Elite Eight Answers All Questions
Michael Brooks (The Real Brain)
March 21, 2004
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The Elite Eight answered any questions that anyone may have previously had about Shaun Livingston, Shaun Pruitt, Justin Dentmon, Julian Wright and Peoria Central as a team.
Shaun Livingston, 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line to go along with 9 rebounds and 4 steals in the championship game. Best senior in the state? Question answered.
Shaun Pruitt 16.6 ppg and 8.0 rpg during the Elite Eight while shooting a scorching 55% from the field, and 91% from the free-throw line. Catch for Illinois? Question answered.
Justin Dentmon, a tournament high 78 total points including 12-for-17 from three-point land. Best scoring point guard in the state? Question answered.
Julian Wright, 13 ppg, 7.0 reb, 4.0 blk, 3.3 ast, and 1.3 stl all during constant foul trouble. Best junior in the state? Question answered.
Peoria Central, 365 days after being annointed the number one team in the state and winning another State Championship. Best team? Question answered.
Everyone’s questions were answered during this weeks State Championship tournament in Peoria. What a way to answer all of our questions, out on the hardwood, where questions are supposed to be answered. So the preoccupation of rather Shaun Livingston could score should be put to rest. He has nothing left to prove. His place as a legend has been cemened. The weight has been lifted. “This is sweet to end my career like this with all the expectations, people starting to doubt me,” Livingston explained after the game. “It is very sweet going out like this.” Yes it was sweet.
The jury is back in on rather Shaun Pruitt can play in the Big Ten or not. It’s unanimous, with the way he manhandled his opponents, and bruised his way to 50 points in three tournament games, he belongs nowhere else. Shaun Pruitt was a constant force all week long leaving opponents cringing everytime he touched the ball. Banging and backing his way in, and finding a scrappy Travis Marion with backdoor passes, Pruitt probably cemented himself as the second-best senior in the state. Why did the Yankees, excuse me, West Aurora come in third? Their best player did not have the ball in his hands for the last 6 minutes in the semifinal game versus Homewood-Flossmoor. “We haven’t seen that kind of defense all year,” Legendary coach Gordon Kerkman said after the game. West Aurora probably hadn’t, but there was no defense for Pruitt.
Just in case nobody was watching, Justin Dentmon was scoring a lot. If he wasn’t slicing defenses up with his speed relentlessly going to the basket, he was pulling up from the three-point line with his quick release dropping them at a rate of 70%. Dentmon, who is headed to Illinois State, finished the tournament averaging 26 points a game, and a had a message for everyone. “Everybody thinks basketball is played up north. We were here to prove that [isn’t] true.” Boy did he ever.
Julian Wright, probably the most controversial topic coming into the state tournament did some showcasing of his own. Playing mostly point guard during the Elite Eight, Wright continued to prove why is one of the most sought after juniors in the nation. His versatility caused so many problems, and his ballhandling skills were better then most people thought. He constantly drove past smaller guards, elevating and shooting over them with ease. He scored six consecutive points at the end of the third quarter to keep H-F in the game against West Aurora before he fouled out. “Don’t think Julian is a myth,” coach Roy Condotti protested after the game. “He is only 16 years old. He’s barely scratched the surface.” Scary.
Lastly, Peoria Central. One glance up and down the rosters, one wouldn’t think they were as talented as the Vikings, but with a determined All-American, and a great supporting cast, they proved why they are the two-time defending state champions. No matter if it was Jacob Motteler canning three-pointers, Brandon Lee (Northwestern) posting and scrapping his way to points, or even the defense and passion of DeAndre Miranda. This was truly a team accomplishment. As I have said time and time again the best teams win championships. This year, the best team happened to have the best player as well.