Wheeling's Best was best at a lot, but also was the best teammate

  • Wheeling's Michael Best (23) is the Daily Herald's Male Athlete of the Year for 2018-19 in the Northwest suburbs.

      Wheeling's Michael Best (23) is the Daily Herald's Male Athlete of the Year for 2018-19 in the Northwest suburbs. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Updated 6/15/2019 8:02 AM

It wasn't tough to put together a Michael Best fan section.

Best, the leading scorer of the Wheeling boys basketball team this past winter, was a popular kid at school with plenty of friends.


"We were talking it up at school and we got about 20 or 30 kids to travel to our road game at Elk Grove to cheer on Michael," Wheeling basketball coach Michael O'Keefe said. "They made a poster and everything. They were excited to come out and cheer him on."

Best, a rare 12-season athlete through high school, was the quarterback of Wheeling's football team, star of the basketball team, and spent his springs playing two years of volleyball and two years of baseball.

That he excelled at all four sports over all four years of his high school career, Best was an easy choice for the Daily Herald's Northwest Suburbs Male Athlete of the Year for 2018-19. He was a Mid-Suburban League all-conference selection in football, basketball and baseball this year.

On that mid-February night at Elk Grove, Best's cheering section had an extra-special purpose. Best was likely to score his 1,000th career point that night. He needed just 15 points to hit the milestone, and the poster his friends made, reading 1000, recognized that. His coaches were also well-prepared for the big possibility, hiding a decorated game ball in the locker room for a potential postgame presentation.

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Best, who averaged 18.6 points per game this past season, scored 28 points that night, easily surpassing the 1,000-point mark.

"That was really nice. That was a great game," said Best. "That ball that the coaches gave me was cool. It had my name on it. It was nice that a bunch of my friends came out. And we won the game."

For all of the many individual accolades Best has rolled up over four years and four sports, he remembers the team successes most fondly.

"I'd say the best moment of the basketball season was how we upset Zion-Benton in the first round of the state tournament," Best said. "We were neck-and-neck the whole game even though they were the higher seed. We never gave up. We were convinced that we could hang with them and we had a big surge in the second half that helped us pull away. That was a great game."

Best, a sharpshooter who will be playing basketball next year at Lake Forest College, had 18 points in that game.

Twice over his senior year, he had a season-high of 31 points. And he wound up with 99 career 3-pointers that included 2 big showings against Elk Grove. In his 1,000th-point game against Elk Grove, he had five 3-pointers. In another game against Elk Grove, he had a season-high seven 3-pointers.

"As much as I am going to miss Michael and what he can do on the basketball court, I'm going to just miss him, and seeing him in the hallways and having him around," O'Keefe said. "He's just such a nice kid, a high-character kid. He was a great representation of Wheeling High School."


Best had a tendency of putting up his best numbers when Wheeling needed him most.

In a crazy, come-from-behind victory over Vernon Hills in football last fall, Best was the engine.

The 6-foot-2 quarterback calmly guided the Wildcats back from a huge deficit.

"We were down 3 touchdowns going into the third quarter," Best said. "It was so crazy. Just crazy. I will never forget it. We had this spurt of energy and got a couple of touchdowns and a couple of stops and we just kept fighting back. We scored again with like 10 seconds left to take the lead."

Best threw the winning touchdown pass. He had 5 touchdown passes on the game, part of the 17 touchdown passes he had on the season. Best also finished with 1,511 passing yards on the season.

In baseball, Best was an outfielder and relief pitcher. He had 4 saves and finished with a .386 batting average.

"I don't regret anything," Best said. "I've liked staying busy. I've liked the challenge. I've liked all the camaraderie of all my different teams, all my different teammates, all the friendships. I just can't believe everything's all done now. It's crazy that it's all over. I'm excited to move on to college, but it is also very bittersweet."

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