Come June, when the area’s best high school basketball players from the Class of 2009 gather at Quincy University for the McDonald’s/Herald-Whig Classic, you get a collection of all-stars that is often tough to match.
What you don’t get is the best of the best playing together.
So what if you had the opportunity to take the area’s best players, regardless of class, from both Illinois and Missouri and create one team? Who would you take? Who would get left out?
Your team would be based on how you coach. If you believe in half-court offense, you’d base your lineup around a smart point guard and a dominant post player. Do you like a faster pace? You’d want a guard-oriented starting five.
I’d be surprised if any two people chose the same five or played them the same way. My team is listed below. Who would you take? Let me know. E-mail me your team at email@example.com or leave a comment below.
Now, without further ado …
Jonathon Nutt, Palmyra
I want an offensive-minded floor leader, not someone who believes who is just a solid ball-handler and quality passer. I want a scorer. I want a shooter. I want someone who can beat a defender off the dribble.
Nutt does it all. His ball-handling is smooth, he sees the floor and he distributes. Better yet, he scores. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyhow. Nutt shoots the three, he drives, he knocks down free throws, he has possibly the best first step in the game.
His backup: Clint Hamilton, Pittsfield
Tyler Harris, Western
You need someone with a knack for scoring in this position. Yes, the ability to shoot is essential, but you want a player who can get to the free-throw line, can hit off-balance shots and simply finds a way to make a basket when the opportunity isn’t there.
Harris does that. He’s deadly from the free-throw line — I saw hit him go 9 of 9 against Pittsfield and never touch the rim on a single attempt — and understands how to hit the leaner while drawing contact. His shot is effortless and his range is deep, as deep as any shooter I’ve seen.
His backup: Matt Patterson, South Shelby
Zach Forbes, Quincy
A role player as a sophomore whose role was defense, Forbes has emerged as one of the best scorers this program has produced in the last decade. He creates his own shot, finishes when there is contact and is improving on stepping out and hitting the trey.
Forbes is topping 17 points per game — only J.D. Summers and Marcus Medsker, who were Herald-Whig Players of the Year, averaged more — but he still plays defense. He’s long, quick and understands the value of positioning and being quick to the ball.
His backup: Justin Ellison, Canton
Ryan Stuckman, QND
The kid knows how to score. It’s that simple. So much of QND’s success offensively can be attributed to Stuckman’s versatility. He can step out and knock down a 3-pointer. He attacks the rim. He shoots free throws at a high percentage.
Above all, he’s smart. He knows how to draw contact. He knows how to read the floor. He doesn’t get rattled. Oh, he rebounds and plays defense, too. He does both with a smart, physical style that makes him one of the area’s best.
His backup: Brian Baker, Griggsville-Perry
Michael Brennan, Clark County
I’m creating a lineup without a true center because I want to see this team get up and down the floor and play instinctively. To do that, you need athletes. There may be no better athlete than Brennan in this area. He has a 37-inch vertical and is headed to play football as a preferred walk-on at the University of Missouri.
If he wasn’t such a dominant defensive lineman, he’d be a heck of a find for a college basketball coach. His ability to score over bigger defenders is huge, and he delivers as much punishment as he takes. Here’s a kid who will own the lane and beat most people up and down the floor.
His backup: Dennis Dent, Knox County