By Tony Hooker
Class of 2020
If my count is correct, Liberty Floyd makes the fourth athlete from the VGHS class of 2020 to sign a letter of intent to continue their athletic careers in college, with potentially more to come. Combine that with the fact that the senior led scholastic bowl team is undefeated and just won the Illinois Masonic Academic Bowl state championship and the class has a nice combination of Brawn and Brains, to my way of thinking.
Gardening and such
Some of the best memories of my childhood revolve around “helping” my Grandpa Hooker on the farm. He and grandma were tenant farmers just north of Pierson Station, and I spent a lot of time there. It’s been over four decades, but the sights, sounds and feelings from those days remain warm and strong. One of the things I loved most was helping in their garden. Like just about all farm families back then, and probably still today, they had an immense spread where they planted a wide variety vegetables. Their strawberry patch was legendary. My grandpa used to dig up a potato, wash it well water and then he and I would sit on the porch and share it. A little dirt never hurt, right? A sixth-grade education, and he was one of the smartest, wisest men I’ll ever know, and grandma surrounded me with the kind of unconditional love that I aspire to (and fail to attain, probably) with my children.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s from these agrarian roots that my love of gardening comes. With last year’s travels abroad, I didn’t put one in, so this year I’m chomping at the bit to start scratching dirt. As usual, I’m a little late to the party, but I’m getting ready to plant some indoor seedlings. There will be peppers and tomatoes and green beans for sure. I’m also considering trying an herb garden for the first time, and I’m also wanting to put in a native plant garden for the butterflies and bees. Please send in any tips that you might have, and I’ll share them in a future column. In two weeks is our annual farm and ag edition, so for anyone who is partial to that sort of thing, be sure to pick up a copy.
For the first time since 2013, the University of Illinois Men’s basketball team is almost certain to play in the NCAA tournament. For fans of my vintage, tourney droughts were rather common until Mr. Lou Henson came along. Coach Henson, along with his assistant coaches, were able to open a pipeline of Chicago and downstate talent that carried the team to the 1989 final four (Sean Higgins pushed off!) and continued for nearly two decades. It’s no surprise that when Chicago blue-chippers quit coming downstate, tourney success left as well. Enter Mr. Ayo Dosunmu. There’s still a long way to go, but it looks like he and his teammates will someday be looked upon as the ones who returned the program to relevance. I think Greg Gard will win Big Ten coach of the year, and deservedly so, as the Wisconsin team was left for dead, just a month ago, but Brad Underwood deserves major kudos for staying the course while adapting his style of team play to the pieces he has to work with.