74
      Friday
      92 / 72
      Saturday
      92 / 74
      Sunday
      92 / 73

      A Titan's Tale: Your 2013 KHQA All Do or Die Basketball Team

      Hard to believe we've been doing this now for 18 years but here we are. Welcome to the 2013 KHQA Basketball All Do or Die Team; our attempt to put some punctuation on the season that was....

      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 cduerr@khqa.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.

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      2013 KHQA BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

      PAXTON HARMON, West Hancock

      Rationale: Truthfully, we could have just rolled out the numbers (20.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3 assists per game) and defied anyone to argues against the statistical evidence in favor of Paxton Harmon. Point blank, that's one heck of a stat line at any level of basketball. But that's also a very small part of the story. The truth of the matter is that Paxton achieved those numbers in one of the most "star unfriendly" systems in Tri State Basketball and that is incredibly telling. Reno Pinkston basketball is all about "team above self" and there really isn't any place within his program for individual resume building, stat stuffing or self promotion. Truth be told, after the great Tim Parrish fell short of reaching a POY threshold a couple of years ago, I never thought we'd see a kid come off a Reno team and have a prayer of making this kind of splash. Which is what is so amazing about Harmon's year. He did almost completely oblivous to his own "cause celeb" and totally within the framework of what his coach asked him to do. And as if that isn't enough, this kid, one of the most natural volume scorers we've seen in the last decade, was asked by his coach to completely change his role and become some sort of all important hybrid that really defies easy two word position explanation or definition. Reno Pinkston called him a point forward, but not in the traditional Paul Pressey sense of the term. Paxton was, in essence, a Point Guard who was in charge of basketball security and offense setting; but the function of which was to get the basketball ultimately back in the hands of the teams best offensive threat (you guessed it: Paxton Harmon himself) for the purposes of either creating scoring opportunities for himself or decoying and drawing defensive pressure to create a better, higher percentage shots for his teammates. I just wasted about four dozen words trying to distill the essence of that job description and I am not sure I came close to encapsulating it all. Let's just say Paxton Harmon had the broadest reaching job duties of any player in Tri State Basketball; not to mention the greatest amount of personal responsibility (in more phases of the game) than any other kid around. And he executed they fearlessly and beautifully. Kid was an absolute joy to watch and arguably the most reliable mid-range offensive player we've seen; some kind of freakish high school version of Michael Redd in his prime, except with the other fleshed out skills beyond shooting the basketball Redd never possessed. He also happens to be an honor roll student, tremendously polite and well spoken young man, and a credit to his family, his school and his community. Bottom line, on every tally sheet: as big a no brainer decision as Jordan Frericks was on the girls side. Got to love it when you all make these decision processes easy on us....

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      Runner Up: CODY HILDEBRAND, Payson-Seymour

      Viewers Vote: PAXTON HARMON, West Hancock

      Past Winners:

      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

      (*shared award)

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      2013 KHQA BOYS BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR

      BRIAN REA, Payson Seymour

      Rationale: The easy argument here would be to simply suggest that as the last boys team standing, the spoils go to the victors. But that description does a disservice to what Brian Rea has truly accomplished at Payson-Seymour in very short order. That being: building a true, relevant Basketball Culture as opposed to just a successful program. The Indians may well be on state radar now, on the heel's of a first ever Elite Eight appearance, but more importantly, the guts of the program have been strengthened locally in every way. From a player's standpoint, the call to excellence; the precedent for hard work and the commitment to not letting a growing tradition die has never been more tangible. Kids have taken ownership in the program and are embracing things like Coach Rea's Cross Fit Style Workouts and busy summer travel schedules because there is positive peer pressure to do so. These steps have already proven their value in pushing the program to new heights. And now each successive group of Indian players wants to do what is in their power to break the next program barrier. There is also the reinvigorated fan culture. For three years running now, Payson fans have been as well traveled and enthusiastic as any in our area. This is a basketball loving community that never before has really had this level basketball team to puff its chest out about. And Coach Rea has astutely recognized the importance of embracing that kinship, even having his kids go out prior to their Sectional Semifinal with Elmwood to greet and thank all the blue clad cheerers in the stands. And to be honest, I think that has been a real sign of growth in Brian Rea himself. Clearly, he hasn't "mellowed" as he remains as fierce and competitive a skipper as their is in our area. But he has opened up more and worked hard to let people see the fun element in his program, be it style of play, pre-game festivities, or embracing the totality of the basketball experience beyond just the five guys on the court and I think that has better endeared those outside his inner circle to his cause. Obviously, he's a very savvy, smart coach who runs a complex high school system. But Brian Rea has also proven to be a guy with a big picture understanding and a guy who fiercely cares about cultivating not only great players out his program, but great kids. His evolution as a coach has been something really unique to watch and it's neat watching successful people morph in every career way into their better selves. I think Brian Rea is the guy who has finally found the perfect stage, the perfect fit, and the perfect situation to prove to people that his core beliefs work and are worth imparting to young people. And he's done so in a way that maybe he would not have been able to as successful if his career has started "easier" or without adversity. The really brilliant job Coach Rea did this season was the sum total of a whole range of professional life experiences. And in the end, they have helped Brian cross the finish line first this season. That should be an inspiration to every young coach or aspiring teacher who wonders, against some of the negatives that are inherent in the job, if it's all worth it. Brian Rea's 2013 body of work clearly demonstrates the light at the end of the sometimes thankless tunnel.

      Runner-Up: ANDY ANDERSON, Canton

      Viewer's Vote: ANDY ANDERSON, Canton

      Past Winners:

      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

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      2013 KHQA BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR

      (as voted exclusively by KHQA Viewers)

      PARKER GIBBS, West Hancock

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      2013 ALL DO OR DIE TEAM

      CENTER

      First Team Selections

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      STARTER: KENDALL CLARK, Keokuk

      WHY HE'S HERE : Most Imposing Player in Tri State Basketball. Kendall's mix of size and strength at 6'8" and an estimated 265 pounds gave opposing Centers fits trying to check him in the low blocks. Blessed with tremendously good hands catching the basketball. There wasn't anything real fancy to his offensive game; he simply caught the ball, went strong to the basket, and dared you to get in his way. And it was an incredibly effective strategy. He finished the season averaging a team high 15 points per game on 56% shooting from the field. And he was an absolute monster on the glass with 230 rebounds this season, including nearly 90 on the Offensive glass in rout to 10.5 boards a night. A throwback post player who was perfectly happy to get in the paint, battle it out old school with opponents and keep it blue collar. Bonus points because he worked so hard on his conditioning and the fundamentals of his game and never got flustered or frustrated taking all the contact he got. Kendall was just a warrior and did it all the right way this season and deserves all the accolades he got. Will need to continue that desire to be effective at the college level but he's blessed with the kind of body type, approach and natural strength where he could really dominate inside against D-2 foes.

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      RESERVE: KENNY LESLEY, Elsberry

      WHY HE'S HERE: Best collegiate prospect to come out of Northeast Missouri since at least Greg Dilligard, perhaps Mike Smith. Indian Super Sophomore is still on the thin side but man can he run and jump, with the kind of quickness and hops and ridiculous wingspan that you are apt to find filling out NCAA, not high school rosters. He's already getting Division One recruiting attention on a lot of fronts (Missouri Valley most active but bigger schools, including Wisconsin have him on radar) and I think he probably projects as a long 3 occasional stretch 4 at the next level. His numbers were some of the most impressive in Tri State basketball this season, averaging an area best 12.8 rebounds and 8.1 blocks per game this season; a resume that included seven triple doubles on the season. His natural timing and ability to redirect shots is well beyond his years. Very good shooting touch, as evidence by the fact he converts at 76% at the Free Throw line. He shot 56% from the field and averaged better than 18 points per game. The only real knock at the point is that he tends to get a little frustrated by the constant double and triple teaming and the hacking he takes on every possession. In that sense, a little extra weight would certainly help him avoid some of the bruises and inevitable wear and tear he will take. But I think that's just part of the growing process. Tremendously fun kid to watch play. He could end up averaging a triple double before its all said and done. And there really is no ceiling on how good a kid with this mix of body and athleticism can ultimately be.

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      RESERVE: TRISTAN CASTIGLIA, Louisiana

      WHY HE'S HERE: Scintillating second half of his season. Color me a fan. Every time we saw Tristan he demonstrated an ability to navigate through all the defensive flak in the paint and find buckets. I like a kid any kid I can bank on to get me points every single night and Castiglia is a dandy in that department. I am sucker for any kid who shoots 62 percent from the field. We saw of a lot of Tristan this season and maybe that's why we are higher on him that others; because he was a far better offense worker than his season averages (13.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg) suggest. Granted, he's got to become a better free throw shooter and was a little more up and down than some other post players, but his high end (see also the Macon and Highland games late in the season) is really special. We project him as a very legitimate CCC Player of the Year candidate going forward.

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      Second Team Selections

      STARTER: BRENT LONG, Routt

      WHY HE'S HERE: Polished offensive weapon with a guard's skill set. Ideal high post Center with great passing ability and dangerous mid-range game (13.7 ppg) who really worked hard on his rebounding this season. It showed at nearly nine per game. Very coveted prospect by local small colleges

      RESERVE: JASON SALRIN, Quincy High

      WHY HE'S HERE: Most improved player in Tri State Basketball and arguably the toughest rebounder, inch for inch in Tri State Basketball. The man saw his niche, seized it, and became an invaluable contributor for Sean Taylor's Devils, as underscored by just how much he was missed after going down with an injury. Admire the heck out of people who create their own opportunities and pride themselves at becoming the best at their craft. Jason was really a self-made specialist of the highest order and kid you could help but enjoy watch grow from question mark to exclamation point in very short order.

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      RESERVE: MATTHEW MCPHERSON, QND

      WHY HE'S HERE: The promise of the finished product. Legitimate 6'9" college body with big heart/coachable nature. A late bloomer but Matthew has made made himself a decent offensive threat five feet and in. Good prep rebound guy with A level potential on the boards at the next level; his outlier skill. Again, still growing into his body but there have been a ton of bright flashes this season.

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      RESERVE: IKE MURFIN, Liberty

      WHY HE'S HERE: Designated Glass Cleaner and an ideal enforcer in the block. A Reggie Evans type specialist with unflappable resolve and great strength collecting rebounds, Ike gets great position and is impossible to move off the block. Knows his niche, plays with discipline and brings his lunch pail to work every single night. Unsung aspect of his game but Ike is a sneaky good scorer around the basket with decent touch. Never the first kid who comes to mind for an All Start squad but a player every coach would kill to have on his roster.

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      Third Team Selections

      STARTER: SHEA FLESNER, Southeastern

      RESERVE: LEE TAGUE, Knox County

      RESERVE: TREY KOTHE, Macon

      ################

      POWER FORWARD

      First Team Selections

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      STARTER: LANE DAVIS, Unity

      WHY HE'S HERE: One of the most capable low post scorers in Tri State Basketball this season and he's not yet near what he's going to be. Davis is thickly built, incredibly tough, possessed of a developing, but promising array of low post moves, and shoots the ball with relaxed touch, even through contact. Lane averaged nearly 14 points per game this season on 56% efficiency and we view him as a potential 18-20 point per game player as a Senior. Kid constantly goes forward and shies away from nothing. Played through a rolled ankle in the Sectional and was very effective without anyone really noticing he was working through pain. He's only going to get bigger and stronger here. Passes the ball well out of the post, giving the Mustangs great inside/out potential. Strong rebounder with good hands as well at eight boards per game. If he was 6'8" instead of 6'3" college scouts would be knocking down his door because of all of the things he does well inside. Really nice high school player who may well fight his way into the Player of the Year conversation a year from now.

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      RESERVE: ANDRE MCCLURE, South Shelby

      WHY HE'S HERE: For my money, the most overlooked, unsung players in Tri State Basketball. The kid posted 13 double-doubles this season in route to averaging 14 points and ten rebounds along the way, shooting 60% from the field in the offing. What's not to like, I ask you? No disrespect to Garrett Jarman or Derick Smith, but there was a legitimate CCC POY argument to be made for the centerpiece of what was the Cannon Conference Championship team. Andre has really come on the last two seasons and made himself a true low post force. Good wing span and graceful quickness for his size make him a match up nightmare. Makes good things happen on both ends of the floor for his team and showed nice developing shot-blocker and pass jumping anticipation for a big as well. Given his still simmering potential, a young man I'd certainly be willing to roll the dice on if I were a small college coach.

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      RESERVE: COREY BARNETT, West Central

      WHY HE'S HERE: Every team needs an enforcer. Barnett was a tough as they come. What he lacked in ideal height in the post, Corey made up for with his Jeff Ruland 2.0 tenacity, natural functional strength, and strong base to power his way through bigger defenders with absolute fearlessness and tremendous proficiency. As anyone who watched him play football the last few years can attest, Corey is both athletic and incredibly physical and his linebacker-type attributes, coupled with a wonderfully deft shooting touch and soft hands around the basket, made him a force for three years running in the blocks. A nightly double-double threat who earned All State Special Mention honors from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.

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      Second Team Selections

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      STARTER: GABE MCKENZIE, Canton

      WHY HE'S HERE: He's still a work in progress, but the good moments portend a stellar career to come. Runs the floor and plays above the rim as well as any big man on this list not named Kenny Lesley, who has five inches on McKenzie in all fairness. Not an easy fit for a big playing in the Tri State's most guard oriented attack but Gabe adapted well and still has the uncanny ability to attack holes in a defensive scheme like a running back, some how bursting into the open at the other end of the scrum for a lay-up. He's quite a weapon and one made better by playing next to the Tri State's best pure point guard next season.

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      RESERVE: AUSTIN RICHMILLER, Highland

      WHY HE'S HERE: Another stellar sophomore who is just starting to figure out how good he might be. Finished the year tallying nearly 15 points and 8 rebounds per game on a squad that didn't lack for star power. That's impressive. I was more impressed with his grit and in the paint and his natural power. Austin literally rips rebounds away. For those who remember former Macomb star Luke Lunt, there is a lot of that same kind of physicality and presence to what he does.

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      RESERVE: KYLE KOVAR, Clark County

      WHY HE'S HERE: Lots of good choices among the Clarence Cannon Conference set here. I just thought Kovar was the most consistent of the bunch when I saw him. And I am an easy mark for players who feast as well as the Indians big man did on the Offensive Glass. Still dumb-founded college football coaches haven't snapped this guy up

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      Third Team

      STARTER: DALTON KEENE, Jacksonville

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      RESERVE: LUKE ROSS, Clark County

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      RESERVE: DONTREX WILLIAMS-KELLY, Macomb

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      RESERVE: KYLE FULTON, Monroe City

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      SMALL FORWARD

      First Team Selections

      STARTER: ALEX FITCH, Quincy Notre Dame

      WHY HE'S HERE: Tri State Basketball's ultimate Cornerstone. QND has trotted Alex Fitch onto the court for the better part of four years now and Scott Douglas could bank on exactly what he was going to get from the kid every single game. The numbers were impressive, obviously, at 17 points and 6 rebounds a game this Senior season but almost immaterial to the cause. Alex was the great intangible player in Tri State Basketball; the kid who added toughness and fire and fearlessness and poise to a roster that really need it. He inspired confidence and set the kind of lunch pail ethic that might remind you of Tim Parrish or even a little of JD Summers across town a decade ago. Undersized for a forward but would and could do anything needed to get a win. Alex could score from the wing with a lethal jump shot or post larger players and just overwhelmed them with his tenacity and skill set and savvy. He was as bankable a big stage player as we've seen the last couple of years and had great poise. Really boasted a versatile palate of skills and was one of those rare players who probably could have line up anywhere on the court you asked him to and found a way to be successful. Tremendously intelligent, dare I say cagey player (maybe even edgy) who could really get into an opponents head and pester them into mistakes and emotional breakdown. Tough kid who wore the C at 10th and Jackson tremendously well as the unquestioned de facto leader of a really good QND squad. Scott Douglas can maybe find a couple of kids or so to eventually replace his numbers. Good luck finding a player who brings all the other binding ingredients Alex Fitch did to the table any time soon. Just a pretty special team catalyst.

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      SIXTH MAN: JOSH PEAK, Jacksonville

      WHY HE'S HERE: The ultimate "what's not to like" kid in Tri State basketball. Seriously, what doesn't Josh do well? He played the Crimson's de facto point guard position this season and made it fit like a glove; this mind you from a kid who could get points on anyone just about any time he wanted. And honestly, I thought he really did a nice job getting everyone involved on offense and exercising incredible discipline in passing up his own shots at times. To wit: If I could score like Josh Peak, you could not pry the ball out of my fingers with the Jaws of Life. Best decision maker in Tri State Basketball, period, and maybe the most well honed shot selection on this side of the state.. A relentlessly efficient scorer, finishing the year at better than 60% from the field in averaging a team high 16 points for J.R. Dugan's crew. And better than any player I've seen in the last decade, Josh knew how to get to the free throw line and make easy points for his team. That was his calling card skill and you could make an instructional tape for young players on how to attack the basket to that purpose from Peak's highlight cut-ups. Class act young man who had lived up to one of the most daunting Family Legacies in the state. And I am told by those who got to watch his uncle Andy Kaufmann play (before my tenure, unfortunately) that Josh Peak's style, demeanor, and will to win were a fitting living tribute to that standard. All I can tell you is the kid was not only an indisputably great player but a tremendous class act and one of the nicest young men off the court it was my pleasure to talk with this season. You don't find many humble, grounded superstars in this world, but Josh Peak fits that rare definition.

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      RESERVE: CLAY POLLARD, Marion County

      WHY HE'S HERE: The ability to not only overcome, but thrive in the wake of adversity. To wit, here's a kid whose Senior season was at least jeopardized by injuries sustained in an off-season car accident who fought an aggressive fight through physical therapy to return to the court. And when he got back there, as arguably the most accomplished small school wing in Northeast Missouri, he found himself suddenly having to adapt to a tweaked role that demanded he pick the missing slack for his team in the post. Even at a smidge over six foot, Clay really took to the new duties well. No, he wasn't a space eater who was going to back down 6'5" kids but he is such an elastic, mobile kid; even in the midst of a lane traffic jam, that he slides off defenders as if he were coated in Teflon. Not sure anybody else noticed this but Clay seems to catch everything and anything thrown in his direction and in so doing negated a ton of potential team turnovers because he has such good hand/eye coordination. Reliable finisher around the basket and effective slasher who finished the year averaging a team high 17 points per game for the Mustangs. His game winning shot against LaPlata in the postseason, where he contorted himself to get a look at the buzzer while catching a low pass, ranks for me as the single most impressive play of the entire season. On a team full of relative specialists, Clay was a guy whose overall game provided much needed connective tissue; filling in some of the gaps and bridging his teammates play strength to strength. Because he played at a smaller school and wasn't as visible, Clay probably never got his just respect. But a lot of the same things an Alex Fitch did, for example for QND, Clay was equally effective in doing in Philadelphia.

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      Second Team Selections

      STARTER: MITCH MOELLER, Holy Trinity

      WHY HE'S HERE: Injury truncated campaign unfortunately made him the odd man out here against three other first team candidates who all had full season resumes. When he returned to the HTC fold, Mitch was luminous, scoring nearly 19 points per game on 50% shooting from the field and nearly 40% efficacy from three point range. Pure scorer with the rare ability to carry a team at the end of the floor.

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      RESERVE: WYATT PROPER, South Shelby

      WHY HE'S HERE: First Team All Clarence Cannon Conference pick who gave the two-time league champions a little bit of everything every night out. Gritty, effective, no-frills scorer who fought his way to 12 points and 7 rebounds nightly. That is quality production in its own right but we prize the kid even more here because he's an A+ passer (particularly out of traffic within the paint) with a knack for making the extra give to create easy opportunities for his teammates. Had nine games of five or more assists this season, which is pretty head stuff for a power player. A

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      ROYCE POORE, Knox County

      WHY HE'S HERE: Eagles junior battled through some illness issues at times and defenses geared entirely to stop him, but did build upon all the stellar inside/outside combo skills he wowed us with as Sophomore. Has already amassed over 1000 points in his career and has the ability to kill you from as deep as NBA range or get inside and make defenders look foolish with great footwork and a whole array of tricks in the post. Nightly double/double threat at just six foot, which speaks to his work rate and desire. Just a hunch, but I would not be stunned to see Royce morph into the same kind of hybrid in Edina next year that Paxton Harmon did this season. And we all know how that turned out...

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      Third Team Selections

      STARTER: CHASE BEVANS, Clark County

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      RESERVE: MATTHEW RAMSEY, Southeastern

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      RESERVE: ANDREW DOYLE, Unity

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      RESERVE: DAVID MCREYNOLDS, Canton

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      POINT GUARD

      First Team Selections

      STARTER: TYLER NIEMANN, Canton

      WHY HE'S HERE: Pure pass first point guard who was the maestro behind Canton's warp-speed offense and the twenty-seven win season it engendered. Averaged nearly seven dimes per game in managing to keep all the moving parts in Andy Anderson's attack happy and well fed. One of the best all around athletes in Tri State sports and it shows in the fluid nature of his game. Averaged better than 12 points per game this season and showed good ability to pull up and hit shots, particularly from mid-range, when needed. A master at creating chaos with an explosive first step that collapse the heart of a defense and affords his teammates wide open shots off of Tyler's kick-outs. Moreso than any other guard in our area, Tyler relentlessly goes to the glass and tallied an astounding 189 rebounds this season, or roughly six and a half per game. Has great endurance and probably maintains that hyperkinetic pace, on both ends of the floor, as well as any player on the Canton roster. Finished the year averaging better than three steals per game and is fantastic in converting other teams mishaps into easy points at the other end of the floor. First Team All MBCA All State selection who is only going to get better (likely carving out a bigger scoring role) next year as a Senior.

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      RESERVE: MILES WENTZIEN, Fort Madison

      WHY HE'S HERE: Ridiculous efficiency, well beyond what any player his age should be capable of in varsity basketball. The Bloodhound Sophomore averaged nearly 18 points per game, which is impressive enough of its own accord. But the INA 3rd Team All Stater crafted that average on some of the most impressive scoring metrics you will ever see from a guard: 50% shooting from two point range, nearly 47% from distance, and 84% at the charity stripe. Kid has not only a great stroke but incredible discipline with his shot. That impact is only heightened by how well Miles runs the break and perceptively finds teammates filling the lanes. He finished the year netting just a smidge above five assists per contest and I thought in watching him, his decision making was way beyond his years. He has a penchant for making the good pass above the flashy one, though his overall game doesn't lack for panache. He's also a pretty decent rebound source for a guard at better than 4 per contest. Scary thing is, he is just starting to scratch the surface. Expect his turnover to assist ratio to improve with even more seasoning and I think he has the skill set to be a very good defender going forward, if he continues to push for progress at that end of the floor. Bottom line, Miles is a great watch for ticket buyers and an evolving talent whose ultimate growth curve seems to portend a pretty bright college career. He came a long way between his Freshman and Sophomore year. If he makes a similar leap next season, we are talking about a kid who goes from Top 10 area player to maybe a legitimate Player of the Year candidate as a junior. Kid can flat play.

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      RESERVE: MARTIN KVITLE, Quincy High

      WHY HE'S HERE: Shooting and smarts. Love the fact that Martin turned himself into a point guard (or at least a one-and-half guard) the last two years by taking over as Quincy High's floor leader/primary handle guy. And he was darned good at those "luxury" duties in that he made sound passes, got his teammates involved, and set team tempo out of necessity for a team that desperately needed those elements. In a perfect world, however, Kvitle would have gotten to play with a Tyler Niemann-type lead guard as a well accommodated lead scorer from the wing, where teams wouldn't have the same latitude to harass and face guard him everywhere he goes on the floor. Martin is a fantastic three point shooter and maybe the guy I would feel most comfortable kicking the ball out to for a meaningful shot in a must-have situation. He's great under pressure and as good as anyone with a hand in his face shooting the basketball. Couple that with the fact that he is so criminally effective at getting to the rim and you are talking about a kid who rivals even Paxton Harmon as a one-on-one defensive nightmare. He's strong, basketball savvy, and plays long; much more so than most guards are capable of defending. Kvitle finished the year with really good numbers (16.4 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.3 rpg) but he's also the guy whose final stats were most deflated by his own unselfishness, his role, his level of defensive attention and his higher level of nightly competition. That's saying something when you can look at a guy who was a first team All WB6 pick and confidently say he probably left six to eight point points a game on the table due to circumstance. Does anyone think Martin didn't have a 40 point night in him? The college coach who lands this kid is going to be one lucky fellow over the next four years. Just ask Sean Taylor for a reference.

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      RESERVE: BRODY GRONEWOLD, Illini West

      WHY HE'S HERE: Virtuoso scoring, top end speed. What's not to love about Brody's game. If you enjoy the sport of basketball, you can't help but be a fan of the way this kid plays. Had an out-of-the-area official talk my ear off about how good the Illini West guard was during a timeout this Winter at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament. His point was that Brody was not only a tremendous natural scorer who defenders could not stay in front of but that Mister Gronewold seemed to get how to play the game so well beyond just his pure athletic ability. He finished the year averaging 20.5 points per game, tying Paxton Harmon for the area's mythical scoring crown. He shoots well and separates from defenders even better. What I think I like even better about Brody is that he isn't afraid to go into traffic and try to find points there. He's got A+ finesse skills but isn't remotely a "finesse" player. He plays with a big heart. Excellent passer who made the guys on his squad better around him, particularly as the season went on. Made an impact in every facet of the game. We've contended from the very early part of this season that Brody Gronewold was the player whose absence would most negatively effect his given team; that his relative value to Illini West was probably higher than any other player to their specific team just because he was asked to do so much and fill so many roles. Wonderful athlete and young man who, even as good as he was, I can't help feel was a bit underrated because he played in such close proximity to guys like Paxton Harmon and Alex Fitch.

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      Second Team

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      STARTER: JONNY DAHL, Keokuk

      WHY HE'S HERE: Log jam of great guards made the Keokuk Sophomore the toughest First Team at any position. I'd argue his size, his effortless shooting and limitless range gives him the highest ceiling on this list and makes him the kid most likely to find stardom in college. Averaged nearly 14 points per game on 49% shooting from the field and 42% from three. Has become an excellent passer and the perfect combo of floor leader/sniper. Going to be really interested to see what kind of direction his game morphs next season with the Chiefs replacing a lot of offense

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      RESERVE: DRYDEN CRAVEN, Griggsville-Perry

      WHY HE'S HERE: The straw that stirred the drink in Tornado Country. Craven averaged a tidy 16 points, four rebounds and two steals per game and provided some of the area's best long range cover fire with his outstanding perimeter shooting. One of the most veteran and heady presences in Tri State Basketball as it seems like Dryden has been at the tiller for the Tornadoes for ever. Experience clearly matters as Dryden tallied over 1000 career points while deftly toeing the line between scorer and floor leader. Two sport star (baseball) with a 3.7 GPA to match.

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      RESERVE: TREVOR MENY, Palmyra

      WHY HE'S HERE: A victim of an overloaded talent pool. Most years 17 points and nearly nine assists per game (tops in the Tri States) would put you right at the top of the heap. Outstanding sophomore talent who really has the entire arsenal at his disposal; needs only to tighten up his shooting at smidge to be a legitimate All State/Player of the Year candidate the next two years. Easy to covet the rest of the equation which included maybe the area's surest handle (see also his stellar 3.8 Assist to Turnover ration) and team high 84 rebounds. Heck, even grabbed nearly five rebounds per game too. What a brilliantly bright future this kid has going forward.

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      RESERVE: BRANDON DAVIE, Highland

      WHY HE'S HERE: Stylish scoring point who really flourished late in the season, not coincidentally about the same time the Cougars put their impressive stretch drive together. Finished the year netting his team 15 points nightly and proved to be very reliable in securing the basketball with just 55 total turnovers in 26 games. That's a quality handle. Pesky defender with boxer-quick hands who netted 68 swipes this year. He's cut from a different mold than the shot creators here but if you like a guy who can go and get you points, in a variety of ways, from the one...he is a capital choice to man the position.

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      Third Team

      STARTER: MICHAEL BLEWETT, Liberty

      RESERVE: COLE PHILLIPS, Brown County

      RESERVE: JAYVIN RAY, Clark County

      RESERVE: DONOVAN EDWARDS, Knox County

      ##################

      OFF GUARD

      First Team Selections

      STARTER: CODY HILDEBRAND, Payson Seymour

      WHY HE'S HERE: Fearless, indomitable scorer with an all around game to match. The heart and soul of the Indians breakthrough season, Hildebrand was our Player of the Year runner up after averaging 21 points per game and leading Payson to a first ever Elite Eight. Relentlessly goes to the basketball and scores at will, even against taller competition. Moves as well as any player in the area without the basketball, which explains all those "easy" back cut baskets he create in seemingly otherwise stagnant half-court situations. Tough and driven. One of the most highly competitive players in the game and someone who looks to prove himself better than you on every possesion at both ends of the floor. Watched him open his season with 42 seemingly effortless points in the Saukee Turkey Tournament and he never gave opponents any quarter in any game since. Has Bill Heisler type motor and stamina and rarely ever came off the floor. Supremely conditioned athlete with attacking first step and the mid-range and long range cred to give defenders too many things to consider. Good and willing passer and strong willed leader who imbued his team with a toughness that most otherwise "vertically challenged" squads don't have. Bottom line, he is your Player of the Year front-runner for 2014 and it will take a whale of resume to beat him for that honor next season.

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      RESERVE: DERICK SMITH, Highland

      WHY HE'S HERE: Bounce, lift, and the ability to stop a show. Smith was an absolute dynamo for the Cougars this season and the most dangerous true slasher in Tri State basketball. Unstoppable to the rim with the ability to navigate traffic like a Ferrari on the Autobahn. More scorer than shooter, Smith made more spectacular plays per capita than anyone in our area. Just a stellar athlete. Curbed some of the recklessness (though to that end, it's still pretty obvious when he's going to simply put his head down and go to the basket...not that anyone seems to be able to stop it even when he does) of his early career but not without sacrificing his explosion or outsized confidence in taking the ball to the cup. Love the fact that even after something went wrong, Smith never lost his edge or his confidence that he could beat a defender the next time down the floor. Averaged nearly four and a half steals per outing, which speaks to just how reactive and quick he is in the passing lanes. One of the most improved and prolific backcourt rebound guys in the game as well. Really thought Derick grew a lot as a player and in all honesty, found him to be as fun an individual watch as existed in Tri State Basketball this season. Killer on the hardwood, a gentleman off it and one of the year's more engaging, intelligent and well spoken sound bytes. Selfishly, that's a pretty nice combination for those of us in the news business.

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      RESERVE: GARRETT JARMEN, Mark Twain

      WHY HE'S HERE: Leadership and the ability to create scoring opportunities out of thin air. Like Paxton Harmon and Josh Peak, your Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year was a bit of hybrid and cut across all manner of traditonal positional parameters. He was the Tigers de facto point guard at times in bringing the basketball up the floor and setting the offense. He was also scoring option number one (19 points per) and the chief decoy to allow his teammates to get open looks. For my money, one of the smartest players in Tri State Basketball and a kid who really made the most of the limited (see also the way teams guarded Garrett from the moment he crossed half-court) scoring chances he saw. Effortless shot release, even from the longest of distances, and his combination of size and release made it really trick for defenders to gauge when he would let fly. Strong kid who could overpower most guards and did so with a nice penchant for getting to the free throw line, where he shot 82% on the season. For a guy who generally started every play so far from the basket, I thought Garrett was a pretty effective rebound guy and someone who would suddenly pop up inside and hit short jumpers or clean up teammates misses. Kid who was good enough to make everybody around him better and at times he carried his roster as well as anyone in the area. To wit, I am not sure if Garrett isn't at a QND, he doesn't post very similar production to an Alex Fitch. Jarmen was just a bit more obscured (and truthfully asked to do more than about 90% of the players in the area) because the talent pool at Twain was a little greener. Seems like a really together young man with an ideal demeanor to handle all that was put on his shoulders and cultivate a team atmosphere for the next generation of Tigers to follow him.

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      RESERVE: DALTON POWELL, Hannibal

      WHY HE'S HERE: Great jump shot. Outsized dimensions for a guard. And most importantly, a competitive streak that constantly needles in at the red line. Hannibal's roster had to incorporate a lot of new starters in the mix and overcome some positional design flaws, but Dalton was bent on leveling that playing field every time down the floor. Really solid shooter both from the set position and on the move. Liked to get into the paint and Mitch Richmond his way to points by using his length and his strength to his advantage. Good handle with exceptional floor vision and some real point guard type tendencies/strengths. Anchored up and carved out ground for himself as aggressively as many of the area's bigs and proved it as a added source of rebounding help for a team that needed it. If anything, the one flaw in Dalton's game may have been that he tried to do too much at times, but for a team that had a lot of needs, that's not only admirable, it's commendable. Super smart, high character kid who despite his team's pedestrian win-loss record, earned league wide respect and a well merited NCMC First Team nod.

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      Second Team Selections

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      STARTER: TANNER HUDDLESTON, Triopia

      WHY HE'S HERE: Hounded constantly around the floor, Huddleston still clawed his way to 479 points this season (18.2 per game) and almost single-handedly made the Trojans a danger every night. Good free throw shooter (72%) who got to the line 150 times this season, which speaks to his ability/willingness to attack the rim. Pretty darned good long range shooter, considering he didn't get a single easy look from distance all season. Steady, smart leader who kept brought outstanding composure and grit. The respect he commanded made his teammates better.

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      RESERVE: BROCK BUTLER, Palmyra

      WHY HE'S HERE: Explosive athlete with exceptional streak shooting ability. Finished the year averaging right at 18 points per game, despite struggling early in the winter (like so many of his teammates) with getting his shots to fall. Managed to clean the percentages up over the course of the year, including a 34% rate of success from three. But he's clearly a far better shooter/scorer than his overall 39% Field Goal clip indicates. Still, even in a cold snap, Brock brings so much energy, bounce, defensive bit and production to the table ( guys who average 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game are a rare breed) that even when the shots aren't dropping, his impact is tremendous.

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      RESERVE: JAKE VOSS, Payson Seymour

      WHY HE'S HERE: The rare guy who can not only still shine playing next to a bona fide superstar, but make said teammate look even better. Voss is one of the most ubiquitous talents in the Tri State. He can pass, shoot, rebound, defend and is equally comfortable/competent in a lead or supporting role; though his stat sheet numbers (17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals nightly) are indisputably Top 20 area good. Unselfish, deadly accurate passer whose point guard-esque understanding and perception of the game really made the Indians up-tempo style sing; a high IQ kid who was, even with those numbers, a bit under estimated in just how important he was to area's best basketball team.

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      RESERVE: WAYDE SMITH, Pittsfield

      WHY HE'S HERE: Shudder to think how prolific a scorer Wayde might be in an up-tempo, free wheeling system. All I know is that when the time came to green light attempts, the Saukee junior had a knack for converting. Netted nearly 16 points a game this season for Pittsfield, which is like averaging 24 per at Palmyra or Highland given the slower tempo of the Pittsfield attack. When its going, Wayde is an effortless long range shooter. He's also a 77% guy at the line. Like all Saukee kids, he defends his tail off to boot. Could be a real POY darkhorse going forward.

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      Third Team

      STARTER: BRANDON BERHORST, Canton

      RESERVE: PAYTON DUGAN, Jacksonville

      RESERVE: DOUGLAS WEESE, Central

      RESERVE: MATTHEW KENNEDY, Griggsville-Perry

      RESERVE: KASON SPRATT, Marion County

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      KHQA ALL FUTURES TEAM (Best of the Sophomores and Frosh)

      Center: KENNY LESLEY, Elsberry

      Forward: AUSTIN RICHMILLER, Highland

      Forward: DYLAN METTES, North Shelby

      Guard: MILES WENTZIEN, Fort Madison

      Guard: JONNY DAHL, Keokuk

      Sixth Man: DREW EATON, QND

      KHQA ALL HIGH FLYERS TEAM

      Center: KENNY LESLEY, Elsberry

      Forward: GAGE KLITZ, Payson Seymour

      Forward: LEVI KIRBY, Illini West

      Guard: DERICK SMITH, Highland

      Guard: : DAN WILLIAMS, Keokuk

      Sixth: SAM DOUGLAS, QND

      KHQA SNIPERS TEAM

      Forward: ALEX FITCH, QND

      Forward: PAXTON HARMON, West Hancock

      Guard: REED PLUNKETT, Marion County

      Guard: GARRETT JARMAN, Mark Twain

      Guard: JONNY DAHL, Keokuk

      Sixth: WAYDE SMITH, Pittsfield

      KHQA ALL WARRIOR TEAM

      Center: IKE MURFIN, Liberty

      Forward: HADLEY ROBERTS, South Shelby

      Guard: BLAKE LOWDERMAN, Macomb

      Guard: DELANY ORTIZ, Beardstown

      Guard: MASON FAIRLEY, Quincy High

      Sixth: ETHAN BORROWMAN, Pittsfield

      KHQA ALL CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED TEAM

      Forward: KYLE WARNING, Western

      Forward: BAZIL KELLER, Palmyra

      Guard: AUSTIN JONES, Rushville/Industry

      Guard: CRAIG SMITH, Macon

      Guard: BRENDAN BARLOW, Jacksonville

      Sixth: DALTON DEETER, West Prairie

      KHQA MOST IMPROVED SQUAD

      Center: KENDALL CLARK, Keokuk

      Center: JASON SALRIN, Quincy High

      Forward: PARKER GIBBS, West Hancock

      Guard: JON KRAMER, Beardstown

      Guard: IZACK HIVELY, Western

      Sixth: LOGAN KRIGBAUM, Marion County

      KHQA ALL HUSTLE TEAM

      Center: JASON SALRIN, Quincy High

      Forward: LUKE ROSS, Clark County

      Guard: CHRIS DIETRICH, QND

      Guard: DOUGLAS WEESE, Central

      Guard: CODY HILDEBRAND, Payson Seymour