Let’s begin with Athlete of the Year awards. Each person made its presence known from the beginning. They all put on terrific performances day in and day out and brought the excitement every single time. Patrick Codo starts us off with the nominees for Male Athlete of the Year sponsored by BMO.
Our first nominee for Male Athlete of the Year is Salil Khanduja from Waubonsie Valley boys golf, who continues to improve his swing on the links. Khanduja’s high school junior season got off to a delayed start after competing in numerous tournaments, including the Illinois PGA open last August. However, that prepared him for another strong season as the Warrior took home a third straight regional championship medal as an individual which helped the green and gold qualify for sectionals as a team. After qualifying for State for a third consecutive season, Khanduja took the course by storm, taking a late lead on the second day of the tournament. While he was not able to hold on for the win, he did take home the third place medal after a two round score of 147. With one year left in his high school career Khanduja and the rest of his Waubonsie teammates are ready for the back nine of his Warrior career.
To the soccer pitch we go with Naperville North senior Alex Barger. Barger made his senior season one to remember, becoming one of the most decorated players in the state. Barger was named the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year, and was selected All-State and All-American. His 14 goals and 12 assists helped the Huskies to another regional championship with Barger dazzling as a playmaker. Unfortunately, the season ended in the sectional final to the eventual State champion, Naperville Central. Barger still has a bright future on the field ahead of him, as he will take his soccer talents to Indiana University.
Let’s go to a two-sport athlete in Benet Academy senior Brayden Fagbemi, a Redwing boys soccer and basketball team member. While playing forward on the pitch, he helped the soccer team to an ESCC and regional title, while earning an All-Conference selection. However, it was on the basketball court where he made his biggest splash. Fagbemi averaged twelve points a game with four assists, three steals, and shot over 45% from three. His calm demeanor and playmaking were on full display in big time victories over elite teams like Joliet West and Kenwood. In the sectional championship game against Geneva, the Johns Hopkinds commit made the game-winning putback bucket in the final seconds to lead Benet to the supersectional and eventually, the team’s first trip to State since 2016. Fagbemi then led the Wings in scoring in the semi final victory over New Trier and in the state championship game the following night. Despite falling in the 4A final to Moline, the Redwings ended the season as the runner up and set a new school record with 35 wins, thanks in large part to their playmaking point guard.
Next up for Male Athlete of the Year is another two-sport standout in Luke Willaims, a three year varsity member on the Naperville North football and basketball teams. One year after older brother Zeke earned an Athlete of the Year nomination, younger brother Luke seized his opportunity in the spotlight. On the Huskie gridiron, Williams hauled in 42 catches for 614 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver which earned All-Area and All-DVC honors. He also helped the Huskies to the playoffs for a second straight season and showed the ability to play defense and return kicks as well. As a basketball team member, Williams took a big leap from his sophomore to junior campaign averaging 21 points per game along with 4.2 boards and 3.1 steals. Helping North to another regional final appearance, those numbers also rewarded him with the DVC Co-MVP award, IBCA All-State 2nd team, and an honorable mention of AP All-State pick. Williams has one year left in Huskie land and it will be exciting to see what he does to cap off his high school career on the gridiron and the hardwood.
We wrap up Male Athlete of the Year with Naperville Central’s Maverick Ohle, who’s either making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks on the gridiron or breaking records in the discus on the boys track and field team. In the fall, the junior set the edge at defensive end where he had 8.5 sacks to go with 30 tackles, earning him an All-area selection and the DVC defensive lineman of the year award. As track season arrived this spring, his primary focus was the throws, competing in the shot put and discus. He started strong, winning the indoor DVC for shot, but that was just a warm up for the big things ahead in the outdoor season. Ohle showed off his discus power in a big way, finishing first in the DVC and sectionals, culminating in the Redhawk winning the State title at Eastern Illinois. Despite having already achieved so much, Ohle still has one year to go. There is no doubt that this mighty Redhawk is already putting in the work to make his final year one to remember on the football field and in the throwing circle.
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