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2018 NBC Sports Chicago Boys Basketball All-Area Team

2018 NBC Sports Chicago Boys Basketball All-Area Team

The end of the IHSA boys basketball season means it's time to unveil the fifth annual NBC Sports Chicago All-Area team.

Unlike some other postseason awards, we wait until after the high school season has finished so that we can take postseason accomplishments into account. The three teams are broken up similar to the All-American teams you see at the college level: three teams of five players each. Only players from our main Chicagoland coverage area are considered.  

FIRST TEAM

Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon senior guard (Player of the Year) -- The Player of the Year award was an easy choice as Horton-Tucker had the strongest season of any area player from start to finish. Although the Wolverines came up short of a Class 4A state title, they became a nationally-ranked powerhouse during the season thanks in large part to the emergence of Horton-Tucker as a go-to player. Putting up 23.0 points, nine rebounds, six assists and 2.1 blocks per game, Horton-Tucker was dominant at times on both ends of the floor. A back-to-back city champion and the A.C. Williamson award winner at Pontiac, Horton-Tucker seemed to elevate his play in the biggest of games. When the Wolverines played nationally-ranked teams this season, Horton-Tucker averaged 21 points per game. The 6-foot-5 Horton-Tucker is headed to Iowa State next season.

Ayo Dosunmu, Morgan Park senior guard -- The Illinois commit closed out a great IHSA career with a Class 3A state title with the Mustangs. Dosunmu would have been in serious contention for Player of the Year had he not missed a critical stretch of 10 games in the middle of the season. Dosunmu averaged 25.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game this year as he's been selected to participate in the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic All-Star Game in New York. Dosunmu also had games of 60 and 52 points this season -- the area's only player with multiple 50-point outings. 

Javon Freeman, Whitney Young senior guard -- Starting this season as the talk of the town after some monster scoring games, Freeman and the Dolphins just missed winning back-to-back Class 4A state titles. The Valparaiso commit put up 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season as the 6-foot-4 Freeman was one of the area's most gifted offensive weapons. Also winning MVP of the Rockford Tip-Off Classic and making All-Tournament honors at Proviso West, Freeman also elevated his play in the biggest of games. 

Drew Peterson, Libertyville senior forward -- The uncommitted senior was the area's most consistent go-to scorer this season as Peterson put up 25.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. A lethal perimeter shooter at 38 percent from distance, Peterson was a matchup nightmare at the high school level because of his 6-foot-8 size on the perimeter. A North Suburban All-Conference selection, Peterson was held under 20 points only five times all season. Division I schools from all over the country have tracked Peterson's play this season as he will be a fascinating spring recruit.

Ryan Davis, Conant senior center -- The area's best big man this season, the 6-foot-9 Davis was a force on the interior for the Cougars. The Mid-Suburban League's Player of the Year averaged 24.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 blocked shots per game this season while facing double- and triple-teams in almost every game. Davis also shot an impressive 61 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line. The Vermont commit is Conant's all-time leader in wins while scoring 1,542 total points in his career. Davis was also MVP of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York -- leading the Cougars to the title there. 

SECOND TEAM

Zion Griffin, Hinsdale South senior forward -- After a breakout campaign as a junior, Griffin became a star as a senior. The 6-foot-6 Iowa State commit averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 assists per game this season while shooting 55 percent form the floor. An All-Tournament selection at Lyons and Jack Tosh (York), Griffin has as much upside as any player on this All-Area list. 

Camron Donatlan, West Aurora senior guard -- A three-sport star who is headed to Wyoming for football and track, the 6-foot-3 Donatlan finished out a stellar career on the hardwood this season. Helping the balanced Blackhawks to a Class 4A sectional title, Donatlan averaged 18.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor. The Upstate Eight Valley co-Player of the Year finished fourth in West Aurora history with over 1,500 points.

Morgan Taylor, Marist senior guard -- Marist had another great season as the 6-foot-3 Taylor's contributions were a huge reason why. Finishing with the single-season school scoring record, Taylor averaged 21.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting an impressive 53 percent from the field. Taylor will go down in Marist history as the sixth leading scorer all time. 

Messiah Jones, Simeon senior forward -- One of the most active players in the area, the 6-foot-5 Jones was a double-double machine for the Wolverines this season. Putting up 17 points and nine rebounds per game, Jones was an All-Tournament selection at Pontiac while also garnering MVP honors at the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest. The Drake commit was often playing out of position by having to go in the post, but he always handled his assignment with productive games. 

Dannie Smith, Orr senior forward -- A two-time Class 2A state champion, Smith has been one of the area's best all-around players the past two seasons. As a senior, Smith shined by averaging 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game for the Spartans while being named to the IBCA 1A/2A All-State first team. Smith was also critical in helping Orr capture the Proviso West Holiday Tournament while going undefeated in the loaded Public League Red North/West. The 6-foot-5 forward is uncommitted. 

THIRD TEAM

Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep junior guard -- One of the area's most efficient offensive players, the 6-foot-4 Cowan had a strong junior season for the Rams. The All-Catholic League selection averaged 19.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line. Cowan was also an All-Tournament selection at DePaul/Lane and Hinsdale Central. Another uncommitted prospect, Cowan has scholarship offers from local programs like DePaul, Loyola and UIC. 

D.J. Steward, Fenwick sophomore guard -- The state's top sophomore this season, the 6-foot-1 Steward was named the Catholic League's Player of the Year after helping the Friars to another conference title. Facing opposing defenses that were often geared to slow him down, Steward showed impressive poise for a sophomore this season. Putting up 18.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game, Steward was one of the best all-around players in the area. Steward remains uncommitted as high-major programs should be all over him during the spring and summer.

Damaria Franklin, Niles North senior wing -- A powerful 6-foot-3 wing who can score with the best of them, Franklin was one of the premier go-to guys in the area this season. Playing in the loaded CSL South, Franklin was an all-conference selection while averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.2 assists per game as a senior. Capable of pumping in points from all three levels of the floor, Franklin is second in Niles North history with 1,508 points. The uncommitted Franklin was also an All-Tournament selection at DePaul/Lane, Wheeling and Lake Zurich this season. 

Raekwon Drake, Orr senior forward -- A back-to-back Class 2A state champion with the Spartans, Drake has been a known presence in the city the past four years. An elite athlete and one of the best dunkers in the city in recent memory, Drake averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a senior. Also named to the Associated Press Class 2A All-State first team, Drake was a dominant force in the state playoffs once again. The 6-foot-5 Drake is uncommitted.

Anthony Lynch, Larkin senior guard -- The Upstate Eight River Player of the Year this season, Lynch was a huge reason why the Royals made their first state appearance in school history. The 6-foot-3 guard was the catalyst behind Larkin's offense as he averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game before the state finals weekend. Lynch and Larkin senior big man Jalen Shaw formed one of the area's best inside-outside combinations. Lynch is uncommitted. 

Belleville West's Class 4A title serves as historic passing of the torch between Chicagoland and downstate

Belleville West's Class 4A title serves as historic passing of the torch between Chicagoland and downstate

PEORIA -- Belleville West finished an undefeated IHSA boys basketball campaign on Saturday night by capturing the Class 4A state title with a memorable 60-56 overtime win over defending champion Whitney Young.

An intense back-and-forth contest that delighted fans at Carver Arena, the Maroons held off the Dolphins as junior forward and Mr. Basketball candidate E.J. Liddell finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

The state title matchup between the St. Louis metro powerhouse and the Chicago Public League superpower somehow lived up to the immense hype. But perhaps more important than the game itself was the significance of the outcome. Saturday's win for Belleville West also served as an important passing of the torch.

For the first time since Shaun Livingston and Peoria High went back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, the largest IHSA boys basketball state title won't be going home to a team from the Chicagoland area.

Class 4A has been dominated by Chicago-area teams every year since four-class basketball came into existence during the 2007-08 season. And after Livingston and Peoria's two-year run, Jon Scheyer (Glenbrook North) and Derrick Rose (Simeon) swept through Peoria and won three straight titles to close out the two-class basketball era in Illinois.

For the last 13 years, the biggest, and most important, state title in basketball-crazy Illinois has gone to a team from the Chicagoland area. A legendary run of talents from the area saw players like Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Jalen Brunson win state championships.

Liddell and Belleville West knocking off a Public League powerhouse, and defending state champion, for a state title is a significant moment in IHSA basketball history. It's the first time the Class 4A boys basketball state title is going somewhere besides the Chicagoland area.

While Class 3A has seen some memorable state title runs from teams outside of Chicago like Belleville Althoff and Rock Island, the more-depleted Class 3A field is generally considered an afterthought for many Illinois high school basketball fans.

By going undefeated against IHSA competition this season and beating a team like Whitney Young for a state title, Belleville West established legitimate credibility that should be respected all over the state. Chicago area high school fans can be fickle about downstate teams and their stars. None of those doubts should be apparent for Belleville West after the way they dominated the 2017-18 season.

Since Liddell is only a junior, and many of the Maroons' top players are also returning, it also sets up the possibility that Belleville West is the favorite for the Class 4A state title entering the 2018-19 season. Things have dramatically changed in the world of high school basketball. Transfers can change anything overnight. But given the return of Liddell, and the loss of only three seniors, the Maroons could have staying power next year as well.

It sets up for a fascinating offseason and an intriguing subplot for Class 4A next season as everyone will be chasing Liddell and Belleville West. And if Liddell pulls off the win and beats Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker and Morgan Park's Ayo Dosunmu for Mr. Basketball in Illinois then the pressure will be that much greater.

The Chicago Public League will still be the epicenter of high school boys basketball in Illinois next season. Orr and Morgan Park are coming off of back-to-back state titles. Whitney Young just missed joining them. Simeon was nationally ranked nearly all season. Curie remains an imposing threat only two years removed from its own Class 4A state title. There's a depth and quality of teams in the Public League that is unmatched anywhere else in the state.

But, for right now, that Public League's depth doesn't mean a thing. It's an afterthought. Because the Class 4A state title in Illinois high school basketball is heading south to Belleville. And it might not be leaving there for another year or two.

Morgan Park claims back-to-back Class 3A state titles with win over Southeast

Morgan Park claims back-to-back Class 3A state titles with win over Southeast

PEORIA -- Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin brought his entire team with him to the press conference podium after claiming a second consecutive IHSA Class 3A state championship.

Irvin and the Mustangs have claimed four boys basketball state titles over the past six years. The quotable Irvin is usually only flanked by his starting five.

Even though Morgan Park had a clear star and leader in senior guard and Player of the Year candidate Ayo Dosunmu, the Mustangs needed every member of their roster to make it back to Peoria during an injury-ravaged season.

Morgan Park needed its reinforcements to make it back to the state finals. Dosunmu took care of the rest. The Illinois commit led Morgan Park's back-to-back quest with a Class 3A state title game record 28 points as the Mustangs earned a 71-56 win over Springfield Southeast on Saturday afternoon.

Although Morgan Park won a Class 3A title with Dosunmu on the roster last season, the Illinois commit wasn't able to play much during the final weekend in the state tournament after suffering a injury to his right foot that forced him to be on crutches for most of the weekend.

This time in Peoria, a healthy Dosunmu carried Morgan Park with an impressive game in front of his future head coach, Brad Underwood. Dosunmu's eight-point flurry to end the third quarter -- including a half-court buzzer-beater -- lifted the Mustangs to a 54-45 advantage entering the fourth quarter. From there, Morgan Park maintained a comfortable advantage as Dosunmu and his teammates held off the feisty Spartans.

"I told myself, once I got hurt, that it felt good for my team to win it. But I wanted to come back and be apart of it and actually be on the court," Dosunmu said.

"I just wanted to come back and redeem myself after getting hurt last year. I knew what I could do. I think I stopped the haters from saying that I couldn't win the big game."

Dosunmu did the heavy lifting for Morgan Park in the state title game. But the Mustangs needed all hands on deck during a tumultuous regular season. Morgan Park was viewed in the preseason as one of the major forces in the Chicago Public League. Injuries to seniors like Dosunmu and big man Tamell Pearson, a UAB commit, meant that the Mustangs had to change all of their plans.

Dosunmu missed 10 games with injury this season. Pearson only played in four games the entire season after multiple surgeries on his eye. That meant others like senior Cam Burrell and sophomores Adam Miller and Marcus Watson had to step up their play.

Morgan Park didn't make a lot of noise during conference play in the Public League Red South/Central. They were eliminated during the quarterfinals of the Public League Playoffs by Whitney Young. Morgan Park hadn't lost this much since Irvin's first season on the job 10 years ago.

But there was still the hope that a healthy Morgan Park could figure things out and make another run at a Class 3A state title. Once Dosunmu got rolling, the Mustangs gained a new confidence to claim another trophy.

"Absolutely, the toughest one," Irvin said of the title run. "At the end of the day I knew these guys were loyal to me. I knew they'd run through a brick wall for me. And I just had to get myself level-headed. I'm used to winning and beating everybody -- or close to it. Taking tough losses was a bit of an adjustment."

Morgan Park winning another title this season is a testament to how talented, and deep, the Mustangs have been the last two seasons. Even with teams not at full strength during the state playoffs the past two years, Morgan Park still managed to win back-to-back titles.

With five trips to Peoria in six seasons, and a roster still filled with young talent, Morgan Park should remain a major contender for years to come -- even with Burrell, Dosunmu, Pearson and the senior class moving on to the next level.

Miller has the look of a potential Player of the Year candidate. Watson played with a ton of confidence down the stretch. More promising young players are also in the pipeline in the rest of the program.

“Three-peat. Three-peat; that’s the goal,” Irvin said. “We’re going to come back home to Peoria next season — hopefully. I’m gonna be on Marcus, and Adam and Kyel (Grover) and just see what we can.”