Belleville West dropped the championship game to Sam Houston Math and Science, but the Maroons probably made a point with Illinois pollsters at the Washington Tournament of Champions last week.
Whether or not they’re in the Top 10 when the Associated Press poll is released later this week is of little consequence to junior guard Lawrence Brazil III. He says the solid start reflects the solid foundation on which the Maroons are built.
It starts, of course, with all-state junior EJ Liddell, who averaged 27 points in four games and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. But three transfers — Brazill included — are filling out a stacked roster that will likely put the Maroons on that AP poll sooner or later.
“We played well last week but I think we can and I know we will play better as the season goes on. I’m from here (Belleville) and I’ve played with these guys EJ (Liddell) and Keith (Randolph) for a long time,” Brazil said. “I know what they can do.”
Brazil and junior Keith Randolph, both Belleville residents, started their high school careers at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis. Malachi Smith, a physical guard, moved over from crosstown Belleville East in time for his senior season.
The trio combined for 138 points and 63 rebounds at the Washington tournament.
Belleville West coach Joe Muniz, although pleased with how Smith and Brazil have played in the early going of the season, said it will take time for the Maroons to be the team he thinks they can become.
“EJ has played for two years, and Malachi has a lot of varsity experience, while Keith has some varsity experience. But we’re still a relatively young basketball team, and not a lot of those kids have played a lot of varsity minutes,” Muniz said. “For a lot of them the (Washington tournament) was the first time they had played in this type of big-time atmosphere ...
“That being said, this was a good experience for these kids. I saw a lot of good things from this basketball team. But I also saw a lot of areas that we need to work on to get to the level to we want to be at.”
Randolph, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound forward who averaged 6.7 points in 28 games in his first season with the Maroons, has been as good as advertised in the first four games this season. Currently averaging 10.3 points, he already has a pair of double-doubles with 16 points and 12 rebounds against College Station, and 12 points and 11 rebounds against Sam Houston.
“I’m off to a pretty good start. I’ve got a couple of double-doubles, but it could also be better,” Randolph said before practice Monday. “I was back (in Belleville) last year, and I’m happy being here. Commuting back and forth to St. Louis every day, that was tough.
“We’re not where we will be later in the season. We’ve all played a lot of basketball together, but we know can play better. Our team chemistry is getting better as we go along here. We’re all working for the same goal.”
Brazil is averaging 12.5 and has used his quickness to create havoc for opposing guards. The 5-11 junior leads the Maroons in steals with 11.
SWC at the E is Saturday
The battle for the Southwestern Conference boys basketball championship begins Saturday when the second annual SWC at the E event takes place at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
All eight SWC schools will take part in the event at the Vadalabene Center. Alton will take on Granite City in the first game beginning at 3:30 p.m., and O’Fallon will battle Collinsville at 5 p.m.
The East St. Louis Flyers, featuring 6-5 forward Terrance Hargrove, will play Belleville East beginning at 6:30 p.m. Liddell then leads Belleville West against Edwardsville at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $5 and are good for all four games. Tickets will be sold at the door.