The phone call didn’t really catch me off guard, but the message did. About four years ago, William Chrisman High School boys basketball coach John Vickers gave me a call at home. There’s nothing unusual about that, I do most of my preseason interviews by the phone and many of them take place in the evening.

The phone call didn’t really catch me off guard, but the message did.

About four years ago, William Chrisman High School boys basketball coach John Vickers gave me a call at home.

There’s nothing unusual about that, I do most of my preseason interviews by the phone and many of them take place in the evening.

“Can you run by one of our practices?” Vickers asked. “There’s something I want you to see. I don’t want to tell you, I want you to see it for yourself.”

Vickers had been working on the Grinnell College run-and-gun style of basketball in which he interchanges his players every two minutes – which gives assistant coach Jason Stacey quite a workout in front of the team’s bench.

After watching the practice, which was frantic and fun and unlike anything I’d ever seen, Vickers asked, ‘What do you think?”

Well, my first reaction was, “You’re crazy.”

My next reaction was, “You’re crazy like a fox.”

I’d never seen anything like it – and I loved it.

The past four years, Vickers has used the offense that caught so many opposing coaches off guard that memorable first season that most of them were yanking out their hair while calling a timeout.

Justin Clark (the first player in Chrisman history to score 2,000 points) and Jon Ekey (the state-wide leader in blocked shots), two Division I players who graduated from Chrisman last year and are now attending Illinois State, thrived under the explosive offense.

Clark became one of the top 3-point shooters in the history of the state while Ekey starred on both ends of the court – grabbing rebounds and blocking shots, while putting up his fair share of 3-point attempts.

The Bears last year traveled across the country and they were the talk of the metro area. Ekey and Clark were The Examiner’s Co-Players of the Year and Vickers made it a clean sweep by earning the Coach of the Year Award.

But, that was last year.

So Coach Vickers, what have you done for me lately?

He laughs at the question.

“We’re going to have a little bit different look this year,” he said as the nucleus of last year’s team graduated with distinction. “But that’s what I love about high school basketball.

“Last year was the year we all dreamed about from the first night we played the run-and-gun offense (and won a game at Fort Osage High School),” Vickers said. “We have Josh Yakovitz back as a starter and most of the rest of the team are going to be new faces.

“Believe me, we’re going to sell a lot of programs at Chrisman because we’re going to have so many new faces. But these kids have been great to work with and we’re excited about this season. We really are.”

Fans will get their first chance to see the new lineup on Dec. 5 when the Bears travel to Overland Park, Kan., to take on St. Thomas Aquinas.

“We’re going to be a lot different than last year’s team,” Vickers said. “We might not have as much talent, but these guys are still going to make Chrisman proud and be a lot of fun to watch.”