2017 KHQA Boys All Do-or-Die Basketball Honors Squad
2017 KHQA BOYS BASKETBALL AWARDS WINNERS
What a Winter it was, my Friends. This is your 2017 Boys Basketball All Do or Die Awards Week Companion, a little light reading for your further enlightenment/entertainment. Thank you as always for your interest in this little labor of love flashing across your computer screen. I tried to do the math to be sure, but counting the honors teams I put together way back in the day during my short tenure working for the legendary Rod Smith at KRCG-TV in Jeff City, I believe this is my 24th year of “Do or Die Teams” of one form or another. That’s a lot of time spent either in edit bays or in front of keyboards over the years. But it has always felt like a fun way to wrap up the seasons of our lives and this one is no different.
The twists of March Madness were not kind to Boys Basketball teams in our area. Based on the way the regular season shook down and ended, I was fully convinced we’d be writing in these pages about a State Championship in Illinois and a Final Four Qualifier from Northeast Missouri. Unfortunately, that was not to be for Quincy Notre Dame and Clopton. Again, March is a funny basketball mistress. The ending, however, didn’t make those teams any less fun to watch. And we did have plenty of fun surprise drama throughout the year provided for us by Unity, Pleasant Hill, Central Lee, Holy Trinity and Monroe City among others. In all, I’d say a very satisfying roller coaster of a ride. And I’m not ready to quite let it go yet. Which is why you have this big monolith of an internet posting in front of you. My thank you to all of you for allowing us to be a small part of the big fun.
In that spirt, I offer our annual disclaimer:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 too overheated over the prattle and ramblings here within.
In that spirit, Enjoy True Believers!
Yours in Basketball,
2017 BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
CORY MILLER, Unity
RATIONALE: I always make it a point to try and keep as open a mind as I can about these decisions, even if we have a candidate like a Cory Miller who jumps out of the gate and seemingly leads the POY Race from start to finish. So despite the Unity’s stars dominant play (see also an Elite Eight Appearance and the best nightly stat line in Tri-State Basketball) I spent much of this Winter concocting scenarios that I thought could conceivably knock him out of the lead to create a fair threshold in my mind. Most of those beta tests (largely involving Chandler Bevans and the QND guys as litmus tests) never came to fruition, so in the end the obvious choice was the easy choice. There’s also some feeling of personal satisfaction involved in giving the award to Cory because part of me will forever be convinced that he might well have deserved our Football POY nod in either of the last two years as well. Generally, Wide Receivers don’t win those things but rarely has the Tri-States ever seen a pass catcher of Cory Miller’s ilk. Regardless, I just like the personal absolution of guilt that kind of comes along with this as well. By the numbers, Cory was about as do-it-all as you can get. His All State Resume bolstered by a 22.4 points per game scoring average (highest in the Tri-States) as well as across the board statistical goodness as a rebounder (7 per night) distributor (134 assists) and disruptor (4.1 steals a night) In short, Cory was a top 15 guy in all four of those categories. I’m not sure we’ve had a POY Winner dominant the metrics so completely since the Mikey Smith era at Van-Far. Still, that is just raw data. To me, the absolute clincher here is Miller’s outlier ability as a true closer. I got to watch both of those games he played against Delavan and Quest in the Brown County Sectional in person and his fourth quarter efforts there were Herculean. Heck, he was near invisible in the first half of the Semifinals. But when it matter, there was just a whole different dude out there seemingly destroying the mere mortals out there who weren’t of his ilk. Basketball people talk about the clutch gene in conjuction with guys like Roberty Horry or Kobe or Dame Lillard; but that is largely used to say they hit big shots in tight spots. Miller does that for whole quarters; not just isolated moments. And nobody can stop him. Again, I think part of that goes back to the old Billy Heisler advantage. The former Warsaw star could seemingly run for days and never get tired. Miller essentially runs the Mile and Two Mile in the Spring for fun and he’s one of the top ten guys in the state in Small School track doing so. Translation, when you start getting a little beat up in the fourth quarter on the grid or the hardwood, this guy is just starting to get it revved up. I don’t ever remember a game situation where he was off the floor. And he never seemed to be diminished by that. Obviously, springy player who has become a better leaper over the years. But the root of Cory Miller’s scoring has always been the ability to get away from defenders and the terrific touch he has around the basket. Sure, all those effortless three pointers augmented his driving and finishing ability, but I always marveled at just how well he was able to flip the ball from odd angles on the slash and somehow get it to spin home. He’s one of those rare kids who could go for 35 on a given night and not even look like he was pushing his own scoring agenda. Watching him these last four, in every arena, has been a really professional treat. He’s undecided as to college (John Wood and UMSL seem to be most in play at the moment) He will be a credit to the program and institution wherever he lands.
Runners-Up: JUSTIN BOTTORFF, QND/CHANDLER BEVANS, Clark County
Fan Vote: CORY MILLER, Unity
2016: Reed Wolfmeyer, Liberty
2015: Miles Wentzien, Fort Madison
2014-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
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
2017 KHQA BOYS BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
BLAKE SKILLMAN, Pleasant Hill
RATIONALE: Any other year, we are giving this thing to Kevin Meyer or Brock Edris or Craig Smith without batting an eye. And while both the QND, Monroe City and Clopton Coaches might have fell shy of their ultimate basketball goals this season, both gentlemen turned in incredible sideline work just to get within a stone’s throw of those landmarks. But in contrast to what went on at Pleasant Hill, Meyer and Smith were “simply” rebuilding teams at a very high level. Saving a program that was on the verge of being shuttered for lack of participation and somehow erasing a quarter century’s worth of futility in just four years is a magic act of a completely different nature. Blake Skillman’s Pleasant Hill story is a unique and special one. Show up for Coaching Job and come to the immediate realization that you likely don’t have enough bodies to fill a starting five, let alone a team. Canvas your own hallway begging kids to play. Lose 49 straight games in your first two years. Still manage not to lose the room to your kids from all that losing. And then two years later, win 18 games and a Regional Title; your program’s first in 25 years. I am not sure we will ever see anything else quite like this 2017 Wolves Squad. Obviously, it made quite a mark in reversing all that historic bad basketball karma. The Wolves North Greene Tournament Title provided the program its first Winning Trophy of any kind for basketball since 1992. That’s the ends. The means here were pretty special as well. Blake Skillman and Ron Edwards built this thing around two frontline talents; two kids in Kaleb Root and Russell Miller who could have played for just about anyone in our area but to this day remain largely underrated and underappreciated because too few people ever got to see them play. Those pieces were great and all but I love how this Coaching Staff got the other guys to form a perfect puzzle around that Big Two: whether it was Grant Peebles agreeing to do muscle work inside or Dalton Crane distributing and catering to teammates or Jesse Crowder hitting the two most important free throws in program history when they were most needed. Skillman created an environment where every single player had a hand in. And he re-energized a whole town. The crowd noise at both the Barry Regional (especially during the thriller with Payson) and Mount Sterling Sectional were insane. A drive through town in the postseason was a reminder of the best of community pride. Signs everywhere. A bank marquee celebrating Russell Miller’s player of the week nod from a Quincy Radio Station. Townsfolk buying up every tee-shirt they could get their hands on listing each newly minted basketball accomplishment. I dare say we’ve not seen so complete a change in culture around here in twenty years. And that’s now fuel for the future. My favorite thing any coach said to me this year was this from Blake Skillman’s mouth: Isn’t it something that we aren’t the team people want to schedule anymore? Truer words have never been spoken. I can’t speak definitely to what this year will mean to the future of Pleasant Hill Basketball, but it can only help. As to the present, it hasn’t been this fun in the backwaters of Pike County since Harry Wagy was doing his thing. That’s a pretty telling statement on the transformation that this man gave architecture to over the last four years.
Runner Up: KEVIN MEYER, Quincy Notre Dame
Fan Vote: BLAKE SKILLMAN, Pleasant Hill.
2016-Greg Altmix, Liberty
2015-Andy Anderson, Canton
2014-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
2017 BOYS BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR AS VOTED BY YOU
KALEB ROOT, Pleasant Hill
RATIONALE: Of all the story lines in area Basketball this season, Pleasant Hill’s return to Roundball relevance might well have been the most endearing.
We are talking about a program that hadn’t won a high school basketball tournament, of any kind, let alone a playoff complex, since 1992 rising up to claim an IHSA Regional Title for the first time in a quarter century.
So what changed? What flashpoint so radically triggered this dramatic reversal of fortunes for one of the smallest enrollment schools in West Central Illinois, if not the entire Tri-State region?
One could make a heck of an argument that Kaleb Root’s personal ascent as Guard this Winter was in fact that very catalyst. And our viewers did exactly that in voting the Wolves Senior our Breakout Player of the Year.
The premise here is that Pleasant Hill needed someone to step up and alleviate the pressure on star Post Player Russell Miller; who tended to command a little too much of opponents defensive attention in previous years. A threat to counterbalance Miller and keep opponents honest. And while Kaleb Root had shown great flashes of promise earlier in his career; his ascent into a true player of gravity in his own right proved the tipping point on the Wolves Renaissance.
He finished as his team’s leading scorer this Winter, averaging a team high 18 points per game. And in so doing, he projected real presence from the perimeter. His 61 triples this season set a new school record. Opponents who were once content to sag down in the paint, had to essentially guard Root anywhere he went any time he crossed half court. And he displayed an incredible penchant for shooting the basketball when someone had a hand in his face.
More than that, however, Kaleb’s all-around game broadened in important ways as well. He stuffed the stat sheet for the Wolves with teams highs in assists (2.6 per game) and steals and gave great energy and effort on the glass, grabbing nearly five rebounds a game (a pretty robust output for a two guard)
Kaleb’s efforts produced personal accolades: he earned All-Tournament honors at North Greene in helping the Wolves break that 25 year trophy drought. He was also named a first Team All-Conference Pick in the PCC. But most importantly, he produced wins for a program starved for them. Eighteen in all, including that all important victory over Barry Western on its home floor to earn the Wolves a Sectional Berth.
That’s a heck of a resume indeed. Again, you voted. And we honored your request: so congratulations to Kaleb Root of Pleasant Hill…your 2017 KHQA Boys Breakout Player of the Year.
2016: DAWSON WOOD, South Shelby
2015: TYESS CHATMAN, Louisiana
2014: ALEX BLICKHAN, Unity
2013: PARKER GIBBS, West Hancock
THE 2017 KHQA ALL DO OR DIE BOYS BASKETBALL HONORS SQUAD
Starter: PARKER BLAND
QUINCY HIGH SCHOOL
THE ESSENTIALS: Much has been made of Parker’s off-season regimen spent honing his jump shot and broadening his perimeter presence. Obviously, that paid immediate dividends in making the 6’5” Blue Devil Senior harder to check at the high school level. And speaking plainly, it was an asset he had to cultivate at his size to better ensure his college future. Converting threes at a near 40% clip is certainly heady stuff in the improvement department and speaks to a skill set there that could prove quite important to his next coach. But that’s not why he’s here on this list. Our favorite Parker Bland stuff is far more rudimentary. The point being: the stuff you do on a basketball court doesn’t have to be glitzy or glamorous… if you do it better (and more intensely) than anyone else. There’s an Old School 1970’s NBA All Star Power Forward ethic to Bland’s game that I’ve appreciated ever since he first pinged radar as Frosh. Just turn the guy loose in those interior paint wars and let the tougher, more skilled guy win. Kevin McHale/Jeff Ruland style with a hint of Tom Chambers thrown in for good measure. Parker’s mix of nimble feet, explosive floor lift, unyielding demeanor, voracious rebounding appetite, and thinking man’s touch around the basket fit that bill perfectly. Someone very early in his life did Parker the service of telling him to be strong with the basketball because that lesson very clearly resonates in his game at all times. On offense, if he gets you on his hip, you are doomed. Too many moves, too much body control. Which explains why this guy was able to score 16 points night against all the different players of various sizes he encountered. Outthink, outwork, overpower. Pretty simple credo but big time results. If Parker Bland rebounds where a punctuation mark, they would be triple Exclamation Points. It is less celebrated, but it also helps that Parker was such an adroit passer out of the block. He had a nice sense of when to press the action amid the double and triple teams fighting for the basket and when to kick it back out. Again, very smart player. It also bears noting just how dedicated a player he was at the other end of the floor. Technically putting himself in great position and working to contest everything. Heck, he belongs on this list just for all those Sensational Seven bolstering swats (how many of which I have in the archive I haven’t a clue at this point, but I am guessing it’s a lot) alone. The backside blocks in transition? There may be four kids in our area in the last ten years who could pull those off. And let’s take it a step further. You build a team, this is the profile of the guy you want at its epicenter. Two way player. Athletic but dedicated fiercely to the blue collar elements of the game. Confident without being cocky. If you could Doctor Frankenstein this mix up in a lab somewhere and sell it to coaches, you’d be a rich man. Parker Bland just seemed to embody and amplify that ethic naturally. College Basketball is sleeping way too hard on this young man.
Reserve: CARTER FAYHEE
MACOMB HIGH SCHOOL
THE ESSENTIALS: Pulling off that big Regional opening upset of Galesburg put quite the exclamation mark on Carter’s stellar Junior Season and gives Jeremy Anderson’s crew tangible momentum to build from heading into next season. Expect the now exceptionally seasoned Mister Fayhee to be the tip of the spear in spinning that narrative forward next Winter. The Bombers resident “Point Center” kind of has that Jeff Lebo “he’s been there forever” feel since his Freshman Year breakout. Take that as a compliment Carter, it means opposing coaches and fans are sick of having to find ways to deal with your outlier versatility. And let’s not mince words here, it is a very unique set of skills that Fayhee brings to the table here. He has the best handle on his team and one of the best in his Conference, even as a 6’3” post player. And he’s generally the guy bringing the ball up the floor and setting up the offense, especially against pressure. That’s pretty telling. And the thing you notice about him filling that role is that Carter’s head is always up like a point guard and his eyes are constantly scanning. This isn’t some big kid trying to bully his way through traffic to move the ball up. He’s literally playing floor general in those moments and has hit stunned opponents with staggering half court and three quarter court passes they didn’t expect because he sees things so well. And while his role does get more “traditional” for a post when the offense is set in the half court, it’s important to note that he did average nearly two and half dimes per game. Since we are on the subject of traditional, there’s a lot to like here about his high post/low post profile. There is great bounce in his game. Forget the dunk thing for a second and frame it through this prism: Carter gets about as good a second jump working the glass as anyone. When you see him employ his face-up game (which is really quite refined) watch him hover as he shoots the ball over opponents. There is a springy quality to his game that is almost second nature. And it makes him loom far bigger than his frame, which is a nice asset for a kid with such a deft touch shooting the ball, really from anywhere on the floor. He’s really comfortable looking and effective on the perimeter. But what I like even more in Carter is that he doesn’t tend to fall in love with the perimeter stuff. He still gets himself into the paint and can back down defenders with the best of the them. He finished the year averaging 16 points per game and he could basically pick his avenue to those points, depending upon what the given matchup demanded. Again, great feel and touch getting the basketball off the glass, even going through intense contact. And those hands of his also ripped down seven boards nightly. He’s just a very good basketball player who finds himself starting to complimented by a fast improving cast. Don’t sleep on Macomb or Carter Fayhee in 2018. Both entities are poised for a far higher profile. And both are armed nicely to make an impression with it.
Reserve: JACOB MAYFIELD
QUINCY NOTRE DAME
THE ESSENTIALS: Jacob Mayfield made it through the entire season without getting decked on the court or jumped in the parking lot after a win. I’d say, only half-jokingly, that might be the greatest upset of this season. Mister Mayfield, for my money, is that best basketball agitator I can remember off the top of my head and I mean that as a sincere compliment. I can’t think of a guy I’d least like to play against because he takes such overt glee in making you, his opponent, come undone. I described him to someone once as “delightfully edgy...so long as he is on your team.” He’s a tough as nails competitor. Devilishly savvy on the court. Oft ready with a quick word or two for you when the refs aren’t in earshot just to get under your skin. Plus he’s armed with so many skills to reach his ends that it is almost unfair. No wonder people get so frustrated playing against him. As I said during football season, he’s almost the perfectly constructed modern high school Tight End, which makes him perfectly apt to man the basketball role Kevin Meyer asked him to play. Point of the press disruptor with that wingspan and mobility? That sets an ominous tone for the entirety of your offensive set. I’ve got reams of video from the last two years that prove that it’s hard, even for guards, to dribble against this guy. And when you take into account just how good he is at poking the ball away from the backside when you are distracted by the defense of one of his teammates, that just amplifies his value defensively. To Quantify: 102 steals this season is a pretty big number. By extension, he’s created or been party to a lot of flip the court buckets in his day. Which makes it important to also understand that Mayfield is one of the better transition finishers around. Not like above the rim stuff (which he can do) but rather he handles the ball well for a big guy (6’4”) and has great ability to snake through outstretched arms and bodies and get to his comfort spots for shots. And here’s the thing that I think tends to get obscured a bit within QND’s talent laden roster: Jacob Mayfield is a credible number one Offensive Option on a really good team. You might not have seen it as much because (A) Kevin Meyer was so good at getting unselfish buy-in from his kids and (B) there were only so many shots with so many guys here to feed. I’d argue that if Jacob were on another team in another situation, he’d very easily fit the role of an outstanding 20-10 post producer every night. Obviously that is a theoretical argument, but I would point out that this was a masterfully efficient player (58% shooting from the field for the year) with both an evolved post-game and mid-range shots that always seemed to crawl home for him, regardless of where they initially hit on the glass or rim. Mayfield’s knack for getting the shooter’s roll was uncanny. In short, Jacob Mayfield was Kevin Meyer’s Swiss Army Knife. I’ve said before that QND might have had “better” players on the roster, but I’d argue none was more important to the ethos of QND; who the Raiders were and what they accomplished than Jacob Mayfield.
THE CASE FOR LOGAN: His has been a fun evolution to watch unfold, from prospect to emerging post of gravity. We first got the sense that Mister Dorethy could be something special during his Sophomore Year breakout at the Macomb/Western Holiday Tournament and he’s just continued to hone his game from there. First of all, he’s a big who actually plays big which is becoming increasingly rare in this day in age. That’s not to say Logan doesn’t have some advanced Wing type skills in his tool box, but it is rim protection, rebounding, and close quarters scoring where the Titan’s 6’7” Junior has hung his hat. Time spent honing that shot is clearly evident her as Logan has hewn his shot to 63% leanness from the field. Put simply, Dorethy is statistically the most bankable source of scoring in Tri-State Basketball right now. His value in rim protection (70 total blocks…best in the entire Tri-States) and rebounding (just a smidge under 10 points per game) are statistically unrivaled in the region. His all business body language, elevated leadership, and rising basketball IQ within a Reno Pinkston system foreshadow a monster Senior Year to come.
Pleasant Hill High School
THE CASE FOR RUSSELL: Centerpiece of the Wolf Renaissance as an agile and slashing rim runner for Blake Skillman. After shouldering so much of the load as a Junior, Russell Miller got some well-deserved cover on the scoring end from Kaleb Root and in the rebounding department from Grant Peebles that allowed him to fill a more comfortable, free flowing role. His per game numbers were still plenty good at nearly sixteen points, five and half rebounds and two steals per game. Wonderfully agile finisher who helped electrify an entire community in helping Pleasant Hill to its first Regional Championship since 1992. Had to a particularly sweet finish for Miller, who four years ago had to canvas the school hallways along with Kaleb Root to find players to flesh out the roster enough to field a team.
Bushnell Prairie City
THE CASE FOR DEVIN: Sure, he’s more like a 6’4” Shooting Guard than a Traditional post, but we are hurting for size and Devin is too good to pass up for this slot. The Spartan Junior is already a two time All Prairieland Conference First Teamer with big time scoring chops. Devon can let fly effortlessly from the perimeter. He’s also a lithe, lively athlete with outstanding body control who poses that too quick for big guys/too big for fast guys defensive quandary. Which explains the 19 points per game scoring average. On top of that, Devin has a guard’s handle and floor vision and is a credible source of assists who led his team to seventeen wins in 2017. He might not be as known a commodity as some of the other names on this list, but this is a very good multi-sport athlete whose brightest future appears to lie on the hardwoods. A name worth remembering and keeping tabs on, both before and after the MVIT.
DAWSON WOOD, South Shelby
BAILEY MERSCHMAN, Holy Trinity
TREY MILLER, Van-Far
BRADY ADKISSON, Illini West
GRANT PETERS, Mark Twain
Starter: CHANDLER BEVANS
Clark County High School
THE ESSENTIALS: Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year and an Underclassman. MBCA All State again. All District/All Conference every year of his career. The Legend of Chandler Bevans grows and grows. We tabbed him as our Preseason Player of the Year and I think you could have still made a compelling argument for him to win the top prize here had his team not taken the unexpected District Tournament off-ramp so quickly. By construction, Chandler is probably the best college prospect in Tri-State Basketball. He’s already 6’6” at 17 years old and is the most naturally fluid big kid at his age to come our way in a long time. There just hasn’t been a lot of awkwardness to his game in high school. Some bigs grow into their bodies. Chandler has moved like a college swingman since day one. Feet matter in this sport and he’s got good ones. For all the genetic-lottery stuff here, I think it’s also fair to credit Chandler for the work he has put in to get better. He was noticeably stronger. Again, I still think he needs to live in the weight room and at “the training table” from here on out if he wants to play college ball at the level his talent might suggest. But if you watched him work inside this season, there was more sturdiness to the way he held his position; didn’t get backed down off his spots. And you saw it in his rebounding approach. The way he was able to more effectively box out and command space in the paint when he ventured there. The continuing evolution is a strong indicator of his worth ethic and his desire to great. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Chandler to hang his hat on the things he does so very well naturally and ignore the soft spots in his game (we call that the Amare Stoudamire Syndrome) Young man took the road less traveled and you have to respect that. Heck, if I could shoot a jumper or pull off a drop step dunk as elegantly as Mister Bevans, I’m not sure I would have had that kind of discipline at 16 years old to not “fall prey to my own hype.” And in my defense, the top of the key Chandler Bevans is something to behold; probably one of my three favorite things in all of Tri-State Basketball in the last few years (no quite yet up there with the Liberty-era Lucy Cramsey reverse layup, but climbing) His lift in shooting that shot makes it impossible for high school kids to contest given his height. And it seems to fall out of the heavens with Charmin-level softness. He’s the rare big who can play well at three levels: above the circles, at mid-range, or camped down inside. He averaged almost 21 points per game this season but anyone who has ever seen him go on one of his mad offensive rushes knows that number could very easily have been higher. There aren’t many scorers who get into a zone the way Bevans does. See also the two 40 point efforts this season. Chandler also has the clutch gene, as we saw in the buzzer beating win against Canton. And he appears to be very rapidly on the verge of becoming a double digit nightly rebounder. There’s a lot here to like, both now and into his future. I know it’s not his favorite thing, but Chandler’s off-season workout routine might want to be incorporate a few “mock interviews” for the future because he figures to be a very popular man with the local media next Winter.
Reserve: KORBYN PERSONETT
Pittsfield High School
THE ESSENTIALS: We’ve spent a lot of time this Winter quantifying the impressiveness of Cory Miller’s legacy as a three sport athlete. There is, however, by way of Pittsfield, Illinois, a cat who might be able to give the Unity star a legitimate run for his money. The Korbyn Personett Resume (football/basketball/baseball) is its own impressive storyline. More so I’d argue… if not for a football injury here or a non-contact basketball practice tweak there. Still, the word “freak” here comes very specifically to mind when assessing the Saukees amiable Senior star. In fact, I think I would feel better about myself if I found out there was at least something sports-wise that Korbyn didn’t do exceptionally well. You won’t find such an Achilles Heel in his basketball game. Korbyn’s all-around play is about as air-tight as it gets. The outlier here has long been the speed and bounce for a young man of his size and strength. That allowed him to either overpower or out run (sometimes both in same breath) opponents off all different size and ilk. It probably bears mentioning now that there are good two guards in our area who don’t shoot the ball as effectively as Korbyn. That’s a frightening spectrum of weapons to have to try and combat. Korbyn finished the season shooting 61% from the floor, which is quite something considering the amount of defensive attention he garnered. He nonetheless averaged 15 points and eight rebounds per game, carving up all comers from inside and out. Part of what really never seems to get mentioned in assessing Personett’s attributes, is just how well he moves off the basketball. So many of his easiest buckets where set up be aggressive and bold slashes into the paint. That’s also set up by the fact that defenders could not afford to lose him about the arc. Korbyn’s three point shot might not be the most elegant looking in the Tri-State, but he was a dead-eye threat with it. Less celebrate but far more germane in a Brad Tomhave run system, Korbyn’s defense grew acutely more resolute over the years. That was particularly evident in his Final High School Season, where his level of engagement on the Defensive End seemed to grout in the gaps for his team as a whole. Net result was a 24-3 finish and his coach rewarding he and his teammates on the other end of the floor with freer ability to push the offensive tempo. It was just a really nice synergy and Korbyn Personett was the straw that stirred that drink.
Reserve: LANCE LOGSDON
Canton High School
THE ESSENTIALS: He was the only 20/10 guy to be found in Tri-State Basketball this season, a feat that was rightly recognized with an MBCA All State Nod in Class 2. You would think the target on his back would be pretty big after two years of carving apart opponents thusly, yet no one has figured out quite how to deter Lance Logsdon from scoring and rebounding at elite levels in his second favorite sport. Skill level is a critical component to that dominance. Lance could literally play all five positions on the floor for Andy Anderson. He appears entirely comfortable as a scorer, regardless of where he chooses to strike. He’s tall and rangy on the inside, with an explosive spin move and the ability to lift above defenders and get to the rim. He’s a magnet for incidental contact from defenders and gets to the line often, where he cashes in on freebies to the 80% charity stripe shooting. His jump shot is deadly, from just about anywhere in the half court he takes it. Either side of the floor. Top of the key. Midlevel or deep. He let fly from everywhere and still converted to the tune of 51% field. He’s one of maybe a handful of kids I can remember where no shot seems like a bad shot, but I also don’t think I’ve seen Logsdon doing anything that feels inorganically outside of the flow of the offense. To his credit, he knows when he is feeling it and strikes efficiently, repeatedly and aggressively without ever feeling unnecessarily ball dominant. As most sets start and end with Lance, I think it bears mentioning that he does a great job moving the ball around the offense. It never stays in his hands too long and he is constantly moving with purpose, with and without the basketball. Defensively, he blocked 68 shots this year at the other end of the floor, which provided a nice measure of rim protection for a team without much height. His motor was clearly revving at a higher level on that end of the floor, even in simple denial mode and I think that set a nice tone. His college athletic future may be on the Division One Diamond at Mizzou, but this is a young man who still plays his “alternative sport” with the zeal of a guy who seems bent on returning this program to the Final Four. And in that sense, he is about as complete a Franchise piece as you will find in Northeast Missouri. And I am sure he will impress us with yet another newly honed skill or footwork tweak in his Senior Year to keep pushing towards those ends. The “get it” level with Lance Logsdon in sports and generally in life is very high. That kind of maturity bridges a lot of gaps and has created great connective tissue on a couple of really good sports teams in Canton, Mo.
Quincy High School
THE CASE FOR GARRETT: You mean beyond just sporting Tri-State basketball’s best facial hear? If you need more, I will point out that the Quincy High Senior is the Tri-State paradigm of a Stretch Four. An All Western Big Six pick who was ruthlessly effective shooting that mid-range jumper with defenders flailing helplessly in his face. I’m a particular fan of the fadeaway, which seems all but indefensible. And at close to 56% efficiency from the field, he might well be indefensible. That’s a nice luxury brought to the table by your 6’5” 220 pound Power Forward, no? Garrett has that quintessential Euro Game and wears that role to near perfection in the Blue Devil System. Is 13 points and 6 rebounds a night from a low usage player, one with a particular talent for bailing you out of bad possessions with his shot, and 82% conversion rate from the free throw line something you coaches out there would be interested in adding to your particular roster? That rush of wind you just heard was every coach in our area throwing their arms in the area. There’s a good litmus test here: being able to appreciate the insane value Blue Devil basketball derived the last two seasons from Garrett’s play is the line that separates smart fans from casual ones.
Fort Madison High School
THE CASE FOR TREAVOR: If there was a futures mark for high school basketball talent, I would be very bullish on TJ-K stock going into the 2018 campaign. I’ll touch on the more traditional big man stuff in a moment but this is another shooter with stretch range (converting 38% from three) as well as uncommon ability with the dribble for a big, and really creative passing chops for the position. He projects taller than his listed height thanks to his enviable wingspan and the bounce in his ankles. And there is plenty of tangible toughness evident from his work in the low blocks. TJ-K finished the year averaging 12 points per game on 52% shooting from the floor. He posted 202 rebounds, nearly 100 more than his next closest teammate and blocked a team high twelve shots. While that’s really competent production and a nice stat line, Treavor’s potential suggests there’s another evolution out there or two that he’s capable of coaxing out of his game. I see some old school echoes here of Nauvoo Colusa era Joe Wilson. Not that level yet by any means, but he’s one of those rare kids who could get there if he continues to work and gets the window. Bottom line, I like him a lot “as is” but I’d not be shocked in the least if the switch gets flipped and he’s a top 15-20 area player next Winter.
Illini West High School
THE CASE FOR KENNEDY: Pick a Sports Season. Any Sports Season. Kennedy will be front and center as one of the elite performers at his craft. And while I am beginning to think Baseball is the IW Junior’s ultimate best sport (love the way he commands the strike zone fearlessly as a pitcher, just rare control/guts there) he’s also one of the best fit high post/low post combo kids around. He averaged just under 12 points per game this season; an average hewn of both hard earned three footers and knock down jump shots that opponents struggled to contest given his length, long arms and subtle touch. His feel for the game is top notch and an even more pronounced asset here. My favorite Charger Offensive Sets were the ones that IW run to work the ball to Gooding in the high post, where he could read/diagnose between kicking out to the Chargers array of talented three point shooters or work the ball in down low to Brady Adkisson when he had defenders pinned down. Not many team have a 6’4” Point Forward of this kind of skill and intelligence to serve as such an effective conduit for the offense. Gooding was bankable for nearly two assists per game and did a credible job on the glass at six rebounds nightly.
MICHAEL SPEAKS, Monroe City
EASTON BILLINGS, Western
DAMON WOLTER, Keokuk
CASCH DOYLE, Palmyra
TREVOR VOSS, Payson Seymour
Starter: JUSTIN BOTTORFF
Quincy Notre Dame
THE ESSENTIALS: As Wing Scorers go, Justin Bottorff would be the living embodiment of my Central Casting wish list. Given the Division Two recruiting attention he has received to date, I am not alone in that assessment. He’s a 6’7” long strider who can cover whole lengths of floor at a rate that most defenders can’t dream to match. He’s got a wing span that would make a California Condor envious. He elevates effortlessly, explosively. And yes, he can flat shoot the basketball from about anywhere on the floor. Justin averaged 17.6 points per game (which is a monster number considering all the options Kevin Meyer had at his disposal this season) on 49% shooting from the field. He (and I would argue his whole QND team for that matter) had a strangely weird season shooting three point shots but I’ve watched enough Justin Bottorff basketball over the years to still slide that attribute into the plus column. It’s my theory that (and it could be totally worthless) QND had such an easy time this season attacking the basket, sharing the ball and flipping opponents in transition, that the de-emphasized perimeter game got rusty/suffered from some attrition in confidence collectively this year relative to last. Again, a layman’s guess. The point is I am still buying on Justin’s range and efficacy from outside; especially at the next level. His assertiveness has grown at a sublime rate the last two years and he keeps getting better year to year. Obviously, at the next level, he’s got to get stronger (because life expectancy for skinny frontcourt guys in Division Two is painfully short in the GLVC and most D2 Conferences) and he’s going to have use his feet better as a defender. That established, it’s hard to doubt a kid with this level of love for the game and intelligence. But leaving the fun college projection stuff aside, this one heck of a productive and fun high school player to chronicle on camera over the years. Sixty four wins in three years on his watch, for a team that was formerly mired in struggle is a great testament to his impact. And this year it was gratifying to see Justin get the kind of state attention his talents deserve, most obviously, by the Second Team 2A All State nod he received. Yet, I also thought it was really telling in four year’s time that I had media colleagues from around the region; from Jefferson City to Champaign who had a sense of who Justin was and would ask questions make comments about him. Put simply, Justin has successfully come a long ways in a short amount of time. And the fact that his very program followed suit is about the best testament and compliment to that young man imaginable.
Reserve: CORY HOPPER
Holy Trinity High School
THE ESSENTIALS: Not sure I saw a more impressive half of basketball marksmanship this season than the one Holy Trinity’s Senior Wing put up in a season ending loss to Burlington Notre Dame. Cory Hopper could not have been more in the zone in the first half, scoring 20 points with every member of the state’s fifth ranked team trying futilely to get a hand in his face. They failed. Cory’s a decent sized kid at 6’1” but he gets great lift on his jumper and has a quick, beautiful release. Even the shots he fired that were off-trajectory land on the rim soft enough to have a chance to crawl home. That’s some kind of weapon at his disposal. And while Cory wasn’t often on pace to score 40 points in a night, the ability to deliver points in bunches was no fluke. Hopper averaged 19.2 points per game on 45% shooting from the field. Statistically, he was actually only a 33% shooter from distance for the season, so the BND arc barrage doesn’t tell the full story of his repertoire as a shooter and a scorer. Great midrange shooter also possessed of the slithery ability to get inside and even play above the rim. He got to the free throw line 110 time on the season, which speaks to his aggressiveness on the attack; which equates to roughly five trips to the charity stripe nightly. And when you shoot better than 75% from the line, that’s very added value. Cory has a lot of ball skill that translated here beyond just his own numbers. He didn’t have huge assists numbers but I watched him in person three different times this year and thought he really moved the ball unselfishly and delightfully San Antonio Spurts-type quickly around the offense for his team. He defended well and was a clear tone setter in all phases of the game for the Crusaders. In short, I loved the presence he imbued to this group, even on nights when he wasn’t channeling his inner Kiki Vandeweghe in some remote Southeast Iowa gym. Cory Hooper can flat play the game. Wouldn’t it be fun to see him in a Grinnell-type system? Regardless, I think whatever college lands this guy is going to spend four years loving all the obvious talent and team enhancing nuance he brings to the table.
Reserve: ALEC PATTERSON
South Shelby High School
THE ESSENTIALS: There’s some unfortunate uncertainty here, as of this writing, to Alec Patterson’s future in Shelby County as his father and coach Brian has been told his contract is unlikely to be renewed. If that precipitates a family relocation (which would be the third in three years) I for one will sure miss watching this young man sling a football and slash up defenses on the basketball court. With his blend of skills and confident edginess, this kid endeared himself to us quickly. Patterson is a big time scorer (18.9 ppg) who poses multiple threat levels when he sets up atop the Cardinals Offense. Sagging off him is a mortal defensive sin. Alec dropped 46 total triples on South Shelby foes this Winter, converting them at a most impressive 44% clip. He’s better from 19’9” than most kids are from within ten feet. At 6’3” with a quick first step, Patterson is also a brutally tough kid to check when he decides he wants to go inside. He’s well-schooled with his handle, can go right or left, and has Tyreke Evans in his prime knack for weaving through threats to the basket. He understands the value of getting to the charity stripe and is a 78% shooter from the stripe. You want clutch gene? Alec Patterson had the game winning field goal or free throw in six different contests. Plus we have soft spot in our hearts for wings who work the glass with the zeal of power forwards (9.1 boards per game) and disrupt the opponents passing lanes like point guards (2.3 steals per contest) Again, not sure what the future holds here but in any eventuality, near or far, will be keeping tabs on Patterson’s progress next Fall and Winter.
Brown County High School
THE CASE FOR TANNER: He’s 6’3” and the fastest athlete in this position group (cross reference so his work at Tight End and Defensive Back this past Fall) so what’s not to love? This slashing ability here is second to none. He has a great ability to extend through contact and finish the play, often buying himself a trip to the line if not an and one. He also gets an inordinate amount of easy buckets on just pure speed alone, flashing to open spots while leaving more plodding defenders (which is everyone not named Tanner Sussenbach) in his wake. He handled the ball a ton for Jared Hoots club, displaying really good passing both out of the post and from the top of the key when operating the offense. Tanner is a really interesting foundation piece for a team that returns a sneaky good nucleus next season. Expect him to post some uniquely stuffed stat lines as a Senior and for the Hornets to potentially rise around him.
Clopton High School
THE CASE FOR LANDON: For my money, Northeast Missouri’s best breakout player. Landon really became fun in his Junior Year, which I am sure is attributable to all the off-season investment he put in to his game. It clearly showed in his comfort level with the ball in his hands, his underrated ability to break down the defender in front of him, either to the betterment of his own scoring opportunities or to whip one of his trademark Lonzo Ball-angled passes through a confused defense. Landon averaged nearly 12 points and better than five rebounds per game. I think that’s just a tease going forward because his usage rate is really going to climb and Landon’s got a really diverse array of moves and a lot of mid-range shooting prowess at his disposal. I would not be stunned if he’s a 20 points per game scorer as a Senior. He’s got to be more consistent and he needs to tighten up his deep shooting, but this is a young man with a definite star quality simmering.
Central Lee High School
THE CASE FOR EVAN: Provided the impetus for the Hawks Cinderella Postseason Run, including his signature masterpiece: a 22 point, 6 rebound effort in the upset win over Regina. The Hawks Junior Wing is a rapidly rising talent with really good rebounding chops (nearly eight per game) and the streaky ability to put points on the board for his club. He did average a team high 12.8 points per game and seemed to grow more efficient as the year went on, but 38% shooting from the field seems incongruent with his skill level and needs some fine tuning. Would also like to see him get to the charity stripe more often, where he is very effective as a 75% shooter. And he knocked down 41 triples as well. This latter half of his season felt like an awakening and I suspect he seizes on it for what could be a boffo Senior Year.
DALTON MALONE, Western
KOY SMITH, Canton
HAYDEN MILLER, Knox County
DREW WINTERS, Routt
GRANT CAMPBELL, Scotland County
Starter: DEREK RICHARDS
Louisiana High School
THE ESSENTIALS: Sure, I am a little biased here. Can I help it though if the Louisiana Sophomore Guard is the Tri-State High School equivalent of the guy fast becoming my new favorite Sacramento King Buddy Hield? And if you don’t love high volume scoring delivered at 54% efficiency from the field, we can’t be friends anymore. For two years now, Derek has flown way too under radar. His Freshman year saw him score 18 points per game on 50% shooting from the field. This year, he significantly improved both metrics, was one of the most prolific per game scorers in the Tri-States at 22 points per game, and still largely crickets? Come on people. If this guy played at Quincy High or QND he be the most talked about/written about guards in the region. Derek is smart, polished beyond his years, and can flat shoot the basketball. To put a finer point on his skill level, Mister Richards shot 159 triples this season and converted 76 of them. That’s 48% SHOOTING people from beyond the three point line!!! You can’t do that in an empty gym over 160 shots. He’s doing it over the course of the Winter against live competition actually trying to stop him. Derek has mastered the art of the repeatable jump shot and his form and release are a thing to behold. About as effortless as you will see on both fronts. He shot 73% from the charity stripe and got there a lot (155 times in the regular season alone) Couple all that with an explosive first step and tremendous ability to finish at the rim (he was a 59% shooter this season on two point baskets as a 5’10” Guard) and you have an offensive resume that at least matches that of any player in Tri-State Basketball. And let’s be even more honest here: Derek Richards wasn’t getting a lot of cover in doing it. You can dismiss his level of competition or make the old “Illinois Basketball is better than Missouri Basketball relatively speaking” argument to couch your appreciation, but remember that Derek Richards led his team to 22 wins this season with what might be the shortest starting lineup in Tri-State Basketball and just eight other guys on the roster. Every Louisiana opponent on the planet knew exactly who they had to check. How many of them succeeded in even deterring this kid? He had some of his best games against his best competition. Dropped 33 points on Barry Western. Another 31 on Canton. Had 27 in the District title game against a really good Clopton team playing in its own gym. He also chipped in with four and half rebounds, three steals, and two assists nightly. He’s also worked incredibly hard on his game, tightened his handle from a year ago ( 59 turnovers in 28 games is astounding) and gets the job done in the classroom as well. Two more years of this is going to be really fun to watch in Bulldog Country.
Reserve: AARON SHOOT
Quincy High School
THE ESSENTIALS: He played the Point for Andy Douglas and his height will likely mandate he does the same in college. With our Dream Team roster here, however, we can get a little creative and make him a CJ McCollum-styled combo threat as a guy who can both handle and score with equal ease. A one-and-a-half guard, if you will. Aaron is uniquely made for this task. And the accolades he accrued, well deserved. The Junior was an All-Western Big Six selection with two calling card traits: efficiency and reliability. Both of those outliers belie a soaring Basketball IQ. Aaron is a very good shooter, no pun intended. But like a good boxer, he knows when to play to his finishing punch and when the threat of it is enough to get the job done. There is nothing at all forced in his game, particularly his shot selection. And that is why he ends up posting the same type of percentages as a guard as the big guys who anchor down and do nothing but throw back three footers. For the record, Aaron averaged 11 points per game on 55% (!!!) shooting from the field, 82% conversion rate at the line and 41% makes from three. Dude is 5’10” and playing in the rough and tumble Western Big Six. That’s just insane Steve Nash MVP years type metric goodness. And that might not even been my favorite part of his game. Aaron is about as bankable as they get with the ball in his hands or moving it smartly to teammates. He creates real flow and balance in the half court. And he attacks aggressively, but smartly in transition. If you are looking for fancy, highlight reel pass, look elsewhere. This is a guy perfectly schooled in the “make the easy/smart pass” ethic. He’s one of the few guards, maybe the only guard in Tri State Basketball I feel completely comfortable with setting up on offense as high as he does, because he can hit that long range three; but more importantly because given that “up top” view of the offense, I am wholly convinced he can see everything and will take the best possible course of action to get his team a high percentage shot. I might mention as well that Aaron Shoot has melded those intelligence and lateral movement assets to great effect on defense. If basketball was soccer, Aaron Shoot would be that guy who wins seemingly every 50/50 ball. Part of that is hustle and instinct. The other part of that is that he’s got “gold glove shortstop” type hands which swallow up weird bounces and turn them into certain possessions. He may not get as much play or adulation as some of the other guards on this list; but if he played for you as coach, he’d be the most untouchable guy on your roster for all the important things that seem to spring from any Aaron Shoot possession. And Andy Douglas gets him for another year. Quincy High’s 2018 backcourt should be absolute aces moving forward.
Reserve: STEPHEN TALBERT
Clopton High School
THE ESSENTIALS: The locomotive that drove Clopton to 23 wins and an Elite Eight berth in 2017, leading Craig Smith’s Hawks in Scoring, Rebounding, Steals, Assists, and Block Shots along the way. And while none of those per night scoring lines were particularly gaudy, the importance of Stephen’s play within the collective team dynamic here was impossible to miss. This size on a relatively small roster (6’1”) and well established athleticism (see also his All State Quarterback campaign) allowed him to play whatever role his team needed. For my money, there was no better passing team anywhere to be found in Tri-State Basketball this Winter and Talbert’s unselfishness and ability to see the floor set the template there. He was particularly good on the break finding the guy who slipped coverage and we’ve got a veritable mix-tape of precision passes Talbert made this year sliding the ball to whichever guy had gotten behind the defense. He only averaged two assists per game, but again Clopton was enviably unselfish as a team and there were a lot of guys splitting up the statistical pot here for dimes. I’d also point out that in 30 games this season, Stephen was dinged for just 43 turnovers. That’s impressive considering how much the ball was in his hand. Maybe credit that carry over quarterback ethic of managing the offense/valuing the pill. He found buckets for his team in a variety of ways, to the tune of 12.6 points per game on 48% from the field. His three point work wasn’t as clean as I remembered it being a year ago, but he shot nearly 60 more triples this season and most of those were taken as desperation measures when possessions went askew. That, better than a lack of ability, explains the 29% three point shooting this year. The rest of his game was pretty clean. Stephen did particularly well inside, defeating bigger defenders with his relative quickness and surprising strength. Again, I don’t remember many high school quarterbacks being as aggressive and stout with their back-down games as Mister Talbert was. He showed a nice penchant for anticipating offensive rebounds (2.3 per contest) and picked up a lot of easy buckets off that skill. His Defense was impressive. Stephen has the ability to guard all five spots on the floor and set a nice tone. Again, a very good leader and teammate, though as a carry-over thought from Football: a kid who was way too tough on himself at times. But give me smart, athletic, tough and perhaps “too invested” any day of the week. That can and will win you a lot of games. Stephen certainly has done that in a trio of sports now in the Hills of Clarksville, carving quite a legacy along the way.
Reserve: MATTHEW SCOGGIN
Highland High School
THE ESSENTIALS: Highland’s High Volume first option on Offense. Matthew Scoggin earned unanimous First Team All Clarence Cannon Conference Honors after averaging 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals a game as a Senior. More importantly, he seemed to really thrive in the new system Bruce Bonness installed and helped turn the Cougars into legitimate Conference title threat, bouncing back completely from early season struggles. Scoggin didn’t lack for opportunities. He put up 335 shots from the field, which is a robust number to say the least. That he converted better than 42% of them certainly justified his workshare. It worked out to sixteen points nightly for his team, including 41 triples. He did finish at an effective 52% shooting clip from two point range and got to the line a team high 79 times, converting 78% of his freebies. Streak shooters are going to streak, obviously, but when Matthew was in the zone, he was pure joy. I also appreciated his assertiveness on the break, looking to set tone and project some toughness for a crew that didn’t have a lot of size or bulk to throw around. To that end, Scoggin was also the top rebounder on his team with 119 boards this season, which speaks to some growth in his all-around game. But you don’t drive a Ferrari for the morning commute through rush hour traffic and we aren’t drafting Matthew Scoggin for his secondary skills. You need a microwavable scorer who can come off the bench and change the entire tempo and tenor of a game on sheer volition of will: well then this is your man.
Fort Madison High School
THE CASE FOR KALEB: We are easy prey for players who shoot the basketball like Kaleb Cresswell shoots a basketball. The Hounds leading scorer this season (at nearly 15 points per game) would be the Tri-State’s most comfortable fit on the Houston Rockets. Three point marksmen don’t come much better. Kaleb hiT 75 triples this year on 160 attempts. That’s just under 47% from distance. Might be possessed of the Tri-State’s least defensible release and creates for others well off his own shot opportunities. Would love to see him go to the basket a bit more as a Senior because (A) opponents are perfectly set up now to be exploited out of respect for his perimeter game and (B) he’s such a good free throw shooter. Don’t sleep on Cresswell or the Hounds new Winter. Big things potentially brewing here.
Pittsfield High School
THE CASE FOR NICK: The Mensa Standard for Off Guards. Super smart two-way player who delivers consistent production at both ends of the floor. I always found it telling just how well over the last few years Nick helmed the offense on nights when the Saukee’s top scoring threat Korbyn Personett was off the floor or had a rare off night. Really effective, disciplined shooter with tools to have been a twenty points per game guy in a different system. Does a great job moving the basketball in the halfcourt. Plays stingy perimeter defense. And has a knack for making the big play when you need it most. For my money, Nick Reel might be the most undervalued “upper echelon” guard in Tri-State Basketball; that kid whose do-it-all approach and ultra-low maintenance style would make him a favorite of any coach he played for.
Illini West High School
THE CASE FOR JACKSON: His tour de force performance in the Country Financial Three Point Showdown in Peoria, where he canned 14 straight triples in the preliminary round in route to a fourth place state finish, gave the rest of Illinois insight into what we around here know all too well: Jackson Porter is lethal from distance. The Charger Junior Guard knocked down 62 three point shots this season and did so in both game flow and superb personal rhythm. Jackson gives you some other nice metrics and intangibles here (“second point guard” passing/vision playing as a two, high IQ, toughness) but his ticket is punched for this team because he is a floor spacing revelation and a guy who never seems to get rattled by defenses, shooting peaks and valleys, what have you.
Quincy Notre Dame
THE CASE FOR JOHNNY: His was perhaps the most unique role in Tri-State Basketball; bench-employed utility option. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t absolutely critical to QND’s success this season. Johnny Ray was a designated game-changer and his ability to enter a ball game cold, and provide an instantaneous spark was unmatched. Be it a soaring dunk, a quiver inducing blocked shot, a little feistiness or just a different level of athletic polarity here, Ray was a phenomenal catalyst the likes of which every other in our area would have coveted. Kid never complained about his role or worried about the perception of starting. He just went in and did his thing.
RILEY LANGFORD, West Hancock
LANE MARLOW, Central
TREVOR WATSON, Hannibal
LAYTHN MCMORRIS, Van-Far
JACOB BRYAN, Illini West
Quincy Notre Dame
THE ESSENTIALS: A young man whose soft spoken demeanor is in sharp contrast with his attention commanding performance at the Point. Carter Cramsey manned the most important position on the floor for the top ranked team in Class 1A Basketballl and that’s no coincidence. I dare say the Raiders get nowhere near that landmark without him. For all the talent amassed on Kevin Meyer’s roster, this equation only works with a catalyzing agent. Carter was perfectly cast in that role because his skill level let him morph that role to whatever was needed. Let’s start with the obvious: Carter is taller than you realize until you play against him. That 6’2” frame is an asset, but more so the body control he possesses at that size. I can’t tell you how many times I sat under the West Goal over the years and watched him contort his way to finishes few other kids could make. Those long arms of his allowed Carter to get the ball on the glass even through the forest of bigger players trying to stop him. He is nothing short of a great transition weapon. QND was great as team across the roster at flipping defense to offense, with a host of guys (particularly Johnny Ray and Jacob Mayfield) who were masters of the poke-away. That’s fine, but if there’s not a warp speed dynamo there to vaccum up the mess and flip the switch instantly into attack mode, those steals don’t mean nearly as much. And his fearlessness in attacking the basket should be must-watch educational fodder for parents raising young point guards. Good things happen when you go to the basket. Carter was the living embodiment of that ethic. He was really good in the half court too. I’d argue in a season when the Raider perimeter game ran somewhat hot and cold, Carter was the most bankable court-spacer at QND’s disposal. His Wing threes, from either side of the floor, bailed out more than a few stalled possesions. On balance, Cramsey averaged 16 points per game on a very tidy 53% efficiency from the field. He boarded well for a point guard (3.2 per game) and ably distributed the ball around the offense. I also think he showed an incredible amount of toughness, particularly in the toughest of situations; even some rare outward fire in his war with Cole Greer and Plains. In short, he was an absolute bedrock for the best boys team in our area this Fall. Hard to fashion a more apt point guard compliment than that.
Monroe City High School
THE ESSENTIALS: They are two completely different kinds of players, but I continue to go back and forth in my mind as to who ultimately is the best guard in the Clarence Cannon Conference, now and into the future. We talked about Derek Richards being the consummate efficient two guard above. Mister Talton is, in contrast, the vintage Chris Paul-in-his-prime styled Floor General. The bottom line here is that both kids are precociously exceptional and just going to get better with two more years of seasoning. Talton’s outlier gifts are game feel, the buttery smoothness of his handle, and the sheer explosiveness of his initial move, whatever it happens to be. Because he is so smooth, those spin moves and feints don’t look as fast as they are actually happen. But the proof of their alacrity is the endless slew of defenders left in his wake. There’s still a lot in his game that is going to only get tighter but I love the way Talton hunts space; for himself (14ppg) or in an attempt to create space for others. He’s really impressive with the ball in his hands. And I suspect he’s going to get a whole lot better playing off the ball. He’s got a nifty jumper that just seems to cling to the rim, and thusly he gets a lot of favorable bounces there. C.E. is also willing to attack the rim and he’s positioned to draw a lot of trips to the line over the next two years. He is a willing (and long armed) rebounder for a Point Guard, which he did to the tune of better than four boards per contest and that is a nice advantage in that it allows Monroe City to jump start its offense quickly. And there just aren’t many Class 3 teams who can transition with Monroe City’s “track star” wing speed across the board. Love his toughness too. But most importantly, I love that C.E. Talton has clearly been schooled in how to “think the game” as it happens. Sure, he still makes a few Sophomore mistakes, occasionally pushes the envelope with passes; but that’s just part of the maturation process. He is already a really unique weapon; the one whose hand was closest to the tiller on the first District Title in Title Town for Basketball in 17 years. That’s awfully telling. And his ceiling is Conference POY/All State level when all here is said and done. There’s a ton of really good guards in our region right now. Not sure Brock Edris would trade this one for any of them. And the more I watch, the more I am convinced the Monroe Skipper is dead on in that assessment.
Knox County High School
THE ESSENTIALS: The Former Home School product found a fast home on the football field and has proven a revelation for Eagle Track and Field the last two years. But it was his basketball prowess that originally pinged radar in Tri-State circles, long before many of us had even seen him play. Noah was the rare case of a young man living up to the advanced hype. A do-it-all dynamo with blistering speed, tremendous body control, and a deft shooting touch. Noah’s ability to get to the rim always reminded me a lot of Memphis-era Tyreke Evans. Didn’t matter what the obstacles in his way might be, Mister Talton was too quick and agile and savvy in his decision when to attack to be deterred. His first step commanded respect; made defenders leery and even a bit passive because after all, who wants to be the dude getting undressed off the dribble on the Friday Night highlight reels? But that was always the case with Noah. What we love here is how much he evolved the rest of his offense game to to match. Talton became a better, more aggressive all-around scorer in 2017. His average went up nearly a full six points per game over his Junior Year and Talton was markedly more efficient scoring the basketball, getting those 18 points per game on 48% shooting from the field. The attacking mentality in his game got him to the free throw line 133 times. Moreover, we saw great improvement in his shooting touch. Again, to draw from the Reke comparo, Noah has always been more natural scorer than shooter. But the fleshing out of his mid-range game and the remarkable uptick in production at the charity stripe (where he went from shooting 41% as a Junior to 76% as a Senior) shows the diligence he paid that soft spots in his game. The fact that Talton wasn’t a great three point threat was also mitigated here by circumstance; because long range snipers are not something Knox County lacked. He smoothed out other aspects of his all-around game as well. Noah cut down on his turnover and total foul totals from his Junior Year and emerged this year as a far more active, effective rebounder at nearly six boards per game. Noah’s point guard game remained strong. His assists totals dipped a bit overall but I thought he got a lot better at not getting himself into trouble and trying to force low-percentage bail out moves. He just better let the game come to him. And his talents as a disruptor remained sharp as ever with 66 total steals on the year. How do you not love a floor general with 41-16 record in his two years with his hands on the Steering Wheel in Edina? First class Point Guard. First Class young man.
Hannibal High School
THE ESSENTIALS: Suffice it to say, Dezi was the ray of sunshine in Hannibal’s torrential downpour of a season. Apart from the losses and the coaching drama, however, Mister Jones Sophomore Season was both a statistical marvel and a spectator’s salvation. The kid can flat play. Is there room for some nuance and seasoning? Sure. But we haven’t seen as broad a palate of combo guard skills presented this precociously around here since Jon Gilliam at Paris; maybe the early days of Chad Cox in Macomb. And I think Dezi is actually a better natural shooter than the latter (a former KHQA POY) was at this point in his career. The numbers are fantasy basketball insanity. Dezi scored nearly 21 points per game on near 49% shooting from the field. He attacked both off penetration (he changes direction like a Lotus Elise) and from distance, where he casually drained 49 triples. He rounded up five rebounds per game at six foot tall. He distributed dimes like a broken slot machine at nearly four and a half per contest. And he broke on bad passes like Darrelle Revis back in his prime, at nearly three steals per game. Dezi Jones alone might be reason to kick the tires on the Hannibal Coaching Job, which given its spotty recent history for consistent employment, is really saying something. Granted, it helps your cause as a high school guard when you are naturally more explosive than a sneeze. There has clearly been a ton of work put in here across the board by this kid. The velvety smoothness of his handle and the crafted polish of his jumper bring to mind old school images of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. And his ability to dribble through a traffic jam of hands like the basketball is his personal yo-yo might be my favorite singular outlier asset of any kind on this list, period. He comes from good basketball stock and I know his brother in particular has done a nice job in making sure Dezi keeps his toughness level high and his hunger for personal growth on the floor strong. All that is missing from this resume is to prove he can helm a winner. That’s a tall order given the recent historic struggles of this program. But this guy is a legit cornerstone piece and may have the power to be transformational here as well to the entire polarity of this program. That would take some really broad shoulders, obviously, but a point guard who could work that Lazarus Act in America’s Hometown would be the stuff of legends.
PITTSFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
THE CASE FOR NOAH: The Pittsfield Saukee Junior had a couple of stretches over the course of the season where I thought he was as good as any PG plying his trade in West Central Illinois. He is a tough kid and a tough kid to stay in front of as a Defender. Fearless attacker, who often toes that fine line between out of control and “I got this” on some of his mad rushes to the rim. Dude can clearly run and run all day. Streaky good shooter who is primed for a big up tick in usage next season.
Clark County High School
THE CASE FOR ZEB: Apropos of nothing germane here, I am now convinced Zeb Riney might be the best left-handed pitcher in Tri-State Baseball this Spring. And I am told he is strongly considering a foray into football next Fall at Wide Receiver. Is there anything this guy can’t do? Yes, Zeb has battled through his share of arm issues in his high school career but would never be able to tell it from any of his sporting endeavors; basketball foremost among them.
A very hard guard as a lefty. Harder still because he’s quicker than a hiccup and has a whole war chest full of acrobatic finishes to pair with his considerable long range shooting skills. Just barely missed First Team All Cannon Honors this season. He’s a mortal lock as a Senior for that and much more.
Van-Far High School
THE CASE FOR JOSH: As anyone who has seen him during Track and Field season can attest, Hodde is a different kind of explosive. He summons those same skills to great effect on the hardwood; a gravity defying, warp speed slasher who averaged nearly 16 points, five and half rebounds, and four assists per game during his Junior Year. The backcourt combo of Hodde and Lathyn McMorris might be the Tri-State’s most unsung, if not just shy of Quincy High for most athletic as well. Bet the house on the Indians improving on that 15 win total this Winter.
Fort Madison High School
THE CASE FOR CJ: The on-court conscience of Bloodhound squad that won 15 of 23 games this season. The savvy Senior finished third on his team in scoring this season at just a smidge under a dozen points per game and knocked back 40 triples, shooting 38% from beyond the arc. Led his team with 68 assists and posted 32 larcenies. The turnover to assist ratio here isn’t stellar, but CJ’s intelligence on the floor and cool demeanor made him a highly valued set piece the last few years; a guy who could mold his role to whatever roster twists were thrown his way.
KEETAN JOHNSTON, Highland
DALTON CRANE, Pleasant Hill
AARON BUFORD, Scotland County
NOAH PAFFORD, Bowling Green
KHQA ALL GRIT AND GRIND TEAM
Center: CASCH DOYLE, Palmyra
Forward: LOGAN MINTER, Monroe City
Forward: WADE WILLER, Quincy Notre Dame
Guard: MAC LITTLE, Quincy Notre Dame
Guard: LUCAS BOOHER, Liberty
Sixth: JAMON GRAHAM, Clopton
KHQA CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED TEAM
Forward: JACOB HURRELBRINK, West Central
Forward: COLE THOMPSON, Unity
Guard: JACOB GOERTZ, Western
Guard: RICK GALLE, Central Lee
Guard: MAX STINEBAKER, Griggsville-Perry
Sixth: : JAEDEN “CHEWY” SMITH, Quincy High
KHQA FUTURES TEAM
Center: LANE IPPENSEN, Central
Forward: NATHAN HENDRICKER, Brown County
Forward: DRAKE HAMMEL, West Hancock
Guard: SHAWN BELL, Triopia
Guard: SHAWN THOMPSON, Triopia
Sixth: COLE SCHWARTZ, Payson Seymour