With The Basketball Tournament and Big 3 Basketball going on again this summer, a thought crossed my mind the other day.

If I were to put together a team of area players that had to compete in a similar tournament, who would I choose?

I started thinking back through all the great players I’ve covered through the years while at the NewsTribune and decided to come up with a boys team and a girls team.

Since Big 3 teams have six players on the roster, I decided to go with six for the Illinois Valley rosters. I also decided only to select players who graduated high school within the last five years.

A pair of Bureau Valley players — and cousins — will headline the boys team.

The most obvious choice for the roster is Parker Neuhalfen, the 2014-15 NewsTribune Boys Basketball Player of the Year. He poured in more than 2,000 points in his career but could also do a little bit of everything else.

His cousin, Kale Barnett, won the last two NT Boys Basketball Player of the Year awards after leading the Storm to Sweet 16 and Elite 8 appearances. He’s the perfect point guard for the team with his ability to create, score at will when needed and play solid defense.

Then it gets a little more difficult because there are so many great candidates.

Mendota graduate Joe LaShonse would be a great addition to the team due to his ability to drain the 3-pointer and put up a ton of points, while former St. Bede star Jarret Olson could score in a variety of ways.

La Salle-Peru alumnus Brady Huebbe would provide a steady presence who could score, pass, play solid defense and come up big in big moments, while Putnam County graduate Alec Veverka would bring some size/length, dominant defense and a versatile offensive arsenal.

That’s a team that’s capable of competing at a high level, and think of all the talented players who were left off who could just as easily have contributed — L-P standouts Christian Soderholm, Ryan Atilano and Peyton Sampson, St. Bede alumnus Andrew Pyszka, Mendota graduate James Carroll, Princeton veteran Colby Robbins, Fieldcrest graduate Drew Barth and former Earlville-Leland prolific scorer Colin Bomstad among others.

The girls side is loaded as well.

Princeton graduate Anna Murray, the 2017-18 NewsTribune Girls Basketball Player of the Year, was perhaps the most dominant all-around girls player I’ve covered in my career.

She could score, rebound, set up her teammates and play lockdown defense as she took over a game.

Former Fieldcrest star Tessa Holland was a phenomenal all-around player as well and the two-time NewsTribune Girls Basketball Player of the Year provides some size as well.

Mendota graduate and former NT Player of the Year Ally Bromenschenkel would bring size as well as a versatile inside-outside offensive threat who can score, rebound and play strong defense, while her younger sister, Amelia — the most recent NT Girls Basketball Player of the Year — can score at will and take over a game as well.

Former Hall star and two-time NT Player of the Year Hunter Galassi is a dominant scorer and defender and showed the ability to come through in the clutch, while Putnam County graduate Paige Veronda could take the ball to the basket at will while also playing solid defense and rebounding.

While the roster is most definitely stacked, it was tough to leave off players like Mendota’s Abby Bromenschenkel and Amy Devitt, Bureau Valley’s Saige Barnett and former LaMoille-Ohio star Lexi Loftus among others.

Of course, we’ll never see these rosters actually happen, but it’s fun to think about. Did I get the teams right? Would you have included someone else? Let me know what you think on Twitter.

Kevin Chlum is the NewsTribune Sports Editor. He can be reached at 220-6939, or at sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.


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