Two of the top basketball players from Springfield share MVP honors.
Kickapoo senior Jared Ridder and Greenwood senior Julius Walker were named co-winners of the Marty Eddlemon Most Valuable Player Award on Monday at the final Springfield Tip-off Club luncheon of the 2016-2017 season. The club has presented the award annually to the senior player from a Springfield team deemed most valuable to his team. It’s just the third time since 1980 that voting for the award ended in a tie.
Walker is Greenwood’s all-time leading scorer with more than 2,150 points. For the past two seasons, Walker has averaged a double-double in scoring and rebounding. Walker felt proud to be mentioned alongside Ridder, a high-level college prospect who will play for NCAA Division I Xavier next season.
“It was really an honor to share with Jared, he’s a great player,” Walker said. “There were a lot of great players in Springfield this year and some good teams, so it was a really good honor to be chosen.”
The Greenwood Blue Jays are 24-3 and won the Class 2 District 10 championship by beating Fair Play 60-50 in Urbana on Saturday. In spite of its record, Greenwood has not cracked the top 10 in the Class 2 state rankings all season, but Walker will take wins over a spot in the coaches’ poll.
“We’re thankful for all of the coverage that we do get and we’re thankful that we were able to win that district championship. You know, that plaque is really all we need,” Walker said.
With 1,504 points in his career, Ridder is Kickapoo’s all-time leading scorer. He is one of seven seniors on the Chiefs roster, and he thanked his team for helping him capture the MVP award.
“It’s a huge honor because there are a lot of great players in this senior class and a lot of great players, so it feels good to get the award. It wouldn’t be possible without my teammates and them setting me up with everything,” Ridder said.
Ridder and Walker never played against each other, at least not in a high school game. Ridder and Walker did square off at least once, according to Ridder.
“(Walker) must be a force to stop at Greenwood. I got a chance to play with him at the Fieldhouse for a pick-up game, and he can play. He’s not just a post, he can play outside, he can shoot and he’s a heck of a player,” Ridder said.
Walker, also an all-state soccer player, is uncertain where he will go to college. He has chosen a sport he’d like to pursue.
“It will definitely be basketball. I’m not sure (where) yet, but we’ll know soon,” Walker said.
Vikings skipper named coach of the year
Parkview (18-7) improved from a 13-11 record a year ago. The Vikings also went 7-2 in the Ozark Conference and finished in third place in the standings behind champion Kickapoo (9-0) and runner-up Glendale (8-1).
In a big year for Springfield teams, Glendale, Parkview and Hillcrest’s only Ozark Conference losses came at the hands of each other or Kickapoo.
Parkview’s improvement swayed the Tip-off Club to pick Parkview coach Landon Cornish for the Jack Roberts Memorial Coach of the Year Award, based on the Vikings’ major improvement.
“No losses outside the city for us is pretty impressive,” Cornish said. “It’s a big improvement for us and our seniors are a huge part of that. I talked to them last year about, ‘You can’t continue to do the things you’re going to do and expect your results to change, that just doesn’t make sense.’”
Parkview has four seniors: J.T. Brown, Brady Hill, Josh Cunningham and Njenga Chatman.
“I really, really care about them a lot, and everything they’ve done for our program,” Cornish said.
Springfield Catholic finished the season 20-8 with a loss to Fair Grove in its Class 3 district finals. The Fightin’ Irish were chosen by a voting body of basketball officials to receive the 2017 Edwin Matthews Memorial Sportsmanship Award.