Former Schlarman Hilltopper standout Jerry Kuemmerle will be inducted into the Illinois Coaches Association Basketball Hall of Fame today.
Known for his jump shot and best remembered for his stellar senior season in 1958 Kuemmerle was named to the 100 Legends of IHSA Boys Basketball in 2007, and set IHSA tournament records in 1958 for most points in a game, most field goals in a game, most points in one quarter, and most points in two games.
The records were all set under a one-class tournament system, and his record 22 points in a quarter still stands today.
“I have some great memories of that time and when I look back at some of the great players who played then it causes me to love even more being inducted into the hall of fame,’’ Kuemmerle said. “In a way I guess you have to be kind of lucky. We won the three games to win the regional that year by a total of nine points.
“Without those wins I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have the two games that led me to be selected to the legends list and helped put me in the records book.
“Some people thought I must have been a gunner to average 33 points a game, but I shot 56 percent and in one of the great compliments I ever received coach Paul Shebby encouraged me to shoot. I was only 5-foot, 2 inches as a freshman but grew to 6-foot tall by the time I was a senior. Even then I knew I would get my shot blocked if I went inside and that led to my developing my jump shot. I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of guy and if you’re positive and confident a jump shot is as good as a lay-up.’’
Kuemmerle first saw success on the court when his eighth-grade team at St. Patrick’s (now Holy Family) won the Diocese Tournament, (the grade school state tournament) in 1953.
He started to excel at Schlarman after being told by Shebby to shoot.
“When he told me to shoot my stats started to go up. They didn’t have camps back then but coach Shebby could break everything down for you right there in practice,’’ Kuemmerle said. “He was best known for football but he had his greatest success in basketball. You didn’t question coach Shebby, and you always respected him. He was a wonderful motivator and I owe a lot of my success in basketball to him.
“We didn’t win the state title but it was a wonderful year in 1958 and it was the first time that Schlarman had beaten Danville in basketball.’’
Kuemmerle went on to play four years at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn.
“I had offers from Illinois and Purdue but my brother was in Memphis and I wanted to go and play with him,’’ Kuemmerle said. “Everyone had told me to focus on my education but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. You compete the best you can in sports, but the opportunities to make a living at it are very rare. You have to put education first.
“I always tried to have fun and competed the best that I could on the court and for me the things I learned from basketball have helped me in the steps in my career including my current job with the FBI.’’
Even after 53 years people still remember Kuemmerle’s jump-shot.
“I still on occasion have people look me up and tell me that I had the prettiest jump-shot they saw and it’s almost unbelievable and deeply humbling to me that people remember,’’ he said. “That was such a wonderful year in 1958. We were a real Cinderella team and no one expected us to win that regional over Westville, Danville, and Georgetown.
“There was only one class for the post-season, no 3-point line then, and you had to dribble with your hand on the top of the ball those are the key differences from the game today. From my childhood days playing on a wire rim in Rabitttown to my time in college basketball has been very good to me, and I had some great times on the court. It’s just a plain awesome feeling to be inducted into the hall of fame.’’