Goss: A journey culminating in Player of the Year for Morris Dunnigan
March 20, 2013 9:24PM
Morris Dunnigan, of Joliet West, dribbles to the inside past Joliet Central's Jonah Coble. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:16AM
It was evident from the get-go. The task would not be easy.
Longtime observers of boys high school basketball often talked with me about how the overall quality of the game has slipped, especially here in the Joliet area.
While it was difficult to argue that point, as the recently completed season progressed, I kept thinking about some of the individuals in our area.
We had the outstanding seniors. Bolingbrook 6-foot-8 forward Ben Moore was going to SMU. Joliet West versatile guard Morris Dunnigan was 100 percent healthy and looking much stronger, with the pounds he added in the upper body while continuing to rehab from an ACL tear suffered as a sophomore.
When you consider their scoring ability, the range on their shot, their ballhandling, passing and willingness to get after it defensively, Lemont’s Juozas Balciunas and Providence’s Kevin Kozan were the epitome of what you want in your point guard.
The competition, of course, is open to all. But when it came time to determine our Herald-News 2012-13 All-Area Team, the Player of the Year figured to come from those four.
At the opposite end of the experience spectrum were a group of sophomores who not only create excitement for the future, they’re not bad players right now.
When you review our 16-player All-Area Team in this edition, you will notice Providence’s Miles Boykin, Plainfield East’s Aaron Jordan, Bolingbrook’s Prentiss Nixon and Plainfield North’s Trevor Stumpe. All are sophomores, and all had seasons worthy of All-Area honors.
Without going back through all the previous All-Area teams, I would venture to say having sophomores comprise 25 percent of the first team is unusual. Other competitors will emerge, of course, but if those four remain on their current paths, imagine attempting to choose one as the player of the year in 2014 or 2015.
As they say, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
For now, let’s review the 2012-13 Player of the Year competition among Dunnigan, Moore, Balciunas and Kozan.
All four had excellent statistics. Kozan and Balciunas scored around 20 points per game, Dunnigan 17-plus and Moore 16-plus. When you include stats other than scoring, Moore arguably had the best overall line.
Moore also was the only one of the four mentioned on the Associated Press Class 4A All-State Team as he received an honorable mention nod.
The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association named Moore a second team 3A/4A All-State selection, while Dunnigan, Kozan and Balciunas were on the third team.
The coaches of each talked about his kid being the best player they have coached, or certainly one of the best. Each understandably said his kid should be considered strongly for our Player of the Year.
I talked with several media members who covered games that involved our finalists to get their opinions. I also talked with some area coaches whose teams played against two or more of the finalists.
Once I combined all their thoughts with what I observed in covering games throughout the season, I came to a conclusion.
This was a decision where you can’t go wrong. They’re all outstanding.
At the same time, you can’t win. No matter which player you pick, there are legitimate arguments why any of the other three should have been chosen.
It comes down to the eye test. You rely on statistics to some degree, but the final decision is a result what you observe, how much a player influences his team’s success. What kind of year did his team have, and what kind of year would it have had without him?
Again, that was not easy to determine. Imagine West without Dunnigan, Providence without Kozan, Bolingbrook without Moore and Lemont without Balciunas, and tell me who had the most positive influence on his team’s fortunes.
But we had to name someone. Finally, after reviewing all the information, reviewing what other media members and coaches thought, pondering the influence each finalist had on his team, I came back to Dunnigan, his aggressiveness, the way he took over games. He is our Player of the Year.
This might have been a down year overall, but we had four awfully good seniors who gave me headaches as I tried to choose one. I’m going to miss covering them all.
Bring on the next group.