This is a Meadowbrook grade school basketball team from many years ago. The coach is the boys' sixth-grade teacher Ken Wallace. Kevin Stallings is third from left back row. McRae is fifth from left back row.Tom McRae, left, and Kevin Stallings together at a baseball game.EDWARDSVILLE - Some may not realize this, but Madison County Circuit Clerk Tom McRae and Collinsville basketball legend Kevin Stallings have been best of friends for most of their respective lives.

Kevin and Tom are almost exactly the same age. Tom turned 63 in April 2023 and Kevin will hit the mark in October 2023.

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Kevin said, “I am pretty sure we knew each other by 4 years old. He is my oldest friend. We were very fortunate we both had older brothers about the same age and we came from big families.

“I played some summer ball with Tom and a lot of sandlot football games. I remember the first time we got to play I got kicked in the ear by one of Tom’s cousins. We have been friends since 1964. We were both born in 1960 and we have remained fast friends since we met.”

Miami's Jacob StallingsRecently, Kevin and Tom attended a St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball game in St. Louis and Jacob Stallings of the Miami Marlins slammed a pair of hits. It was a proud night for both Tom and Kevin.

“We lived about 200 yards apart as the crow flew,” Stallings said of their Meadowbrook start. “I remember wanting to play baseball, football, or basketball on a Saturday morning, and I would go and knock on Tom’s window about 7:30 in the morning. Then we would begin our day of recruiting the kids in the neighborhood to play.”

Tom said: “Kevin had a drive as a little kid to go out and shoot baskets in the dead of winter. We played whatever sport was in season, whether it was Wiffle Ball, hockey with sticks, football, baseball, it didn’t matter.”

In eighth grade, the Stallings family moved to Maryville and then Collinsville, where Kevin became a huge basketball star under legendary coach Vergil Fletcher.

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“I think Kevin was in eighth grade when his family moved,” Tom said. “We stayed close even in high school and through college. He was in my wedding and I was in his wedding. I still see Kevin and his wife and we talk. Kevin now lives in Nashville. He had coached previously at Vanderbilt University.”

Kevin said his son, Jacob Stallings, reminds him of Tom McRae.

“Jacob is a wonderful human being and a great husband and great dad like Tom, too,” Kevin said. “I don’t think you will find anyone who ever says anything that wasn’t nice about him or Tom.”

Kevin said he loves the McRae family and that Tom comes by his honest nature naturally because his mom and dad were “awesome people."

Kevin said he and Tom have remained connected all through their college days and post times.

“When we talk it is just like a continuation of the last conversation we had,” the star basketball player/coach said. “Tom is one of the nicest people I have ever known and I am so grateful life brought us together as little guys. I guess it was fate.”

Tom said he absolutely believes in the phrase “no friends like old friends,” a popular saying that highlights the importance of old friendships.

“I think that is very true,” he said. “I feel so fortunate to have a friend like Kevin from my childhood for nearly 60 years. He is a very special friend.”

Sunday: A story reflecting on Kevin Stallings' relationship with the legendary Kahoks' basketball coach Vergil Fletcher.

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