Dwaine Dillard was a little before Dean Thompson’s time.
John C. Johnson? Thompson watched him play in high school and college and got to know him from working out at Creighton.
“I’ve played against all the rest,” said Thompson, the former Omaha Westside great who is included on the Metro holiday tournament’s all-time team.
The Metro Conference will honor the 10-player team at halftime of Thursday night’s boys final at the Civic Auditorium. The conference entrusted yours truly to make the selections as part of the celebration of the tournament’s golden anniversary.
The all-time 10, in chronological order of graduation, are Central’s Dillard (1968) and Johnson (1975), Mike McGee of Omaha North (1977), Thompson (1980), Kerry Trotter of Omaha Creighton Prep (1982), Ron Kellogg of Omaha Northwest (1982), Dave Hoppen of Omaha Benson (1982), Andre Woolridge of Benson (1982), Erick Strickland of Bellevue West (1992) and Josh Dotzler of Bellevue West (2005).
All were two- or three-time all-tournament selections and all but Kellogg played in at least one holiday final.
“A nice, nice group,” Thompson said. “I’d like to have that roster and see if we could play a little pickup ball.”
Post-high school accomplishments were not part of the considerations, but the 10 all went on to college or pro ball. Johnson and Dotzler went to Creighton; McGee to Michigan; Trotter to Marquette; Kellogg to Kansas; Hoppen and Strickland to Nebraska; Woolridge to NU, then Iowa; Thompson to UNO. Hoppen and Strickland had long stays in the NBA.
Dillard, the only posthumous selection, saw time on three levels — college at Eastern Michigan, pros in a brief American Basketball Association stint and a year with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Coming up with the final 10 was a heady task. The starting point were the all-holiday tournament teams — six players who were all-tournament three times and 33 who were two-time picks during the tourney’s first 50 years.
My tournament background starts with the 1977-78 season, so some research was required to do justice to the tournament’s first 15 seasons. Also tapped for consultation were longtime conference coaches and administrators, some of whom I met with at Millard South last month and got them signed off on the selections.
Among the last players on the table for consideration were Fred Hare of Omaha Tech (1963) and Cedric Hunter of Omaha South (1983).
Hare, who usually makes most all-time best player lists, played in only the first holiday tournament in 1962-63. The feeling was that the all-time team should reflect play in the tournament as well as the overall high school career.
Hunter was a standout at Kansas after graduating from South. But an appearance in the 1982-83 final was the only time the Packers advanced past the first round while he was playing.
Special mention also goes to Antoine Young of Bellevue West and Larry Vaculik of Omaha Ryan, who were all-tournament three times.
Stirring up a debate
In the days leading up to this season’s tournament, my all-time teams of the past 50 years for each Metro school, past and present, ran daily in The World-Herald.
On Tuesday, just for fun, we’ll re-run those teams and ask you a simple question sure to stir debate — which one of those teams is better than the rest?
In compiling the holiday history, these corrections have come to light:
Ron Andrews of Omaha Westside has been mistakenly referred to as “Don” since his selection in 1971-72.
Left out of Omaha Burke’s list of all-tournament players was Steve Ferrarini (1980-81). Same for Millard West’s Kyle Bakker as a two-time all-tournament selection (1997-98 and 1999-2000).
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