Origin Story – Illinois’ Best High School Gyms

Oak Park-River Forest High School field house, Jan. 2012.

I’ve been talking about doing a photo book on Illinois high school basketball gyms since about 2012. I figured for sure someone else would have done something like this by now, but they haven’t (unless you’re talking about Indiana). Seriously, click that link you won’t regret it.

Andrew at Thornton, Friday, January 6, 2017, in Harvey. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

So over the following years while on assignment for various newspapers and websites, I started making some wider images at the gyms I found had a little more uniqueness to them. Something beyond your standard roll-out bleaches on either side of the court.

Fenwick at St. Ignatius, Friday, December, 9, 2016 In Chicago. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

Freelancing for everyone from the Chicago Tribune & Sun-Times to the Joliet Herald, Elgin Courier News, and all the Pioneer Press publications, I was finding myself going from Lincoln Park High School to Antioch and as far out as Morris. Heck, I’ve even gotten a taste of Indiana hoops craziness, shooting the playoffs for The Post-Tribune in Northwest Indiana.

Indiana playoff hoops at East Chicago High School, Mar. 2015. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson)

But as I got better at my craft and kept moving my way up photo editors’ call sheets, I found I wasn’t getting sent all over Chicagoland. I was able to pick which games I went to and they were usually closer to my house. I’ve been to schools like St. Rita and Brother Rice so much in the last 5 years, I joke I’m there more than their official photographer. So I haven’t seen too many other gyms in the last 5 years.

Basketball game between the Caravan of Mount Carmel and the Crusaders of Brother Rice, at Brother Rice on January 10, 2020, in Chicago. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

Then I made it out to Leo High School on Chicago’s south side, then was sent to Marshall High School on the west side and this book idea came back.

The Mustangs of St. Rita from Chicago and the Lions of Leo from Chicago, Friday, February 8, 2019, at Leo H.S. in Chicago. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).
A lot of basketball history lines the walls for Marshall as Leo’s DuChaun Anderson (white) goes up for the tip-off against the Marshall Commandos, Tuesday, February 26, 2019, in Chicago. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

So now I’m on a mission to find the best high school gyms in Illinois. The IHSA lists over 800 high schools as members and with the vast majority of them having 50 or more students, the number of teams and gyms I’ll be looking at will be about 700 if not more.

Follow along here and send me suggestions on where to look.

Do You Have A Gym Suggestion?

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