WLDS/WEAI will have another member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Mark Whalen has been named to the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
Whalen began broadcasting in 1988 after being asked to go along with former station owner, the late Jerry Symons to the Collinsville Tournament.
Whalen says he’s honored and humbled to be among a group of giants in the world of Illinois high school sports: “It’s just been a long time, and you know I’m proud of it because Jerry Symons was inducted I think back in 1987, Don Hamilton went in 2013, and Gary Scott [in] 2015. Bufford Green is a member. I think he went in the same year as Jerry Symons, so those are some real giants of this area that have been broadcasting, and to be included in that, is pretty cool. I think it’s just recognition for a lot of years of doing the same thing.”
Whalen says he can’t pinpoint an exact game or call he’s made over the last 32 years that are one of his favorites. He says he got the most enjoyment out of calling games at the State Tournament each year. He says he’s always amazed to turn on NBA games and spot some of the players involved in some of those games. He says his favorite games of the year to broadcast were always local: “The Super Sectional at Jacksonville High School was always pretty good because there was so much on the line. There was always two very good teams, and two teams that generally didn’t know much about each other, and to me, that was as big or perhaps the biggest game of the season for them. When you look back at it, there was so much at stake. The loser goes home. The winner goes on to play two games at Peoria and gets to be on T.V. You’re kind of, you’re remembered for that, and the team that loses that game, other than their community, they’re kind of forgotten. Those games are always pretty competitive.”
Whalen says that when he took over ownership of WLDS/WEAI, the responsibilities of just calling games changed for him. He says that WEAI and WLDS’s importance to local sports is about the community. He says COVID-19 has shown how much sports is a community gathering, and sometimes that’s around the radio: “I don’t think it’s just about Jacksonville itself. I think it means as much or more to the kids in the outlying areas: the Triopias, the Franklins, the North Greene area [for instance]. The Waverly Tournaments and the Winchester Tournaments and things like that, those are games where there’s a lot of interest in those. Even when you look at through the years, through the 30-something years I’ve done this, there are a lot of people [that you miss] if you stopped tomorrow, and this is kind of an interesting year; because we didn’t do football. We haven’t done basketball. You miss seeing a lot of those people.”
Whalen says he’s glad to have taken a lot of information and processes from those that came before him to continue the traditions in broadcasting created by WLDS/WEAI. Whalen will be formally inducted at the 49th annual Hall of Fame Induction Dinner hopefully to be held later this upcoming Spring.