BLOOMINGTON — Bernie Coderre grew up on Illinois Wesleyan green and white with a heavy emphasis on basketball.
His father Brian was a Titan standout from 1984-88, his mother Katie was a Wesleyan cheerleader and uncle Tom Baffes is among IWU’s top career rebounders.
“Illinois Wesleyan basketball is a huge tradition in our family,” said Bernie, a senior guard on the current Wesleyan squad. “I learned about all the great players who played here, all the All-Americans. Jack Sikma is a household name.”
That household name, the biggest name in IWU basketball history, will be honored Saturday before the Titans’ 4 p.m. game against Carroll.
Inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September, Sikma will have his No. 44 jersey raised to the Shirk Center rafters in a pregame ceremony celebrating the program’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounding.
“It’s pretty cool he’s here this weekend and we get to honor him and meet him,” Coderre said. “Hopefully it will be a great weekend and we get a win. The fact he was able to go to the NBA from a small college like Illinois Wesleyan is super cool.”
Sikma spoke to the Titans before Friday’s afternoon practice. The 7-footer played in the NBA with Seattle and Milwaukee from 1977-91, winning an NBA championship with the SuperSonics in 1979.
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“Jack is certainly a legend,” said IWU coach Ron Rose. “I remember when I was playing in the late ‘80s. We would always do the weekend swing and play at Carthage and Carroll. That coincided when he was with the Milwaukee Bucks. It was always a huge deal when he could make one of those games.”
Freshmen carrying the bag of jerseys on road trips has long been an IWU tradition, dating back to the days of former coach Dennie Bridges.
“The freshmen would always carry the jerseys on the bus and still do,” Rose said. “Whenever somebody would grumble, Coach Bridges would say ‘Jack Sikma wasn’t too good to carry the jerseys and neither are you.’"
The present-day Titans hope to build on the momentum of Wednesday’s 77-71 win over 13th-ranked North Central in which 72 of the points were scored by either sophomores or freshman Luke Yoder.
IWU is 12-6 overall and 6-3 in the CCIW.
“I thought Wednesday was a big step in the right direction,” Rose said. “We’ve certainly put ourselves back in the conversation of the conference (championship) hunt.”
Carroll (9-10, 2-8) has lost seven straight games. All eight CCIW losses have come by eight points or less with six (and the last four in succession) by exactly four points.
“I feel about them now as I did the first time we played them,” said Rose, whose team prevailed over the Pioneers, 71-67, on Jan. 18 in Waukesha, Wis. “They are a dangerous team. Without a lot of imagination, you could picture them in the top four or five of the conference.”
Carroll has four players scoring in double figures in 6-2 senior Nick Penny (14.1), 6-2 senior Charlie Soule (11.9), 6-4 senior Kale Maupin (10.3) and 6-6 sophomore Blake Williams (10.2).
Contact Randy Reinhardt at (309) 820-3403. Follow him on Twitter: pg_reinhardt