PEORIA—Belleville West’s EJ Liddell, the state’s best senior, announced his arrival in town Wednesday night on Twitter: “I’m back Peoria.”
“It’s awesome to be back,” Liddell said Thursday at the Maroon’s shoot-around at Carver Arena. “I didn’t know we were going to get here last year and didn’t know how great of an experience it would be. I’m just taking it all in and having fun.”
Liddell, an Ohio State recruit, led the Maroons to the Class 4A title last season. Despite Curie’s 34-1 record and undefeated in-state run, Belleville West is a favorite to repeat this season.
“We have two more games guaranteed left,” Liddell said. “No matter what happens I’m just going to leave it all on the floor.”
The Maroons are 32-4. They beat Simeon this season and Young in the state title game last season, so have more than proven they can hang with the Public League’s elite teams.
“[Chicago] doubted us last year too,” Liddell said. [The Public League] is a great league, they produce a lot of great players. But we want to show that downstate is good too, our Southwest Conference is great basketball too. East St. Louis is also here in Class 3A.”
Liddell, last year’s Mr. Basketball winner and the favorite for the award this season, averaged 20.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 3 assists.
Belleville West has a chance to be the first team to repeat as Class 4A state champs since Simeon and Jabari Parker finished off the four-peat in 2013.
Leading a team to multiple big school state titles is a rare feat. That is Parker, Shaun Livingston, Derrick Rose territory. Liddell says he hasn’t thought about the legacy he might leave behind in Peoria this weekend, but it sounds like his coach has.
“I’m just having fun and thinking about helping my teammates win,” Liddelll said. “[Belleville West coach Joe Muniz] has told us we could go down as one of the best teams ever in the state. That’s something to look forward to.”
Liddell, a First Team All-State selection, could give Curie some serious problems in the post in the semifinals on Friday.
“We will try and take advantage inside since they play five guards,” Liddell said. “But that also give us matchup problems too. We are going to have to play out on the perimeter more, which we don’t usually do.”
Liddell is joined on the First Team by Curie’s DaJuan Gordon, Brother Rice’s Marquise Kennedy, Alton’s Donovan Clay and Young junior DJ Steward.
2019 Chicago Sun-Times All-State basketball team
Player, School, Position, Height, Year
Donovan Clay, Alton, G, 6-7 Sr.
DaJuan Gordon, Curie, F, 6-4, Sr.
Marquise Kennedy, Brother Rice, G, 6-1, Sr.
EJ Liddell, Belleville West, F, 6-7, Sr.
DJ Steward, Young, G, 6-4, Jr.
Bryant Brown, Waukegan, F, 6-4, Sr.
RayJ Dennis, Oswego East, G, 6-2, Sr.
Jack McDonald, Geneva, G, 5-11, Sr.
Sincere Parker, Rockford East, G, 6-4, Jr.
Tom Welch, Naperville North, F, 6-8, Sr.
Rashaun Agee, Bogan, F, 6-8, Sr.
Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep, G, 6-4, Sr.
Terrence Hargrove, East St. Louis, F, 6-7, Sr.
Jeremiah Hernandez, St. Viator, G, 6-4, Sr.
Adam Miller, Morgan Park, G, 6-4, Jr.
Jordan Booker, Bogan, G, 5-9, Sr.
Terrion Murdix, Springfield Southeast, G, 6-3, Sr.
Isaiah Rivera, Geneseo, F, 6-5, Jr.
Aaron Strong, Farragut, G, 6-2, Sr.
Jeremiah Williams, St. Laurence, G, 6-4, Jr.
DaChaun Anderson, Leo, F, 6-7, Sr.
Bryce Bultman, Nashville, F, 6-5, Sr.
Devon House, Sterling Newman, F, 6-8, Jr.
Markese Jacobs, Uplift, G, 6-0, Sr.
Tujautae Williams, Orr, G, 6-7, Sr.
Fred Cleveland Jr., Leo, G, 5-10, Sr.
Dhashon Dyson, Corliss, G, 6-1, Sr.
Ryland Holt, Gibson City, F, 6-5, Sr.
Sherif Kenney, Orr, G, 6-4, Sr.
Malcolm Miller, Shelbyville, G, 6-4, Sr.
Emmitt Gordon III, Madison, G, 6-3, Sr.
Connor Heaton, Moweaqua Central A&M, G, 6-5, Jr.
Deion Jackson, Providence-St. Mel, G, 6-3, Sr.
Tyriel Nelson, Providence-St. Mel, G, 6-2, Sr.
Christian Stadeli, Cissna Park, C, 6-7, Sr.
Coltin Quagliano, Kewanee Wethersfield, G, 5-10, So.
Jack Snook, Ottawa Marquette, G, 6-1, Sr.
Garrett Snow, Triopia, F, 6-3, Sr.
DeMarcus Williams, Collins, G, 5-9, Sr.
Tyler Winchester, Sesser-Valier, G, 6-2, Sr.