All-decade clarification

It seems that there is some confusion and misunderstanding about what encompasses inclusion for the 19-sport All-Decade teams, which we have been publishing every Monday and will continue to do so through May 10.

What seemed obvious to me may not be that clear to others. The decade started on Jan. 1, 2000 and ended on Dec. 31, 2009. Period. What happened during those weeks and months is taken into account and what occurred prior to or thereafter is not considered.

This works out ideally for athletes in fall or spring sports. They had 10 full seasons of competition that could be used for consideration. It's more complicated for athletes in the three winter sports (wrestling, boys' basketball and girls' basketball). Those who were seniors and graduated in 2000, had only a couple of months worth of performances to be counted while current seniors who will graduate next month had only the first part of this season to be taken into consideration.

Asking for the whole year to be counted is not a possibility. It would be like asking a referee to count a basket which was released from the shooter's hands one-tenth of a second after the final buzzer had sounded. The decade ended when it ended and we have to deal with that when the selections are made.

Some folks have been curious about the selection of Verdell Jones III as the boys' basketball Player of the Decade over Rayvonte Rice. The results should speak for themselves. During the decade in question, Jones was a two-time Area Player of the Year. Rice's only Player of the Year designation came at the start of a new decade. Rice was part of a state championship team in 2009 -- and certainly was a key player in the two games at Peoria -- but his team's top player that year was regarded as James Kinney. Jones, meanwhile, was the catalyst on a third-place team at state and was clearly the team leader in 2008.

When viewed in this perspective, the choice is not as difficult as some would make it out to be. Rice had a great season as a senior and, in fact, in my mind improved more from his junior through senior season than anyone I've seen during my 29 years at The News-Gazette. He will almost certainly get more awards and accolades based on his tremendous accomplishments and will be deserving of the recognition. It just didn't fit to make him the Player of the Decade.

One other point needs clarification. All that matters when selections are made for the All-Decade high school teams is what the individuals did while in high school. If they had a spectacular college career, it doesn't affect the choices, since our team is based strictly on the prep years.

When we profile one of the all-decade recipients, we make every effort to update readers on their post-high school accomplishments so that we can provide a complete picture of the person's career, but only the results from high school are used to make the selections.

We hope this provides some insight into the process and helps make everyone aware of how it works. There have been some very, very tough decisions and there will be more in the weeks ahead. When we have a finite number of positions and a virtually infinite number of candidates, those headaches will always exist. In most every sport we have selected to date, I believe a "second 10" could be picked that would be very comparable to the first team.

When we have area athletes who were named to the All-Area first team multiple times during the decade, that carries more weight than just being chosen for the team one time. When we have former area athletes who rank among the all-time state leaders in several categories, that too is a significant factor. What a person does over a long period of time, such as an entire career, means more than what they may have done in one particular season.

To me, the overall quality is a reflection of the outstanding talent which has been in our area during the past decade, as well as the start of the new decade. We will continue to welcome any and all feedback and are appreciative of those who take the time to write.

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