a man without a position since Matt Carpenter is the first baseman. To me, Adams is a potentially good option off the bench and a spot starter in case of injury. The career .288 hitter dropped to .249 last season, compiling a .471 slugging percentage with 16 home runs. Through four spring training games, Adams was 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts though he ended that slump with a home run Thursday . It’s not about the weight loss, it’s about production. Sorry to ruin the narrative.
▪ Take 5 (the pop culture take): What are some favorite concerts you’ve seen in the last year or so?
My Take: Getting a chance to see rockers Green Day up close and personal last October at The Pageant in St. Louis was among the best shows I’ve ever seen. Seeing any show there is great, but seeing a major act like that and watching them enjoy the cozy feel and fan feedback at a smaller venue was truly special. The AC/DC show last year at Scottrade Center was a blast, and turned out to be one of the final shows ever done by lead singer Brian Johnson because of health issues. I’ve got Guns n Roses tickets for the concert at the Dome at America’s Center in July, so I’m anxiously awaiting that one, too. All we need is just a little patience.