Isaiah Butler ElginNamed all-Upstate Eight River, this dynamic scorer was one of the most entertaining players in the area, thanks to his ability to create turnovers and break away for dunks and layups. The 6-foot-1 wing led the Maroons with 436 points in 21 games (19.8 ppg) and finished with averages of 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.8 assists per game. "He was a raw talent when he walked in here, but he has improved greatly over the two years he has played at Elgin High School," Maroons coach Mike Sitter said. "And he still has room for improvement." Butler will continue his career at Elgin Community College next season.
Sam Carani Westminster ChristianThis versatile, 6-foot-4 guard/forward had several big games en route to his team-best 496 points in 29 outings (17.1 avg). The junior poured in 36 points in a 68-60 victory over Stillman Valley on Dec. 7. He led the Warriors last week to their first regional title in six seasons by scoring 23 points, capped by 2 free throws in the final seconds of a 45-42 victory over host Harvest Christian Academy. Carani anchored an injury riddled team throughout the holiday season. "Sammy really carried us in December when things were tough," Westminster Christian coach Bruce Firchau said.
Ryan Cork HampshireA repeat all-area selection, this 6-foot-1 senior continued to confound opponents with his deft scoring touch and court vision. The point guard led the area last year with 5.3 assists per game, an average he improved to 6 per game this season. A two-time all-FVC Fox selection, Cork led the Whip-Purs with 17 points per game, including 57 3-pointers. "He really did a good job of getting into the lane and making things happen, either for himself or for his teammates." Hampshire coach Bob Barnett said. "We asked him to do a lot and he did a great job for us."
Ryan DiCanio BartlettThis 6-foot-2 guard emerged as Bartlett's leading scorer. The junior averaged 18.1 points per game, which included 65-of-192 shooting from 3-point range (34 percent). Also a 72.3-percent free-throw shooter, DiCanio averaged 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals. "Ryan has worked very hard to develop as a player to follow in the steps of our previous top scorers," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith. "His diligence to the weight room and court paid off in a superb season. It will be exciting to see how his game evolves going into his senior season."
Amanze Egekeze HuntleyNamed the honorary captain of the 2013-14 Daily Herald all-area team in the Fox Valley, this 6-foot-8 forward/center is a major reason why Huntley secured its fourth straight Fox Valley Conference Valley Division championship. The senior has 480 points in 27 games (17.8 ppg.), including 15 3-pointers, going into Friday's regional title game at Belvidere North. A student with a 3.5 grade-point average committed to play for Division-I Belmont, Egekeze entered regional play this week with 66 blocks and 26 steals and was averaging 7.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. "If you look at who is the best player in the area with the most impact on the game, he has got to be right up there if not No. 1," Huntley coach Marty Manning said. "Offensively and defensively, our opponents struggle with what to do with him, which is a sign of great players."
Joe French St. EdwardThis 5-foot-10 junior was a consistent force in St. Edward's march to 20 wins for the second consecutive season. The guard led the Green Wave with 333 points (11.5 avg), including 25 3-pointers in 83 attempts (30 percent) and 76 of 133 free throws (64 percent). French also led St. Edward in steals (53) and assists (2.8 avg.). "We could have used four or five more guys like that," St. Edward coach P.J. White said. "We knew he would be the guy to handle the ball for us because of his speed. He's lightning quick. If we can harness that speed next year, more good things are going to happen. We were lucky to have him on our side."
Zach Gorney HuntleyThis 6-foot-4 forward is the second-leading scorer (10.9) and rebounder (4.0) for a team that won its fourth straight division championship. Gorney is playing some of his best basketball at the end of the season. He scored a season-high 22-points at Grayslake Central in a matchup of Fox Valley Conference division winners and notched 19 points in Tuesday's regional semifinal win over DeKalb. A 50-percent shooter from 3-point range, he has connected on 17 shots from beyond the arc. Gorney also shoots 74.7 percent from the free-throw line, but his abilities are not limited to offense. "Throughout the second half of the year he has been our best and most consistent defender as well," Huntley coach Marty Manning said. "He truly loves basketball." Gorney will continue his career next season at Benedictine University.
Jason Gregoire Cary-GroveA repeat all-area selection, this 6-foot-3 junior switched from shooting guard to point guard and helped the Trojans win 15 games. Also his school's starting quarterback, Gregoire averaged 19.5 points in 24 games. Much of that damage was done at the free-throw line, where he buried 125 of 151 attempts (82.8 percent). He also contributed 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game. "Jason is one of the most complete players around as far as his ability to handle the ball, shoot it, attack the basket and saddle up on the low block," Cary-Grove coach Ralph Schuetzle said. "He has a knack for the ball and a motor that just never slows down. He had an amazing year."
Reed Hunnicutt Burlington CentralNot many 5-foot-9 high school guards register double-doubles, but Central's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder did the trick repeatedly. A third-year varsity player named all-Big Northern East, Hunnicutt entered regional play averaging 12.5 points, 5.7 rebounds 2.1 steals and 2.1 assists per game. He scored a season-best 27 points in the regular-season finale against Richmond-Burton. "He does so many little things on a consistent basis and he's an outstanding leader who leads by example," Central coach Brett Porto said. "The growth in his decision-making from last year to this year is outstanding. He doesn't turn the ball over and he plays at such a high level."
Drew Jones LarkinA three-year presence in Larkin's lineup, this 6-foot-5 forward was co-captain of one of the best teams in school history. Jones was an instrumental figure in Larkin's 23 wins, two holiday tournament titles and undefeated Upstate Eight River campaign. He averaged 9.2 points, which included 20 3-pointers. A 77-percent free-throw shooter (43 of 56), Jones also contributed 6.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game and blocked 36 shots in 26 outings. "He's a special force," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "When we needed him out on the perimeter, he played out on the perimeter. When we needed him to post up, he posted up. He was our glue guy and he was one of the best glue guys in the state."
Kendale McCullum LarkinA repeat all-area selection, this senior guard was the catalyst of a team that finished 23-5 and repeated as champion of the Upstate Eight Conference's River Division with a 12-0 mark. Named UEC River player of the year, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 14.9 points, and his 6.6 assists per game kept his teammates involved and productive. He was also considered the best on-ball defender in the area, according to multiple coaches "Nobody around controlled the game on both ends of the floor like him," Larkn coach Deryn Carter said. "He could do anything we asked him to do. He was just outstanding and he will be missed." McCullum averaged 4 steals and 3.8 rebounds and shot 66 percent from the free-throw line (96 of 145).
Chrishawn Orange JacobsThis junior's season-long improvement had a carry-over effect on his team, which has won 4 straight and 6 of 7 entering Friday's regional title game. "First and foremost, he's a great kid," Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts said. "He got better and better over the course of the season and by the end there is no question he is one of the top two or three players in our league. He's going to be a great player." The 6-foot-1 guard has scored 467 points in 30 games (15.6 ppg). He also averages 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game for a team with 17 victories. Orange is money from the free-throw line. He sank 19 of 23 in a playoff win over Prairie Ridge, upping his season total to 153 of 193 (79.3 percent.).
Duncan Ozburn Burlington CentralOne opposing coach said Ozburn "improved immensely" from his junior year to senior year, and the 6-foot-9 center's statistics clearly show it. He entered regional play this week averaging 8.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots per game. "Duncan is one of the best shot blockers and rebounders around, and the shots he doesn't block he alters," Central coach Brett Porto said. "And you can't put a value on what his ability to make the outlet pass does for our offense."
Austin Rogers Crystal Lake SouthNamed to all-area teams twice in both basketball and football, this premier area athlete fell victim in January to a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. The 6-foot-2 forward was leading the area in scoring at the time with 23.3 points per game (398). He scored 28 in his final game against Marian Central to help the Gators improve to 13-4. Without him CL South lost 7 of its last 9 games. Rogers made 97 of 148 free-throw attempts (66 percent), grabbed 138 rebounds (8.1 avg.) and contributed 65 assists, 19 steals and 7 blocked shots. Not even the injury could keep him away from practices. "He's such a unique kid," CL South coach Matt LePage said at the time of the injury. "Most kids usually take a day off, spend time with their parents. Of course, (Austin) comes to practice."
Matt Smith South ElginThis sophomore developed into one of the area's leading scorers in his second varsity season. Entering regional play this week, the 5-foot-10 point guard was averaging 17 points to go with 4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals. He has drained 50 3-pointers, including 3 bombs in an upset of top seed Larkin in a regional semifinal. "He is a point guard who gets the ball up the floor, and teams don't put a lot of pressure on us because of that," South Elgin coach Matt Petersen said. "He's a player who can get open without us doing a lot of things to get him the ball. He's only going to get better."
Derrick Streety LarkinThis 5-foot-10 guard teamed with Kendale McCullum to form one of the best backcourts in the suburbs. A four-year varsity performer and two-time all-area pick, Streety averaged 10.5 points per game, which included 46 3-pointers. He also averaged 2.7 assists, 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game for the two-time UEC River champions. His defense wasn't bad either. "Defensively, he's one of the best guards in the area," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "He did whatever the coaching staff asked to win games. I thank him for all the work he put in to turn our program around."
John Vislisel Harvest Christian AcademyThis 6-foot-7 senior led the Lions to a regional-title game appearance by posting back-to-back playoff games of 30-plus points. Vislisel shot 54 percent from the field and led Harvest Christian with 649 points in 29 games for an average of 22.4. He also contributed 9.1 rebounds per game to go with 57 steals and 21 blocks. He completes a four-year varsity career with 1,299 points. "He really stepped up his game and developed as a player this year," Harvest Christian Coach Jeff Boldog said. "Even when teams were trying to shut him down he still found ways to score and finish. He took the team on his shoulders and did a great job."