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DOWNS n “Viking basketball is on the air.” That enthusiastic declaration from Tri-Valley High School junior Tim Ditman launches the Vikings onto the Internet and out to a worldwide audience. With Ditman serving as play-by-play voice and senior Charlie Prochnow handling the technical side and running the camera, Viking Internet Broadcasting provides live coverage of Tri-Valley basketball games through the school’s Web site.

“This is the third year we’ve been tinkering with it,” said Tri-Valley technology director John Pearson. “This is the year we’ve really committed to it.”

That commitment has reached the city of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, where Dalibor and Dagmar Zurek are able to watch their foreign exchange student son Vojtech play for the Vikings. Vojtech was able to speak to his parents through the broadcast after one game.

“I got to send greetings and say hello to them. It was special I could communicate with them in that way,” Vojtech Zurek said. “It’s an awesome feeling my father (Dalibor) can see me on the Internet. When I was a little kid, he came to all my games.

“It’s hard for them to watch (the Czech Republic is seven hours ahead of Central Illinois), but they watch all of those games.”

Ditman has played music at Tri-Valley football games and served as public address announcer for Vikings’ baseball games.

“Mr. Pearson thought I might be interested and it sounded like a fun thing to do,” Ditman said. “I had never done basketball before, but I thought I would give it a shot. I’m pretty much learning as I go.”

The learning process is accelerated through considerable pregame preparation. Ditman takes his seat behind a bench on the top row of the Tri-Valley bleachers with pages of notes and statistics. He also consults Vikings’ coach Jon Nelson before each game to discuss potential key factors.

“For every game I have a printout cheat sheet for myself with a little bit about the other team’s players, keys to the game, that sort of thing,” said Ditman. “I try to do my best memorizing players’ numbers. I try to keep some basic stats.

“Probably the most difficult thing is paying attention to what’s going on, providing play-by-play and at the same time give some depth to it. I like to tell people this person is averaging so many points a game or so many rebounds a game. I look down to get that and look up and something has already happened.”

Ditman offers his listeners such tidbits as junior Bryan Benjamin has won 13 of 23 jump balls, and the Vikings are 7-0 when wearing their gold jerseys with blue trim. Ditman also checks his laptop computer for e-mails to acknowledge listeners.

Ditman and Prochnow broadcast Tri-Valley home games and occasional road contests. They did Tri-Valley’s McLean County Tournament championship game and even interviewed Nelson after the victory.

Pearson said the combination of Ditman and Prochnow has worked extremely well.

“Tim is a very sports-minded young man. He’s doing a wonderful job of researching every game,” Pearson said. “He’s really done a great job. He critiques himself after every game.

“Charlie has always been interested in the technical side of things, but had no interest in the broadcast side. He works out the technical end of things so right now I’m hands off. He takes it from when we walk in the door to when we’re done with the broadcast. They are fantastic kids. They have taken total ownership in the product.”

Prochnow is a friend of Brett Miller, who was involved in the broadcast last year.

“They were looking for help and it was something I was interested in,” said Prochnow. “I establish our link between servers and hook everything up to the camera. I do the camera word and make sure everything is running on the computer as we’re doing it.”

Viking Internet Broadcasting was able to improve its quality and capacity by recently purchasing additional bandwidth.

“We felt like we could do a pretty good job producing it. But once we got it out to the public, we just couldn’t support it on the other end,” Pearson said. “We solved that problem now. We’re actually distributing our product out to the Internet, and then we’re redistributing it from the Internet back down to the people.

“We can control the quality of our product a lot better. We launch it directly from our Web site. Hopefully, it’s a turn key product. They can bring it right up.”

Pearson said the broadcasts (archives of past games also are available) have generated much positive feedback, especially from players’ grandparents who do not live close enough to attend Tri-Valley games.

Prochnow is considering a career in broadcasting. “I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s actually what I’m going to go into, but it’s opened a lot of doors.”

Ditman, meanwhile, looks forward to adding football broadcasts in preparation for a possible career in the field.

The school’s spring Viking Night fund-raiser helps pay for Viking Internet Broadcasting equipment, according to athletic director Brian Knutson.

On the Web: Viking Internet Broadcasting may be accessed at www.tri-valley.k12.il.us\media

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