Boys Basketball

Former Belleville West forward named to All-Decade team by Chicago Sun-Times

Still two weeks away from making his college basketball debut, former Belleville West forward EJ Liddell has earned another high school honor.

A two-time Illinois Mr. Basketball who led the Maroons to Class 4A state championships each of the last two years, Liddell has been honored by the Chicago Sun-Times as a member of its All-Decade first team.

The team is comprised of players who played from the 2009-10 through the 2018-19 seasons and includes several former college and current NBA players. It is based upon the players’ overall high school career and the individual high school résumés.

Liddell, a 6-7 forward, who joined former Simeon and Duke University great Jabari Parker as the only two time-winners of Illinois’ Mr. Basketball, was the top college prospect in the state and among the top 40 in the nation a year ago when he averaged 20.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and blocked 144 shots.

“I think it is remarkable that a young man from Southern Illinois could make the first team of an all-decade team,” said former Belleville West coach Joe Muniz, who guided the Maroons to both state championships. “To be considered as one of the five best players in this decade is a huge accomplishment, especially with the quality of players that were on that list.

“I also think EJ deserves the right to be considered as one of the five best players in this decade. I believe Jabari Parker is the only player to have accomplished what EJ has accomplished in his high school career. I think that says it all.’’

Joining Liddell on the first team are Jalen Brunson (Lincolnshire Stevenson), Jahlil Okafor (Chicago Whitney Young), Parker and Tyler Ulis (Marian Catholic).

Second team selections were Cliff Alexander (Chicago Curie), Ryan Boatright (East Aurora), Anthony Davis (Perspectives MSA), Chasson Randle (Rock Island) and Jereme Richmond (Waukegan).

“I know it is hard to think about it now and put it into the proper perspective, but EJ Liddell is going to go down as one of the best high school basketball players in the history of Illinois basketball,’’ Muniz said. “ Winning two state championships and winning two Illinois Mr. Basketball’s and not being from Chicago is simply remarkable. ‘’

Just missing the list were former Belleville East great Malcolm Hill and Jordan Goodwin, who played at Althoff and is currently a junior at St. Louis University.

Liddell is currently competing for playing time in his freshman year at Ohio State University. Ranked 18th in The Associated Press top 25 preseason poll, Ohio State opens its season Nov. 6 against Cincinnati.

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Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.