EJ Liddell, who powered Belleville West to the Class 4A state championship, on Thursday was named Mr. Basketball in Illinois.
It's the top individual award handed out to a player. Last year, Edwardsville's Mark Smith earned the honor. Liddell is just the second junior in 38 years to win the honor, following Jabari Parker in 2012 and 2013.
Liddell, who amassed 432 points in the voting, finished ahead of Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker (335), Morgan Park's Ayo Dosunmu (290), Hinsdale South's Zion Griffin (26) and Whitney Young's Javon Freeman (25).
Liddell, a 6-foot-7 junior, averaged 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.9 blocks and 2.8 assists for the Maroons (32-2). He made 27 3-pointers and shot 79 percent from the free-throw line (227 of 288). West defeated Elgin Larkin 64-53 in the semifinals Friday and defending champion Whitney Young 60-56 in overtime in the title game Saturday at Carver Arena.
Liddell had 41 points, 13 rebounds and 14 blocked shots in the state tournament. He set a Class 4A single-game tournament record when he had seven blocks against Elgin Larkin. He came back with seven more blocks against Whitney Young. The former record for most blocks in a Class 4A state-tournament game was four, accomplished many times.
Only three players have recorded more blocks in a game than Liddell in a state-tournament game: Providence Catholic's Walter Downing in 1978 (12), Effingham's Uwe Blab in 1980 (10) and East St. Louis Lincoln's LaPhonso Ellis in 1988 (nine).
The Mr. Basketball award was presented by the Chicago Tribune in conjunction with the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. Rock Island's Brea Beal (255 points) was voted Ms. Basketball, repeating her award from last year. Edwardsville senior Kate Martin, who will play basketball at Iowa, was fifth in the voting with 98 points.
The players will be honored May 5 at the annual IBCA Banquet at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Mr. and Ms. Basketball are voted upon by coaches and media members in Illinois. All voters named their top-three choices, with five points awarded for a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote.
Earlier in March, Liddell was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois.
Liddell scored in double figures in 33 games, with a high of 35 points against College Park, Texas. He had at least 10 rebounds in 14 games, recording a high of 14 in three games — two against Edwardsville and one against Montgomery (Ala.) Carver. He had five games with at least 10 blocks, with a high of 13 against Belleville East.
Liddell became the career scoring leader at West with 1,759 points and set a single-season school scoring record with 708 points.
Liddell has 13 scholarship offers from Division I schools: Illinois, Missouri, Saint Louis University, Ohio State, Florida, Iowa, Iowa State, Marquette, DePaul, Kansas State, Illinois State, Northwestern and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Recruiting is expected to become more heated this summer as other prestigious programs make offers to Liddell.
Liddell was the centerpiece of a team that also featured seniors Malachi Smith and Curtis Williams and juniors Keith Randolph Jr. and Lawrence Brazil III. The Maroons were 14-0 in the SWC and didn't lose to a team from Illinois.
Its only losses were to Houston Math and Science and St. Louis power Chaminade in overtime.
MR. BASKETBALL FINALIST In order of their finish, below are profiles of the remaining top-five vote-getters for Illinois' Mr. Basketball
Team results: 28-3 (9-0 Public Red South-Central), advanced to Class 4A super-sectional, nationally ranked.
Accomplishments: Sun-Times player of the year, All-Area, first-team All-City. Prep Hoops Illinois player of the year. MVP of Pontiac Holiday tournament, Penny Hardaway Classic. According to Simeon, in games against four top-five national teams, he averaged 21 points. McDonald’s All-American nominee. 852 total points.
Team results: 23-9 (7-2 Public Red South-Central), advanced to Class 3A state tournament.
Accomplishments: Sun-Times All-Area, first-team All-City. Will play in Jordan Brand Classic in New York. Games of 60, 52 and 42 points this season. All-Tournament at Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas. 2017 Daily Southtown Player of the Year.