Nojel deserves to be Mr. Basketball

Harrison Witt, Sports Columnist

Although this year’s Illinois high school basketball talent is extraordinary, our very own Nojel Eastern has proven he is at the top.

Illinois is known for producing great basketball players.  Some of these players include Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, and Kevin Garnett.  Something that these three players have in common, other than being from the same city, is that they are winners of the Mr. Basketball award, given to the best player in Illinois.  Voters select a first, second, and third place.  First place votes are worth more than second, second are more than third.  The person with the most points wins the award.  This is the biggest honor for an individual player.

Nojel has put himself on a national scale as one of the best players.  He scores, he rebounds, he defends, he distributes the ball; he is an overall great player.  But there is more to Nojel than what the stat sheet shows you.  Nojel plays selfless basketball.

Let’s face it, the CSL South does not present the best talent.  ETHS has handled every team rather easily.  If he wanted to, Nojel could score 35 points a game and look like a superstar, but he doesn’t.  Instead of putting on a “Nojel Show”, he gives up the ball and grinds to make other players around him better.  He has tweeted that he wants to help his teammates get scholarships and that the state championship is the only thing on his mind.   This is greatness.  So, while other players may have amazing stat sheets, a voter can not understand the value of Nojel without watching him.

That brings me to another point.  Who is watching Nojel? The Mr. Basketball winner tends to come out of the city of Chicago rather than the suburbs.  More reporters and voters are watching these city games because they are typically “more competitive”.  This may be true, but when a player with equal ability is playing in the suburb, you should watch him some time.  It’s not the NBA, so there is no SportsCenter to watch Nojel’s highlights.  Watching Nojel will make voters aware of how good he is.

Nojel has tough competition for this award.  Jeremiah Tilmon out of East St. Louis is a beast.  He is an Illinois commit who is 6’10, but he, like Nojel, does not get recognition because he is not watched as much.  Jordan Goodwin, from Belleville Althoff, is different from Nojel in the way that his stats are off the charts.  This will give him the boost, but this does not mean he is a better basketball player.  Overall, Nojel has a tough task at hand, but he has proven that he can handle it.

ETHS has played tough competition, and they have done rather well.  They got second place at the Myrtle Beach tournament which had some of the best teams in the country competing.  The players Nojel has matched up against.  He has challenged himself, and he has risen to the occasion.

Nojel has shown that he has what it takes.  He has shown selflessness. He is not a stat sheet stuffer, but he can turn it on and take over a game at will.  He may be overlooked because of location, but that should not be the case.  Nojel is ETHS’ Mr. Basketball, and he deserves to Illinois’ as well.