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2017 Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year: Thornton’s Alonzo Verge

Thornton's Alonzo Verge (4) dribbles toward the basket as Bloom's Jovante Slater (21) defends, March 3, 2017 Allen Cunningham / for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Alonzo Verge emerged as a fully-formed star in 2014. It was impossible to take your eyes off the sophomore with the floppy braids. Verge had the ability to pile up points at will and played with a confident, stylish flair.

“Everything was happening so fast, I didn’t expect it,” Verge said. “I was getting scholarship offers, newspaper articles. It took awhile to get used to. I couldn’t do the same normal things other kids can do.”

Then he disappeared. Verge left Willowbrook for Arlington Country Day in Florida. It turned out to be a solid move for him personally, being away from home helped him mature. But Verge’s absence left a hole in the area’s basketball scene.

Verge returned this season. The braids were gone and he was playing for his club basketball coach, Tai Streets, at Thornton.

“[Streets] was just a real cool dude, a real cool coach,” Verge said. “My dad lived out in this area anyway, so that was convenient for us.”

The 6-3 guard fully delivered on all his promise, turning in a spectacular senior season. The numbers are eye-popping: 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals per game.

“He’s always been that flashy player,” Tricia Moncrief, Verge’s mom, said. “He always looked for the oohs and ahhs from the crowd, he’s just that way.”

Verge was born in Aurora and grew up in Hillside and Bellwood. His father, Alonzo Verge Sr., was a star at Proviso West. Verge Sr. averaged 25 points his senior season and was a Sun-Times All-Area and All-State selection.

“I was always compared to him growing up,” Verge said. “Are you gonna be better than your dad when you get older? Things like that. I tried not to pay too much attention to it.”

Verge didn’t play basketball his freshman year. His mom wanted him to focus on school. Then he was suspended for the playoffs sophomore year after getting into some trouble. Since going to Florida, things have calmed down.

“I had to change a lot of things and grow mentally in Florida,” Verge said. “I had to mature, I was by myself all the time. It was a prep school, we all had our own apartments and stuff like that. It was a big adjustment for me. I was happy that I made that move, it helped me grow as a person and be more mature and get ready for college.”

Verge led the Wildcats to the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament title and an undefeated conference season. He hit his peak late in the season, astonishing fans with a dominant performance in the regional finals against Bloom.

After the game, he found his mom in the crowd and gave her a long hug before heading into the locker room.

“It all started when he was really young,” Moncrief said. “He would get up and play everyday before first grade, as long as he could before the bus picked him up. He always had a basketball in his hands, it was almost like he was destined to play. Everyone saw it. I knew early on he was going to be really good.”

Verge’s high school travels have made qualifying for college a challenge.

“I am hoping that he does qualify,” Moncrief said. “Based on where we are now it is looking really good. There are a few other things. I’m hoping he gets into a four-year college and is able to play on that big stage.”

Verge’s high school career may have perfectly prepared him for the junior college route.

“If I do go to a junior college, I’m just going to have to work my way up like I did before,” Verge said. “I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just another adjustment that I will have to make and that I’m ready to make.”

There is one college that Verge always seems to mention: Illinois.

“I always wanted to get out of Chicago,” Verge said. “I wanted to explore different things. I know people that only know one corner and they’ve never been off that corner.

If I did have a chance to go to Illinois I would make that move, that would be a good move to make.”

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

2017—Alonzo Verge, Thornton

2016—Charlie Moore, Morgan Park

2015—Jalen Brunson, Stevenson

2014—Cliff Alexander, Curie

2013—Jahlil Okafor, Young

2012—Jabari Parker, Simeon

2011—Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park

2010—Jereme Richmond, Waukegan

2009—Jereme Richmond, Waukegan

2008—Kevin Dillard, Homewood-Flossmoor

2007—Derrick Rose, Simeon

2006—Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North

2005—DeAndre Thomas, Westinghouse

2004–Calvin Brock, Simeon

2003—Shannon Brown, Proviso East

2002—Sean Dockery, Julian

2001—Eddy Curry, Thornwood

2000—Cedrick Banks, Westinghouse

1999—Leon Smith, King

1998—Quentin Richardson, Young

1997—Melvin Ely, Thornton

1996—Ronnie Fields, Farragut

1995—Kevin Garnett, Farragut

1994—Jerry Gee, St. Martin de Porres

1993—Rashard Griffith, King

1992—Chris Collins, Glenbrook North

1991—Sherell Ford, Proviso East

1990—Jamie Brandon, King

1989—Deon Thomas, Simeon

1988—Eric Anderson, de Sales

1987—Marcus Liberty, King

1986—Nick Anderson, Simeon

1985—Michael Ingram, Proviso West

1984—Hersey Hawkins, Westinghouse

1983—Len Bertolini, St. Patrick

1982—Bernard Jackson, Phillips

1981—Walter Downing, Providence

1980—Glenn Rivers, Proviso East

1979—Isiah Thomas, St. Joseph

1978—Mark Aguirre, Westinghouse

1977—Eddie Johnson, Westinghouse

1976—Glen Grunwald, East Leyden

1975—Pete Boesen, Maine South

1974—Audie Matthews, Bloom

1973—Mark Vitali, St. Charles

1972—Quinn Buckner, Thornridge

1971—Quinn Buckner, Thornridge

1970—Lloyd Batts, Thornton

1969—Jim Brewer, Proviso East

1968—Jeff Hickman, Lockport

1967—Rick Howat, Downers Grove

1966—Rich Bradshaw, Marshall

1965—Terry Hurley, Steinmetz

1964—Eugene Ford, Crane

1963—Joe Allen, Carver

1962—Cazzie Russell, Carver

1961—Bob Caress, Thornton

1960—George Wilson, Marshall