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It became such a routine, it almost feels like it was yesterday.
Actually, it was the winter season of 1995-96, my first year with the Daily Herald.
Having already covered high school sports in the Fox Valley for 20 years, I was well aware of who Melissa Parker and Leslie Schock were. Timing was my good fortune because my first year of covering high school sports for the Daily Herald was their senior year at Elgin High School, and what a year it was.
I had covered St. Edward's great runs to state, which included the Class A state championship in 1985, and those Green Wave teams had some great players.
But never had two players taken the area by storm like Parker and Schock. And finally, in 1996, they made it downstate and to the championship game. The Maroons lost to Stevenson in the Class AA championship game but the ride Parker and Schock were the leaders of will never be forgotten, and most likely never duplicated in the Elgin area, especially in this day of four classes and Final Fours downstate instead of the Elite Eight.
Parker and Schock. Schock and Parker. As inseparable as any two teammates could be, they were.
More times than I can remember, although I truly wish I could remember them all, I sat with colleagues and shared the words "25 basket, 23 assist," or "25 rebound, 23 for 3."
Now, some 17 years later and long overdue, Parker and Schock will take their place in what is regarded as the most prestigious of all places for a basketball player in Illinois -- as inductees to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. They will be inducted at the IBCA's annual ceremony in Normal in April.
"It's surprising to me," said Parker earlier this week. "It's something I hadn't really thought about but it's obviously a very big honor. And to do it with Leslie ... it couldn't happen any other way. It makes it more special and it's very humbling."
No, it really couldn't happen any other way because not much happened with the Elgin girls basketball teams of the mid 1990s without Parker and Schock being at the forefront. Their high school numbers were staggering -- Schock scored 2,005 points and had over 1,000 rebounds while Parker scored 1,889 points, had 896 assists, 429 steals and 161 3-pointers. They were recognized by at least three national media outlets as All-Americans, they were three-time Daily Herald All-Area players and, of course, the honorary co-captains of the all-area team their senior year.
"Melissa Parker and Leslie Schock are the two greatest female high school basketball players to ever come through the Fox Valley area, period end of story," says Mike Miazga, a former Daily Herald staffer and current correspondent who covered the Elgin team for another publication all four years Parker and Schock played on the varsity.
"What always amazed me was how easy they made it look on the court. You always knew Elgin was in good hands when Melissa had the ball or shot the ball and once the ball was pushed inside to Leslie, it usually resulted in an easy basket. They were the textbook example of a perfect inside-outside combination. They also were two outstanding young ladies who always had time to talk and always had insightful things to say."
What Parker and Schock did resonated both on and off the basketball court. On the court they were superlative in almost every way. They went on to great college careers, Parker at Illinois and Schock at Northwestern, and each has stayed active in the game even now. Off the court, they brought a basketball-crazy community together and showed the class we wish every athlete would show.
"They were great ambassadors for Elgin High and the game of basketball," said their coach, Lee Turek, who won 359 games as the Maroons' head coach. "They were leaders by example and they could walk the walk."
What Schock remembers most about the high school experience came after the state title game.
"The moment I take the most pride in was after we lost the state championship and got back to Elgin, there was a packed gym. It was a community event. You don't see that in high school anymore."
Shock, who has been a history teacher at Palatine High School for the past 11 years, where she was also the varsity girls basketball coach for five seasons, also points out one unique component of those Elgin teams, the starting five in 1995-96 that also included Suzy Smith, Tina Wenckaitis and Turek's daughter Karisa.
"We were all from Elgin," she said. "We all grew up in Elgin and we all had the same goal. You always counted on each other. It was basically your family for a large part of your life."
Parker, who coached at Florida State, Loyola and NIU and now works in administration for the city of Evanston and coaches a fourth/fifth grade team, agrees that when she thinks back to her high school basketball years, the memories extend far beyond wins and losses.
"It's always the teammates and the bond we had," she said. "That Elgin team was so unique. We had played together for so long before Elgin and we had great chemistry and we all worked for a common goal."
The Maroons became so dominant, they went 109-13 in the four years Parker and Schock played on the varsity. They won 63 straight games at Chesbrough Field House, which still ranks as the third-best home winning streak in IHSA history. They also won 57 straight Upstate Eight Conference games.
Their senior year, the Maroons were nationally ranked and lost only one game -- to a team from Iowa at the McDonald's Shootout -- prior to the state title game.
"When Parker and Schock came along they took it to another level," said Turek. "They were nurtured along since grade school with the same group. They played what we called then 'travel team basketball', they played against all the older kids and that group all knew each other from a young age. By the time they were seniors they became two of the best five players in the state."
They each have fond memories of playing for Turek, an Elgin High graduate himself who was a tough taskmaster who wore his heart on his sleeve and cared deeply for the athletes he coached and their families.
"Coach Turek was always on me about something," Parker laughed, "but he pushed me to be a better leader and be a better team player. I always have fond memories of playing for him."
"He was the toughest coach I ever had and the funniest," said Schock. "We had a group of girls completely loyal to their coach, whether we loved him or hated him on a certain day."
And they set a benchmark that will likely never be exceeded, not in Elgin at least.
"When you combined their elite basketball skills and leadership qualities with a head coach who not only was an outstanding Xs and Os person, but also someone who deeply cared for his players, it's easy to see why the early and mid 90s at Elgin High still is considered the gold standard in this area," Miazga said.
Parker and Schock agree that their experience as high school basketball players gave them a foundation for life.
"I took so much of what I learned from basketball into everyday life," Parker said. "How to persevere, how to face challenges and how to work in a team environment."
Schock even admits that now, all these years later, losing prior to making it downstate the three years leading up to their senior year, ended up being its own life lesson.
"The not making it down the previous years made the (senior year) one of those "gotta do it" years," she said. "It built character, realizing the goal we set in fifth grade was making us mentally tough. We were 17-year old kids and we had to learn through the adversity of losing."
In the end, they took us all on a journey we won't soon, if ever, forget. And now they get their just due with their hall of fame inductions.
"It was quite a ride," Turek said, "and they were the two who led us on that ride."