The walls of the Potterdome are home to championship banners, sportsmanship awards and six retired Morton jerseys.
Brooke Bisping became the seventh Potters athlete to have a jersey retired, when her number 13 was honored Friday night prior to Morton’s 90-33 win over East Peoria.
She joins Cindy Bumgarner and Tracy Pontius (girls basketball), Derek Grimm and Kevin Bontemps (boys basketball), and Ashley Fauser (softball) as Morton athletes selected for the honor.
“I cannot express the gratitude I feel towards everyone,” said Bisping, who played at Morton from 2005-09. “It was a lot of hard work and I couldn’t have made it through the trying times in my life without the special people around me.”
Growing up in Morton, Bisping’s parents, Todd and Linda, never forced basketball on any of their children, but wanted them to do whatever made them happy.
As long as they gave the activity all they had.
“My parents never made me play basketball, they always asked me if I wanted to play,” said Bisping. “They didn’t care if I was good, they just wanted me to go out and play as hard as I could. I thank my family for making me who I am.”
Boy, was she “good.”
In her four-year career at Morton, Bisping is the Lady Potters’ all-time leading scorer with 2,147 points.
She also ranks in the top five of multiple categories; career rebounds (fourth with 768), career three pointers (second with 185) and career steals (second with 223). She was also named to the Associated Press all-state team twice.
As a freshman, 5-foot-7-inch Bisping was called up to the varsity team by coach Bob Becker. According to Becker, Morton has a tradition of calling up underclassmen if they have the talent to compete at the varsity level.
“We look at it like an academic class, if you are ready for an advanced math class as a freshman, but it is a senior level class, you’re still going to take that class,” Becker said. “It is the same on the court. It wasn’t an easy transition for Brooke as a freshman.”
According to Becker, Bisping had to earn the respect of the upperclassmen on the team during the 2005-06 season.
“We had some hard-headed kids (on that team) that expected everyone to compete,” Becker said. “And Brooke was ready, but she wasn’t readily embraced, so I think she learned a lot. “
Bisping found out in her freshman year of varsity basketball that it would take hard work and determination to become a successful basketball player at Morton.
In her sophomore season at Morton, she helped the Lady Potters advance to the state tournament.
Morton lost its semifinal and third place games at Redbird Arena, earning a fourth place finish.
In her first two seasons at Morton, Bisping was primarily known for her outside shooting.
However, the summer prior to her junior season, Bisping transitioned into a forward, frequently playing as the team’s biggest threat in the paint.
The work ethic and determination, which she credits her parents for instilling in her, is what allowed Bisping to thrive at a new position.
“Our family has been based upon how hard we work. At the end of the game it never mattered how many points we scored,” Bisping said. “It mattered how hard we played and when we came home, mom and dad were disappointed if we didn’t try.”
Despite being undersized compared to most of her counterparts, Bisping averaged 21.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a junior.
Bisping continued to improve over time.
In her senior year as a Potter, she improved her statistics to 23.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, while leading the team to a Mid-Illini Conference championship.
Although Bisping never won a state championship with Morton, she helped lay the foundation to what has become a basketball powerhouse in the Mid-Illini Conference.
“(Bisping’s) talent was unbelievable, but it was her work ethic and how much of a leader she was has set the tone for the past decade for our program,” Becker said. “She helped lay the foundation of work ethic and competitiveness.”
It wasn’t just Bisping’s actions on the court that helped build the Morton program.
“She always did the little things. She would give kids rides to practice, bake treats and she did the little things to make sure everyone was involved,” Becker said of Bisping. “She was an unbelievable captain, leader and teammate.
After graduating Morton, Bisping attended Bradley University on a basketball scholarship.
“There is a reason I stayed in this area, and it is because Morton is more than a community, it is a family,” Bisping said.
She is now an assistant coach on the team, working day-in and day-out with Becker.
“I loved coaching her and I love having her now on the coaching staff,” Becker said. “She is one of the best that we’ve ever had, so it’s exciting for me. The kids love her, I love her and she is so deserving of this honor.”
Bisping said the honor “brought her to tears.”
But, she is humbled by the opportunities that were presented to her during her career at Morton.
“I am so honored to receive this award, but it was never about Brooke Bisping. It is about the Morton Potters.” Bisping said. “I have had a lot of coaches over the years to help mold me into the person that I am. I couldn’t have done any of the things I accomplished over the years without my teammates. I played with some fantastic people who could have broke all of the records that I broke, but when I played with them, they found ways to get me the ball instead.”
There is just one small problem with the No. 13 jersey being retired: Brooke’s younger sister Brandi currently wears the number.
“13 is our family number and Brandi wears it now, so coach (Becker) says Morton is going to honor the number,” Brooke Bisping said. “(Becker) said nobody else will wear the number 13 while he is still coaching here.”