The high school basketball season has reached the halfway point, so it’s time to hand out the midseason awards.
Class 4A state favorite: Simeon has yet to slip from its preseason No. 1 ranking. The Wolverines have shown signs of being beatable, but have been dominant for the most part. It’s still their state championship to lose. Benet is Simeon’s greatest challenger at this point. The undefeated Redwings have also lived up to the hype. Top-10 ranked teams Homewood-Flossmoor, Proviso East, Glenbard East, De La Salle, Whitney Young and Farragut are also in Class 4A.
Class 4A sleeper: St. Ignatius. Six-foot-10 center Nnanna Egwu has developed into one of the state’s most dominant big men. The Wolfpack also have a strong supporting cast. Junior guard Jack Crepeau recently hit a key shot to beat Orr. Tyronne Staggers and Brian Howard are also capable of big games.
Class 3A state favorite: While Farragut, Simeon and fall in the loaded Class 4A from the Public League, Morgan Park sits in 3A. The Mustangs took a hit at Proviso West when they lost to Proviso East, but they’re still one of the best teams in the state. Defending Class 3A state champ Hillcrest, Brooks, Orr, Marshall and T.F. North will be among the other contenders.
Class 3A sleeper: Marshall. The Commandos have been one of the state’s most consistent programs over the last decade. They’ve won seven consecutive regionals, been downstate four of the last five years and won a state title in 2008. Marshall has had its ups and down this season with an 11-7 record, but it’s starting to put it together. Led by Keifer Sykes’ 35 points, the Commandos knocked off Whitney Young on Tuesday.
Best out-of-the-area team: Peoria Notre Dame could be the second or third best team in the state. The Irish are 17-0 and have already defeated a couple area teams. They defeated top-10 ranked Glenbard East at the State Farm holiday tournament and Niles Notre Dame, which was previously ranked, on Monday. Peoria Notre Dame will be in the Class 3A field. O’Fallon (14-3), Peoria Central (12-3), Rock Island (15-2) and Galesburg (16-3) are also other state-wide teams to watch.
Midseason ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year: East Aurora senior guard Ryan Boatright. The field is packed, but Boatright has consistently been the best player this season. He’s averaging 30-plus points and carries his team every game. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also the most exciting player in the state.
First-team all-area: Morgan Park senior guard Wayne Blackshear – Blackshear could still make a push for player of the year. He has some big games coming up. He shined last season in the Public League playoffs.
East Aurora senior guard Ryan Boatright – See his player of the year credentials.
Perspectives senior forward Anthony Davis – Davis’ team has struggled as expected, but he’s lived up to the hype of being ESPN’s No. 2 player in the Class of 2011. Injuries have kept him out of some games.
Simeon sophomore forward Jabari Parker – Parker’s numbers aren’t as astronomical as some of the state’s stars, but he’s just as good. He’s the main reason why Simeon is still undefeated.
Benet guard David Sobolewski – Sobolewski continues to do whatever the Redwings need him to do at point guard. He scores. He passes. He defends. Benet is undefeated because of him.
The next best five: These aren’t all the names you’d expect here, but these are the players who have produced game after game so far. Hillcrest senior guard Julius Brown, Notre Dame senior forward Quinton Chievous, Crete-Monee senior forward Jamee Crockett and St. Ignatius senior center Nnana Egwu, Benet senior center Frank Kaminsky make up the second team.
Best individual performance: Anthony Davis has had some big games. Wayne Blackshear has put up some numbers. But nothing beats Ryan Boatright’s 63-point night in East Aurora’s 113-104 win over Proviso West in Dec. 11. Boatright was 19 of 29 from the field and added eight rebounds, three steals and four assists. The second individual game would probably be Boatright's 55 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals against St. Charles North in November.
Best game: Benet defeating Homewood-Flossmoor 54-50 in overtime to win the Proviso West holiday tournament. This game had everything. It had a comeback with Benet being down nine points in the half. It had drama with it going to overtime. It had star players on both teams. It had a hero in Benet guard David Sobolewski, who scored the game-winning basket, finished 19 points and was named the tournament MVP.
What to look forward to: Some of the biggest games are still on tap. Simeon and Morgan Park play on Saturday. Benet and Simeon face each other in the City/Suburban Showdown in February. Of course, there are also the Public League playoffs and the state playoffs. The race for player of the year should also be interesting. There are a number of players who are capable of taking the honor in March.