Schuckman: Devilishly good decade coming to end for trio of QHS basketball teammates


Three Quincy High School teammates — Cam Brown, left, Ralph Wires, second from right, and Tyler Sprick, right — will play their final game together Saturday in the third annual Muddy River Showcase at John Wood Community College's Student Activity Center. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Before the Lil’ Devils program brought them together, before they spent 10 consecutive winters running side-by-side, there were games in the YMCA basketball league where Ralph Wires, Tyler Sprick and Cam Brown were on opposite sides.

“I tore them apart per usual,” Wires said with a mischievous, sarcastic grin.

His ability to dart and zip past defenders — one of the bonuses of being the shortest guard on the floor — may have enabled him to create a little chaos, but he wasn’t destined to be their nemesis.

He was bound to be their playmaker.

And over the course of the last 10 years, when Wires set them up, Brown and Sprick knocked them down. Their chemistry and camaraderie were significant reasons the Quincy High School boys basketball program won 85 games, three regional titles, two Western Big 6 Conference championships and a sectional crown the past three seasons.

It is the most successful three-year stint since the Blue Devils won 89 games from 1980-83.

But their success goes well beyond talent. It comes down to trust.

“All those years together helped with the chemistry and being able to trust each other in tough times,” said Brown, the 6-foot-4 swingman who is headed to play at Frank Phillips College, an NJCAA Division I school in Borger, Texas. “When we got into close games, we had each other’s backs.”

Every minute together on the court has been a treat.

“We’ve been together since Day 1, and it’s amazing seeing how far we’ve come,” said Wires, the 5-foot-10 point guard who will play at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg. “Cam is that athletic wing who is tall. Tyler can shoot it, and I knew if I hit him, he was going to knock it down. It’s just amazing to have confidence with them all.”

From left, Cam Brown, Ralph Wires and Tyler Sprick were part of a highly success Lil’ Devils team in sixth grade. | Submitted photo

That began in the third grade.

Andy Douglas took over as the QHS boys basketball coach in 2014, and it wasn’t long until he and assistant coach Chris Harmann formed a league for grade-school students. On top of that, volunteer coaches — mostly dads like John Sprick and Ryan Brown — took teams of Lil’ Devils to tournaments throughout Illinois and Missouri.

A majority of the time, the Lil’ Devils came home with hardware.

“The memories you made are special — the Lil’ Devils, the hotel trips, all of it,” said Sprick, the 6-foot-2 shooting guard who will attend the University of Missouri. “We still talk about games we won in fourth, fifth and sixth grade that were big for us.”

That makes it feel like yesterday, even when you know how long ago it was.

“You look at pictures and you realize time definitely flies,” Sprick said.

Saturday will be their final time together on the same team on the same court as they will represent Illinois in the third annual Muddy River Showcase at John Wood Community College’s Student Activity Center.

“Playing with them for such a long time is special,” Brown said.

Their love of the game and friendship has made it extra special.

“Playing with them, having fun, doing what we love, playing basketball together for the last time,” Sprick said. “If it truly is one of the last times, we have to enjoy it.”

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