INA – Three former Lions Club All-Stars who are now student-athletes at Rend Lake College recently talked about their experiences playing on the purple team last year in the club’s annual all-star basketball game. They also chatted about their love of sports and what they think high school athletes should do to stay aggressive and skilled at the collegiate level.
Mt. Vernon’s EJ Randolph and Truvaunty Badger, and Vienna’s Derek Trovillion agreed that playing on the same team with their opponents in high school was the most outstanding and enjoyable part of their Lions Club All-Stars Basketball Classic experience. Well, there’s that and the fact that last year’s game was a sensational overtime win for the purple team – which was the team they played on.
“It was well attended. There was a pretty good crowd there with a lot of energy. It was a great atmosphere,” Badger said. “There wasn’t a lot on the line, but you wanted to win for bragging rights. I’m very competitive, so I wanted to win.”
“These teams were stacked,” Randolph said. “Our team was supposed to win by 20 at least. It wasn’t supposed to be an overtime game, but it ended up being one.
“We didn’t win by much,” he explained. “We won in overtime. We were up by two when the gold team threw a lob from the sideline to Marland Johnson from Meridian. Johnson caught it over the head of our 7-footer, Brett Thompson from Vienna, and scored. That’s how we went into overtime.”
Thompson was a starter for St. Louis University this past season and Johnson is now playing at Three Rivers Community College.
“We were neck and neck the whole way,” Randolph said. “We won, but I don’t know how we did it. Overtime was a little tense at first. I can’t remember who was scoring all our points, but we pulled away a little bit.”
“During regulation, everybody was just having fun,” Trovillion added. “I think that when we went into overtime everyone started getting serious and playing hard. It was pretty competitive. It was a lot of fun.”
Randolph, an IBCA All-Stater and the Morning Sentinel’s 2008 Player of the Year as a senior at Mt. Vernon High, wrapped up his rookie season this year as a Warrior on the RLC basketball team under veteran Head Coach Tim Wills. Badger, an All-South Seven Conference guard for the Rams, also just completed his first year as a Warrior cager.
They said focus and hard work are the keys at any level.
“Stay focused,” Badger said.
“Give it all you have,” Randolph added. “Give 110 percent all of the time and do your best. That’s basically all you can control. Your playing time is up to the coaches.”
Trovillion, 19, will be back at Rend Lake in the fall, on the diamond and in the classroom studying radiologic technology.
“It was pretty cool getting to play all the other seniors in Southern Illinois,” he said. “You’ve played against them all your life and then you get to be on the same team. That was pretty neat.”
It was especially significant for him because the Lions Club All-Star Game was the first event he was healthy enough to play in after a devastating injury – Trovillion broke his arm while throwing a fastball in a game – left a plate and seven screws in his arm, and took away his senior season on the mound for Vienna. He then re-injured it during the basketball season, pretty much wiping out his senior year in athletics.
“The all-star game was really the first time I was able to do stuff pain-free,” he said. “It took a lot of time to get over it. I was set back. It’s fine now. I don’t have any trouble at all.”
“I’m tremendously proud of him,” said his mother, Vanessa Hopkins. “He has come back from a very detrimental injury. He worked hard to get back in shape, physically and mentally.”
Trovillion hit for the cycle at Rent One Park this season for the Warriors. It was the highlight of the season for the first baseman.
“He lives, eats and breathes baseball,” she said. “He is an avid athlete who would rather play baseball than do anything else. He’s been playing since he was 3 years old. He just lives for baseball. Of course, Derek is Puerto Rican, so it’s kind of in his blood to begin with.”
“Sports are all I’ve ever known,” her son said. “It’s all I’ve done. The guys I played with in high school played together since the fourth grade. Basketball has always been my favorite, but baseball has been my ticket so far.”
“I had a good time,” he said of the Lions Club All-Star Game. “I enjoyed it and that’s the main thing about all-star games is having fun. You get to play with people you don’t normally get to play with or against. There is a lot of talent in there.”
Randolph, who interestingly enough was guarded most of the game by Sesser’s Todd Carpenter (also at RLC), said the Lions Club All-Star Game wasn’t the last time he played high school organized basketball, but it was the last time he wore his Rams jersey.
“I had the IBCA All-State game after [the Lions Club game], but Lions Club was the last time I got to wear my Mt. Vernon jersey. I had a really good time in the game. I was actually on the same team as Carlton Westbrook from Centralia and Tommy Pelczynski from Nashville.”
Pelczynski wore #21 at guard for Southwestern Illinois College this past season and Westbrook plays guard for Lincoln Land College. Randolph, Badger and the Warriors beat Westbrook and the Loggers in the opening round of this year’s NJCAA Region XXIV tournament.
Badger also remembers Westbrook more than other teammates, considering the irony of teaming up with a guy he was taught to go to war with.
“I got to play and see all the local kids from the local teams, and play against people I knew,” Badger said. “I got to play on a team with Westbrook from Centralia, which was our rival.”
“Westbrook was definitely a rival,” Randolph said. “We didn’t speak much during the [high school] season. I probably would have gotten shot if I would have been seen talking to him then. But, we are friends.”
Trovillion’s advice for those on the Lions Club All-Star roster this year is “Enjoy it. Have fun. It’s a good experience and you get to play with all the other good players around Southern Illinois.”
Badger’s advice is a little more specific.
“Shoot the ball before somebody else does. I mean, you know how all-star games go.”
The only other overtime in the 30-year history of the Lions Club All-Stars Basketball Classic was in 1992.
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