The NBA began play in 1946 under the moniker Basketball Association of America before officially becoming the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949.
That’s significant because 1946 was also the first year for the Basketball Player of the Year Banquet sponsored by The Exchange Club of Alton. The Exchange Club banquet was earlier in the year, so it’s actually older than the NBA.
On Sunday the 72nd edition of the fete took place at the Atrium Hotel in Alton, celebrating prep hoopsters from the five Riverbend schools — Alton High, Marquette Catholic, Civic Memorial, East Alton-Wood River and Roxana. Unfortunately it could be the last one.
The Exchange Club will fold at the end of June due to lack of membership and it doesn’t have the manpower to sustain the banquet.
Kavon Lacey, a 2007 Alton High grad and two-time recipient of the Boys’ Player of the Year award (2006, 2007) sure thinks it’s important. Lacey, now the director of basketball operations at the University of Evansville was the guest speaker on Sunday, touching on topics like leadership, decision making, character and taking advantage of opportunities.
He knows what the banquet meant to him during his playing days with the Redbirds where he scored a program-best 1,499 points before playing four years for the Purple Aces in Evansville.
“It means the world to them,” Lacey said. “Anytime you can celebrate the achievements of your season, not only as an individual, but as a team, at the end of the year I think it’s awesome. I think the kids really enjoy just winning the basketball (new balls given out to random players). You see excitement in kids’ eyes and encouragement.
“I remember when I was a sophomore Lorenzo Taylor was on my team and he won (POY), deservedly so, but I remember sitting in this room thinking, ‘I want to be up there next year.’ I think it gives younger guys encouragement to say, ‘Hey, I can get up there. I can do that.’ It also allows for the achievements to not go unnoticed and for you to know the hard work you’ve done all year does pay off.”
Alton’s Maurice Edwards nabbed the Boys’ POY award Sunday as a first-time winner, while CM’s Allie Troeckler received the Girls’ POY trophy for the third time. Troeckler matched fellow Eagle Katie Broadway as the only two players — boy or girl — to win the POY award three times.
Both seniors, Edwards and Troeckler were humbled by the honor.
“They definitely have more of a meaning than the past couple of years,” Troeckler said. “Winning as a sophomore, that’s saying something, but then to win it two more times, you had that pressure on you that you had to go out and perform as well as you had performed previously. Having awards like this just shows that the work was done to reach that point.”
Edwards, who was surprised by his victory after missing a fair amount of playing time this season, admitted there were some mixed feelings with the award.
“I really appreciate this,” Edwards said. “I’m going to miss still being in high school and all of my teammates and coaches. It’s bittersweet.
“I actually was surprised because I missed a lot of games this year being hurt. I really don’t feel like I did enough this year to deserve it, but I’m happy I still got it.”
Other major award winners were Roxana’s Zach Golenor with the Boys’ Free Throw Award, Troeckler with the Girls’ Free Throw Award, Marquette boys’ hoops winning the Boys’ Team Sportsmanship Award, EA-WR earning the Girls’ Team Sportsmanship Award, Alton’s Kenya Burnett with the Girls’ 110 Percent Award and CM’s Jaxsen Helmkamp and Marquette’s Reagan Snider sharing the Boys’ 110 Percent Award — the first shared award in banquet history.
Being able to come back and motivate and inspire the local kids was the highlight for Lacey. That truly is the most special portion of the event.
“I got some head nods (from kids) and some eyebrow raises from some parents,” Lacey said. “Anything I can do to help I want to get back and help and let the kids and the student athletes know that what they’re doing is not going unnoticed and that they’re really a part of our community. What they do on a daily basis is awesome and if they work hard, put the time in, stay committed, good things pay off.”
That message is what makes this night so special for these kids. Recognition goes a long way in helping instill confidence, giving kids something to strive for, set goals. The Exchange Club has offered that for 72 years and it would be great to see it continue for a 73rd year and well beyond.
“We’re The Exchange Club of Alton, but we recognize basketball in the area,” said Dave Elson, the coordinator for the banquet and a member of The Exchange Club board of directors. “Whether that be Civic Memorial, Roxana, East Alton-Wood River, Marquette and of course Alton High. It’s been a really good program for us and it’s been a great program for the community.
“I think it would be a real shame if someone didn’t pick it up. We as an Exchange Club are running short on manpower. Society has changed an awful lot, but the one thing that hasn’t changed are kids and their love for the sport of basketball. We thoroughly enjoy being able to recognize these kids.”
Edwards and Troeckler got the message.
“When you can relate to it, it just gives you the same mind set that you can still be successful coming from where we come from,” Edwards said. “I really listened to it and I feel like those little things can help me further on in my career.”
Troeckler added, “It shows that it can be done. People from small towns, small communities like ours can go out and make names for themselves and to hear Kavon talk about leadership and character, that’s a lot what I try and focus on so to hear that’s what’s made him successful is really encouraging.”
And I’d encourage anyone in the community that feels this banquet is important to step up and help it continue to inspire and elevate prep basketball players in the Riverbend well into the future.
ALTON EXCHANGE CLUB PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2017 – Maurice Edwards of Alton and Allie Troeckler of CM
2016 – Shandon Boone of Marquette Catholic and Allie Troeckler of CM
2015 – Darrius Edwards of Alton and Troeckler of CM
2014 – Deion Lavender of Marquette Catholic and Megan Trost of CM
2013 — Hunter Reine of Roxana and Trost of CM
2012 — Hunter Reine of Roxana and Megkinize Carter of CM
2011 — Tony Bradley of Alton and Cassie Endicott of CM
2010 — Tony Bradley of Alton and Kelsey Harrison of East Alton-Wood River
2009 — Ryan Mathews of Alton and Michaela Herrod of Alton
2008 —Ruben Cotto of Alton and Katie Broadway of CM
2007 — Kavon Lacey of Alton and Broadway of CM
2006 — Lacey of Alton and Broadway of CM
2005 — Lorenzo Taylor of Alton and Emily Best of EA-WR
2004 — Nick Certa of Marquette Catholic and Emily Best of EA-WR
2003 — Nick Certa of Marquette Catholic and Jordan Davis of Roxana
2002 — Travis Williams of EA-WR and Casey Law of CM
2001 — Michael Stockard of Alton and Ashley Russell of EA-WR
2000 — Demarko “Book” Snipes of Alton and Michelle Beiermann of Marquette Catholic
1999 — Snipes of Alton and Kendra Snyder of Marquette
1998 — Tony Certa of Marquette and DoBee Oros-Moore of Alton
1997 — Marlon Crawford of Alton and Jenni Combes of CM
1996 — Nic Stotler of CM and Angela Payne of Roxana
1995 — Greg McDanel of Roxana and Erica Oge of Marquette
1994 — Eric Frankford of CM and Amie Gernigan of Marquette
1993 - Ty Laux of CM
1992 - Brad Bohannon of Marquette
1991 - Jonathan Denney of CM
1990 - Kevin Caldwell of Alton
1989 - Joe Vann of Alton
1988 - Steve Mason of Marquette
1987 - Jamie Humphries of CM
1986 - Larry Smith of Alton
1985 - Smith of Alton
1984 - Dale Liley of EA-WR
1983 - Rick Taylor of Alton
1982 - Steve Wooley of EA-WR
1981 - Dan Coddington of EA-WR
1980 - Troy Washpun of Alton
1979 - Jim “Buzz” Logan of EA-WR
1978 - David Goins of Alton
1977 - Brad Scheiter of Alton
1976 - Leroy Stampley of Alton
1975 - Chris Schroeder of Roxana
1974 - Doug Nalley of Alton
1973 - Lafayette Collins of Alton
1972 - Dennis Olston of EA-WR
1971 - Ron Caldwell of Alton
1970 - Dave Taynor of CM
1969 - Mike Jeffries of Alton
1968 - Leon Huff of Alton
1967 - Ricci Stotler of CM
1966 - Jim Bailey of EA-WR
1965 - Terry Brown of EA-WR
1964 - Larry Jeffries of Alton
1963 - Bob Hilgendorf of CM
1962 - Larry Shoemaker of Alton
1961 - Gary Lane of EA-WR
1960 - Karl Doucleff of Western Military Academy
1959 - Jerry Messick of EA-WR
1958 - Mike Hunter of Alton
1957 - Jim Lemon of EA-WR
1956 - Cliff Talley of EA-WR
1955 - Essic Robinson of Alton
1954 -Richard Brown of Roxana
1953 - Dick Harbke of Roxana
1952 - Ron Fisher of EA-WR
1951 - Bob Kuhn of Alton
1950 - Lowell Pettit of EA-WR
1949 - Ron Bedwell of Roxana
1948 - Sam Vinyard of EA-WR
1947 - Bob Caffery of EA-WR
1946 - Dick Erzen of EA-WR