O’Brien: Breaking down the race for Player of the Year

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Ayo Dosunmu (11) looks for an open player under the basket against Bogan. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

The season began with two clear Player of the Year favorites, Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu and Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker. They are still the favorites, but neither has grabbed a definitive lead in the race, and some new contenders have emerged.

This is a light week of games as we gear up for the massive slate of holiday-tournament action, so it is a good time to take stock of the Player of the Year race. Things will look much different in January, but this is where things stand right now.

Tier one

Dosunmu: The Illinois recruit is averaging 26 points, so he has more than lived up to his status as the preseason favorite with his individual performance. He scored 51 points and had 10 assists Thursday against Kenwood. The Mustangs have had a rocky start to the season, though. All their losses are to high-quality teams, but they are only 4-3.

Horton-Tucker: The Iowa State recruit is averaging 21 points and nine rebounds and has helped lead the Wolverines to a 6-0 start. Simeon beat Morgan Park on the road. Horton-Tucker’s biggest game was a 41-point, eight-rebound effort against Highland Park (Texas) this past weekend. He has some major competition on his own team, though.

Messiah Jones, Simeon: This might be a surprise to some, but Jones is in the thick of the race. He’s averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds. If not for battling foul trouble in the Wolverines’ opener, his overall numbers might be better than Horton-Tucker’s.

Javon Freeman, Young: Freeman probably was considered a fringe candidate when the season started, but he is a major threat now. The Valparaiso recruit is averaging 23 points and posted consecutive 30-plus efforts last week. Freeman will entertain the crowds at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. A title at that prestigious event would be a major feather in his cap.

Tier two

Jalen Shaw, Larkin: The big man is a force. He’s averaging 18 points and 15 rebounds. The Royals lost to Young during Thanksgiving week, but Shaw was sensational with 21 points and 20 rebounds. The Proviso West Holiday Tournament is Shaw’s big chance to boost his candidacy.

Drew Peterson, Libertyville: The uncommitted senior has drawn interest from Wisconsin, Illinois and DePaul, among others. He’s averaging 26 points and has put up huge numbers against some of the better teams in the area. He scored 35 points against Evanston and 37 against Waukegan. Peterson might finish the season with the best individual stats in the state, but the Wildcats are only 5-4. Libertyville has to win more for Peterson to get serious consideration.

Ryan Davis, Conant: The Vermont recruit isn’t a major star, but he’s playing like one. Davis is averaging 26 points and 14 rebounds. He opened the season by scoring 38 points and grabbing 21 rebounds against Highland Park. But Davis, like Peterson, will need his team to give him more help. The Cougars are only 5-4.

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