Gus Macker, a.k.a. Scott McNeal, remembers Tony Wysinger being carried off a tournament court after winning the Top Men’s competition one year at the Peoria Gus Macker.
“It was the first time I saw a Macker crowd react like that, and they were so happy for the team that it looked like a scene you might see at a college game,” McNeal said. “Of course, it was Tony I think that made it so emotional. He was a little guy who gave up his body out there, but more than that he embodies the people of Peoria, the love for basketball there and the spirit for Macker there. It was just a great scene.”
It was fittingly announced in 2016 at the Peoria Gus Macker that Wysinger was named to the Gus Macker Hall of Fame for induction in 2018.
Wysinger, a former standout player at the University of Illinois, a long-time coach at Illinois Central College and highly regarded citizen of Peoria, remembers the people toting him, his brother Kenny and their teammates off the court that day.
“It was the last game of the tournament and everybody was watching, and there were some great teams that came to Peoria for the Gus Macker,” Wysinger said. “I think the two years prior to that teams that were not from Peoria had won the (Top Men’s), so we were the hometown team in that game. They carried us off the court and it was just a great celebration that night, a very positive experience.”
Dave Reynolds has covered basketball for 38 years for the Peoria Journal Star newspaper. He is the beat writer covering Bradley University hoops, covered many Macker tournaments in the city and thinks Wysinger representing Peoria in the Macker Hall of Fame makes sense.
“He has been a driving force helping to organize it at the local level, he played in it back in the day, worked with Gus Macker and is just one of those guys who sinks his teeth into things and gets them organized and successful,” he said.
Wysinger connects with kids and basketball players and is heavily involved with the successful Mitchell J.J. Anderson & Dana Davis All-Star Basketball Camp each summer, and has helped start and been involved with various other community minded groups.
“He’s a guy who makes things tick,” Reynolds said. “He is in the trenches, coordinating and finding volunteers, getting people to help a lot of underprivileged kids. He has been involved in so many things, and has just been a great asset to the community.”
McNeal saw his value in organization and added him to the Macker summer travel staff several years ago. Wysinger for many years worked in tournament administration throughout Illinois and the Midwest at tournaments.
“He has done everything for us and with us and as a person is near and dear to us,” McNeal said. “I think Peoria feels that way about him, too. He is an easy-going, humble guy and yet he has this great enthusiasm that attracts people and kids to him.”
Wysinger figures perseverance is the reason he is being named to the Macker Hall of Fame, and he is humbled by the honor.
“I started playing in the Macker when it first came to Peoria, and played for a lot of years,” he said. “Gus I think saw that I could do other things and had me work with officials and those things. It became our summers. We scheduled vacations around Mackers. I had my wife (Kimberly), relatives, friends all involved.”
Wysinger has many great memories from being involved with Macker tournaments, but two stories he tells often. One involves a tornado bearing down on Quincy, Ill., and as panic ensued and his wife urged him to run for cover, he tried to stop an undeserving player from stealing a trophy from the trophy tent that was starting to take flight.
“I just didn’t want him to steal that trophy and I made my mind up to that,” he said. “I just felt it was wrong.”
Another favorite story is when a plan for putting up baskets on the courts in Peoria went awry. An inmate-program work force couldn’t be working past a certain time, and it was left to just a few people led by him and McNeal to put up baskets on street after street.
“We finally finished at 5:30 in the morning and I’ll never forget that,” he said. “At one point, we finished this street, turned a corner and Scott and I saw another long street where the baskets were not up yet.”
Basketball and Macker are now part of Wysinger’s identity. Blood pressure issues of the last few years are now under control and he continues to coach and participate in his first sports passion – bowling. He has won city championships and said if there had been bowling scholarships available to him when he was a youngster he might never have pursued basketball as a route to college.
“Bowling, I just loved it and still do,” he said. “Basketball was all about a goal my brother and I had of not having our parents have to pay for us to go to college. Bowling was something else.”
McNeal considers him something special in Gus Macker Basketball history.
“Peoria has been a great Macker city and the players from there are unbelievable, and there are a lot of people who made it happen, so Tony kind of represents all of them in being in the Hall,” he said.
Wysinger, for his part, figures Macker is playing for a 45th summer this year because of good people.
“Scott always put good people in position to work the tournaments, and they stayed volunteer-based with good people,” he said. “And another thing – no alcohol. That is a dangerous thing to have around kids and families. Never saying yes to alcohol has been a key component of Macker and why they are still running tournaments. I really believe that.”