By PAUL HINES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON – Randy Odle has a passion for Rams basketball.
“My life's just always been involved around sports,” Odle said. “In the winter time, it would be awful boring if you didn't have basketball, didn't have sports.”
He will be honored in late April with an induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in the Friends category.
The group has been inducting individuals into its Hall of Fame since 1973. The Hall is inducting 89 new members for the Class of 2013 in a variety of categories that consist of coaches, players, teams, officials, media and friends.
This year's induction ceremony will be held on April 27 in Normal on the campus of Illinois State University.
Odle hasn't missed a Mt. Vernon boys basketball game since 1966 and has been the team's scorekeeper since former coach Doug Creel's first season in 1995. Prior to that, Odle was the freshman scorekeeper starting in 1979.
“You have to have a wife that's forgiving,” Odle said. “I missed my anniversary this year at a freshman basketball game. I don't think we've done anything on our wedding anniversary, it's in December, probably in the last 30 years because of basketball.”
The last game Odle missed was a Benton-Mt. Vernon matchup at Changnon Gym when the Rangers were the state's top-ranked team. Odle got in line for tickets at 2 p.m. By the time he got to the window, the game was sold out.
Odle graduated from the high school in the late 60s and watched both his sons play for the Rams in the late 80s and 90s.
“I think the purest form is still high school basketball,” he said.
One of Odle's favorite teams was the Rams squad his senior year at the high school. It was a team that featured Steve Strickland, Nate Hawthorne, Terry Sledge, Frank Sanders and Eddie James. The squad won 23 games and advanced to Champaign where the Rams lost to Aurora East.
He added that the group in the late 90s, featuring Kent Williams, was among his favorites.
“You could take that second five and start at most schools,” Odle said.
He's also witnessed several decades of one of the state's biggest rivalries between Centralia and Mt. Vernon.
“It's because it's so close. We play so many times, and Centralia's got a good program,” Odle said. “But Mt. Vernon does too.”
The games streak hasn't been without its close calls. Odle said sickness almost forced him to miss a game during the Rams last season.
“So far I've been lucky,” Odle said. “Usually I'm healthy as a horse.”
Odle's job of scorekeeper is a volunteer position. It's only perks are free popcorn and drinks.
“I've ate a lot of popcorn and (drank) a lot of sodies,” Odle joked.