Shane Hawkins is a high school state champion, a college star, a basketball coach and probably the most important: a basketball junkie.
The latter is why the Carterville High School head coach is excited to be the newest team in the Eldorado Holiday Tournament
Hawkins, who won a state title as a player at Pinckneyville and then had a standout career at Southern Illinois Unversity, is in his third year as head coach at Carterville High School, where the Lions have spent the last two years at the Duster Thomas Shootout at Pinckneyville High School.
Hawkins, whose Lions got the No. 8 seed in this year's EHT, said seeing so many new teams and in a venue like Duff-Kingston Gymnasium is pretty special.
"We're excited to be here. I think it's a new format for us and a new area," Hawkins said of his Lions team that essentially swapped places with Union County in the EHT and Duster Thomas Tournament. "We're going to see some different teams so I think from that standpoint we are really excited about it. The downside of that is trying to become familiar with the setting, the setup, the way things run. We will have a whole new set of teams that we're not familiar with. Teams from the Ohio side, the River to River, getting into the Black Diamond and this side of the state is going to be different for us. We'll do our homework and hopefully, we will be able to compete a little bit."
As a high school player, Hawkins was a part of the Carbondale Holiday Tournament. In his first coach stint at Trico, Hawkins and the Pioneers played in the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament. In four years at Marion, Hawkins returned to the CHT. Now at the EHT, he's looking forward to a change.
"We'll see a whole different area of teams," Hawkins said. "I know Scott (McElravy) has a really good team at Fairfield. I haven't gotten a chance to see them play and if we were somewhere else, I never would get to see them play. As a basketball junkie, you'll see a lot of different teams and I think this tournament is going to be very good. A lot of talented teams in those top four or five teams. I think if you win this - you've earned it because there will be some really good games."
PUT IT ON REPEAT
Not only did Eldorado become the eighth team to win its second straight EHT title after disposing of Harrisburg 56-49 in last year's title game, but the Eagles also became the first EHS team to win its own tournament in back-to-back years.
Eldorado (2016-2017), joined Cairo (1978-1979), Pinckneyville (1980-1981), Carmi (1985-1986), Massac County (1995-1996) and West Frankfort (2003-2004) as schools to win the tournament in back-to-back seasons.
Eldorado will now try to put itself in even more illustrious company as the Eagles attempt to become one of two other schools to win three titles.
Norris City-Omaha-Enfield was the first, winning three straight from 1988-1990. Harrisburg remains the only school in the tournament to win the title four straight times, capturing the championship in impressive fashion from 2010-2013.
DETHRONE THE CHAMPS?
Fairfield grabbed the No. 1 seed and is off to a blistering start, coming into the EHT with a 11-1 record and their only hiccup being a two-point 60-58 overtime loss to Casey-Westfield Friday night.
The Mules have wins over Olney, Salem and Teutopolis at the Capital Classic held in Lawrenceville to start the season and have wins over tournament teams Eldorado, Hamilton County and Edwards County.
But, it's been a long time since Fairfield stood on the top of the podium.
The Mules' one and only title came as the 8th seed back in 2006 when Fairfield pulled off three consecutive upsets and knocked off Harrisburg 65-49 in the championship game.
It was Scott McElravy's second year on the sideline for the Mules and Jordan Cessna was named the MVP.
McElravy now in year 13, brings in a club led by Wayne City transfer and front-runner for this year's MVP in Jayzale O'Neal, who averages 14.6 points per game. The Mules are averaging 68 points per game and have balanced scoring throughout the lineup.
McElravy admits its hard to make comparisons to the 2006 and 2018 team, but says the similarities are there.
"This team is much quicker and a lot deeper," he said. "But both of those teams, you had a bunch of tough kids that didn't like to lose. "
There will be four coaches that in reality are at new places, but won't be new to the EHT.
Doug Miller, who spent the last four years at Gallatin County is now the head coach at Hamilton County.
Miller is a 1992 graduate of Hamilton County High School and spent seven years (2004-2011) at NCOE before moving on to Gallatin County.
Jeff Herrmann, who was Miller's assistant those four years at Gallatin County, is now the Hawks' head coach.
Herrmann is a 1999 graduate of Eldorado High School and brings the Hawks into the EHT as the No. 4 seed.
Evan Wyllie, who spent the last three years at Norris City-Omaha-Enfield is now the head coach at West Frankfort, who comes into the tournament as the No. 6 seed.
NCOE longtime assistant Jim Tucker is now the head coach for the Cardinals.
WORTH THE ADMISSION
West Frankfort's CJ Johnson is the only returning player in this year's field that was named to last season's EHT All-Tournament Team. The Redbird senior is averaging 17.7 points per game and the Redbirds are the No. 6 seed in this year's field.
As mentioned, O'Neal, a Wayne City transfer and Fairfield senior is an early EHT MVP Candidate, as he leads the No. 1 mules into the tournament averaging a team-best 14.6 points per game. Brian Estes (8.6 ppg) and Reese Lee (6.7 ppg) are two other Fairfield players to keep an eye on.
Massac County, the No. 2 seed, has a trio of stars including Julian Russell (14.9 ppg), Paducah Tilghman transfer Marshon Merriel (11.4 ppg) and Zach Travis (8.3 ppg).
Herrin also has a couple of stars in Drew Ringle (14 ppg) and Luke LeQuatte (9 ppg) , while other players to keep an eye on including Edwards County's Cade Schnicker (15.4 ppg) and Justin Wallace (14.4 ppg), along with, Eldorado's Joe Mayberry (15 ppg) and Gallatin County's Audie Goebel (19.2 ppg).
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.