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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Best of 2011 with Kahlil Dukes and Alex Manwaring

By By Mike Grimala

The past 12 months have been interesting, to say the least. To help us break down everything that happened in 2011 (and look forward to 2012), we're bringing in some experts.

Kahlil Dukes, a junior guard at Capital Prep, is one of the best basketball players in the state. He's averaging 29 points and 4.0 assists per game, and he's getting interest from Division I colleges.

Alex Manwaring, a senior running back, carried Ledyard to the state championship game this season by running for more than 2,500 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns.

We asked them about the best of 2011, and they gave us the answers.

* Dukes' responses are in Trailblazers' orange.
* Manwaring's responses are in Colonels' blue.

THE VERY BEST OF 2011

Best High School Team
Manwaring: Xavier. The way they churned out good teams in just about every sport, whether it was football or wrestling, was kind of amazing. They're good at everything. 
Dukes: New London basketball, because I'm a big Kris Dunn supporter.

Best High School Athlete
Manwaring: This is a tough one, but I have to say [Ansonia running back] Arkeel Newson. He had something like 3,500 yards this year, and he's definitely tough to stop. 
Dukes: Definitely Kris Dunn. Nobody knew who he was last year, then he went out during the summer and played against all the best players and really made a name for himself.

Your Best Moment of 2011 (On the field)
Manwaring: I guess I would have to say our game against Bacon this year. I ran for 317 yards, which was a school record.
Dukes: I'd say the live period in July when all the college coaches could watch me play. I think I made a lot of progress and let everyone know what kind of player I am.

Your Best Moment of 2011 (Off the field)
Manwaring: My best moments were all sports-related! I'm going to say Thanksgiving Day when I scored four touchdowns.
Dukes: When I got my first offer. I was in the airport, it was August 1st or 2nd. It was from Vermont.

Pro/College Athlete of the Year
Manwaring:
Aaron Rodgers, because of all the success he had and the way he led the team to a 13-0 start after winning the Super Bowl.
Dukes: Cam Newton. Despite all the critics and the commotion, he still put that Auburn team on his back and delivered a championship.

Best Pro Championship Team
Manwaring: I'm a little biased but I have to say the Bruins. The way they kept winning in Game 7's was amazing, and Thomas' play was unreal.
Dukes: The Dallas Mavericks. They had a guy on their team in Dirk Nowitzki who could get the job done.

Most Memorable Game
Manwaring: The Michigan-Notre Dame football game earlier this year. I'm probably biased because I'm a Michigan fan, but I was watching at a friend's house and I made them put it on so I could check out the score. And right as we put it on, Denard Robinson was making the comeback.
Dukes: I think the game with Kemba Walker against Pitt when he hit the step-back for the game-winner in the Big East tournament.

Your New Year's Resolution (On the field)
Manwaring: The same as always -- to work my butt off, especially since it's my senior year. I want to win the state open in wrestling.
Dukes: Win.

Your New Year's Resolution (Off the field)
Manwaring: Do the best I can every day, and the rest should be good.
Dukes: To be the best person I can be.

The one story you want to leave in 2011
Manwaring: Tim Tebow. And I like Tebow, I'm a big fan. But it's too much.
Dukes: I don't get caught up in that too much. It's all good to me.

Disagree with the Best of 2011? Hit me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala) and make your case.