Eye on POY: Illinois boys basketball

The window on the Gatorade State Boys Basketball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.

Jabari Parker

Junior small forward, Simeon Career Academy (Chicago, Ill.)

2011-12 Team record: 29-1 (Class 4A)

2011-12 Team standing: No. 6 ranked team on ESPNHS FAB 50; Class 4A sectional final vs. Evanston Township on Friday

2011-12 Points per game: 21.3

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 9.2

2011-12 Assists per game: 5.3

2011-12 Blocks per game: 3.3

2011-12 Steals per game: 1.1

Academics: A-minus average

Collegiate destination: Undecided

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Averaged 16.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 8.0 blocks, 6.0 assists and 2.5 steals in his first two games of the Class 4A state tournament. Parker No. 1 ranked recruit in Class of 2013 as rated by ESPNU. 2012 Player of the Year as named by the Chicago Sun-Times. 2011 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year. Member of the 2011 USA Basketball U16 National Team. 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship Most Valuable Player. 2011 Nike Global Challenge champion and MVP. 2010 National Freshman of the Year and 2011 National Sophomore of the Year as named by ESPNHS. 2011 First Team All-American as named by MaxPreps. 2010 and 2011 Class 4A state champion.

Tony Hicks

Senior shooting guard, St. Rita (Chicago, Ill.)

2011-12 Team record: 16-11 (Class 4A)

2011-12 Team standing: Lost Class 4A regional final to Whitney Young, 64-56

2011-12 Points per game: 23.1

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 4.6

2011-12 Assists per game: 4.5

2011-12 Blocks per game: 0.4

2011-12 Steals per game: 2.6

Academics: B-plus average

Collegiate destination: University of Pennsylvania

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Netted 19 points in the Class 4A sectional quarterfinal loss to Whitney Young. Faced a schedule of opponents with a .605 winning percentage, including 17 teams with winning records. His 23.1 points and 4.5 assists accounted for 53.7 percent of St. Rita’s 59.7 points per game. No. 67 ranked shooting guard in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNHS. 2012 All-Area selection as named by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Boys Basketball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.

Keith Carter: Senior point guard, Proviso East (Maywood, Ill.)

Jahlil Okafor: Sophomore center, Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.)

Steve Taylor: Senior small forward, Simeon Career Academy (Chicago, Ill.)

Fred Van Fleet: Senior point guard, Auburn (Ill.)

Jerron Wilbut: Senior shooting guard, South (Downers Grove, Ill.)

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.