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By Bob Kelley, retired RLC Sports Information Director
A repeat of last winter’s 24-8 campaign with the Regional Champion Nashville Hornets would give Coach Brad Weathers a coveted 500 victories during 2013-14 – actually a 501-324 won-loss mark – in a 28-year High School Boys Basketball coaching career.
But reaching that milestone certainly is hardly necessary to validate the worthiness of a classy individual who is about to add Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame membership to similar acclaim from the McKendree Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005.
The 14th Annual RLC Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies Saturday, April 27, will salute three individuals and one team:
• Weathers (hometown, Benton) was a reliable contributor for winning RLC Basketball Teams, including 20-6 Southern Illinois College Conference frontrunners, who went on to play for McKendree College. But it is as an Alumni Coach he has gained Hall of Fame status. He was “Coach of the Year” following a 32-3 Carlyle Indian Class A State Championship season in 1988-89 and his teams have won 477 games in 23 seasons at Carlyle and the last four at Nashville Community High School.
• Rebecca Harris (Mascoutah) was one of the top two scorers in Women’s Basketball history when she played for the Lady Warriors from 2004-06. She ranked No. 3 in the country when she scored 707 points and averaged 23.6 points-per-game as a sophomore, earning All-America Honorable Mention status before becoming the first Juco recruit in six years at the University of Illinois.
• Craig Sands (Highland) established Warrior Baseball records for most single-season and career pitching victories (16 and 31, respectively), complete games (16 and 28) and innings pitched (144 and 258). They erased standards established 11 years prior to his arrival and remain on a pedestal alone to this day . . . especially impressive since he played from 1987-89.
• A fourth NJCAA National Championship Cross-Country Team in Fall 2006. Do not dismiss another title, following those of past RLC Sports Hall of Fame Inductees representing Fall 2001, Fall 2002 and Fall 2003, as mere formality, however. This one came as a Division I competitor, just three years after the top two NJCAA divisions were combined; i.e., this challenge was even more demanding for a three-time D-II championship program, which settled for third the next two years following consolidation before the D-I breakthrough.
Weathers emerges from two classes of former Warriors (1971-72 and 1972-73) which produced at least eight future coaches. His playing credentials were steady-but-less-than-spectacular – 4.5 points and 4.8 rebounds as a freshman, 6.4 and 5.5, respectively, as a sophomore – but were more than enough to qualify him as an Alumni Coach, the first to be inducted in that niche of the RLC Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition to the 1989 Class A State Championship, Weathers guided five other Carlyle teams to 20-win seasons; the school’s first Regional title in 1985-86 and two others besides the championship season (1987-88 and 1999-2000), and overall mark of 391-288 (.576 winning percentage) between 1981-2004.
Led by University of Illinois Fighting Illini signees Phil Kunz and Tom Michael, the Indians were 132-23 during five seasons capped by the Class A crown. Another star off the state champs was 6-foot-7 Jason Peters, who played two seasons for the RLC Warriors and merited Academic All-America honors in 1991.
Weathers left the bench briefly after 2003-04 to become Nashville Community High School Principal. He would return as a Volunteer Assistant for RLC product Darin Lee, then retired as an administrator after 35 years in education to succeed Lee as NCHS Head Coach in 2009. He has led the Hornets to a record of 86-36 (.705) and the 2013 Regional title.
His record as a Head Coach is 477-324 (.596), with 10 conference championships.
When he was welcomed into the McKendree Sports Hall of Fame, he was deemed “an outstanding credit to McKendree College and his community. Not only has he led winning teams, but also his teams always exhibit respect for their opponents, dignity in victory or defeat and good sportsmanship. His influence on his players extends beyond their high school years.”
Weathers was District 19 Class A “Coach of the Year” in 1988 and both IBCA and Southern Illinois Coaches Association Class A “Coach of the Year” in 1989. He is a Past President of the SICA and serves on the IBCA Board of Directors and the Illinois High School Association Basketball Advisory Committee.
James Bradley Weathers and his wife, Cindi, are the parents of three adult children – Lindsay (Patrick) Fark, who has worked at Carlyle Jr. High the past five years; Patrick, who recently completed his fourth year as the NCHS Sophomore Coach, and Holly, a senior at McKendree University who coaches the high school Dance Team. Weathers is currently serving as the part-time Director of Alternative Learning for Nashville.
As a player, he learned from three of the best – consensus Hall-of-Famers Rich Herrin (BCHS), Jim Waugh (RLC) and Harry Statham (McKendree).
The 75-year-old Statham, after 47 seasons, is the winningest four-year men’s basketball coach at the four-year level with an incredible record of 1,068-434 (.711 winning percentage). He was named one of the coaches on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) 75th Anniversary All-Star Team in 2012. Statham was guest speaker for the RLC Sports Hall of Fame Third Annual Induction ceremony in 2002.
Herrin was one of the most successful high school coaches in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) history, primarily at Benton (616 prep victories in 29 seasons prior to leaving for the collegiate ranks) and later at Marion H.S., revived the Southern Illinois University Salukis Basketball program from 1985-1998. His 13-season tenure and 111 league wins (225-174 overall) rate No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Lovable local legend Waugh was a Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame Charter Member after 500 career victories, including 15 seasons with the Mt. Vernon Community College / RLC Warriors followed by 14 with the Lady Warriors before his retirement in 1982.
The Warriors were 18-11 Weathers’ first season, 20-6 (7-1 Southern Illinois College Conference champs) the second year.
Among his teammates – 2011 RLC Foundation “Alumnus of the Year” Ron Smith, SIUC Associate Head Coach at the time and a former Ranger teammate as well, and GRAC Basketball Official Steve Morris, former Mt. Vernon Township High School Softball Coach.
Other coaching alums/Weathers teammates include John Kretz, who returned to Rend Lake College early in his coaching career and is now a member of the RLC Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee; Greg Hale, Executive Director of the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association after retiring as longtime Softball Coach at Pinckneyville Community High school; former Herrin Tiger Football Coach David Loucks; Don Smith; Mike Guthrie, and Mike Hayes.