Greenview, De Land-Weldon 2 of IHSA’s Smallest Boys’ Basketball Teams

GREENVIEW — The Greenview and DeLand-Weldon varsity basketball teams represent schools that are the smallest of the smallest.

The programs finished the 2021-22 season with eight combined wins. Both lost in the first round of the Illinois Class 1A playoffs.

Greenview and DeLand-Weldon have only about 125 students combined in their lanes, but basketball remains a touchstone for the two Illinois Central East Conference schools that faced off last month during the regular season.

While many schools across the state are consolidating or becoming co-ops, players and coaches at two of the state’s smaller public schools prefer things as they are.

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“Oh, that’s definitely a special thing to do,” said Greenview sophomore Nate Turley. “You are very proud of the school, the court and everything, and it feels like home. So definitely a sense of pride and you love doing it.

And this feeling is shared by the players of the small DeLand-Weldon.

“It’s awesome,” said Phoenix Stukins, a freshman on the DeLand-Weldon team. “I just play with the kids I grew up with. There’s nothing quite like it: small town basketball.

Greenview is a village of 745, according to the US Census Bureau, located 25 miles north of Springfield. De Land and Weldon, about 70 miles northeast of Springfield in Piatt County, has a combined population of 816.

Greenview cheerleaders cheer on the crowd visiting DeLand-Weldon on Friday January 28, 2022 in De Land.

The smallest of small schools

According to the Illinois High School Association, the two-year average enrollment of 61.5 makes it the second-smallest public school in Illinois to field its own boys’ basketball team. Only Lovejoy and his 36.5 registrants form a boys’ basketball team with fewer students. DeLand-Weldon, according to IHSA, has 62.5 students, based on school enrollment from the previous two school years reported by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Other small schools in the state with independent basketball teams include Leland (67), Joppa-Maple Grove (69.5), and Scales Mound (70.5).

The Scales Mound Hornets were 29-2 in the regular season and ranked No. 1 in Class 1A in the latest Associated Press poll — an exception that proves the rule: it’s harder to win with a limited number of players.

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Lovejoy was 11-17, Greenview (7-17) had two wins over 1-27 DeLand-Weldon, Leland finished 2-18 and Joppa-Maple Grove was 9-15 (most records according to MaxPreps). “It’s really tough,” Greenview’s only senior David Arkebauer said. “But I think it’s better for us because it challenges us more, makes us try harder and makes us try – if there’s success, we get our success on our own.”

The junior high volleyball team practices in the gymnasium at Greenview High School on Wednesday February 16, 2022.

Limited group of players available

Hall of Fame coach Cliff Cameron took over at Greenview in one season. During the abbreviated 2021 season, he served as his son’s assistant at school. Michael Cameron got a job at Carroll College in Wisconsin and the eldest Cameron stepped in for a season.

Cameron led Pleasant Plains to the Class A state championships in 2000 and 2002. He also coached at Jacksonville for one season, in 2016-17. Enrollment at Pleasant Plains was over 300 students when Cameron won the state titles, while Jacksonville had nearly 1,000 students.

Greenview had 15 players in its basketball program this season and Cameron said he was grateful for that.

“In practice, we need bodies,” Cameron said. “There is a junior player who would really help us. But he’s the only one that didn’t come out that I would have liked.

In the smallest of small schools, a coach may have several players from one class and none from another. Arkebauer said he was one of only two boys in Greenview’s entire senior class.

The other boy, Arkebauer said, contributes to the school in other ways. “He’s really smart and he’s really good with computers. I’m pretty athletic. It’s kind of nice to have two people (from different sides).

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DeLand-Weldon coach Chuck Arnold has five freshmen on his 10-man squad. The 2003 DeLand-Weldon graduate has two classes with no players.

“You get your gap classes,” Arnold said. “For example, we don’t have a sophomore and we don’t have any (players entering) eighth grade next year. We have four freshmen coming in, but we won’t have any students. eighth grade.

A few mid-season injuries left Arnold with just eight players for a while. This limited the way the coach wanted his team to play.

“It’s hard to push the ball when you only have a three-man bench,” Arnold said. “Really conditioned and a lot of execution and stuff like that – being able to do the little things like adjusting a screen properly – really goes a long way.”

Arnold said a co-op with another school might be more competitive, but it would also mean less playing time for his athletes.

“Let’s be honest: A lot of those kids wouldn’t get the chance to make a team or see minutes at a bigger school or with co-op,” he said. “For them, having the opportunity to have competitive experiences and to wear a uniform, I think is really special for them.

“For me, I think it’s more important to give these children experiences; it’s once in a lifetime”

Greenview High School spirit sign along Lincoln Street on Wednesday February 16, 2022.

They have spirit, yes they do

The crowd may have been small when Greenview visited DeLand-Weldon and claimed a 52-42 victory on Jan. 28, but it was spirited. At Greenview, Superintendent Ryan Heavner said his gymnasium is often packed for Bulldogs home games.

“It’s good to play for ourselves,” DeLand-Weldon’s Eli Woolridge said. “Our school has a lot of school spirit. If we went to Blue Ridge and played, they wouldn’t care about us because we’re the De Land kids. It’s great to play at a school where everyone knows you.

Greenview’s Turley said while it wasn’t a Wednesday game – Wednesdays are a popular church night in the town – he knows he will be playing in front of a cheering crowd.

“We have a small town, so everyone comes out and has a good time – whether we win or lose,” Turley said. “It’s just a small town. We all get together and do our thing.

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According to the IHSA, there are 31 basketball co-ops this season. But that doesn’t reflect the number of school districts that have consolidated.

After Greenview’s win at DeLand-Weldon, Cameron reflected on the unique nature of the game between smaller schools.

“Few schools this size have the opportunity to play their high school against another school like this: they cooperate or consolidate,” Cameron said. “It’s rare to see two small schools come out and compete and give kids an opportunity that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Greenview at DeLand-Weldon on Friday, January 28, 2022 at DeLand.

here to stay

Arnold loves DeLand-Weldon, despite the challenges. He was raised there and he will also raise his son there. He said when he graduated, there were only 48 students in the entire high school.

“I live here locally and my wife and I just had our first son a few years ago, so he’s probably going to go too,” Arnold said. “That’s pretty cool. Half of these guys I’ve known since they were born or went to school with their parents or something.

Eagles players are happy to have Arnold, they said.

“This man is a great coach,” Stukins said. This sentiment was reiterated by other DeLand-Weldon players in a postgame interview. Several DeLand-Weldon players enthusiastically gathered around a reporter from Springfield. Teams such as Greenview and DeLand-Weldon typically play their games without television cameras or reporters present. A lot of those games aren’t on the radio either.

Arkebauer had the experience of playing a sport at another school. In eighth grade, he played baseball at Mason City Illini Central. But in men’s golf, Greenview hosts a co-op with Athens. There are positives, however, he said.

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“Even though we shot from different schools, I treated them like (golfers from) my school,” Arkebauer said. “It’s kind of close to each other, trying to keep them all as one group. So, yeah, it’s really good to have our own group, but sometimes it’s better to have other schools to get to know other people.

Greenview senior David Arkebauer (22) battles for the rebound position against DeLand-Weldon's Jack Schmidt while teammate Alex Wilcoxon (50) watches the ball.

And Nate Turley, whose twin brother Nick is a basketball teammate, said he could play football next year with Petersburg PORTA.

Winning is good, says Arnold, but he prefers things as they are.

“I went to school here…and had a lot of good experiences doing it,” he said.

Arkebauer agrees.

“It’s kind of like a family,” Arkebauer said. “Small schools are good, because you’re so close together, you’re like a family.”

Contact Ryan Mahan: 857-246-9756, [email protected],