This has been the year of the guard in Illinois high school boys basketball.
Westmont's Pierre Pierce set a Class A state-tournament-scoring record in leading the Sentinels to fourth place.
Julian's Sean Dockery had the best all-around game of any player in the state with 53 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and eight steals in a Public League quarterfinal loss to Crane.
Certainly, 6-foot-11-inch, 290-pound Eddy Curry cast a large shadow over the landscape. But it was another guard, Mark Pancratz, who sparked Schaumburg's upset of No. 1-ranked Thornwood and Curry in the Class AA title game last Saturday.
Pierce, Dockery and Crane's Will Bynum head the 2001 Tribune All-State Basketball Team. All three played point guard. On defense, Pierce played more of a forward position, which allowed him to lead his team in rebounds.
Pierce, who could earn a starting spot at Iowa next season, was as close as it gets to a one-man team. The 6-4 leaper with superb court vision averaged 36.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.5 steals per game. Numerous times, his teammates had difficulty converting his sharp, no-look passes.
"To be considered one of the top-five players in the state is a great honor for me," Pierce said. "I know a lot of people weren't sure about me because I was a Class A player. But I proved myself last summer at all the high-profile camps, playing against the best players in the nation."
Pierce put on quite a show in Peoria, and Class A Elite Eight fans at Carver Arena and those watching on television admitted he was even better than advertised. He averaged nearly 44 points in the three biggest games of his career.
"I heard there were other coaches and players praising me, and I was thankful for that," Pierce said. "It was a rewarding feeling. People down there were a little shocked, like, `You do all this?"'
The 6-3 Dockery, rated among the nation's top juniors, averaged 21 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and five steals.
"Great players want to play with a great point guard," his coach, Loren Jackson, said. "Sean is such an unselfish kid that a lot of the better players want to play with him. They know if they get open, Sean will deliver the ball. He's not worried about scoring 30 points.
"He makes the other players around him better, just like Isiah Thomas did at St. Joseph and Glenn Rivers at Proviso East. He is also part of this new breed of point guards who can score if needed. But above all else, he has this passion to win.
"I firmly believe Sean is the best junior in the country. If anyone thinks there's somebody better, bring him here. I'll bet my mortgage on Sean--and win."
Bynum added an in-your-face dunk to his repertoire of flashy moves and is ready to begin taking his place next season in Arizona's backcourt legacy.
"He's a shade under 5-11, but with his quickness and 40-inch vertical leap, he can get to the rack anytime he wants to and dunk on anybody," Crane coach Anthony Longstreet said. "He has the body strength of [Miami Heat guard and former Carver star] Tim Hardaway, only he's a better ballhandler than Tim [was at this stage]."
Averaging 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, Bynum led a sophomore-oriented team to the Public League final.
"His presence alone meant a lot to those younger players," Longstreet said. "He was the difference between us being a good team and a great team. I think he has the talent to go all the way to the top level."
That might be Curry's next step. After averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in leading Thornwood to the state-title game, the two-time All-State center could be among the top-10 picks in the NBA draft.
"We have to remember that Eddy accomplished all this with two and three defenders literally hanging on his arms on almost every play," Thornwood coach Kevin Hayhurst said. "One of Eddy's biggest attributes is that he kept his poise when guys were beating on him."