The Belleville West Maroons enjoyed their best season in school history in 2017-18, finishing the season with a 32-2 record and an Illinois 4A State Championship trophy. The Maroons beat powerhouse Whitney Young 60-56 in overtime, They finished the season in the national rankings, and return three of five starters, including their best player, junior EJ Liddell. Head coach Joe Muniz will have a tough job ahead of him, as repeating a championship in any sport is a tall task. He has all of the components necessary to accomplish that goal and will be depending on Liddell to lead them to familiar heights.
Liddell returns for his senior season, and he’s the Maroons’ go-to-guy on both ends. Liddell followed up the state championship win by helping guide Brad Beal Elite to the Peach Jam. He didn’t disappoint at July’s powerhouse NIKE event, as the 6-foot-7 forward averaged 13.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in five games. Liddell, 247 sports 48th ranked prospect in 2019, committed to Ohio State on October 1st, removing any nerves that come with being an undecided senior recruit. Liddell is a monster on defense at the high school level, using his long athletic frame to average over four blocks a game in conference play last season. Liddell has a solid chance to lead Belleville West to back-to-back state titles, and he’ll also have a great chance to repeat an individual award; Illinois Mr. Basketball.
Belleville West’s final roster won’t be finalized by the time of this publication, but they have plenty of pieces that are known to be returning. 5-foot-11 senior guard Lawrence Brazil returns, giving the Maroons’ a heady, battle-tested guard who is capable of making big plays in the clutch. Brazil scored a game-high 18 points in the state championship game, including the game-clinching steal and lay-up with five seconds remaining. Big man Keith Randolph returns and pairs nicely alongside Liddell in the post. The junior big man may be a bit undersized, but he plays with a physical style and employs a non-stop motor - perfect traits for his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame. Senior Marcellus Romious will play huge minutes for Muniz and company, and the 6-foot-6 swingman enjoyed a terrific weekend at the Lindenwood Team Camp in June. Romious plays with non-stop energy behind an impressive frame, and he’s a prime candidate to break out on the national level.
Belleville should contend for another state championship in Illinois and will have the chance to rapidly rise up the rankings if they can get by their difficult early schedule. The Maroons play LeFlore (AL), Callaway, East St. Louis and CBC (MO) all before Christmas break. It doesn’t get much easier after that, as Belleville West participates in the Centralia Holiday Tournament before heading to national powerhouse event, the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. Liddell is amped to get rolling:
“I feel very excited to come back defend the crown because we’re going to have the biggest target on back,” Liddell said. (My commitment) is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders because I have the pressure of people asking me where I’m going, and it's easier to focus on the season.”