All-Decade high school sports chat with David Kvidahl

All-Decade high school sports chat with David Kvidahl

Bring your questions and comments about the All-Decade basketball team (Liddell over Beal and Tatum?) and talk to STLhighschoolsports.com writer David Kvidahl in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

    Welcome to the STLhighschoolsports.com All-Decade boys basketball live chat!
    You've been clear that you think Illinois high school basketball is superior to Missouri's brand. Can you list some reasons why you think that? I respect your authority on the topic.
    Starting off hot! #618hoops plays stellar basketball. The Southwestern Conference rivals the Metro Catholic Conference, the old Suburban North and any other league you want to throw in there for talent and depth. It takes a backseat to no one. They play excellent basketball across the Mississippi. They also have one less classification (Illinois has 4A, Missouri has Class 5) and they have to go through Chicago which is why it's harder to make the state semifinals much less win it. There are an abundance of teams and players from the Metro East that had great careers but ran into the Windy City's best along the path. Championships are hard to come by, especially as a large school, and it's not due to a lack of talent.
    Were you surprised by the amount of attention that your list drew? What was the most surprising reaction?
    Not at all. This city loves its basketball and is passionate about it. The #STLhoops crowd is deep and supportive. In the current coronavirus world we live in sports fans are short on things to keep their attention. I'm all for watching KBO if that's your bag but there's just not a lot to talk about. The All-Decade series we've put together at STLhighschoolsports.com has been a great way to walk down memory lane and remember good times and great players in all the sports we cover. 
    The boys basketball team was going to be among the hottest topics because we've had such a depth of elite talent in the last decade and everyone has their favorites. I wasn't surprised when folks wanted their guy included. Honestly, the biggest surprise I've come across doing the All-Decade series was when the football team came out and the long snappers were frustrated they weren't included. That caught me off guard. 
    My question is about picking Roosevelt Jones over Jordan Goodwin. How did that happen?
  • Full disclosure here: I graduated from SLU in 2001. So anyone that becomes a Billiken does get a special place in my heart. However, J Good was on the fast track to the first team. He led Althoff to a runner-up finish as a sophomore, a state title as a junior and was going to see what he could do in Class 4A as a senior until he got hurt. If Goodwin doesn't get hurt there's a great argument for him on the first team. 
    Roosevelt was O'Fallon's best all-around player and the top player in the Southwestern Conference as a junior. He led the Panthers in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks while playing stellar defense and being the No. 1 guy on every opponent's scouting report. He got close as a junior when the Panthers finished fourth in Class 4A in their second state appearance ever. Roosevelt's overall impact and his impressive three seasons helped nudge him over J. Good...but it wasn't easy by any stretch. 
    Did Xavier Sneed come up in any conversations for 2nd or 3rd team?
    Xavier was on the short list. An outstanding swingman at Hazelwood Central he was key as the Hawks made it to state in 2014, their first appearance in 20 years. Had they not run into the Jimmy Whitt Show and Hickman in the semis maybe they play CBC for the championship and see what happens. 
    As a junior and senior Xavier had an unfortunate playoff path that put him and the Hawks in front of those stacked Chaminade teams before they got anywhere near Columbia. But Xavier was a really, really good and had a nice career at Kansas State. 
    What is the best performance you saw from one of the first teamers?
    Whew, that's tough. I saw a lot of these guys in their time. Beal's 44 point performance against O'Fallon in the Coaches vs Cancer Shootout really stands out (as does his championship performance as a sophomore). Ramey's semifinal against Kickapoo as a junior when he pulled Webster in front in the final moments was unforgettable. Liddell put on a show at the Highland Shootout against Vashon that still rings bells. 
    Tatum's game against Malik Monk at Chaminade really stands out. Monk and his Bentonville team beat the Red Devils the year prior in Arkansas. When they came up this way Tatum had something waiting with a 40 point, 14 rebound, 5 assist night and a clear victory against another future first-round NBA pick. Even Mayor Slay came out for that one. 
    Then again, Tatum did give his dad 45 and 10 in the quarterfinal to go to state in their only playoff meeting. So that's up there, too. I guess I can't pick just one!  
    Did Tyrin Williams come up on your radar when picking the teams?
    Tyrin AKA TY was another guy who was on the radar but ultimately did not make a team. A gifted combo guard at Riverview, he put on the single-best shooting performance I've seen in my time when he went 9 of 12 from behind the arc and scored 43 to beat an up and coming Chaminade (when Tatum, Cook, Gladson, Lewis were freshmen) to win Kirkwood's Denver Miller Classic.  He hit 50 the year before against Northwest Academy. That 50 point club is pretty exclusive. 
    He came up but his resume was not as robust as the final 15. 
    Was some of the criteria you used for EJ to be over Jayson is that he won two state championships compared to Jayson and Brad 1 state? Not to disrespect EJ at all because what he did was impressive but Jayson Stats were crazy 3 time gatorade player of the year gotta mean something right?.. Brad is as well and had to do a lot his senior season. 30 ppg a game is what it is.
  • Jayson is the most decorated high school basketball player in the area this past decade. I don't think there is any doubt about that. But this wasn't about who Gatorade thought was the best player in Missouri (or the country for that matter). It was the player of the decade and EJ Liddell did things no one from around these parts has done in a long time or ever. 
    He's the first player from the Metro East to go back-to-back since LaPhonso Ellis at East St. Louis Lincoln which speaks to just how hard it is to win in Illinois. He was the second guy ever to be Illinois Mr. Basketball in back to back seasons (joining Simeon's Jabari Parker). And EJ did it with a supporting cast that was good but not loaded with elite basketball talent. As a junior he had Malachi Smith (Wright State) to run with. That's his lone D1 teammate. Keith Randolph is a D1 football player (Illinois), Will Shumpert is a D1 football guy (Eastern Illinois), Lawrence Brazil III signed with UMSL. 
    Another big piece of the puzzle was not only did Liddell win as a junior, he had to defend his title as a senior. For all their accolades Beal and Tatum never knew that weight. It's incredibly hard to win, it's even harder to defend it. Every game they were coming for Mr. Basketball's head and, in the end, no one could beat him (except East St. Louis who actually won the Southwestern Conference in 18-19 before it won its first state championship in 3A). When you add it all up we felt what Liddell was able to accomplish with his boys at Belleville West made him a worthy choice as the player of the decade. 
    While it was Liddell’s offense that people remember his play on the defensive end was always on display, was that a factor in your decision along with his 2 Illinois State championships and 2 Mr Basketball awards?
    EJ Liddell is the single-most dominating defensive player I've seen in my nearly 20 years of covering high school sports in the area. He averaged 6 blocks per game as a senior and nearly 4 per game for his four-year varsity career. And those are only the ones he got his hands on. He altered ever more because of his size, leaping ability and the fact he was in the back of every opponent's mind when they went into the paint. They never knew if he'd come careening across the lane and pound that layup off the glass.
    Also if the season isn’t canceled and Caleb Love wins state does that push him into first team?
    C. Love is up next. He's the first All-American selection in the area since Tatum in 2016. Liddell and Courtney Ramey were not bestowed those honors (though they both went back to back so there's that). 
    Caleb was the best player in town this year (as he was selected as the All-Metro player of the year) and had he had the chance to play at state and CBC won the championship that eluded it last year it would have been hard to keep him off the first team. As it is he's the first person to lead CBC to consecutive semifinals since 1958-59-60. 
    I believe the Cadets were the favorites to win Class 5 this year but I also think Chaminade would have made the championship game interesting. The Red Devils had a good senior group, good size and some elite young talent. I don't know if they take down CBC for the first time in five tries but it would have been fun to watch.  
    What about BJ Young? He is definitely one of the top 5 in the last decade. He ended Brad Beal’s high school career and upset an undefeated Chaminade team on the way for McCluer North to win state. If you actually saw him in person, the eye test knows. He started two years at Arkansas and plays professionally overseas. He is the best high school player (while in high school) I have ever seen over the last 20 years. The first game I ever saw him play was against U City in the Borgia tourney...41 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists later I knew he was the real deal...Jordon Granger, Tyler Cook, and Ben McClemore were misses too.
    BJ Young was incredible. His senior year goes down as quite possibly the best senior season for anyone in the last decade. I did see him in person, several times, but the only time I saw him in person was his senior year. He was out of CBC after his freshman year and played 21 varsity games at Hazelwood Central as a sophomore and junior. Because he was unable to put together more than one full varsity season it was hard to add him based solely on the strength of that one season, as amazing as it was. I mean, he scored 859 points! He played 51 varsity games and still broke 1,000 for his career. That's a serious baller.  
    But look at this list, it's full of players who were elite for two, three and some even four years. Longevity matters when you're looking at the 15 best players in a decade. 
    What are your top 5 stl basketball games of the decade?
    My top 5 games of the decade probably go something like this: 
    Chaminade vs. McCluer North in the 2011 QF at UMSL, Brad vs. BJ. 
    Webster Groves vs. Kickapoo in the 2017 semis in CoMo, Webster wins 58-57 then rolls to the title.
    Webster Groves at Vashon in 2017. The V was rocking that night as Webster won 60-59 in a battle of the eventual Class 4 and Class 5 champs. 
    East St. Louis at Belleville West which Liddell came back from injury but East Side eked out the 57-56 win in front of a standing room only crowd as the eventual Class 3A and Class 4A champs went at it. 
    Trinity at Vashon in 2019 was wild. Trinity nearly pulled off the win but Vashon slipped away with a 59-58 win. That was an incredible game and I think really helped push the Wolverines to their Class 3 title that winter. 
    These lists are tough! I've seen so much good hoop over the last decade. 
    Vashon vs Webster at Meramec CC in the 17-18 season was unforgettable
  • That was a wild night in Kirkwood for sure! It was unseasonably warm that night which made the cramped gym that much hotter. They had the doors open at Meramec to try and let some cool air in. 
    A rematch from the year before which Webster slipped by at the V so tensions were pretty high headed into that game and only got hotter when things tipped off. There was some pretty aggressive trash talk directed at Courtney Ramey who had one of the all-time poster dunks when he finished the first half and told the Vashon bench about. Carte'Are Gordon got thrown out of that game after he came off the bench after the horn sounded and knocked over Mario McKinney Jr. as he rushed to celebrate with Ramey and the Statesmen. The referees had to spend a solid five minutes hashing out who got technicals, who was ejected, etc. after halftime because it was just that nuts. 
    Vashon pulled out the 75-70 win but was upended by St. Mary's in the Class 4 sectional at Parkway West. 
    If you really want to create a social media disturbance, name an All-Decade team for every decade starting since 1960. Then watch everybody argue over which decade was better!
    That might not be a bad idea. I wish our statistical database went back that far! But if COVID-19 continues to keep live sports shuttered we just might get there.
    If you were picking all-decade teams (Not players) ... who do you think you would pick for football and basketball?
    For football I think the 2017 CBC team would have to be in that conversation. As would the 2014 CBC team. This year's De Smet group was really, really impressive on both sides of the ball. The 2016 East St. Louis team was loaded but this year's version of the Flyers were even better. When Darren Sunkett calls it the best offense he's ever coached that speaks volumes about where they fall among the area's best. 
    For basketball the 2016 Chaminade team is the king of the court most days. I said this on a podcast the other day but if we could have a four-team tournament with 2016 Chaminade, 2017 Webster Groves, 2018 Belleville West and 2020 Vashon I think that would be a humdinger. I'd love to see how that shook out. 
    Were you surprised that there wasn't as much feedback on football all-decade? what were some of the tougher choices you had there?
    Football is more inclusive because of the game itself. We named 15 total basketball players. We picked 15 offensive linemen. There were 74 players selected for the All-Decade offense, defense and specialists. There are more opportunities to recognize great players and teams simply by the way the team was structured. 
    There was some feedback about Jason Meehan as the defensive player of the decade, some said Terry Beckner at East St. Louis, some said AJ Epenesa at Edwardsville or even Ronnie Perkins from Lutheran North. But at the end of the day Meehan had a strong case, loaded resume and a great story. 
    I was a little surprised that there wasn't more made of not picking Ezekiel Elliott as the offensive player of the decade because his numbers are so mind boggling at John Burroughs. But CBC's Brett Gabbert threw for nearly 9,000 yards, over 100 TDs and was picked off 11 times against one of the best schedules in the area, won back-to-back Class 6 titles and did it while playing the hardest position in sports. He could very well be the best quarterback to come out of St. Louis when it's all said and done. 
    Ask Earl Austin to help. His memory is worth more than statistics :)
    Earl is the Godfather and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the area. He's a legend and I'm proud to say a good friend and mentor.
    That he's one part of the best college basketball broadcast team in the country might play a role in that too. (Let's go Bills) 
    Who are some of the players that were considered and left off all-decade?
    BJ Young (see earlier post) was a tough one to leave off. 
    Wellston's Ben McLemore was incredible. As a junior he averaged 28.3 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 6.2 apg, 2.6 spg and 2.3 bpg and led the team to a state semifinal. When Eskridge closed prior to his senior year it hurt his resume somewhat as he went to Oak Hill and then finished at another school in Texas. But McLemore was a real treat in his time here in town. 
    De Smet's Nolan Berry was a guy who was given a lot of consideration as he was good for 19 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 apg and 2.5 bpg over three varsity seasons and led the Spartans to their last district title and a 2013 Class 5 runner up finish. 
    McCluer's Shaq Boga was among the best point guards in the area in his time as he was good for 18.8 ppg, 4.2 apg and 2.8 spg over four varsity seasons. The Comets were unfortunate in they could not break through the loaded North County district with McCluer North and Hazelwood Central. 
    CBC's Jordan Barnes was pretty dynamic in his three varsity seasons with the Cadets. Ladue's Terrell Lewis (you knew him as Cornell Johnston at the time) was a fantastic point guard that is the school's all-time leader in points and assists. 
    Whitfield's Torrence Watson was among the best scorers in the area in the last decade. He averaged 29 and 31 his junior and senior seasons, respectively, and hit 50 points three times as a senior. 
    St. Mary's guard Josh Robinson averaged 36 ppg and 7 rpg as a senior in 2014 after putting up 25 and 7 as a junior. He was a monster in his time. 
    Vashon's Mario McKinney Jr. is the only area player with three championships on his resume in the last decade but his lack of statistical data made it hard to judge the overall impact he made night to night. He goes down as one of the area's all-time most electric players. You never knew what would happen when Mario was in the gym.  
    I know the whole concept of “closing the borders” is a myth but does it seem to you that Eliah Drinkwitz has already made more progress in that mythical regard in zero seasons than Cuonzo Martin has made in three? Just looking for your informed opinion. I like Cuonzo and hope he succeeds. Thanks.
    Coach Drink has been on a roll since being named top Tiger. He's landing the big fish in his own pond which is huge. But remember, nothing is official until signing day. When the ink dries on the letter of intent we'll get a true gauge of just how persuasive the pitch is to come to CoMo. But he's certainly making it hard for the local guys to not say yes. 
    Coach Martin has done his fair share of snaring talented area guys. Mark Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon, Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson were among the most sought after players in the area in their time. Shoot, Coach K dropped by Mark Smith's house he was just that hot. And it's not like Coach Martin wasn't chasing EJ Liddell. He was in the gym all the time. 
    When it comes to guys like Caleb Love and Cam'Ron Fletcher, any school in the country is going to have a hard time competing with the history, tradition and sales pitch that comes from North Carolina and Kentucky. 
    Incarnet Word only had 3 representatives, couldn’t they possibly had maybe 3 or 4 more?
    Incarnate Word is the single-best basketball program in the area and Dan Rolfes is the among the best coaches in the state if not the nation. However, I have not seen much girls basketball in the area over the last 10 years and was limited in what I could contribute to the selection process. 
    But the Red Knights take a backseat to no one, boys and girls programs included. 
    Thanks to everyone for coming by to read and chat about high school hoops and the All-Decade boys basketball team! It was a really, really tough list to put together because there is such a wealth of talent in the area on both sides of the river. We are blessed here because we have so many amazing players and a large, rabid fan base that loves to watch them, read about them and, as we saw the last few days, debate about them! 
    Please continue to support STLhighschoolsports and the work we do by subscribing to STLtoday and the Post-Dispatch. We haven't played live sports for nearly two months but there is news to chase and stories to write every day. And our our All-Decade spring sports are coming up soon, too. That will include baseball, boys and girls track and field, girls soccer, lacrosse, boys volleyball, water polo, etc. 
    Thanks again for reading, writing and interacting. Until next time!
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