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I’m Just Saying....With Don Adams

Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 9:23 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Don Adams (second from the right in the front row) is the last living starter from the 1938 Dundee High School state championship basketball team.

For each of the past 76 years, Don Adams has counted March 19 as one of the best days of his life. The 93-year-old Carpentersville native who now lives on Long Island, N.Y., is the last living starter from the 1938 Dundee High School state championship team. Adams, who played guard before continuing his career at Purdue and serving as a Navy pilot, was a senior when Dundee (34-1) captured the championship with a 36-29 victory over Braidwood Reed-Custer in Champaign.

We lost the first game of the season but from there on, everything seemed to jell. We worked through our conference – it was called the Little 7 Conference at the time. We had several games when we scored 50 points, which was unheard of in those days. Even in the semifinal game at Champaign in the championship series, we scored 51 points. It was awesome because there weren’t too many teams in that era who reached those heights.

We just had five guys who played really well together. Everyone on that team got along and we had a couple of terrific scorers – Chris Hansen and Don Blanken. Of course, we had a terrific coach – coach (Eugene) de Lacy. Our coach was the driver – I can tell you that. He kept on us all the time and so it seemed as if we had to produce. At times, he was a little tough on us, but I think he did that for a reason. You know the tough love approach? I think that was part of it. But we all liked him. There’s certain times when there can be some resentment against a coach, but we all thought he was a great guy.

After we won the regional tournament, we pretty much thought we had a chance to go someplace. We were (in Champaign) the year before and we were defeated in the first round by Moline by two points. But we decided we were going to be back the next year. I guess there was an air of dejection (after the loss in 1937). Maybe it was a little overwhelming. But (in 1938) if I had to use a word, I would say it was wild. The folks in town thought we had chance to do something because as we seemed to go along, we seemed to get a little bit better all the time. All I can say is that it was heartwarming (to have the town behind us). So after the first game (in Champaign), we thought, ‘Gee – we have a chance here – a darn good chance.

In those days, we played the semifinal game in the afternoon and then we played the finals that night. Two games in one day. But look, when you’re that age and that young, you can do a lot in a short time. But we just went with the flow. That’s the way it was – we had to do it. We had the idea that we could (win state), but once it happened, you know, we were a little dumbfounded to say the least. When we got home, I think the whole town was waiting for us. We had a prelude to a parade that night. They had some fire trucks out and we went around to some of the villages at that time. I think I got to bed about 5 o’clock in the morning.

Every March 19, I have thought about that game since 1938. I do have fond memories because I’ve probably classified that day as the most important and exciting day of my life except for when I got married. When you look at how many young men in their lives accomplish something like that, to me, that was a real accomplishment.

• I’m Just Saying is a regular Sunday feature. If there’s someone you would like to see featured, write to me at jarnold@shawmedia.com or send me a message on Twitter @NWH_JeffArnold.

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