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Michigan City's best at buckets

In this period of no sports, choosing all-time teams has become all the rage. After the Indianapolis Star came out with a 64-team bracket of top Indiana high schools that included a roster of Michigan City Elston greats, former Rogers coaches Earl Cunningham and Rick Commers collaborated with former Elston coach Dan Steinke and former Marquette Catholic coach Dick McGill on putting together an all-Michigan City team comprised of greats from those high schools. "We were kicking around the idea," Cunningham said. "We started throwing names around. We're all about the same age. We each put in the time. We had a ball. It was so much fun." Cunningham coached the Raiders during its most successful period, winning 137 games, four regionals and six sectionals in seven seasons between 1983 and 1989 after succeeding Bill Hahn. He preceded Commers, who coached Rogers until the '95 consolidation. Steinke took over at Elston in 1978 and was there up to when the schools combined. He went 89-34 in his last five seasons with four sectional and two regional titles in that span. McGill coached Marquette from 1976 to 1987, the longest tenure in school history. The coaches opted to choose an 11-player roster comprised of four Raiders, four Red Devils and three Blazers with selections made based on what they did in high school as well as college or even the pros. The 12th spot was left open for everyone to debate. "You always leave somebody off," Cunningham said. "We had about 40, 50 guys we all considered." Save for one Marquette player, the list ranges from 1964 to 1992 graduation years. Herman 'Helicopter' Wilson was selected as an honorary captain. A major Division I recruit, Wilson was killed in a car accident between his junior and senior year. "He was 6-3, 6-4, and he could get his hand above the (backboard) square," Cunningham said. The group also came across several families that could have made an all-name team, including Payne, Simmons, Kiner (four brothers, including 6-foot-4 twins), Jones, Lewis and Gipson. Among them, Larry Gipson played at IU while his son Tracy played for Valparaiso. The team, with available biographical information, is listed chronoligically: * Vernon Payne, Michigan City Elston, 1964. An Indiana All-Star, the 5-foot-10 guard led the Northern Indiana Conference in scoring and was the Red Devils' top scorer (season, 540, and career, 1,319) and assists leader at the time of his graduation. Elston won 57 games and three sectional titles during his sophomore to senior seasons. He scored over 1,000 points in three seasons at IU, where he was an MVP, All-Big Ten and Naismith All-American pick. He coached at the collegiate level for 18 years, including 1982-89 at Western Michigan. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. * Jim Retseck, Marquette Catholic, 1969. Retseck's 1,494 points, amassed in three seasons, stood atop the school's all-time list until 2015. His 705 points as a senior remains No. 1 for a season. Marquette's 21-3 record that year remains the school's best. It was 55-13 in his three seasons. The 6-foot-9 Retseck went on to play two seasons at Auburn, where he averaged a double-double (15.7 points and 10.3 rebounds). He was taken in the third round of the 1973 NBA Draft (46th overall) by the Golden State Warriors. * Albert Fleming, Michigan City Elston, 1972. The 6-8 Fleming, a '72 Indiana All-Star, averaged 22.9 points and 14.8 rebounds a game as a senior. His 619 points that season set a school record. The Red Devils were ranked No. 1 and 26-0 before losing to Gary West Side in the Purdue Semistate. Fleming went on to Arizona, where he established career records in scoring (1,765) and rebounding (1,190), averaging a double-double (15.5/10.4), and still holds the mark for rebounding as well as shooting percentage (.667) in a season. The field goal mark topped the nation in 1974. He led the Wildcats to their first Elite Eight in 1976. Drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the second round (30th overall), Fleming played one season with the Seattle SuperSonics before heading overseas, where he played in Sweden, Italy, Israel, Portugal and Uruguay. He was inducted posthumously into the Arizona Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. * Tony Branch, Michigan City Elston, 1976. The 6-foot guard, a four-year starter, helped the Red Devils to three sectional titles and one regional championship (1975, when they went 23-3). He averaged 17.6 points and seven assists per game as a senior and set Elston's career scoring record with 1,353 points. Branch went on to Louisville, where he was the captain of the 1980 national title-winning Cardinals. He averaged 3.3 points and 1.6 assists per game for his collegiate career. * Dan Palombizio, Michigan City Rogers, 1981. The 6-8 forward was Indiana's second three-time first-team all-state selection. The 1981 Mr. Basketball and All-American led the state in scoring (31.8) and rebounds (17.4) per game as a senior. He broke or matched game, season or career records 43 times in high school. After initially attending Purdue, Palombizio transferred to Ball State, where he ranked third in the nation in scoring and 12th in rebounding in 1985. His 762 points established a school record for a season. A two-time Honorable Mention All-American, Palombizio was drafted in 1986 by the Philadelphia 76ers, ultimately playing professionally in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal and the Dominican Republic. He also played for the Fort Wayne Fury of the Continental Basketball Association. Palombizio was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame earlier this year. * Dion Campbell, Marquette Catholic, 1983. The 6-4 point guard scored 715 points in his Blazers career, standing out as an all-around performer as a senior when he posted per game marks of 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals. Considered one of the top 10 seniors in Indiana, Campbell chose Oklahoma State over Furman and Davidson two, but things didn't pan out with the Cowboys. He returned home early in his sophomore season, eventually transferring to Indiana State, where he started 26 games as a senior, averaging 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. * Delray Brooks, Michigan City Rogers, 1984. The co-Mr. Basketball and USA Today Player of the Year in 1984, the 6-4 guard remains the most prolific scorer in Michigan City prep basketball history with a 970-point senior season and 2,324 for his career. The Raiders went 28-1 that season, falling 75-73 to Warsaw in the Fort Wayne Semistate final. After initially attending Indiana, Brooks left the program during his sophomore season and moved on to Providence to play for Rick Pitino. The Friars made the Final Four in 1987 and Brooks led them in scoring as a senior. After going undrafted and playing briefly in the World Basketball League, Brooks went into coaching, serving on Pitino's Kentucky staff from 1992-97. He coached two years at Texas-Pan American and also coached in Florida and California before returning to northern Indiana. Brooks spent five years at La Lumiere and also coached at South Bend Clay until 2018. * Keith Gailes, Michigan City Rogers, 1987. An '87 Associated Press All-State selection, the 6-3 guard averaged 22.7 points a game in helping the Raiders go 21-5 and win a third straight regional. Gailes also led Rogers in scoring as a junior and sophomore, when the teams went a combined 45-9. His 1,599 points in three seasons at Rogers ranks third all-time. He scored 365 as a freshman in Mississippi. Gailes was named to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Silver Anniversary team in 2012. A stellar college career at Loyola (Chicago) saw Gailes establish the school record for career scoring average with 24.7 points per game. One of only two players to have scored over 2,000 career points at Loyola, he ranks second on the school's all-time list with 2,025. Gailes scored 40 or more points four times, ultimately earning induction into the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame. Gailes had a brief professional career in France. * Keir Rogers, Michigan City Rogers, 1987. Gailes' running mate with the Raiders, the 6-4 guard tallied 432 points as a senior, capping an 895-point career that included three trips to the Fort Wayne Semistate. The pair remained teammates in college with Rogers joining Gailes at Loyola, where Rogers amassed 1,415 points and 696 rebounds. He set two Horizon League records in steals and also shot 50 percent from the field. In 2018, the pair were both named to the Ramblers' All-Century Team. Rogers tried out with and was cut by the Indiana Pacers before playing two years in Europe, where injuries ended his playing days. * Charles Macon, Michigan City Elston, 1992. The 6-8 Macon, nicknamed 'The Killer,' had an incredible senior season in which he averaged 24.9 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.2 blocked shots and 2.4 assists per game, leading the Red Devils to 23 wins, a 9-0 mark in the Northern Indiana Conference and sectional and regional titles before a loss in the Lafayette Semistate final. The numbers earned him a spot on the McDonald's All-American team as well as Mr. Basketball honors. Macon averaged 22.8 points and 11.3 rebounds as a junior when Elston went 18-4. He is the school's all-time leader in season (721) and career (1,711) scoring. Macon went to Ohio State, but didn't develop with the Buckeyes. He transferred to Central Michigan after his sophomore season and put up big numbers with the Chippewas -- 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots -- over two seasons. Macon wasn't drafted, but played professionally in Portugal and Mexico as well as the Continental Basketball Association. * Ryan Fazekas, Marquette Catholic, 2015. The 6-8 guard-forward led the Blazers to the Class A state title as a junior in 2014, when he scored 34 points to go with 11 rebounds and a record 7 3-pointers in an overtime win over Barr-Reeve, then a return trip as a senior. He scored 1,562 career points, breaking the school record that had stood since 1969, including 647 as a senior. Fazkeas was named to the Indiana All-Stars, though he did not play on the team. He went to Providence, where a promising start that included a trip to the NCAA Tournament as a freshman was derailed by a bout with mononucleosis. Injuries then sidetracked his sophomore season and Fazekas decided to return to the area, transferring to Valparaiso. Continually hampered by physical issues during his time with the Crusaders, 'Zeke' still ranked second on the team in scoring (11.8 ppg) and led the team in 3s per game (2.4), free throw percentage (80.6) and 3-point accuracy (43.2 percent) as a junior, then averaged 10.6 points per game while shooting 49.5 percent (47-of-95) from the arc as a senior. His career 3-point shooting percentage of 46.1 established a program record.


Valparaiso University's Ryan Fazekas (Marquette Catholic) was among 11 players named to an all-time Michigan City prep basketball team selected by four former coaches from the schools -- Rogers, Elston and Marquette. (Photo courtesy of Valparaiso University Athletics)

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