Shawn Roundtree's dominant performance on the basketball court translated to an overwhelming selection as the Belleville News-Democrat's Class 3A-4A Player of the Year.
The Edwardsville High senior point guard, who engineered the Tigers to a fourth-place finish in the Class 4A state tournament, easily earned the award in voting by area coaches.
What wasn't to like about the 6-foot Roundtree? The three-year starter was Mr. Everything for Edwardsville (30-4), averaging 17.3 points and eight assists while making 55 3-pointers and shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line (159-for-187).
"It's a great honor to be appreciated by not only other players, but coaches as well," said Roundtree, 18. "It's a testament to what hard work can do. I'm very appreciative and very proud."
Roundtree didn't leave much on the table during his time at Edwardsville. He finished with 1,169 career points, becoming the 19th player in Tigers history to join the 1,000-point club.
"Especially my senior season, I felt like I had nothing else to lose," Roundtree said. "I had to put everything out there on the table that I was going to do, whatever it took to win that night.
"That's the kind of person I am -- competitive. That's what I really based my performances off of throughout my high-school career. Ultimately, it was about helping my team win."
For the Tigers to win this season, coach Mike Waldo knew Roundtree and senior Armon Fletcher would have to pick up the pace on scoring, since Garrett Covington and Tre Harris graduated.
Roundtree, primarily a playmaker and defender in his first two seasons as a starter, assumed the added responsibility with ease. Fletcher, too, emerged, averaging 17.1 points.
"This year, I had to be more aggressive," Roundtree said. "I've always had scoring ability. It was just that with other teams, we had (other) guys who could score and put the ball in the basket. I had to get the ball to them at the right time.
"So this year, I had to be more aggressive and really find ways to score and help my team put points on the board."
A big decision
Roundtree, the son of Ida and Shawn Roundtree Sr., had an opportunity to give a verbal commitment to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville last year, but he opted to delay a decision and perhaps increase his stock during the season.
Most players entering their senior seasons prefer to have their college choice made as early as possible, freeing their mind and allowing them to play at a higher level.
"My mindset was if I can get my team to keep winning, especially during the postseason, that's just going to make my recruitment that much better," Roundtree said. "I felt like I owed my team my attention instead of focusing more on making a college decision right away."
Roundtree said he enjoyed an unofficial visit to Indiana State in Terre Haute on Saturday, but added that the recruiting process is "an exciting but also stressful experience."
"I'm just continuing to take visits and talking to coaches," Roundtree said. "I'm looking forward to making my decision, probably in early May."
Several schools remain under consideration, Roundtree said. They are: University of California-Davis; Indiana State; Navy; Missouri-Kansas City; North Carolina-Asheville; and Missouri State.
Darius Austin, a 6-7 senior at Cahokia High, has signed with Missouri-Kansas City.
"I've played with Darius since I was in seventh grade, so we know each other pretty well," Roundtree said. "We know each other's tendencies, and we know what we're capable of doing when we're on the court at the same time.
"He's said a few things to me, trying to get me to go there (to Missouri-Kansas City). I've just got to take my time and see what happens."
Roundtree said his parents are a constant source of strength, and that has enabled him to remain calm in what can be a daunting task.
"I have great parents who have definitely raised me the right way," Roundtree said. "They're the ones who have made sure that I pray about things, take my time and realize all the pros and cons of each school. They've really helped me with this process. It's going to come down to what feels right."
Roundtree is prepared to make the necessary improvements to elevate his game against the best players he's ever faced.
"I'm definitely going to have to keep improving my strength," he said. "When it comes to the college game, I'm not as tall, so I'm going to have to work on my defense, be able to get my shot off and learn different things to help me develop as a college player."
Roundtree said Edwardsville's two losses in the state tournament, to Benet Academy and Stevenson, did not tarnish the season.
"We definitely wanted to win, but I feel like, with this team, we reached our full potential," Roundtree said. "When you can do that with a team in a season, that's great. I'm very proud of my teammates. Every game, we went out there and fought hard. I couldn't have done anything without them."
Roundtree is most proud that his two hands almost are sufficient to count the number of games the Tigers lost in his career as a starter (13). There were so many more victories (85).
"How many people are able to do that?" he said.
Roundtree will miss Edwardsville.
"Who doesn't look back on their high-school years and say once or twice that they wouldn't want to go back?" he said. "I had a great time at Edwardsville High School. It really helped me grow as a person, individual, player and student as well."