10 players to watch in the Class 4A state finals

Five stars and five unsung heroes to keep an eye on in the Class 4A semifinals

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Glenbard West’s Caden Pierce (3) throws down a shot as the Hilltoppers play St. Charles North.

Glenbard West’s Caden Pierce (3) throws down a shot as the Hilltoppers play St. Charles North.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

We are here, the final weekend of the season with four teams fighting for a state championship in Class 4A.

With the most important games of the season set to be played, the State Finals in Champaign will provide a platform for several of the state’s top players.

Five Class 4A stars to watch in Champaign

Braden Huff, Glenbard West

The biggest name, tallest player and most highly-regarded prospect in Champaign this weekend.

Huff, the Sun-Times Player of the Year, is a rare talent at 6-11 who is often the de facto point guard. The Gonzaga recruit is a game-changing offensive orchestrator as a gifted passer with three-point range and post-up threat around the rim.

Caden Pierce, Glenbard West

The 6-5 Pierce is arguably the most disruptive perimeter defender in the state. WIth his size, length and high activity level, he’s a menacing figure atop the vaunted 1-3-1 Glenbard West defense. He plays with a relentless defensive mindset.

While he’s an elite defender, Pierce, who is headed to Princeton, boasts an impressive physical profile and a versatile offensive game. He can score at the rim and knock a three down while handling some primary ball handling duties.

AJ Casey, Young

For a player who has been a prominent name in high school basketball since he entered high school, it’s only fitting he finishes his career on the biggest stage in the final weekend of the season.

Always a tantalizing 6-8 prospect throughout his high school career, Casey is playing consistent and productive basketball for the Dolphins. And he’s getting it done in a variety of ways.

Xavier Amos, Young

People forget the 6-8 Northern Illinois recruit is one of the top 10 prospects in the state in the senior class. His combination of size and scoring acumen for a big man are impressive.

Amos runs the floor, finishes around the rim, can play with his back to the basket and has the capability to make plays in a variety of ways.

Will Grudzinski, Barrington

A Division III recruiting steal for Washington University in St. Louis, Grudzinski has been on a roll. The versatile 6-6 senior is averaging 19.1 points a game but has been huge down the stretch of the regular season and throughout the state tournament.

This is a heady, competitive player who can drain threes — he has knocked down 95 threes on the year — and slash to the rim off the dribble.

Five Class 4A unsung heroes to watch in Champaign

Dalen Davis, Young

He may be on the unsung list but Davis could be included in the above category when he’s locked in and playing well.

This is a Division I prospect in the junior class who makes the Dolphins go at the point guard position. His playmaking continues to evolve while becoming a scoring threat off the bounce.

Bobby Durkin, Glenbard West

There is a ton of talk about Glenbard West being loaded with homegrown talent and growing up playing together. But the value the Hilltoppers have received from the 6-6 Durkin, a transfer from Hinsdale South, has been a monstrous addition this season.

When the ball is moving crisply in the half court, it always seems to land in Durkin’s hands at the most opportune times — and back-breaking ones for opponents. Durkin is a major threat as a spot-up shooter from the three-point line. Plus, he’s crafty, smart and one of the better uncommitted prospects remaining in the senior class.

Paxton Warden, Glenbard West

A true definition of “unsung hero” for the state’s top-ranked team as Glenbard West’sfourth double-figure scorer. Warden, who plays with sneaky athleticism, does a little bit of everything for coach Jason Opoka.

He rebounds well, defends and spaces the floor with 66 three-pointers on the season.The Illinois walk-on recruit finds his points in unexpected ways in averaging 11.3 points a game.

Michael Osei-Bonsu, Bolingbrook

Osei-Bonsu is a true March underdog story, an undersized big man at 6-4 who plays a bruising style and produces. Although a relative unknown, he’s a consistent presence for the Raiders.

In addition to being a double-double machine averaging 11.8 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, he competes at a high level and takes up space defensively with his physicality.

Daniel Hong, Barrington

It’s impossible not to like and appreciate how Hong plays and all that he does for his team.

The tough and reliable Hong (12.3 ppg) is an intelligent floor general who commands an offense. Most importantly, he makes winning plays when it matters the most. The 6-2 senior will knock a three down, scrap for rebounds and loose balls while also setting the table for others.

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