This is the time of year when I especially miss Allen Wilson.
It's the high school basketball postseason, a time of year he loved so much he'd assist in our coverage of it even though he was on the Buffalo Bills beat. It's close to the time of year when the All-Western New York team will be selected, and many times he helped guide me through what is always a painstaking process.
From the outpouring from former players, coaches and fans since Allen's passing from leukemia last December, it is obvious that he left a legacy in local high school hoops.
That legacy, and his love for high school basketball, will continue to be honored every season.
Starting this year, The Buffalo News' Player of the Year award in boys basketball will be named the Allen Wilson Player of the Year Award.
The award winner will be honored and presented with a trophy at this year's inaugural Prep Talk/BCANY Awards on April 16 at Ilio DiPaolo's restaurant. The All-WNY team will be honored that night as well.
I joined The News on the high school sports beat in October 1999. In March of 2000, it was time for me to head up our All-Western New York selection process. I must have called Allen 20 times. He always listened, always assisted. I'd blabber on about this player and that player, and he'd patiently listen as I hashed out how the team was coming together, the various pros and cons. He was the wisest sounding board one could imagine.
I didn't have to call him as much in recent years, because I tried to take what he had taught me and carry it on. There are tenets to the entire All-WNY process that I can still hear Allen saying to me. I'd go over a list of players and their achievements: One had a great playoff run, one had ridiculous statistics, one had outstanding career achievement, one's team had a great season, one's team ultimately underachieved. Sometimes concentrating on those things can clutter up the essential question, which I can still hear him reminding me, slowly and clearly: "When it comes down to it, comparing player to player, who is better?"
He told me to keep in perspective the competition that a player faced. He passed what has been The News' tradition of weighing the postseason much more than the regular season. He told me about how sometimes the best teams won't include a first-team All-WNY player just because of how well the unit played together. And that's true. That's basketball.
This week I will cover many games at Buffalo State, and I'll miss seeing Allen amble into the arena and walk along the baseline. I wouldn't see him for as much as 10 minutes, however -- because on his walk from the baseline to press row, he would be stopped by person after person who were eager to talk with him. He'd supplement my coverage by marking down stats during a game, he'd shake his head over coaching moves, he'd raise his eyebrows over a scintillating move or, even better, a play of unselfishness. "Ohhh, nice pass," I can still hear him say.
Here's to another week of the best in high school basketball, and to the legacy of a man who loved it so much.
> Palano's final game
Bishop Timon-St. Jude's loss to Canisius in the Manhattan Cup semifinals marked the end of the basketball coaching career of Jim Palano. He will continue as athletic director and baseball coach through the end of this year. Timon assistant (and alum) Joe Mihalics has been tabbed as his basketball successor.
"Bittersweet," Palano said. "It's tough. Not too many guys can go out with a win, no matter what. Somewhere along the line you've got to lose. We were trying to extend it and get to that Cup but it wasn't in the cards. Now I just turn it over to the young guys."
You can see Palano's interview and several others from the Manhattan Cup semifinals in a PrepTalkTV episode at buffalonews.com.
Canisius takes on St. Mary's for the championship tonight at Canisius College at 6 p.m.