2017 Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year: Thornton’s Alonzo Verge

Thornton's Alonzo Verge (4) dribbles toward the basket as Bloom's Jovante Slater (21) defends, March 3, 2017 Allen Cunningham / for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Alonzo Verge emerged as a fully-formed star in 2014. It was impossible to take your eyes off the sophomore with the floppy braids. Verge had the ability to pile up points at will and played with a confident, stylish flair.

“Everything was happening so fast, I didn’t expect it,” Verge said. “I was getting scholarship offers, newspaper articles. It took awhile to get used to. I couldn’t do the same normal things other kids can do.”

Then he disappeared. Verge left Willowbrook for Arlington Country Day in Florida. It turned out to be a solid move for him personally, being away from home helped him mature. But Verge’s absence left a hole in the area’s basketball scene.

Verge returned this season. The braids were gone and he was playing for his club basketball coach, Tai Streets, at Thornton.

“[Streets] was just a real cool dude, a real cool coach,” Verge said. “My dad lived out in this area anyway, so that was convenient for us.”

The 6-3 guard fully delivered on all his promise, turning in a spectacular senior season. The numbers are eye-popping: 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals per game.

“He’s always been that flashy player,” Tricia Moncrief, Verge’s mom, said. “He always looked for the oohs and ahhs from the crowd, he’s just that way.”

Verge was born in Aurora and grew up in Hillside and Bellwood. His father, Alonzo Verge Sr., was a star at Proviso West. Verge Sr. averaged 25 points his senior season and was a Sun-Times All-Area and All-State selection.

“I was always compared to him growing up,” Verge said. “Are you gonna be better than your dad when you get older? Things like that. I tried not to pay too much attention to it.”

Verge didn’t play basketball his freshman year. His mom wanted him to focus on school. Then he was suspended for the playoffs sophomore year after getting into some trouble. Since going to Florida, things have calmed down.

“I had to change a lot of things and grow mentally in Florida,” Verge said. “I had to mature, I was by myself all the time. It was a prep school, we all had our own apartments and stuff like that. It was a big adjustment for me. I was happy that I made that move, it helped me grow as a person and be more mature and get ready for college.”

Verge led the Wildcats to the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament title and an undefeated conference season. He hit his peak late in the season, astonishing fans with a dominant performance in the regional finals against Bloom.

After the game, he found his mom in the crowd and gave her a long hug before heading into the locker room.

“It all started when he was really young,” Moncrief said. “He would get up and play everyday before first grade, as long as he could before the bus picked him up. He always had a basketball in his hands, it was almost like he was destined to play. Everyone saw it. I knew early on he was going to be really good.”

Verge’s high school travels have made qualifying for college a challenge.

“I am hoping that he does qualify,” Moncrief said. “Based on where we are now it is looking really good. There are a few other things. I’m hoping he gets into a four-year college and is able to play on that big stage.”

Verge’s high school career may have perfectly prepared him for the junior college route.

“If I do go to a junior college, I’m just going to have to work my way up like I did before,” Verge said. “I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just another adjustment that I will have to make and that I’m ready to make.”

There is one college that Verge always seems to mention: Illinois.

“I always wanted to get out of Chicago,” Verge said. “I wanted to explore different things. I know people that only know one corner and they’ve never been off that corner.

If I did have a chance to go to Illinois I would make that move, that would be a good move to make.”

2017—Alonzo Verge, Thornton
2016—Charlie Moore, Morgan Park
2015—Jalen Brunson, Stevenson
2014—Cliff Alexander, Curie
2013—Jahlil Okafor, Young
2012—Jabari Parker, Simeon
2011—Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park
2010—Jereme Richmond, Waukegan
2009—Jereme Richmond, Waukegan
2008—Kevin Dillard, Homewood-Flossmoor
2007—Derrick Rose, Simeon
2006—Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North
2005—DeAndre Thomas, Westinghouse
2004–Calvin Brock, Simeon
2003—Shannon Brown, Proviso East
2002—Sean Dockery, Julian
2001—Eddy Curry, Thornwood
2000—Cedrick Banks, Westinghouse
1999—Leon Smith, King
1998—Quentin Richardson, Young
1997—Melvin Ely, Thornton
1996—Ronnie Fields, Farragut
1995—Kevin Garnett, Farragut
1994—Jerry Gee, St. Martin de Porres
1993—Rashard Griffith, King
1992—Chris Collins, Glenbrook North
1991—Sherell Ford, Proviso East
1990—Jamie Brandon, King
1989—Deon Thomas, Simeon
1988—Eric Anderson, de Sales
1987—Marcus Liberty, King
1986—Nick Anderson, Simeon
1985—Michael Ingram, Proviso West
1984—Hersey Hawkins, Westinghouse
1983—Len Bertolini, St. Patrick
1982—Bernard Jackson, Phillips
1981—Walter Downing, Providence
1980—Glenn Rivers, Proviso East
1979—Isiah Thomas, St. Joseph
1978—Mark Aguirre, Westinghouse
1977—Eddie Johnson, Westinghouse
1976—Glen Grunwald, East Leyden
1975—Pete Boesen, Maine South
1974—Audie Matthews, Bloom
1973—Mark Vitali, St. Charles
1972—Quinn Buckner, Thornridge
1971—Quinn Buckner, Thornridge
1970—Lloyd Batts, Thornton
1969—Jim Brewer, Proviso East
1968—Jeff Hickman, Lockport
1967—Rick Howat, Downers Grove
1966—Rich Bradshaw, Marshall
1965—Terry Hurley, Steinmetz
1964—Eugene Ford, Crane
1963—Joe Allen, Carver
1962—Cazzie Russell, Carver
1961—Bob Caress, Thornton
1960—George Wilson, Marshall



  • […] the Chicago Sun-Times named Verge its Player of the Year. The electric, high-major Division I talent is averaging 26 points, eight rebounds, seven steals […]

  • BG

    Remember Zo was having 40+ point games when he was a sophomore!!!!! Name a sophomore that was doing that?

  • BG

    Grown people hating on kids…. Instead of wishing good luck you hope for failure… Where are your values?… sad,very sad!!!

  • Concerned

    Congrats on the award, but not to be a buzzkill…are we now giving awards to players who won’t even graduate? This kid might be Jereme Richmond v2.0 minus the legal trouble.

  • Old school

    I am disappointed in this selection for POY. I think character should come into play here. This kid won’t go far in basketball or life, as long as there are the likes of Coach Streets to allow him to act the way he does on the court. Teach him humility, teamwork and sportsmanship, then I could consider him for POY.

    • BG

      Most of you/ probably all… do not know lil zo at all….You read the lil b.s. but know nothing of his true story…. It’s worth a movie script… Furthermore the NBA is a business…..If you haven’t noticed players go overseas for a yr or 2 then go to the NBA…..college is no longer necessary… Love to c the look on haters faces when he on TNT in a couple years….CLOWNS

      • Bball fan

        …college is no longer necessary…WOW. What about getting an education, so you have some knowledge and skill that can carry you through life when basketball comes to an end? Basketball may not always be there, and I’m not speaking about this player specifically, but for any player. Telling any kid college isn’t necessary is, IMO, doing him a huge disservice.

        • BG

          Yeah right!! Sound good!! Give me a good accountant and I’ll skip college any day for a few million….. if you make 100 grand a yr it’ll take 30 yrs to get what a baller can get in 1 yr….. laughing at u!!!! You work the 30,,,,,, I’ll take the quick milllls…. you a fool if you don’t cause atleast 80% of Americans don’t make 100k a yr

  • Sally

    Count in the games he didn’t play in and his stats will go down with zeros. Also no one verifies stats they are provided by his coaches. They can be inflated.

    He’s far from playing in NBA.

    • Justwatchin

      Sally the boy stats are real….. He may not be student of the year, but he’s 1 of the most gifted Chicago talents on the court in awhile…This might totally change his life for the better which we all should applaud!

  • Bill Burleson

    I I saw all the great Thornton players including Lloyd Batts. Verge is the best player to play for

  • Sammy

    Verge has the stats PPG; RPG; and APG. Nojel and the others can’t match stats. Verge is the best all around player based on the stats. He’s been playing like Westbrook.

  • Sammy

    Verge Jr. is the best player this year. His skills exceed all the others and he is special with all the flash and flair that he plays with. He will be a pro if he does things the right way and has the right supports in place. I challenge the naysayers to name a player who was better than him this year. GPA is not in the criteria for POTY. As long as he’s academically eligible he qualifies. His challenge vs Simeon will be interesting to watch. Can’t wait to see that one tomorrow because big challenges brings out the best in great players.

  • Sally

    I’m sorry but being a “student” athlete grades and behavior does matter. If you miss any part of season for grades or discipline, you should not be considered for this award. IHSA embodies the whole student athlete and when awards are given like this it diminishes them. It’s letting student athletes know it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you can put a ball in the basket – totally not right message and then people wonder why kids fail when importance isn’t put on education and good behavior.

    There are many more deserving on the list of contenders who take being an athlete and student seriously.

    Remember, the majority won’t go to NBA but will need to get a degree and a regular job.

  • Kyra Carter

    If they title were student athlete of the year, I’d understand bringing up grades and other things. However, it’s PLAYER OF THE YEAR and that makes it all about what you did on the floor when you were on the floor. Who was better this year?

  • RealityCheck

    How many points did he average for his team in the games he was suspended? Outrageous selection.

  • mikenike

    Love the way ‘Zo plays. Congratulations to him. Those are some pretty storied names he’s listed with and he’s as good as any of them.

  • Juswatchin

    Unfortunately everyone doesn’t get the silver spoon perfect parents raising!!!! Doesn’t change the facts on the court… He is the Best PLAYER hands down!!

    • CP3

      JW……be easy.Lil ‘Zo is a heckuva player congrats on winning the award!!! But hands down….???? I’m running with Nojel Eastern. MOST VERSATILE player in the state. Can play the 1-5 on both ends of the floor and has done so this season. With his only concern being W’s….the need to produce numbers for accolades simply isn’t there. He simply does whatever his team needs on any given night.

      • Juswatchin

        I give Nojel best all around player… he makes a team better…. Its just Zo offensive attributes out weigh everyone by far!

  • Hojo

    Amazing how this could be player of the year. Just shows how the media focuses on just the game. I admit, he’s a great talent. He was also suspended from the team twice this year. Team rules, grades…no one says. Not a good example for younger players.

  • BG

    I’m a family friend…. ever since lil zo was a baby he had really big hands. B4 you knew it he had that ball on a string and we knew he would dominate… Congrats lil Zo!!

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