High-SchoolConnecticut: Kahlil Dukes

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.
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Whether you’re putting together a grouping of best quarterbacks or worst albums, or you’re making that special list for Santa, there’s nothing quite like a good list. So in honor of the holiday season we’re bringing you lists all week long — Merry List-Mas!

Today : The five best NBA players ever to come out of Connecticut.

Kris Dunn, Kuran Iverson and Kahlil Dukes are all standout basketball recruits who are likely headed to D-I colleges — and possibly beyond. Connecticut has sent its share of high school players to the NBA, but who's been the best? Here's our list of the five best NBA players from Connecticut.

5. Ryan Gomes
Credentials: A Waterbury native, Gomes was a standout at Wilby before moving on to play at Providence. The fact that he was under-recruited by UConn proved to be a thorn in the side of Huskies coach Jim Calhoun (a recurring theme in this list), as Gomes went on to average 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds during his four-year college career. He was then drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Boston Celtics, and he's been a productive pro ever since (10.8 points per game in six seasons).
4. Michael Adams
A 5-foot-10 point guard, Adams came out of Hartford Public in 1981 and enjoyed a nice four years at Boston College, posting 15.3 points and 5.2 assists as a senior. Adams bounced around the NBA from 1985-96, but his best years came in Denver. In 1990-91, he averaged 26.5 points per game for the Nuggets. Adams averaged 14.7 points for his NBA career.

3. Mike Gminski
This spot came down to Gminski or Rick Mahorn, but I decided on Gminski because of his longevity and more productive peak years. A 6-foot-11 center from Monroe, Gminski graduated from Masuk in 1976 and moved on to Duke, where he posted 19.0 points and 10.2 rebounds over four years. Drafted seventh overall in the 1980 draft, Gminski played 14 years in the league, averaging 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

2. Marcus Camby
Another Hartford Public grad (1993), Camby is also another recruit who got away from UConn, sparking the feud between Jim Calhoun and UMass coach John Calipari. Camby averaged 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds as a junior at UMass, leading the Minutemen to the Final Four before declaring for the NBA draft and being selected No. 2 overall. In his 15-year NBA career, Camby has averaged exactly 10.0 points and 10.0 rebounds, and he's led the league in blocks four times. The 6-foot-11 center was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2006-07, when he averaged 11.7 rebounds and a league-best 3.3 blocks for the Denver Nuggets.

1. Calvin Murphy
The only Hall of Famer on this list, Murphy graduated from Norwalk High School in 1966 and proved to be an all-time great scorer in college, averaging 48.9 points per game as a college freshman at Niagara. Drafted into the NBA in 1970, Murphy played 13 seasons (all for the Rockets) and posted 17.9 points per game for his career. One of the most feared outside shooters in league history, Murphy averaged 25.6 points in 1977-78, the first of three straight years of 20-plus ppg. Despite being a slight 5-foot-9, Murphy was also a noted ironman, playing all 82 games in five seasons.

Tomorrow: Wild Card! Check back tomorrow to find out what our list is.

Got Game: Kahlil Dukes

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
3:26
PM ET
video

When Kahlil Dukes suited up for the Capital Prep varsity squad as a freshman two years ago, expectations were high. He was known as a pure scorer, and that’s exactly what he proved to be that season, scoring nearly 30 points per game to lead the state. But that didn’t mean he was satisfied with his level of play.

“That was the role I had to play on that particular team,” says Dukes. “That team needed me to take more shots in order for us to be successful, so the offense ran through me. But I wanted to prove that I’m more than a scorer and that I can do other things to help our team win.”

As a sophomore, the 5-foot-11 Dukes switched from shooting guard to the point. And while his scoring average dropped to 14.8 per game, his assists jumped from 3.3 as a freshman to 6.5. And not coincidentally, Capital Prep went from 14 wins in 2009-10 to 21 victories last season and a trip to the Class S state semifinals.

“Kahlil read a lot of scouting reports in the offseason that listed all the things he couldn’t do,” says Capital Prep coach Levy Gillespie. “And he’s the type that wants to prove people wrong, and he’s willing to work at it.”

So what does Dukes have in mind for his junior season?

“I think I can have a better year,” he says. “We came up short last year, and this team has a lot of good players. I know I can improve my own game. I want to get us that state championship.”

Dukes has several mid-major Division I offers, while other top programs have started to show interest. This summer, he spent time playing on the same AAU team as New London star Kris Dunn, and the two are good friends.

“Kris is one of my role models,” says Dukes. “I see all the success he’s had and how unsatisfied he still is, and it motivates me to keep working hard every day.”

Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala). It's fun!

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