Belleville West's E.J. Liddell was named the Player of the Decade, a decision that prompted fellow first-teamer Jayson Tatum — the Chaminade product who currently stars with the Boston Celtics — to dismiss Kvidahl's team as "trash." Likewise, Bradley Beal — another Chaminade legend who currently is the NBA's No. 2 scorer — lodged his complaints about the selections in social media posts.
Here are five key questions from the chat:
ILLINOIS BASKETBALL SUPERIOR TO MISSOURI HOOPS?
QUESTION: 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?
KVIDAHL: 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.
WHY LIDDELL (NOT TATUM, NOT BEAL) IS PLAYER OF THE DECADE
QUESTION: EJ Liddell over Jayson Tatum ... was one of the criteria that he won two state championships, compared to Jayson and Brad Beal winning one each? Not to disrespect Liddell at all, but Tatum's stats were crazy and three times he was Gatorade Player of the Year. Brad was POY as well and had to do a lot his senior season, when he scored 32 ppg.
KVIDAHL: 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 at Belleville West no one from around these parts has done in a long time or ever.
He's the first All-Metro player from the Metro East to go back-to-back with state titles 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 2018-19 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.
To a follow-up question about Liddell's all-around play, Kvidahl replied:
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.
GOODWIN NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR FIRST TEAM?
QUESTION: You picked O'Fallon's Roosevelt Jones over Althoff's Jordan Goodwin. How did that happen?
KVIDAHL: 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.
HOW CLOSE WAS LOVE TO MAKING THE STARTING 5?
QUESTION: If the season isn’t canceled and Caleb Love wins state with CBC, would that have pushed him onto the first team?
KVIDAHL: 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 at state 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 1958-60.
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.
SURPRISED BY ALL THE ATTENTION?
QUESTION: Were you surprised by the amount of attention that your list drew? What was the most surprising reaction?
KVIDAHL: 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 entire 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.