By Joe Henricksen

The Best of Mr. Basketball in Illinois

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By Joe Henricksen

There were no shortage of quality candidates for the Mr. Basketball Award this past season. Although my Mr. Basketball ballot I submitted had Naperville Central's Drew Crawford on the top, with Warren's Brandon Paul and Waukegan's Jereme Richmond on the next two lines, Paul is more than deserving. You couldn't go wrong with any of the top three candidates. Paul had a terrific year and has an even brighter future as his talents have not been totally tapped into. His upside is just huge.

The reasons Crawford was named the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Player of the Year were documented in a previous blog entry, but it was great to see Crawford recognized and receive the amount of votes that he did get, including 20 first-place votes, to finish third in overall voting.

With the 2009 award in the books, the Hoops Report is going to take a look at the 29-year history of the Mr. Basketball Award and rank the winners in two different categories. And before anyone comments, the Mr. Basketball Award began after the likes of Quinn Buckner and Isiah Thomas played.

The first category is listing the top 12 Mr. Basketball Award winners that had the best post-high school careers, those who put together the best college and pro careers. The second list is ranking the top 12 Mr. Basketball Award winners in order of just their overall high school careers and their impact and dominance at the prep level. Have a little fun in discussing and debating.

BEST POST-HIGH SCHOOL CAREERS
1. Kevin Garnett, Farragut (1995). A no-brainer with the top spot. KG skipped college and has gone on to become one of best NBA players of his generation, including a perennial NBA all-star and winning a NBA championship with the Boston Celtics.

2. Nick Anderson, Simeon (1986). The Simeon product became a star at Illinois, helping the Fighting Illini to the Final Four. Anderson was a first-round NBA draft pick following his junior year. He averaged 14.4 points a game during a solid 13-year NBA career.

3. Derrick Rose, Simeon (2007). Check back in five or six years and the Simeon grad may be at the top of the list. In one year at Memphis he led his team to the NCAA title game. Now he's a favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year and a future all-star in the league.

4. Eddy Curry, Thornwood (2001). The former No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls has not lived up to expectations, but he has already played eight years in the NBA, averaged over 13 points and five rebounds a game in his career, and has a huge contract under his belt.

5. Brian Cook, Lincoln (1999). The former Big Ten MVP finished with 1,748 career points (4th all time in school history) and 100 victories while playing at Illinois. He is now a NBA veteran and role player having played six years with the Lakers, Magic and Rockets.

6. Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor (2005). Played just two years at Kansas, averaging 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game and earning All-Big 12 First Team honors his sophomore year. He was a first-round NBA Draft pick and is currently in his second season with the New Orleans Hornets. Wright is young and talented enough to move up this list as his NBA career evolves.

7. Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central (2004). He became the fourth Illinois Mr. Basketball Award winner to jump directly to the NBA out of high school as he was a lottery pick a month after graduation. The verdict is still out as to how big of a career he will have in the NBA. The 6-7 point guard was just signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and hasn't been the same since a devastating knee injury.

8. Deon Thomas, Simeon (1989). He is the all-time leading scorer in University of Illinois history. He was drafted No. 28 by the Dallas Mavericks out of college but instead became one of the most successful American pros of all time in the European leagues. Maybe he hasn't had the notoriety, but he certainly has had a solid, lengthy career playing professional basketball.

9. Darius Miles, East St. Louis Sr. (2000). There could be some debate as to where Miles fits on this list. He skipped college and made the jump to the NBA following his prep career when he was a first-round NBA draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. His career has stalled with injuries and off-the-court issues after averaging over double figures the first six years of his NBA career while playing with the Clippers, Cavaliers and Trailblazers.

10. Dee Brown, Proviso East (2002). He became a Fighting Illini legend and fan favorite in his four years in Champaign. Brown finished his career third on the all-time scoring list and helped the Illini to the 2005 Final Four and national championship game. He has had a couple of cups of coffee in the NBA and is now playing overseas.

BEST PREP CAREERS
1. Jamie Brandon, King (1990). All-Everything and dominating prep player while at King. He scored a whopping 3,157 points in his career, which is third all time in state history. His teams finished second in the state his freshman season, third in the state as a junior and won a state title as a senior when the Jaguars went a perfect 32-0.

2. Derrick Rose, Simeon (2007). There wasn't much Rose didn't do during his prep career, including leading the Wolverines to back-to-back state championships. In three years of varsity play his teams went 95-11 while he was considered one of the top five prep players in the country.

3. Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North (2006). Scheyer may not ever crack the first list, but as a high school player he was phenomenal. A legendary high school career, which included three trips to the Elite Eight in his four years. He led his team to a state title as a junior and finished his career as the state's fourth all-time leading scorer with 3,034 points. Scheyer poured in 48 points in a supersectional win in 2005.

4. Marcus Liberty, King (1987). Was considered by some to be the No. 1 high school player in the country. As a junior he led the Jaguars to a state title and a state runner-up finish his senior year. In four memorable state tournament games in 1987, Liberty scored 41, 23, 38 and 41 as he set the state tournament scoring record.

5. Bruce Douglas, Quincy (1982). Well before the internet, AAU basketball and all the hype surrounding prep stars, Douglas was one of the most storied basketball players in state history. In four varsity seasons he scored over 2,000 career points and his teams went an amazing 123-5. The Parade All-American was part of a state championship his junior year, a state runner-up as a freshman and a third-place finish his senior year when Quincy's 64-game win streak was snapped.

6. Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central (2004). He didn't put up huge numbers (18 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg his senior year), but he was the ultimate versatile talent and winner. He led the Lions to back-to-back state championships his junior and senior year, while capping his career as a McDonald's All-American.

7. Kevin Garnett, Farragut (1995). Yes, he played just one season at Farragut, but the 6-11 phenom led Farragut to the Elite Eight and averaged 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks while shooting 66 percent from the field. The fanfare and media coverage that followed him and his Farragut team was something we hadn't seen. A month after graduating he was a first-round NBA draft pick.

8.Marty Simmons, Lawrenceville (1983). There aren't many players who had a more decorated high school career. Simmons is one of the state's all-time leading scorers with 2,986 points. He was part of a Lawrenceville team that won a state record 68 consecutive games and won back-to-back Class A state championships.

9. Rashard Griffith, King (1993). The legend of Griffith began as a 14-year-old at Marcus Garvey elementary school on Chicago's South Side. That's when he was a 6-10 8th grader and being called the next Lew Alcindor. Griffith and his King teams were dominating in high school. The 7-footer played four varsity seasons, put up monster numbers his junior and senior years, and his teams were an amazing 115-4 in those four years, including two unbeaten state championships.

10. Ronnie Fields, Farragut (1996). The greatest dunker in state history. Whether it's accurate or not, it's believed that Fields had 372 dunks in his high school career. The Parade and McDonald's All-American with the 50-inch vertical jump scored 2,619 career points and teamed with Kevin Garnett his junior year on a team that reached the Elite Eight.

Missing the cut....
Eddy Curry, Thornwood (2001)
Frank Williams, Peoria Manual (1998)
Sergio McClain, Peoria Manual (1997)
Eric Anderson, St. Francis De Sales (1988)
Ed Horton, Springfield Lanphier (1985)

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25 Comments

I agree with most of your best prep careers but feel you were wrong to not include Sergio McClain. He was a winner all thru out high school and was a 3 x all state selection. McClain also dominated when he needed to as evidence by his performance aganist West Aurora in the championship game.

Jereme Richmond was robbed. Paul is a very good player but this vote is after the season is over. Let's see Waukegan beat Warren twice the second time on a last second half court shot by Richmond in the Waukegan Sectional Final. Richmond carried his team to the State Title Game. Sorry Richmond should have gotten Mr Basketball and it should not have been close. Doesn't matter if Richmond was a junior and Paul was a senior. To me your lists are pretty accurate buy KG should be higher on your second list even though he played here only one year. The crowds at high school games were filled at the start of frosh-soph games in the regular season. The City Championship Game at UIC was filled, even the top rung was full. Hasn't been done before or since. The KG/Ronnie Fields show is nothing I have ever seen before or since. It was a great time for high school basketball in the City.

Whoops. I think you missed someone. LaPhonso Ellis? Belongs in both categories. A distinguished career at ND, drafted #4 overall by the Nuggets, and had a nice 10 year or so run in the NBA. In high school, I believe his team won three straight state titles. He was Mr. Basketball the year after Liberty, 1988 I believe. And Frank Williams deserves to be on both lists, and surely a team that wins 4 straight basketball titles, like Peoria Manual, deserves to have someone on the top 10 list, probably both McClain and Williams. Is there no end to the Ronnie Fields hype? Four straight state titles means something, and I can only assume you didn't see those teams if you put no one from Manual on those lists. I grew up and live in Chicago, but they basketball downstate too.

TB CAMP .... LaPhonso wasn't included due to having never been Mr. Basketball. Eric Anderson of DeSales won the award LaPhonso's senior year. ... Joe Henricksen

NORTHWESTERN IS GETTING A JEWEL OF A PLAYER IN DREW
CRAWFORD, HE IS A SPECIMEN, A MAN-CHILD OF A PLAYER, VERY
CONFIDENT, VERY SMART, KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT THE GAME, AND
VERY RESPECTFUL ABOUT THE GAME, HE WILL THRIVE AT PURPLE
LAND, I AM GLAD THEY HAVE DREW CRAWFORD ON BOARD FOR
NEXT SEASON, AND CONGRATS TO HIS PARENT'S FOR DOING AN
EXCELLENT JOB, AND CONGRATS TO NAPERVILLE-CENTRAL FOR
YOUR EXCELLENT WORK WITH DREW AS WELL, DREW CRAWFORD A
YOUNG MAN WITH A BRIGHT FUTURE, HE SHOULD HAVE PLAYED IN
THE MCDONALD'S GAME!
HECK I MAY START THE DREW CRAWFORD FAN CLUB!

tbcamp .... LaPhonso Ellis would clearly be on this list -- or both lists -- if he had been a Mr. Basketball Award winner, but he never was. Eric Anderson of St. Francis De Sales won the award Laphonso's senior year. And these lists are made up of only Mr. Basketball winners. Thanks for the post!

Joe H

Garcia .... You could certainly make an argument for Sergio McClain. The only reason he probably wasn't listed as he didn't put up the numbers the others did and had one heck of a supporting cast with the likes of Marcus Griffin, Frank Williams, etc. But he certainly is one of the all-time winners.
Joe H

Ahhhh, this is why I come to this blog! Great stuff, great research, great conversation for us basketball folks. Sure it's debateable. In regard to the Manual stuff, I don't know who you would knock off the list. Maybe Ronnie Fields, but his impact and fan-following were ridiculous! Plus when there are all those great players on team, like Manual, it's hard for one to truly be the man.

TBCAMP ... Come on, Sergio McClain was not a dominating high school basketball player. He was a winner, yes. He had unbelievable talent around him, yes. And Frank Williams winning Mr. Basketball his senior year was a joke! He didn't hold a candle to Quintin Richardson of Whitney Young who won the title and was the best player in the state.

SERGIO MCCLAIN WAS A DOMINATING PLAYER, HE WAS A WINNER,
HOW DO YOU THINK HE GOT A SCHOLARSHIP TO ILLINOIS?
HE WAS AN UNDERSIZED BEAST ON THE BOARDS, IF HE HAD BEEN
6'7" HE WOULD HAVE MADE IT TO THE LEAGUE!
QUENTIN RICHARDSON WAS A GREAT PLAYER, BUT HE AND MCCLAIN
HAD TWO DIFFERENT STYLES OF PLAY, ONE SHOT THREE'S AND
ONE HUNG AROUND THE BASKET ALL THE TIME!
THE MOMENT Q LOSES HIS THREE POINT SHOT HE WILL COME HOME
AS WELL!

Another good blog entry, I can't find too much to disagree with. It did remind though, you should do a posting on the best high schools of all time. By best I mean most dominant. You would have a lot to debate. You could split it into best city and overall state teams. Just something to consider. Keep up the good work.

Phil,

Quentin Richardson was not a 3 point shooter in high school. In fact he hung around down low and dominated the paint. In fact, I think McClain spent more time on the perimeter in HS than Q.

Come on, Q Richardson was one of the best rebounders in state history. A beast around the basket. He didn't shoot the three until later in his career. Sergio was a terrific high school player. But you can't even compare the two.

Unless I'm missing something on why he wasn't mentioned, Kendall Gill deserves to be on the best post high school list. He had a very good four year career at UI, and was a solid NBA performer for 10 plus year.

Andrew L. ... Again, this list is comprised of Mr. Basketball winners only. Kendall Gill did not win the Mr. Basketball Award.

The mister basketball is a good award ,but this state produces such great talent its not always easy to pick the best,Keon Clark never made it but he was a beast and would still be in the NBA if not for some personel issues.

JON SCHEYER OVER MARCUS LIBERTY AND BRUCE DOUGLAS MAN, COME ON! WHAT BASKETBALL HAVE YOU BEEN WATCHING JOE. MARCUS LIBERTY WAS NUMBER 1 BY EVERY PUBLICATION NOT BY SOME MY MAN. BRUCE DOUGLAS WAS PROBABLY ONE OF THE BEST EVER IF NOT THE BEST EVER TO PLAY HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS. WOW!

JOHN ANDERSON .... Are you really crying over who is No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 on this list? And you can't find it debateable? The list isn't about the best prospect or best player, if you read it correctly. It's about best prep careers, so it's debateable since Scheyer is one of only a handful of players in state history with over 3,000 career points and he didn't play his career with the likes of Michael Payne (as Bruce Douglas did) or the enormous talent that Marcus Liberty did at King. We saw what a bust and overrated player Liberty was when he left high school, didn't we?

Is any one out there ?? Isiah Thomas , any one , any one . He was only the best guard to play the game. Also if anyone saw Teddy Grubbs play for King in the end of the 70's they would have seen a talent that is far and above these guys. How about Raymond McCoy from Bloom ? Quinn Buckner ????

JON SCHEYER statwise was the greatest watch his 21 in 75 video its unbelievable. This isn't about potential, its about who put the best numbers and that was Jon Scheyer.

What about Glenn "Doc" Rivers from Proviso East? Certainly he would have to be considered for a top 10 post prep recognition for playing in the NBA for 14 years! It still seems like yesterday when he went head to head with Isiah Thomas at the Proviso West X-Mas Classic in 78! He could have scored tons but was a consumate team player!

Sergio need to thank his dad, Wayne Mcclain. That's why he won POY honor.

I have to agree with John Anderson. I have seen most of these guys play via television or in person. Bruce Douglas was, IMHO, the best that ever played at the high school level in the State. Hoops Fan wants to suggest that Douglas played with Michael Payne. That comment actually works in favor of Douglas, not against him as was meant by Hoops Fan. Had Douglas not played with Payne, and thus been the one man show, he would easily have scored over 3000 points in his high school career. It was the things Douglas did on defense and without the ball that made him so great. Lastly, many players who were not named Mr. Basketball, were actually better that many of these guys who received the honor. Dwayne Wade, Fonso Ellis, Andre Iguadola, etc.

Wake up you corncobs that wanted to know certain players that did not make the lists. What part of YOU HAD TO BE MR. BASKETBALL FIRST !!!!

i dont care much about players, i want to know who was the team, thornridge hands down 2 titles 58 wins in a row, had to play chjcago area schools, not too many cup cakes down state

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on April 7, 2009 9:39 AM.

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