The booming voice with an Indiana drawl sounded a bit familiar to just about anyone who’s watched a Milwaukee Bucks game in recent memory.
To some of the audience’s older members — those who could remember watching basketball games in the 1960s and ’70s — the tall, lanky figure speaking to them looked a bit familiar, too.
Jon McGlocklin, a former professional basketball player who was on the Milwaukee Bucks’ inaugural-season roster in 1968 and who now works as the team’s TV analyst, spoke Sunday evening with senior letter-winners from area high schools at the Sheboygan Elks Club Gridiron Committee’s annual sports banquet.
“How many things other than an athletic event will put as many people in your local gymnasium?” he asked, keeping his roughly 20-minute speech focused mainly on the ability of sports — and local athletes — to transform the world. “… How many things other than an athletic event will attract millions of people to a television set like the World Series? The Super Bowl? The NBA playoffs? The Olympics? How many things? Not many.”
The Indiana native — he’s in the Indiana University’s Hall of fame and the state’s prep basketball Hall of Fame — headlined the annual event, which honored senior letter-winners from Sheboygan North, South, Lutheran and Christian and Kohler high schools. Sixteen athletes got a combined $15,000 in scholarship money.
“Everything that it takes to be a good athlete is what it takes to be good at anything in your life,” McGlocklin told the estimated crowd of 170 kids. “Whether it’s a businessperson, a student, eventually a parent, a grandparent, involved in community activities — whatever it is, it’s the same formula.”
The longtime NBA player pointed specifically to work that Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Inc. — or the MACC Fund, which he helped create in 1976 — has done to improve survival rates for kids with cancer. The fund has contributed $45 million to childhood cancer and related blood disorder research, according to its website.
Over the last few decades, McGlocklin said, cancer survivor rates have risen dramatically.
“That’s a great example of taking the limelight of athletics and focusing it on something good.
“It’s a great example of what all of you can do with your lives. Take the limelight of athletics and do something with it.”
The 56-year-old banquet series launched in 1959 and has featured a bevy of big-name guest speakers over the years, including then-Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr in 1961 and University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan in 2001. Vince Lombardi Jr. spoke at the event in 1997.
“It’s a huge event,” said Bill Wagner, the Gridiron Committee’s chairman. “This event is rather unique to Sheboygan. Speakers that we’ve had here in the past are just amazed and overwhelmed at the quality of students that are receiving awards here. They’re overwhelmed that the community puts on an event like this.”
McGlocklin echoed some of those sentiments in his speech, noting he was impressed by the athletes in the room with him Sunday.
“You don’t need a speaker at this (event). This is what you have here,” he said, pointing out to the crowded room of senior letter-winners, many of whom boasted numerous all-conference and all-area team accolades. “This is tremendous and it’s really a privilege for me to be here.
“I’d tip my hat if I was a baseball player. I’ll shoot a jumper for you because I was a basketball player,” the spirited speaker said, miming a jump shot from behind his lecturn. “But all you young people — congratulations. Great job.”
Elks Gridiron Committee
Gridiron Committee Academic Excellence Award in memory of Dutch Thornton — Karson Bell, Sheboygan North; Jacob Malwitz, Sheboygan South.
Ron Glaeser Memorial Award — Rachel Van Sluys, Sheboygan South.
Chester Harrison Memorial Award — Trevor Damkot, Sheboygan North.
Robert L. Gutschow Memorial Scholarship — Alexandra Spaulding, Sheboygan North; Carter Amundsen, Sheboygan South.
Thomas Manning Elks Memorial Award — Tyler Zietz, Sheboygan South.
Elk’s Sports Award — Jeff Hess, Sheboygan Lutheran; Emily Hammann, Sheboygan Lutheran; Courtney Rutten, Kohler; Briana Wojcik, Sheboygan South; Camber Posewitz, Sheboygan South; CJ Usadel, Sheboygan North; Brady Otte, Sheboygan Christian.
Gottsacker Award — Brett Mueller, Kohler.
Ann Knauf Award — Lindsey Gosse, Sheboygan North.