MUNDELEIN – When Carmel Catholic High School boys hoops coach Tim Bowen walked into the Mundelein school for the first time, he came across a big freshman player. His name was Jack George. This ninth-grader stood close to 6-foot-7.
"He was still a pretty good player,'' Bowen said. "Especially for that height. But he needed to do some work.
Three years later, George stands 6-10 and is coming off quite the season for Carmel. It was a winter of success for the Corsairs. Those 25 wins are a school record. That sectional crown was the first since the 1985 season. And the big center averaged a double double during this special campaign. That is he scored 14 points a game and grabbed 10 rebounds.
And for that performance, George is the Suburban Life's boys basketball player of the year.
"This year, he stayed in the post,'' Bowen said. "He did a better job at that. He has a lot of skills with the basketball. He handles the ball really well for a big man and he's made a huge improvement in being physical."
Bowen enjoyed having this big fellow on his best Carmel team.
"He's a fun-loving kid,'' he said. "He likes to tell stories. But during the state tournament, he wasn't smiling. Even during practices, he had a serious look on his face."
With the improvement in his game, George is beginning to get some college looks.
"Colleges are looking at him,'' Bowen said. "He visited Wisconsin-Green Bay."
Now if George is our player of the year, who were the players also in contention for this award? Certainly, George had help from his teammates Michael Barr, who averaged nearly 10 points a game. Billy Kirby and Chris Duff also had strong seasons for the Corsairs. From Warren came the gifted point guard, Eric Gillespie. What a senior season he had. He poured in more than 80 3-pointers and averaged more than 17 points a game. Warren also got help when Adrian Deere returned to the lineup following an injury. He provided senior leadership and could score as well.
Barrington had help in the 3-point shooting department from Austin Madzyrk. Zach Bart and Raplolas Ivanauskas also helped out the Broncos.
Grant's season got help from the fun-to-watch Ryan Noda. He could put on a show out there. Steve Dunning made an impression with his work on the boards.
Round Lake's top player, Karnell Wright, led the Panthers this season. He averaged 16 points a game.
From Grayslake North came the prized sophomore, Aidan Einloth. At 6-foot-4, he bears watching. This season, he poured in 14 points a game.
On the other side of town, the Grayslake Central Rams had a decent year. Charlie Anderson and Malcolm Reed led the way for the Rams.
Wauconda had its moments this winter. Dion Head had several big games for the Bulldogs. Some credit also goes to Ben Carlson. Lakes had help from both Jake Balliu and Ethan Sage. Antioch's big threat was its point guard. AJ Marsiglio helped the Sequoits this year.