MAC ON SPORTS: HEATON, BURFORD WILLIAMS ARE NOMINEES FOR MR. BASKETBALL AWARD

J. Thomas McNamara

Darius Burford of Bolingbrook, D.J. Williams of Harvey Thornton and Connor Heaton of Central A&M were among the candidates for the Chicago Tribune’s Mr. Basketball award.

Williams helped Harvey Thornton get past Burford’s Bolingbrook team for the championship of the 50th annual Caterpillar Decatur Thanksgiving tournament last November.

Heaton led Central A&M to the super- sectionals of the Class A tournament last month before falling to Goreville to finish the year at 30-4. He was AP All-State first team in 2019 (leading vote-getter) for the third-place state finisher. He was AP and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association First Team All-State this year. He was the Raiders leading scorer (21.0 points per game) for a 30-4 Elite Eight qualifier. Also averaged 8.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.3 steals for the 4th-ranked squad in the final AP state poll. He was a four-time all-Central Illinois Conference selection. All-tournament repeater at the Effingham- Teutopolis Christmas Classic. Last season: Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State first team. He scored 2,465 points in his career.

Burford is a D-1 Elon basketball signee, Chicago Sun-Times All-Area (Top 20) for a 28-6 conference co-champ. He averaged 24.6 points, six rebounds and three steals for a regional finalist that was ranked 10th in the final AP state poll. He scored 30-or-more points seven times and more than 700 points this season to sur- pass the 1,000-point career milestone (sixth in school history). He was all-tour- nament at the Jack Tosh Christmas Holiday tournament where he also was named Most Valuable Player and all- tournament at the Decatur Thanksgiving tournament.

Williams also is a Chicago Sun-Times All-Area (Top 20), who was a dynamic leader and game-changing defender for a 32-1 “Sweet 16” sectional finalist. He averaged 14 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals for a conference champ that was ranked third in the final AP state poll. He was all-tournament at Big Dipper Holiday tournament which Thornton won. He was a two-year cap- tain and all-conference first team.

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