This is the 2014 KHQA All Do or Die Boys Basketball Wrap Up. Hard to believe we've been at this for nearly twenty years but you know what they say about time flying. And in that spirit, this past winter was a blast to cover, culminating in two State Trips (Canton and Unity) and a near miss on a third (Fort Madison) up in Iowa. In that spirit, thanks for the phenomenal journey, gentlemen...
The awards you see below are nothing but our highly subjective, completely opinionated take on what was an incredibly fun winter's worth of basketball. We are not are experts in any sense of the word. I assure you: our picks here have no impact on recruiting, college scholarships, or future success. This column is provided for nothing more than entertainment purposes and should be enjoyed in that spirit. If you want to have a healthy, constructive, positive debate with us over any pick or omission, I am happy to do so with you as you can contact me at email@example.com and we can better illustrate our points and why we made them and I am certainly willing to hear you out. But again in the end, what we do here is merely a reflection of our opinion, nothing more. No more meaningful or valid than the basketball opinions of anyone else. And I hope no one takes too much offense or gets to overheated about what transpires here.
2014 KHQA BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Canton High School
20.4 Points Per Game on 59% Shooting from the field
7.2 Rebounds Per Game
6.5 Assist Per Game
First Team All State Selection
Rationale: Great candidates in the final mix here but none came close to Canton's Senior Point Guard at the finish line. Tyler Niemann was a unanimous choice in our voting process and I am not sure there is a compelling argument to be levied against this pick. The Tigers Third Place state finish only made it more of a slam dunk as we had designated this kid as the de facto favorite back in early December and waited for someone to mount a serious charge against him. The threat never did arise. He is a do-it-all talent and as good off the floor as he was on it. This award marks the first time in our history that brother and sister (Tori Niemann won in 2009) have won our MVP Awards and just the second time it has happened between siblings (the Summers Brothers of Quincy High were our first ever such honorees) Tyler's numbers were sensational. His control of his team on th court was beyond reproach. And he set a high benchmark for character, class and grades off the hardwoods. In short, Tyler Niemann was nothing less than the perfect storm candidate.
RUNNER-UP: MILES WENTZIEN, Fort Madison
FAN VOTE: TYLER NIEMANN, Canton
2013-Paxton Harmon, West Hancock
2012: Dalton Hoover, Pittsfield
2011:Brad Hamilton, Pittsfield
2010-Zach Forbes, Quincy High
2009-Ryan Stuckman, Quincy Notre Dame
2008-Matt Patterson, South Shelby
2007-Jared Summers, Quincy High
2006*-Mike Smith, Van-Far
2006*-Justin Brock, Liberty
2005-Cody Stoneburner, North Shelby
2004-Mike Smith, Van-Far
2003-Chad Cox, Macomb
2002-Nathan Emrick, Griggsville-Perry
2001-Mike Fitch, Pittsfield
2000-J.D. Summers, Quincy High
1999-Craig Lewis, Keokuk
1998-Jason Littig, Bluffs
1997-Bill Heisler, Warsaw
2014 KHQA BOYS BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
Unity High School
RATIONALE: In this case, the fan vote was really all that mattered. Internally, the KHQA Sports Team was deadlocked between giving Andy Anderson his second COY nod here or awarding Keith Carothers his first. I am certainly not going to complain here about being let off the hook on a really tough decision between two extremely worth finalists. And in the end, the Mustang Boss eased past Anderson in the popular vote by just seven total votes. So we will take advantage of the mandate to praise the man who helped transform Mustang Basketball from a team that went 2-23 in his first season to a squad that has won 19 or more games the last three years running. And maybe that is the neatest hallmark of what Carothers has done at Unity. This was no overnight success story. Nor was it an easy rebuild. But consistent nurture and energy from the bottom up has produced a program, in entirety, that is improved at every level and is pumping well schooled future Mustangs through the system and to the varsity level. I know there were people in some corners who wanted to couch this as a Cinderella Story of sorts, but I am not sure this was accurate. Yes, Payson Seymour was the team most people in our area had earmarked for the Final Four but if you go back to our preseason predictions, we had Unity pegged as a Top Five Area Team with a First Team Preseason All Area Big Man in Lane Davis. So I think to paint this story in that fashion is to do these kids and their coach a disservice. This was more about a good team that maximized its opportunities and chances and played a style of basketball that made it very difficult to beat. To Coach Carothers credit, he has instilled an edge to his kids the last couple of years whereby the play with tenacity and grit and an absolute fearlessness of physicality. They will get in your face and challenge you at both ends of the floor. And they will do so with intelligence, because in truth, there are a bunch of high character kids and, truthfully speaking, a rogue's gallery of characters here as well. And to rekindle such fervor in such a sports loving/long suffering community is such a tremendous storyline, it was almost impossible to pass up. Give these kids and this Coach a ton of credit. They did really, really good for themselves and their school. And they have set a really high bar for Future Mustangs as well, many of whom were the young faces roaming those stands.
Runner-Up: ANDY ANDERSON, Canton
Viewer's Vote: KEITH CAROTHERS, Unity
2013-Brian Rea, Payson-Seymour
2012-Ryan Wood, Marion County
2011-Jeff Abell, Winchester West Central
2010-Brad Tomhave, Pittsfield
2009-Clay Vass, Central Lee
2008-Jesse Crawford, Knox County
2007-Dave Phelps, Brown County
2006-Andy Anderson, Canton
2005-Steve Carvajal, North Shelby
2004-Brian Meny, Van-Far
2003-Steve Carvajal, North Shelby
2002-Scott Douglas, QND
2001-Darin Powell, Hannibal
2000-Sean Taylor, Macomb
1999-Hal Shaver, South Shelby
1998-Reno Pinkston, Nauvoo-Colusa
1997-Jeff Dahl, Warsaw
2014 KHQA BOYS BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR
(As voted by our viewers)
11.5 Points Per Game
5 Rebounds Per Game
3.4 Assists Per Game
2013-Parker Gibbs, West Hancock
2014 KHQA ALL DO OR DIE BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM
First Team Selections
Starter: KENNY LESLEY, Elsberry
Pertinents and Such: Not since Cody Stoneburner's glory days in Shelbyville has the Tri States seen a big man stuff a stat sheet thusly. The Elsberry Junior All Stater has become a much more comfortable player on the Offensive end. He no longer seems as flustered/frustrated by contact going to the basket and he's expanded his arsenal of go-to moves in doing a much better job separating from defenders. The net result was some 626 points this season for a tidy 40% of his team's total scoring on the season. The efficiency rates (other than his ill-fated 1-14 go from three point range) were astounding at 65% from the field and a really revealing 78% from the charity stripe. I've been preaching this for three years now but the kid really has two guard touch in a big man's body. Lesley's rebounding, though less celebrate, might be my favorite of his calling card skills. He grabbed 14 boards a game, including a Dre Drummond like 5 offensive glass cleanings per contest. Kenny's shotblocking numbers trailed off to "just" five and a half swats per game as teams got much smarter about challenging him in the paint. Most tellingly, Kenny has really cleaned up his foul issues and is no under three personals per game on average, which exponentially improves the Indians win shares on a nightly basis. Still would love to see the kid add another 15-20 pounds of muscle but his visible improvements from last year to this speak volumes about just how serious he is in trying to push his own envelope, which is a giant plus for a kid with this much raw ability and god given gifts at his size. And there is some real Aaron Gordon type ceiling parrallel for the kid at the next level. Bottom line, I can't wait to see what another hard working off-season gives us to watch next winter.
Reserve: LANE DAVIS, Unity
Pertinents and Such: With outlier intelligence, toughness, and an almost perfect court temperment, Lane Davis proved a perfectly fit weapon for Keith Carothers system in Mendon. The kid is an absolute warrior inside and a winning argument for multi-sport participation as I think his stellar play on Unity/Payson Offensive and Defensive Line has made him all but immune to contact. He goes through incidental contact and finishes his shot as well as any big man in the last few years and maybe as well as any kid I can think of not named Cody Hildebrand in recent memory. He's also got nimble feet and seemingly catches anything and everything thrown his direction. If Lane were three inches taller, his mailbox would be overflowing with recruiting letters. It makes things awfully easy for an offense when you can simply work the ball inside and know your go to player is going to unfailingly get a good look and high percentage opportunity. He converted this season to the tune of 14 points per game. Davis proved a proficient position rebounder who disarmed opponents by boxing them helplessly out. He's the rare "first option" big man who actually isn't a "basketball stopper" in that he makes quick passing decisions and zips the ball willingly and deftly to teammates. I didn't remember this being a pronounce part of his game last year, but I was really impressed with how good Lane's timing as a rim protector has gotten as well. He's just one of those kids I can see going off to a small college somewhere and being a four year All Conference kid and potential program all time leading scorer because from day one, I can't envision a coach keeping a kid this sharp and skilled out of his lineup. And the fact he was the biggest impetus in carving history in Mustang Basketball only adds to his appear here.
Reserve: DJ WILLIAMS, Macomb
Pertinents and Such: Forced to serve as the Bombers "de facto five" do to a glaring lack of size, DJ Williams used his unique combination of strength, quickness, and fearlessness to help power Macomb back on a more positive trajectory in his senior season. A First Team All WCC Selection and co-team MVP along with Guard Blake Lowderman, the 6'4" Senior operated under the principle that if decided to take the ball to the basket, no opponent was going to stop him. And in that sense, his relentlessness inside made him one of our absolute favorites. The kid has a very special ability to create space for himself, maybe because he was so quick into his initial move or feint. He seemed to really relish the battle itself, especially in fighting bigger players for rebounds. There were nights (see also his 28 point effort against Wethersfield in the Great Western Shootout) where Williams proved to be a flat out force of nature inside with his scoring, be it posting up or soaring for highlight reel dunks. Will likely be a Kenneth Faried type three at the next level, but he certainly seems to be a young man with an intriguing college future.
GAGE KLITZ, Payson Seymour
Why He's Here: Not since Adam Wetzel at Keokuk has the Tri States had a big man play as well above the rim at both ends of the floor. Gage is a highlight producing machine and his consistency of performance improved markedly from last year to this. The interesting thing here is that he unveiled a rather intriguing mid-range game to go along with all of his aireal acrobatics. Kid is just a bundle of potential and if he continues to harnass and hone, his impact could be unmatched. Big men like this are rare in Class 1A Hoops.
TRISTAN CASTIGLIA, Louisiana
Why He's Here: His First Team All Conference snub might have been the area's most egregious. Terrific, lively defender who protected the rim with 76 blocks, assaulted the boards to the tune of 10 rebounds nightly, and made all the hustle plays. His 11 points per night scoring average, on 57% shooting, was gravy for player who relished & thrived in his "unglorious" role.
VINCENT ELDER, Hannibal
Why He's Here: Pure potential. The 6'6" Pirate Sophomore is far from a finished product at this point but his top end offerings were mesmerizing. He's got "take over the game" type size and athleticism inside, including a terrific "second jump" ability that should make him one of the best Offensive Rebounders in our region for the next two years. If he can put on a little more size in the weight room, Elder is a kid who could emerge as one of those sneaky recruits college coaches covet.
ZACH HIBBERT, Central
SHEA FLESNER, Southeastern
TREY KOTHE, Macon
ETHAN PETERSON, West Prairie
First Team Selections
Starter: AUSTIN RICHMILLER, Highland
Pertinents and Such: Thanks to a relentlessly revving motor, Highland big man Austin Richmiller pulled the rug out from under all those great guards to swipe Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year honors. And deservedly so. To see the Cougars play early on, when Austin was still shelved by a football injury, and contrast that performance with what this team became after his return; provided proof positive that this kid was one of, if not the most valuable contributor to his team in Tri State Basketball. There isn't a lot overly fancy here. Richmiller simply attacks. And he does so for four quarters. The kid does exactly what you want from a classic four: he scores and he rebounds with unceasing proficiency. To be honest, I think it is Richmiller's mid range game that sets up his ability to get to the basket and score from high percentage spots so effectively. You absolutely have to check him any time he has the ball. Defenders who would sag off were either treated to a naggingly effective 10-12 foot jumper shot in their face or a deft pass to a cutting teammate. Those who tried to check him in close quarters found out first hand how deceptively quick his first step is. Best of all, at least from this vantage point, Richmiller has a fully functional, old school back to the basket game. And he is remarkably good at back down defenders and barging his way into exactly the shots he wants to take. More than that, Austin might be better at initiating contact with a defender and baiting said defender into a foul than anyone in the local game today. He literally makes himself an "inviting target" for fouls and his long arms allow him to still get off shots even when he's getting butchered. They are also, along with great, natural fundamental use of his body, why at 6'3" he is one of the great inch for inch rebounders in our area (10.2 per game) You also don't score 21 points per game by accident. And Austin has about as "airtight" and failsafe an offense repertoire as anyone around. He does what he does well and defies you to stop it, without trying to be something he isn't. In NBA parlance, It's a very Al Horford approach to the game. And with another year left on the books, don't think defending him is going to get anything but harder from here on out.
Reserve: GABE MCKENZIE, Canton
Pertinents and Such: Austin Richmiller's ultra-rare consistency gives him the starting nod here but the top end of Gabe McKenzie's resume suggests he may ultimately be the better player down the road. His A+ games are jaw droppingly impressive indicators of his skill level. There is no one in Tri State basketball that possesses as much flat out scoring firepower; the one area kid who can kill you from 22 feet away from the basket to six inches about the rim. He's got the entire inside/out arsenal. And I tend to think we have only gotten a tease as to what his finishing ability can/will be. He reminds me a ton of Nauvoo Colusa State Championship stalwart Joe Wilson, except that I think Gabe's shot is even better pieced together. And to Andy Anderson's credit, he's done a very good job getting Gabe to better harnass his emotions. To be honest, part of that competitive fire here is what you also love about McKenzie's game, even if it occasionally gets him sideways with an ill advised foul. The thing I notice with Gabe is that he doesn't seem to let his frustration linger/carry over for very long anymore and that's made him a far more viable centerpiece. He is always going to be guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder and at least to my mind, that same edge is also what gives him the potential to be great. Ignite him he's likely to hit you with 28 points, 5 triples, a pair of dunks and 12 rebounds. In some players, volatility is a really good thing when properly harnassed. And there were a least six games I could name for you last year when Gabe looked like the single best player in Tri State Basketball. Scarier still, he's got a Mike Smith sized window of potential productivity with a Canton team that will need scoring next season. Don't sleep on this kid making it two straight POYs for the Tigers in 2015.
Reserve: KYLE FULTON, Monroe City
Pertinents and Such: Is there a sport this guy isn't good at? Monroe City's Mister Everything beasted up to the tune of 22.3 points per game this season on just slightly better than 50% shooting from the field. Considering the amount of defensive attention he commanded, I was really impressed by Kyle's efficiency numbers. He turned himself into an awfully darned effective long range sniper over the last two years, canning 37% of his shots from distance. He was also a near 80% guy at the Free Throw Line. Fulton is possessed of a truly lethal shot. Combine that weapon with his bounce and ability to contort his body around defenders mid-air and you have a guy we ranked as one of the Top Four Offensive Players in Tri State Basketball, regardless of position. The dunks were nice and all but the most impressive thing to me about "Fultron" was the sheer number of high degree of difficulty shots he would hit. Kyle causes you to redefine your notion of a high percentage shot because he's capable of making the buckets few other can. On a team with more size, I think Kyle probably would have been better cast as a dominant Melo type three who was simply asked to provide points. To his credit, however, Kyle was a credible rebounder (7.3 boards per game) playing as the Panthers closest approximation to a true big. Had things broken a little different way teamwise, there were really compelling conference and perhaps overall player of the year arguments that could have been made on his behalf given how much he was at the heart and center of the good things that came out of this ascending program in 2014.
DYLAN POWELL, Hannibal
Why He's Here: No spot to put him on the First Team. Northeast Missouri's most gifted Football returnee, Dylan displayed deft touch even to the midrange in route to nearly 13 points nightly. Overpowering force down low who could box out a mountain, yet still moves really well. Should see a significant uptick in usage over the next two years.
LEVI KING, Griggsville-Perry
Why He's Here: Blue collar ethic on the glass, white collar shooting ability for a big. Deserved of far more accord than he received this year, Levi is a high character young man who was one of the region's most bankable nightly double/double threats. A quiet warrior for G-P. See also his 590 career rebounds, the ninth highest total in program history.
MANNING PLATER, Rushville/Industry
Why He's Here: Like Powell, another high ceiling Soph who tallied a team leading 16 points per night. He has the added benefit of being a 39% shooter from three point range at his size, which forces fellow bigs outside their comfort zone to defend him at the arc. His physical presence and rebounding could really spike as he better learns how to make use of his body.
LUCAS HOWARD, Scotland County
Why He's Here: There is always room for a productive four who plays with this kind of bounce. The unanimous TRC First Team selection proved a very versatile interior option for the Tigers with his ability to run the floor, play above the rim, and both finesse and back down defenders according to need. There's a bit of a David Lee-type smartness and utility to Howard's game in which he simply finds the best fit way to attack a foe and goes to work on their weaknesses.
KALEB BRADSHAW, Griggsville-Perry
TAYLOR HEIMANN, Central
AUSTIN DURBIN, South Shelby
BAZIL KELLER, Palmyra
First Team Selections
Starter: CODY HILDEBRAND, Payson Seymour
Pertinents and Such: What more is there left to say? In a more perfect world, Cody Hildebrand gets the send off he richly deserved and gets to play on the big stage and claim a Player of the Year Award (or two) on the way out the door. But unfortunately for the Indian Senior, his team's path to destiny was derailed prematurely. I know it's been popular in many corners to become part of the "Payson backlash" the last two years and decry this team as too cocky or too highlight obsessed or whatever the criticism d'jour happened to be that particular week. That narrative unfortunately took on a life of its own. But I can tell you it does a terrible disservice here having any association to one of the classiest young men it's been my privledge to meet through basketball. Even in the low moments, Cody Hildebrand has been as stand up a young man as you will ever meet. He is unfailingly accountable, deferential to opponents and teammates in his praise, and has been a credit to his school and his community in both academic and athletic endeavors. He also happens to be the the most "unguardable" interior scorer of his size I think I have covered. I have watched Hildebrand enough over the last two years that I have tried to make a mental book on how to "defend" the kid on the entire. But he just has this incredible knack for weaving through double teams and stretching his long arms beyond defenders to get and convert shots through contact. The First Team AP All Stater went for 22 points a game again this season with every team on the schedule knowing exactly who he was and what he liked to do. And trying to stop him was still a nightly fool's errand. And he made a lot of defenders over the years look absolutely foolish in trying to do so. And to be honest, I think Cody actually left points on the table this season because his free throw shooting mechanics weren't as crisp as they were a year ago and he struggled a little bit with the freebies relative to last year. Generally, I am not a big fan of isolation scorers but Cody elevated it to an art form. And he somehow made it come within the flow of the offense or without fellowing Carmelo Anthony type selfish. Vastly underrated passing lane defender. Willing passer. And just a wonderfully intelligent player. And his game still has growth potential for whatever lucky small college lands him and watches him eventually become their programs all time scoring leader. Special talent in an overwise unassuming looking package. Highest compliment I can pay the kid is that I will really miss watching him play. And I see so much basketball, you think I wouldn't miss anyone. But Cody Hildebrand's games were always unfailingly electric.
Reserve: BLAKE HELLWIG, Holy Trinity
Pertinents and Such: Southeast Iowa's most diverse and reliable stat sheet stuffer, Blake Hellwig's star is definitely on the rise. He averaged a virtual double double this season at 13 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while also dishing out nearly six assists and snaring three steals nightly. Blake in fact led his team in points, rebounds, offensive rebounds, blocks, steals, assists, field goal percentage and free throw percentage this year... which I believe is an unprecedented feat across Tri State Basketball. The kid just plays the game hard and plays it right. He's certainly not the flashiest player on this list and one could argue, I guess, that he might be too unselfish at times at the offensive end. He will likely have to step up his attack on that end of the floor next season to make up for the Crusaders loss of its other four top scorers. He does have the game to do so. Blake has proven shooting touch from perimeter to post and certainly has the game to be a 16-18 ppg guy as a Senior. More importantly though, he has a proven ability to make his teammates better and that makes him an invaluable "Point Forward" moving forward next season.
Reserve: ROYCE POORE, Knox County
Pertinents and Such: Your reigning TRC Player of the Year has been a basketball revelation in Edina the last four years, bringing hope to a success starved fan base and set the bar of excellence high both on the floor and off. Hard not to feel good about the fact that future generations of Eagles have spent the last few years working in their backyard to become the next Royce Poore and modeling his classy demeanor and his stellar play. Point blank, Poore is a very gifted long range shooter; a fact that has been impossible to miss since he first hit radar. And it only seems right that he finishes his career as his school's all time leader in that category. But the truth is, Royce has really expanded his overall game and become a tremendous multi-use player. He finished the year averaging twenty points, five rebounds, and three assists per contest while putting real teeth in the Eagles bolstered defense with nearly three steals a game; maybe the single most important transition in putting Knox County over the top in earning its first Conference Championship since 1994. It's tangible leadership in all phases of the game that rubbed off well across the program and should make this young man one of the most revered names in program annals for years to come.
MICHAEL MAST, Liberty
Why He's Here: Emerged as one of the better "secondary option" players in Western Illinois this season in coupling a 6'5" frame with a two guards shooting stroke, making him awfully difficult to contest. He runs the floor very well, making all that size and wingspan an absolute defensive deal breaker in the Eagles press.
Michael has all the earmarks of an 18 and 7 guy nightly when given broader responsibilites...which make no mistake are coming. A good player now with the potential to work himself into a Top Ten elite type with better consistency and strength.
IZACK HIVELY, Western
Why He's Here: A true "Point Forward" who earned All Conference accord for his yeoman's work as foundation piece of a very young Western ballclub. Four year starter with legit scoring chops (1000 points plus for career) and outstanding floor vision who would have been a household name on a more veteran squad. Granted, Baseball is probably Izack's best sport (and he's got great potential as a pitcher there) but the young man's basketball career certainly
CHASE BEVANS, Clark County
Why He's Here: To my mind a tremendously underrated talent and highly productive producer the last two years. Bevans finished his stellar Indian career with 1008 total points scored in all manner of fashions. The rangy Bevans coupled an elegant shooting stroke with the ability to use his body and wingspan to bedevil defenders while crashing in from the wing. Indians struggles probably cost Chase a higher level of area wide attention but as anyone who guarded him can attest, the kid can flat fill it up.
BRYSON ABBEY, Fort Madison
Why He's Here: Miles Wentzien may be the name on the marquee but Bryson Abbey's value in helping craft a record setting season of Hound Basketball can't be dismissed. He's not a big numbers guy (eight points, six rebounds, and a couple of steals and assists per contest) but he is the webbing that ties it all together. His calling card is versatility and any role you put him in from having to knock down jumpers to sticking him inside to create offensive paint presence his fills. Despite generally giving up size inside, "Downtown" Abbey is a crafty and effective rebounder and darned good finisher. He's overvalued here relative to the numbers but go watch the Hounds play and tell me I am wrong to have him here.
ADAM HOLT, Bowling Green
DEVIN LEE RINGS, West Hancock
MARSHALL CORBIN, Louisiana
CAMERON DURST, Canton
First Team Selections
Starter: MILES WENTZIEN, Fort Madison
Pertinents and Such: Other than maybe pressing too hard and trying to do too much in the second half of the Grinnell game, it's really hard to find many chinks in Mister Wentzien's otherwise air tight junior year resume. His handle is far away away the best in Tri State Basketball right now and maybe the best this area has seen since Chad Cox was making defenders grasp at air in Macomb. He's got a natural talent for getting loose of defenders that is just plain fun to watch. And his quicker than a hiccup first step, coupled with a now legitmate Division One guard's frame, allow him to get to the basket with Tyreke Evans in his Memphis days type ease. Bottom line, Miles is an enviable mix of explosiveness and power that nary a high school kid has a chance to reckon with. He has also learned very well how to control a team. His read/recognize assessments of when to attack a defense have been spot on. And he knows how to close and win games, bringing that long needed intangible to a program that just won a school record 19 games under his command. Those attibutes alone would be enough to make a kid pretty special. What we haven't touched on yet is his shooting and scoring. Miles is a 41 percent three point shooter with outstanding shot recognition. He's got effortless range well beyond the high school three point line. And he is incredibly clutch. His scoring binges are largely indefensible. He gets to the line with regularity and shoots 78% from the charity stripe. And his 21.6 points per game average could easily be six to eight points higher if he were less team oriented. He is nothing short of the best package of college ready skills this area has seen from a homegrown high school guard since Kyle Cartmill. And at a now more muscled up 6'3" frame, he also happens to be a nearly eight rebound per night point guard as well. What can't he do? If you haven't seen the kid play yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. To end any suspense, he will be our Preseason Player of the Year next November and will rival Kenny Lesley as the biggest prize in area basketball. He entertains. He wins. And he makes everyone else around him better. What more can you ask?
Reserve: MICHAEL BLEWETT, Liberty
Pertinents and Such: The engine of so much of Liberty's success, Michael Blewett's progression from promising Frosh phenom to All Stater has been an absolute treat to watch. There is so much to like here both tangibly and intangibly, but the two things that really stand out to me about Blewett are his resolve and his court demeanor. He's about the business at hand. There are no "look at me" histrionics. His approach and energy doesn't wane, even on an off night. His leadership is purely by example and its impossible to miss. And you can't tell whether his team is up 30 or down 10 by looking at him on a given night, in a given moment. And there is rare, palpable guard toughness at play here that kind of reminds me of the vibe (and I am dating myself here) that Sharunas Marciulionis brought to the RUN TMC Warriors back in the day. He's the rare backcourt guy that not only isn't effect by contact, but seems to player better in physical quarters. The rest is pretty obvious to the beholder. In an era of combo guards replacing the old definition of the one, Blewett is a 21 point per night guy who can shoot you into extinction from the perimeter or take it to the basket with explosive strength. He is the "working man's" one and a half guard, if you will. There are no real holes in his game except that he isn't four inches taller. Liberty's basketball tradition has gotten considerably more pedigreed in the last 15 years, but even with the Fesslers and Brocks and Starnes in play, it's hard to deny Michael Blewett his place at the table among Eagle All Timers.
Reserve: JONNY DAHL, Keokuk
Pertinents and Such: When all is said and done, we may look back at The Class of 2015 as one of the finest group of point guards the Tri States has produced thanks to the triumverate of Wentzien, Dahl and Meny. I still argue that Jonny's college future is at the two as his game has a sort of Bradley Beal with rebounding chops feel to it. But it's also really hard to argue with six and half assists nightly and a three to one assist to turnover ratio, now isn't it? That established, the number one reason you want this kid on your team is that he shoots it from range better than anyone else. Jonny's shot selection has been so finely honed over the last three years that he shot 49% from beyond the arc this year and still knocked down 53 triples. That is obscenely productive. And to that outlier skill, Dahl has grafted a much improved jab step and penetrate element to his game. You also see him below the three point line far more than you used to, which is really troublesome for opponents. He's a 6'5" guard, defended by 5'11" players, who has now decided he wants to go to the glass with Kenneth Faried type intentions (8.4 rebounds per game) on a play for play basis. The breadth of his contributions, for a kid who has such a decided primary duty as floor general, is really quite staggering. And yet Jonny pulls it off without missing a beat. Fascinated by his ultimate college recruitment. Not sure yet the rest of the world has discovered how good his finishing point might be.
Reserve: TREVOR MENY, Palmyra
Pertinents and Such: If a more more traditional take on the point guard dynamic is your thing, have we got the kid for you. Trevor was the Tri-States most prolific distributor at 10 dimes per game and was only charged with a paltry 51 turnovers on the year. That works out to a 6 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. The mentality you like about Meny in that role is that he isn't afraid to make the simple, effective pass; even if he is capable of creating the highlight reel no-look dish. There is certainly some discipline to that part of his game. He was also a 19 points per game guy as his team's second leading scorer who shot 55% from two point range and 39% from three. About the only part of the Steve Nash Offensive Repertorie that Trevor doesn't give you is obscene free throw percentage as the Palmyra junior shoots just 66% from the charity stripe. The flip side of that coin is that unlike the former NBA MVP, Meny actually defends (90 steals) and rebounds (a very sneaky 7 per contest, a number that caught me completely off guard on nightly basis. His role is most assuredly going to tweak next season, absent Palmyra's stellar seniors. I quite curious to see what that opportunity engenders and what the demands of needing more offense ellicits from his game. He's clearly a young man with a great understanding of the game, unmatched floor vision, and above average athletic ability. Would not be shocked to see him put up Jon Gilliam/Kellen Fernetti type scoring averages next season to go along with his bread and butter stats.
LANCE BUHLIG, Payson Seymour
Why He's Here: The unsung conscience of Payson's run. Lance's control, intelligence, and ability to hit shots in a pinch were invaluable on a team rife with basketball free spirits and virtuosos. Quietly and effectively filled a stat sheet and provided the necessary glue. A far more explosive score than his 11ppg indicates and he owns as good a feel for the game as any small school guard in Western Illinois. MacMurray got a steal.
NOLAN ARD, Illini West
Why He's Here: For my money, the lynchpin in the Chargers turnaround from their early season woes and a player who transcends the value of his numbers. Ard is grittier than a Sandpaper Sandwich and backs down from no one. Ask All Stater Dalton Shaner. Or see also video of this kid out punching some of the biggest names in our to be the singular star of the Hancock County Tournament. Nolan also possesses one of the most impressive "clutch genes" in Tri State Basketball. Put him in a pressure situation and the kid just delivers. He's a good shooter from distance, goes fearlessly to the basket, and his command of the Charger Offense was impressive. Braden Bennett is a heck of an athlete. Ard's set up work made him one of the best basketball players in our region. He was the embodiment of what you want in a small school one.
LINCOLN ELBE, Quincy High
Why He's Here: Over the last two years, no area point guard has made greater strides. And make no mistake, Lincoln is a pure old school distributor who measures his success in wins and the number of teammates he gets involved over his own stats. Size is a issue but Lincoln compensates here with Mensa-level understanding of spacing, perceptive floor vision, and a complete embrace and surrender to his own limitations. He plays to his strengths. And he works like champ to augment his game. See also just how his handle has improved (which was as uncertain and tenuous two years ago as it is sound now) If you could transplant his heart and mind in a 6'4" frame and you've got the best point guard in the state.
DONOVAN EDWARDS, Knox County
Why He's Here: Exceptional athlete who put his talents to good use in championing the Eagles to their first TRC title in 20 years. The Second Team All TRC pick is an ulcer inducing cover for defenders given his incendiary first step, coupled with a perimeter game that commands your respect. He is as good going to the basket as any point guard on this list not named Miles Wentzien, and he may well be quicker that all of them to boot. Sharp player who won us over this year with measurable improvement as an on-the-ball defender. Again, another kid I still like more as a Football guy going forward (and honestly, I think his colege ceiling on the grid is top eight from this Senior class) but he became quite the Winter Soldier in his own right.
COLE PHILLIPS, Central
WINSTON SMITH, Southeastern
ADAM ELLYSON, South Shelby
TREVOR KNIPE, West Hancock
KENDON CHATMAN, Louisiana
First Team Selections
Starter: WAYDE SMITH, Pittsfield
Pertinents and Such: The Saukees as didn't have the kind of win/loss cache to warrant a Player of the Year nod, but part of me still thinks Wayde Smith was the single best and most important player, relative to his team, that I saw this season. Take him out of the equation and I am not sure where Pittsfield gets its points. And heaven knows, people sure tried to take Wayde out of the equation. He caught more double teams and hard fouls than any kid I saw this season. He still averaged 20 a game playing the rough equivalent of three different positions, on a given possession for his team. For as quick as he is, I was impressed as much with power component of his game. If I were a college football recruiter and I could talk him out of basketball, Wayde would make some a tremendous strong safety. You watch the push he got against consistently bigger players getting his shot off inside and there might be an argument that Smith was a better Power Forward that some of the guys on this list. He's long been a great shooter and I don't know that anyone had to worker had to get his shot off this year. The fact he still converted at near 50% is a testament to his force of will. He might be the best conditioned athlete on this list because his efforts at both ends of the floor, as well as on the glass (6.5 boards per game) were ceaseless. No one did more heavy lifting this season and despite how much was asked of him, he never disappointed.
Reserve: BLAKE LOWDERMAN, Macomb
Pertinents and Such: He averaged 18 points per game this season in helping to reinvigorate the Bombers but there were certainly times it felt like far more than that. Blake's hot snaps shooting the basketball feel like one of those Video Game algorithms where the computer chip simply decrees it isn't going to let you win under any circumstance. You can't stop the rush, no matter what you do. Those first few nights of the Saukee Turkey Tournament, I have never seen good defenders rendered more helpless. Lowderman is so long and his release on that shot is so compact, your only defense at times it to pray for a miss. And if he didn't, Macomb could beat anyone. He is easily the single scariest streak shooter I saw in Western Illinois this season. To his credit, I thought he reall assumed a mantle of burden with this team. He is still a guy by nature of skill set and position that wants and needs shots, but I thought his off the ball play was greatly improved and that his passing ranked with the better twos in our area. And to be honest, I think his game is better built for the more role specific college approach than it was for high school. Three years from now, don't be surprised if he isn't the most productive "next level" Senior player out of this grouping.
Reserve: BROCK BUTLER, Palmyra
Pertinents and Such: He's a different body type and much quicker athlete, but Brock Butler does share Blake Lowderman's talent for scorching nets from long range. He binges on triples like most of us scarf down snack cakes. That first game with Canton, where Brock canned eight triples. it was like you could have blindfolded and shackled the kid, he was still going to break your heart. He had five games where he canned at least seven three pointers this season. You factor that into account with his blazing foot speed and its not hard to figure out why Brock might have been the truest backcourt catalyst in our area. Defenders cant stay in front of him let alone close out on him to get a hand in his face. His lateral quickness was excellent as well, see also the 81 steals he posted this season. He is certain enough with his handle to play both backcourt positions, which only added to the difficulty of tangling with the Panther backcourt. I still like him better as a quarterback more than I do as a guard, but I am also a football guy. Bottom line is that Butler has proven himself a pretty rare athletic talent and real foundation piece in helping reclaim some cobweb covered glories in P-Town.
Reserve: LOGAN KRIGBAUM, Marion County
Pertinents and Such: First Team All State selection by both the Missouri Coaches and Sportswriters Association who served as the offensive cornerstone on a squad otherwise made up of "fit" guys. And make no mistake, Logan can flat shoot the basketball. He's not as naturally fast or athletic as say Brock Butler in being able to get his shot, but Krigbaum is both quick enough and has the added dimension of tremendous basketball conditioning. Stealing an old description from the legendary Bill Heisler playbook, there's zero fall off from what Logan does out of the jump with his motor to the fourth quarter. He makes you work to find him and the minute you show weakness, he strikes. Krigbaum does the majority of his best offensive work from distance and he can flat fill it up from three. He also rarely makes a mistake with the basketball and seems to astutely understand how to pass opponents into defensive mismatches to free the Mustangs other snipers up for shots. If you haven't seen him work, or don't understand the knife edge that Ryan Wood successfully navigated to make a team that "fails the eye test" this successful, you can't possible appreciate just how valuable this young man was in building a better mouse trap in Philadelphia.
ZACH BURRY, Quincy High
Why He's Here: Given all the off-season intrigue, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the Blue Devils did certainly overachieve this season, relative to expections. The rise of Zach Burry as a legitimate Offensive "rain maker" certainly played a huge role in that as his teams top scorer at 12 points per game. Zach shot the ball about as effortlessly as anyone and his easy range (clearly, Mr Burry wasn't afraid to let fly from NBA distances and beyond) and quick release made him the ultimate zone buster.
Savvy player who, unlike many a gifted gunner, excelled in keeping the basketball moving quickly within the framework of the offense. And his shot selection proved very astute. You earn WB6 honors, clearly you are doing something incredibly right.
BRANDON BERHORST, Canton
Why He's Here: Absent those two injuries, Brandon tops this list and Canton titles. Even at 75%, Berhorst proved an elite guard. At Max-Q, he is an athletic dynamo who converts contorting shots others simply can't. He posseses highly evolved mid and long range game. Brandon's motor runs ceaselessly. And clearly he plays through pain and puts his team first a every turn. A franchise type talent with glue guy mentality and heart.
LUCAS DANIEL, North Shelby
Why He's Here: Deserving First Teamer any other year but who do you bump in 2014 to make a place at the table for Lucas? Truth be told, he's more scorer than shooter. But in contrast to some of the finesse guys here, Lucas is a physical wing who can rebound (a team high six per game) like a much bigger man, score inside (52% shooter inside the arc) and get points in tight quarters. He was good for sixteen a contest this year and really showed tremendous disruptive powers on defense at nearly 3.5 steals a night.
DAYLON GREENE, Louisiana
Why He's Here: One of the great pleasant surprises of 2014 was the rise of Louisiana's Daylon Greene, who led his team in scoring this season at 14.5 ppg on 49% efficiency from the field. My first impression of the kid, way back at the Monroe City Tournament was that he seemed a bit out of control. On repeat viewings, you just realize that is Daylon's flow and shots that would be high risk for 85% of the other kids in our area are right in his wheelhouse. There's hints of now-era Monta Ellis in his game (the one that shares the basketball) because Daylon is a tornado of activity but is also a really deferential teammate and tone setter for this group.
JON KRAMER, Beardstown
BRADEN BENNETT, Illini West
ETHAN ANDERSON, Mark Twain
DANTE DAVIS, Keokuk
ERIC HUGENBERG, Hannibal
KHQA Specialty Squads
All Hustle Team
(The Hardest Working Kids in the Biz)
G-REED PLUNKETT, Marion County
G-LINCOLN ELBE, Quincy High
G-CAMERON DURST, Canton
F-BAILEY JOHNSTON, Scotland County
F-RILEY WALZ, QND
F-JACOB BILLETER, Macomb
The Fire the PR Department Team
(The unsung stars who deserved better ink)
G-DYLAN SCHAFER, Unity
G-ETHAN ANDERSON, Mark Twain
G-SAM HARMEYER, Holy Trinity
F-DALTON DEETER, West Prairie
F-DAVID NAGEL, Fort Madison
(Best Fresh/Soph talent on display early)
G-CARTER CRAMSEY, QND
G-RICK DOUR, Beardstown
G-ZACH RICHARDSON, Louisiana
F-MANNING PLATER, R/I
F-DYLAN POWELL, Hannibal
C-JOEL HOWREN, Keokuk
(Mentally and physically, the toughest hombres in Tri State Basketball)
C-WES BERNHARDT, Fort Madison
F-DREW BARNETT, West Central
G- WILL KLUSMEYER, Unity
G- DAMON DOYLE, Macomb
G-GRANT O'BRYAN, Monroe City
The Velvet Rope Team
(Our best guess as to the next wave of Breakout Tri State Superstars)
G-REED WOLFMEYER, Liberty
G-TARIQ GARNER, Monroe City
F-RYAN STRANGE, Knox County
F-AUSTIN RIDDER, QND
F-JOSIAH LINBERGER, North Shelby
C-KORBYN PERSONETT, Pittsfeild