By Joe Henricksen
A week ago the nominees for the 2012 Academy Awards were announced (give me "Moneyball" and Brad Pitt, please), with Martin Scorcese's "Hugo" earning 11 nominations and up against the the likes of "The Artist," "Midnight in Paris," "The Descendants" and others.
Now the Hoops Report's nominations are out for the 2011-2012 high school basketball season. Lets have some fun ...
Best Picture (Season's best storyline)
The story of the powerhouse team from Chicago's South Side trying to live up to the No. 1 national ranking. The trials and tribulations of coach Robert Smith's team trying to win a third straight state title with all eyes on them and everyone trying to gun them down.
☒ "Coming Home"
The return of the great Donnie Boyce to Maywood and leading an exciting Proviso East to an unbeaten record and Proviso West Holiday Tournament title. A true feel-good story.
The story of a pair of relatively new schools, Plainfield East and Metea Valley, racing off to a combined record of 35-2, moving up the state rankings and fighting Downers Grove South for the No. 1 seed in the East Aurora Sectional.
This beautiful story of a program losing its biggest star, 6-10 Nnanna Egwu, to graduation, yet putting together an even better season. St. Ignatius is now ranked among the Hoops Report's top 10 and a legit 3A title contender.
☒ "Unbeaten Brothers"
Brothers Jawad and Jubril Adekoya lead Andrew, a program with zero history of basketball success, to a perfect record through the end of January and a top 10 ranking.
THE FAVORITE: This is like the loaded pool of five movies up for Best Picture in 1994, which included "Shawshank Redemption," "Pulp Fiction," and the winner, "Forrest Gump." But it's hard to top the homecoming of Donnie Boyce. His return to Proviso East to coach the program he helped lead to a state title 20 years earlier is quite the story. In just his first year as coach he is poised to lead the Pirates to an unbeaten regular season.
Best Lead Actor (Player of the year candidates)
☒ Jabari Parker, Simeon
Could he be the first junior to ever win the prestigious Mr. Basketball Award? He's the top high school player in the country, so why not?
☒ Fred Van Vleet, Rockford Auburn
The purest point guard in the senior class puts up numbers and wins games. The Wichita State-bound Van Vleet is averaging 20.3 points, 7 assists and nearly 5 steals a game for an 18-2 team.
☒ Keith Carter, Proviso East
The senior guard may lack the pizzazz, but he fills a box score and his unselfishness cements the team's chemistry that has been so influential in this team's unbeaten start to the season.
☒ Aaron Simpson, North Chicago
High-scoring talent has had some memorable scoring outbursts and leads a 3A contender. He's on pace to pass a heck of a milestone not many players reach -- 2,000 career points.
☒ Tony Hicks, St. Rita
Often forgotten about by many, but the 6-2 guard has had a sensational senior year with numbers to prove it. Hicks is averaging 27 points a game.
THE FAVORITE: This will probably be Parker, who is the frontrunner but will need for voters to look past the fact no junior has ever won Mr. Basketball. But Van Vleet is special in his own right and the under-the-radar Hicks is doing some serious damage. Take comfort, you Jabari Parker challengers, in the fact Adrian Brody won an Oscar in 2003 for his performance in the "The Pianist," beating out Hollywood icons Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Daniel Day-Lewis and Nicholas Cage for Best Actor. Nicholson ("About Schmidt") was the big favorite.
Best Supporting Actor (Player who provides most support to the star)
☒ Steve Taylor, Simeon
Hey, it's not always easy being a high-major recruit who is the second best player on his high school team. Taylor might be in the shadow of Jabari Parker, but the 6-7 forward's versatility complement's Parker and his talents well.
☒ Paris Burns and Paris Lee, Proviso East
Keith Carter and junior Sterling Brown grab the attention from both college coaches and the media up to this point, but either Paris -- Burns or Lee -- should be in contention for this award.
☒ Jawad Adekoya, Andrew
Little brother Jubril Adekoya is the more ballyhooed prospect and go-to guy for the unbeaten Thunderbirds, but Jawad is a player. Long, athletic and capable of stepping out and knocking down shots, Jawad Adekoya is a no-brainer nominee for Best Supporting Player.
☒ Dee Brown, Plainfield East
Brian Bennett is the 6-9 big man with the Division I scholarship, but it's the 5-11 point guard who makes this team go and is often not given the credit he's due by those outside the Southwest Prairie Conference.
☒ Alvin Ellis, De La Salle
The big boys, 6-8 Gavin Schilling and 6-7 Alex Foster, remain the higher ranked prospects and the focal point. But it's Ellis who has added to his game and become a bigger weapon.
THE FAVORITE: Taylor should have been the Most Outstanding Player at the Pontiac Tournament, which Simeon won, and he plays a perfect complement to Jabari Parker's starring role. Actually, Taylor ranks right up there with my favorite Best Supporting Actor winners of all-time, including Kevin Spacey in "The Usual Suspects," Tim Robbins in "Mystic River," and Cuba Gooding, Jr. in "Jerry Maguire."
Best Director (Best coaching job)
☒ Rich Kehoe, St. Ignatius
The Wolfpack did return a solid nucleus and put together a good summer, but Kehoe also lost the best player in school history and a true big man to boot, 6-10 Nnanna Egwu.
☒ Donnie Boyce, Proviso East
The direction Boyce has given this talented group is almost second to none. The unbeaten Pirates play hard and unselfishly, a direct product of the man in charge.
☒ Bob Vozza, Metea Valley
The little-known Metea Valley team has been building for three years and Vozza's handprints are all over the team and program that will be graduating its first senior class this year. In just the second year of varsity action, Vozza has his team running on all cylinders and sitting at 19-1 on the season.
☒ Gene Heidkamp, Benet Academy
A year after turning in a remarkable 29-1 season, Heidkamp may be doing an even better job coaching a team that welcomed back just one player from a year ago. Benet is 14-4 and still in the mix in the East Suburban Catholic.
THE FAVORITE: It's a Kehoe-Boyce race at this point but only one of these two teams were ranked in the preseason, so the edge goes to Kehoe. His work this year is of the quality of Martin Scorcese's work in 2006 when he won Best Director for "The Departed."
Best Breakthrough Performer (Seniors only)
☒ Devin Foster, Curie
The 6-3 guard has improved his overall game dramatically and is making better decisions with the basketball. But most of all, he's been fearless. Foster is going out and making plays in big moments for a 19-1 team.
☒ Brian Bennett, Plainfield East
Due to his 6-9 size, he was a prospect at an early age. But he took guff for being a big, slow and in need of being in better condition. Now Bennett is arguably the most improved player in the senior class after dropping 40-plus pounds and is a difference-maker for a 16-1 team.
☒ Milton Doyle, Marshall
The 6-4 Doyle is a dynamic athlete, long and active, has flourished as the ultimate slasher and plays hard at both ends of the floor.
☒ Gabe Levin, Oak Park
The Huskies have dealt with injuries and survived, posting a 13-4 record, due in large part to the play of the 6-6 Levin. He's produced on a regular basis as his versatility has taken his game to another level.
☒ Reggie Johnson, St. Joseph
He's emerged as coach Gene Pingatore's go-to guy and is averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds a game for a young team that has needed his presence and leadership.
THE FAVORITE: Well, since Doyle didn't even play last season and wasn't on the AAU circuit this past summer, he's the clear favorite after putting up big numbers and leading the Commandos to a surprising 18-5 start. Plus, he's already had a signature moment with a 36-point effort in a win over Whitney Young. If Doyle is upset here, it would be reminiscent of "Shakespeare in Love" stunning Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998.
Best Breakthrough Performer (Underclassmen only)
☒ Jack Morrissey, Loyola Academy
After missing the first six games of the season, the sweet shooting Morrissey is showing he's one of the truly elite gunners in the state. He's putting up 16 points a night as a sophomore and has knocked down 62 three-pointers in just 14 games.
☒ Miki Ljuboja, Riverside-Brookfield
Big and skilled in the post, the 6-7 junior is just 15 years old and is putting up 15 points and 9 rebounds a game. Ljuboja already has an interior prowess with a soft touch.
☒ Sean O'Mara, Benet Academy
He's already an interior force as a hulking 6-9 sophomore with an ability to finish close to the basket. O'Mara has made great strides since this summer.
☒ Ore Arongundade, St. Viator
The 6-2 sophomore has made a big splash in leading a resurgent program to a 15-3 record as the Lions' leading scorer.
☒ Isaiah Hayes, Crane
The smooth, impressive sophomore guard has blossomed probably sooner than expected.
THE FAVORITE: Probably the toughest award winner to pick and the deepest candidate list. Each one of these players have put together terrific, breakout seasons. However, Ljuboja gets the inside track as no one was aware of the big 6-7 junior prior to the season.
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