By Steve Robinson | January 25, 2016 - 10:07 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

BasketballIf you read this column last week, you read predictions from L. A. Decker, the public address announcer for all of the games for the annual McLean County/Heart Of Illinois Conference Basketball Tournament. The 105th edition of the tourney is in the books and when I checked in with Decker before covering both championship contests last Saturday, he looked at me and said, “Didn’t I tell you Ridgeview boys would be in the final?”

Sure enough, head coach Rodney Kellar’s Ridgeview troops proved Decker right about getting to the boys’ final. Decker said he wouldn’t give me his prediction for the ultimate winner in the championship games. That’s fine considering how close he turned out to be in wondering about the finalists.

In the girls’ tourney, Decker was half-right about his guesses as he did say LeRoy would make the finals. The Lady Panthers faced Tremont for the title and the Lady Turks took the crown, with head coach Danielle Cooley’s crew finishing second. In the boys’ finale, Decker was on the mark saying Ridgeview would face LeRoy.

trophy-mctourn.jpgThat kind of skill in being able to size up teams can’t be left up to guesswork. And after just completing his 16th year as the public address announcer for the Illinois Wesleyan University Shirk Center portion of the week-long tourney, it would be safe to say Decker, a former announcer with WJBC AM 1230, is not just a student of the tourney’s ins and outs. No, rather, at this point, having been associated with the tourney since 2001, he might want to tell people he has a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in Bracketology.

Decker’s association with the tournament began back then, essentially as a volunteer. As Decker explains it, IWU head football coach Norm Eash told Decker the announcing gig was “yours for as long as you want it.” Over time, the position went from being a volunteer effort to a paying gig that’s a labor of love for Decker.

The courtside public address announcer job is as close to broadcasting as Decker has been since regular listeners last heard him call a game for WJBC seven years ago. He has not been mic-side for any station since 2009. But before that, he was in radio in Watseka, Bloomington, and two stints with one station in Atlanta, Ill. in Logan County.

For Decker, the best part of being associated with the tourney “is seeing the generations that come through,” he explained. “I umpire baseball and see kids at this tournament during their high school years whose baseball games I called when they were younger.” He said they all spot him, call out to him and say hello. He said even if the kids do not remember his name, it’s still nice to be recognized and remembered.

During the tournament, one thing folks might not realize about one of the duties Decker takes on at the tournament, in addition to announcing, is scorekeeping every game. That’s every game at Shirk. He does that to serve as a back-up to the official scorekeeper. “If there’s a question about a score or who scored what, I keep my own score sheet,” Decker said.

With such uncanny accuracy like his to predict finalists, I will definitely have to call on Decker again next year for his predictions for 2017. Next week, I have a story that I think bridges the County Tourney and Valentine’s Day.

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