When Charlie Ellerbrock hears his name called Saturday at CEFCU Arena on the campus of Illinois State University for the 2024 Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Coach of the Year Luncheon and Hall of Fame Banquet, it’ll be something the new inductee said he never expected and isn’t certain he deserves.

Luckily, there are plenty – including the IBCA itself – who know the Hall of Fame is exactly where Ellerbrock belongs.

“I opened up [the letter from the IBCA], and I was just stunned,” the veteran Shaw Local reporter said. “I was thinking at first it must be some kind of a joke, or what does the IBCA want me to do for somebody else? I was very shocked and elated.

“I’ve seen over the years so many great people – athletes, coaches, media members – go in. I’ve never seen myself in that class, in that grouping, but it is truly an honor to be thought of in that way.”

Known for his dedication, loyalty, friendly nature and positive, people-first writing style, Ellerbrock will be part of the IBCA Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 inducted this weekend.

A sports and oftentimes news reporter since working the phones collecting football stats and scores Friday nights for the La Salle News-Tribune shortly after his 1976 graduation from La Salle-Peru High School, Ellerbrock’s career took him from the NewsTribune (1976-1987) under sports editor Gary Koehler to the Ottawa Daily Times (1988-1989) under Dan Eilts to the Bureau County Republican (1990-2005) under Kevin Hieronymus back to the Daily Times/The Times (2005-present) under sports editors Jeff Glade, Andy Tavegia and J.T. Pedelty.

More concisely, he’s been a mainstay of Illinois Valley sports coverage for coming up on 50 years, with a style all his own.

“I became a little bit more of a student when I was writing the briefs for football games,” Ellerbrock said. “I don’t think there were any journalists that I modeled myself after, but I saw the way they expanded on things, and they always had a creative lede, and then it went from there.

“Then I started to pick things up a little at a time.”

One of the hallmarks of Ellerbock’s journalism career has been his dedication and personal touch.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a reporter who cares more about his work and those he covered. …” said Tavegia, Ellerbrock’s sports editor at The Times from 2006-2016. “And it paid off with many tight bonds that have lasted his entire career.”

Case in point: While he regularly covers athletes from schools all over the Illinois Valley area, in recent years Ellerbock’s primary beat has been writing about the student-athletes at Marquette Academy, where he’s become a fixture.

“It’s been great,” Marquette athletic director, baseball and boys basketball coach and former girls basketball coach Todd Hopkins said. “He’s very passionate about what he does, he writes a great story, he doesn’t take quotes out of context. That’s one thing that I always liked: You can be straight with him, and he’s not going to twist your words. He’s very knowledgeable in all sports. That’s something that, as a coach, I think you respect.

“And he always cares about the kids and gets the part of it that these are high schools kids, we’re high school coaches.”

Among the best he’s ever seen as a reporter covering high school sports, Ellerbrock cites the state runner-up Hall boys basketball teams from 1996-97 and 1997-98 (“I just got tingles. Those packed houses at Hall in those days were just amazing,” he said) along with individual players such as 2,000-point scorers Kailey Klein of Hall and David Olson of Newark.

True to his people-first nature, he’s seen plenty of changes in the game of high school basketball, but not so much in the young players themselves.

“Physically on the court, I think the game is a lot faster,” Ellerbrock said. “The game itself is more up-tempo. Back then, it was get it up the floor and get it to the big guy. … You don’t see coaches staying in places for 25, 30 years anymore, and dunks used to be a lot rarer than they are now.

“But I do think the character of the kids is about the same. People always talk about how kids today don’t have the work ethic, the “back when I was in school …” stuff, but I think the dedication to the game is still there.”

Written by Shaw Local Sports Reporter J.T. Pedelty