City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year: Glenbard West’s Braden Huff

After being named the Sun-Times Player of the Year earlier this month, Huff can now add another personal accolade to his individual résumé.

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Glenbard West’s Braden Huff (34) backs St. Charles North’s Ethan Marlowe toward the basket.

Glenbard West’s Braden Huff (34) backs St. Charles North’s Ethan Marlowe toward the basket.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

As Editor/Publisher of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, a high school basketball publication for nearly two decades and a recruiting service for the past 25-plus years, I have awarded a Player of the Year in Illinois for the past 26 years. The following is the 27th recipient of the award.

Braden Huff is a 6-11 marvel with his super skill level. He’s headed to a college basketball giant in Gonzaga. He was a central figure in what has been the biggest basketball story on the year. And, most importantly, he led a program with little to no basketball history to a state championship.

After being named the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year earlier this month, Huff can now add another personal accolade to his individual résumé: City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year.

Huff talks about it all in this postseason discussion.

He discusses what he calls the “far-fetched” dreams of a 14-year-old kid and playing with his buddies for a state championship. He politely rationalizes the absurdity of his national ranking and what will be his biggest adjustment to life at Gonzaga. And he shares his excitement in watching his future college team.

Here is Huff on plenty of topics –– in his words:

That was our group’s goal as eighth-graders, coming in as freshmen. We really felt like we could achieve a state championship at that time. Many people thought it was pretty far-fetched, especially with the lack of basketball history in our town.

I always had the passion and dream to play Division I, strongly developing that in middle school. But you don’t know at that time how good you are going to get and how hard it was to get to that level. Going into my sophomore year I felt more comfortable playing, and then when the first coach had me reach out to them, I think I started to realize that if I keep working I can get to that next level. Knowing college coaches were interested in me only motivated me more to reach that goal, realizing that it was possible.

Coach [Emanuel] Dildy was the first college coach I talked to when he was at Northwestern.

It was a dream come true to play with these guys this year. On the court we are all so unselfish and it was a fun brand of basketball to play. But off the court we are all just really good friends who love hanging out together, joking around. And to do this with this group and to achieve things that have never been done before with this group, with your buddies who you grew up with, is really cool and rare and an unbelievable feeling.

It’s still a little wild to me when I think about it, and it’s taking some time for it to sink in. But to win a state title and do it in the fashion we did it is really cool. The whole community was behind us. Seeing all these little kids around town playing basketball outside, now that the weather is getting nicer, is really cool to see.

Obviously winning that state championship will be my favorite memory to look back on. But that Sierra Canyon game, despite losing, was an unforgettable experience.

It’s obviously a cool honor to be ranked. But for me, I think, I’ve talked about this multiple times, to be in the position I am in accomplishing the goals I have, I am more than happy where I’m at. I didn’t really use that [lack of a national ranking] as motivation or a chip on my shoulder. I for sure get excited to play games against those [ranked] players, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily because of the rankings. It’s just that I enjoy the competition and competing against the best and see where I stack up against other talented players. It’s cool to be ranked, but for me I just don’t think it’s truly that important, because once you get to college that stuff goes away and doesn’t matter.

I’ve got a lot of work to do –– post moves, finishing over both shoulders at the college level is so important, especially with the in-depth scouting reports at that level. You have to be able to finish over both shoulders and both hands. Just working on my shot, getting used to the college three. I’m really excited to get to Gonzaga to see the pace they play at and go up against that at practice, because it’s hard to emulate that at the high school level, and I know it’s a completely different pace and different game. I think to compete against that and get used to it is going to be important for me.

It’s awesome and really exciting for me to watch all of Gonzaga’s games this season. They obviously have a dominant frontcourt with Drew [Timme] and Chet [Holmgren]. Watching those guys, especially Chet and seeing him get the ball and push it in transition on his own, making guard plays, and then seeing Drew in the post and his footwork. … I am just going to learn so much from that coaching staff with how they develop their bigs and how they get them ready for that level. That’s exciting for me. I have a lot of room to grow, so seeing all that, I just want to get on campus and take in as much as I can and learn.

Past City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year winners

2022: Braden Huff, Glenbard West

2021: Max Christie, Rolling Meadows

2020: DJ Steward, Young

2019: EJ Liddell, Belleville West

2018: Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon

2017: Mark Smith, Edwardsville

2016: Charlie Moore, Morgan Park

2015: Jalen Brunson, Stevenson

2014: Jahlil Okafor, Young

2013: Jahlil Okafor, Young

2012: Jabari Parker, Simeon

2011: Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park

2010: Jereme Richmond, Waukegan

2009: Drew Crawford, Naperville Central

2008: Kevin Dillard, Homewood-Flossmoo

2007: Derrick Rose, Simeon

2006: Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North

2005: Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North

2004: Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central

2003: Shannon Brown, Proviso East

2002: Dee Brown, Proviso East

2001: Pierre Pierce, Westmont

2000: Dwyane Wade, Richards

1999: Leon Smith, King

1998: Quentin Richardson, Young

1997: Brian Wardle, Hinsdale Central

1996: Ronnie Fields, Farragut

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