The man behind the McDonald’s Shootout

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What brings several women’s basketball recruiters to a near-empty gym in Villa Park at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning?

How about Fantasia Vine, for starters? In the never ending pursuit for better talent, assistant basketball coaches from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Bradley and Brown were among the first to arrive when the doors opened for Saturday’s edition of the McDonald’s Shootout at Willowbrook. Bradley assistant coach NcKell Copeland made the trip that morning from Peoria after the Braves beat Northern Iowa in a home game Friday night.

Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone sent two of her three assistants, Ty Margenthaler and Kathi Bennett, to Willowbrook. They were planning on seeing all seven games on Saturday, return to Madison for the Badgers’ home game against Illinois Sunday and then Margenthaler will return to Willowbrook Monday morning to see another eight games that day.

“There is no question this is a huge benefit for us to be able to see eight games a day, 24 games in three days,” said Margenthaler, who attended his second Shootout. “It saves me 24 trips around Illinois and Indiana.”

The recruiters are hoping to catch the attention of players such as Vine, Wheaton North’s standout junior guard. At one point during the first quarter of Saturday morning’s game against St. Ignatius, Vine (10 points) had more points than the entire Wolfpack team (nine).

Wheaton North made its first appearance in the 20th annual McDonald’s Shootout. The Falcons received a late invitation to the Shootout after Montini dropped one of its two games at the Shootout in October due to overscheduling. Second-ranked Montini will play top-ranked Bolingbrook in this year’s marquee matchup at 6 p.m. Monday, but that game lost much of its luster due to a knee injury to UConn-bound Michala Johnson of Montini.

Frank Morgan played Professor Marvel and the title character in “The Wizard of Oz.” At the McDonald’s Shootout, the man behind the curtain is 62-year-old Jim O’Boye, who prefers sitting in a chair borrowed from one of the offices at Willowbrook while watching every single game in Shootout history. O’Boye tries to greet every single recruiter that comes to the Shootout.

“But I don’t run the event for those (recruiters),” O’Boye said.

O’Boye ran a shootout for boys 20 years ago when girls coaches such as Maine West’s Derril Kipp suggested that O’Boye run a similar event for girls. Maine West and St. Ignatius are the only teams to appear in all 20 Shootouts.

The first game was played Jan. 11, 1991, between IHM and Luther North at Northwestern. IHM’s coach was Dave Power, who has coached in 17 Shootouts between IHM and Fenwick. Between 1992-95, the Shootout was held at DePaul before finding its current home at Willowbrook.

“Willowbrook is a terrific (host). They are unbelievable,” O’Boye said. “They move all of their basketball out for the event.”

Willowbrook also provides concessions, workers, and an ideal location just minutes away from the Eisenhower Expressway. The school’s gymnasium is one of the biggest in the West suburbs. O’Boye said he has never heard any visiting coach complain about the conditions of Willowbrook’s locker rooms and faciliites.

One of O’Boye’s inspirations behind the Shootout was watching his own twin daughters, Shannon and Jacqueline, play basketball at IHM. Now his daughters are 33 years old. One of O’Boye’s granddaughters, Kaitlyn O’Boye, is playing for Plainfield North’s sophomore team this season. He has already decided to add Plainfield North to next year’s Shootout field and has one other commitment from Niles West, which features sophomore star Jewell Loyd.

O’Boye is already organizing next year’s Shootout, asking coaches and sportswriters for suggested teams and scanning local newspapers for teams with up-and-coming players. For the out-of-town teams, O’Boye consults with coaches that bring their teams to the Chicago area for the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend, such as North Central’s Alan Vickrey from Indianapolis or Kokomo’s Jason Snyder.

O’Boye constantly receives requests from teams hoping to play in the Shootout. Sometimes he struggles telling a team that they will no longer play in next year’s event.

“They think they’ll never come back,” O’Boye said.

The rest of the year besides the MLK Holiday weekend, O’Boye is the owner-president of KOST Broadcast Sales, a sports production and marketing company. The company produces the IHSA broadcasts for state football and basketball and also produces Hub Arkush’s Pro Football Weekly show for Comcast SportsNet.

O’Boye is always looking for matchups and tries to schedule his marquee game for each year on Saturday or Monday night. He tries to bring in new teams, such as Wheaton North, every year to keep the Shootout fresh.

O’Boye’s most memorable Shootout game in 20 years came in Year 2 between Kokomo, Ind., and Marshall, which featured Kim Williams. Both teams went on to win their state championship.

“That was one of the best basketball games I’ve every seen. Period,” O’Boye said. “That was Kokomo’s only loss of the year. There were eight Division I kids. We had a full house.

That game helped as a springboard for the event. It was important because it helped open the door for Indiana teams. That state’s winningest team of the 1990s is Kokomo. That game had a lot to do with us 18 years later, and we’re still here.”

The only sports writer to see all 20 Shootouts is the Sun-Times’ Steve Tucker. O’Boye said Tucker, by far, outpaces Hinsdale Doings sports writer Bill Stone, who would rank No. 2 on that list.

O’Boye doesn’t run the Shootout to make a profit. “Certainly, I need to break even,” he said. Whatever profit he makes, rolls over toward expenses for the next Shootout. His major expense is playing rent to Willowbrook for the use of the gym. He also picks up the hotel bill and meal money for the out-of-state teams. Those schools must provide their own transportation to Chicago. This year’s Shootout features out-of-state schools from Indiana (Oregon-Davis in Hamlet, Carmel and Indianapolis North Central) and St. Joseph from St. Louis, Mo. As the sponsor, McDonald’s helps defray O’Boye’s costs.

For the past nine years, the McDonald’s Shootout has been receiving competition from the Martin Luther King Dream Classic at Young. Loyola is the only school appearing in both shootouts.

Fenwick coach Dave Power’s brother, Bill (above), has been to all 17 Shootouts involving his brother’s teams. On Saturday, he was at the first game between Wheaton North and St. Ignatius and planned on seeing all seven games ending with Fenwick’s 7 p.m. against North Central.

“I used to coach women at the University of Chicago, Triton and Moraine Valley,” Bill Power said. “It’s a lot of fun. I think high school boys and girls is the purest sport. It’s fantastic. This is the place to be.”

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