The 2016-17 high school boys basketball season in Fulton County provided its share of surprises.

The 2016-17 high school boys basketball season in Fulton County provided its share of surprises.

What was not a surprise however was the selection of Farmington senior Eric Higgs as this year’s Daily Ledger Fulton County Player of the Year.

It’s a second run for Higgs at being Player of the Year. He also captured the honored as a sophomore after the 2014-15 season.

Also returning on this year’s All-County Team is Lewistown senior Will LeGrande. Four newcomers rounded out the team in Canton junior Cooper Smith, Farmington junior Judd Anderson and South Fulton seniors Grant Downin and Seth Hammond.

The award was first given following the 1992-93 season. Player nominations and selections were made in a vote by the county coaches.

The 5-foot, 11-inch senior would be counted on heavily to lead the Farmers this season – and he would not disappoint.

“Eric is a special player,” said Farmington coach Jeff Otto. “He worked extremely hard to get to the level he played at this year. He and his family spent a great deal of time and resources to prepare him for more opportunities to play basketball at the next level and it is exciting to see all of that hard work pay off.”

Higgs finished with 735 points, averaging 25.3 points per game this season. That included 163-of-272 (60 percent) in 2-point field goals, 98-of-265 (37 percent) in 3-point field goals and 115-of-140 (82 percent) from the free throw line.

“He worked so hard on developing as a player, time after practice shooting, hitting the weight room a little harder the last two years and still manage to play football, baseball, track, sing in the musical and be a member of several other clubs at school,” said Otto. “On top of all of that, he’s maintained standing near the top of his class with a 3.8 GPA.

“I think the thing that stands out to me the most about Eric, is his work ethic when it came to his shot,” Otto added. “I have never had a player put as much time in to perfecting his shot. There were many nights after practice Coach (Marty) Lozier or myself would have to kick him out of the gym because it was getting so late.”

Higgs also added 3.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.7 steals per game and chipped in 74 deflections for the Farmers, who won the Prairieland title with an 11-1 record.

“He was also very determined this year. He had some personal and team goals,” said Otto. “Obviously, he had his sights set on the career scoring record (which he now has at 1,919 total points) and to win a regional championship and see how far we could make it into the post season.

“We came up short on some of those goals, but it was not for a lack of what Eric did for this team. He had his best games against some of our best opponents,” Otto added. “He ended his high school career with one of the best performances I have seen from a high school player with 40 points in the regional championship (against Olympia).

Higgs was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 1A/2A All-State Second Team and was also an Associated Press Class 2A Honorable Mention All-State selection. Higgs was also named to the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament All-Tournament Team.

“On top of everything else, all of the accolades he has earned and the records he has broken, he is a very quality young man,” said Otto. “He is what we preach over and over about in our basketball program. We want players on the court who are easy to cheer for and be proud of. Players who are deserving of the support of the community. He epitomizes who we want our Farmers to be.

“I am very much looking forward to watching his career continue at (Illinois Wesleyan University)!”

The 5-8 junior played an important role in helping the Farmers reach 23 wins and a regional final.

The Prairieland Conference First Team selection did a little bit of everything for the Farmers. He averaged 5.3 points per game, along with 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Anderson also recorded 46 steals and 43 deflections.

The 5-11 senior guard was a unanimous first team Prairieland Conference selection for the Rebels as they finished 15-15 overall, 7-5 in league play. That included a win over Farmington, the lone league loss suffered by the Farmers.

Downin led South Fulton in scoring, averaging 13.2 points per game. He shot 41 percent from the floor and had a team-leading 3.3 assists per contest.

The 6-0 senior forward was a second team Prairieland Conference selection for the Rebels.

He was the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.2 points per game. He also had a team-leading 4.2 rebounds per game for South Fulton.

The 6-6 senior center was a unanimous Prairieland Conference First Team selection for the Indians this past season.

Despite missing three games due to an ankle injury, LeGrande averaged 15.4 points per game. He shot 165-of-335 (49 percent) from the field, along with 40-of-79 (51 percent) from the free throw line.

LeGrande chipped in 27 assists, 43 steals and 64 deflections. He also set a single-season school record of 303 rebounds (12.6 average) as Lewistown finished the season with a 10-17 record overall, 6-6 in Prairieland play.

The 6-3 junior forward made an impact for the Little Giants this past season, helping the team record 17 victories after combining for just nine wins the previous two seasons combined.

Smith, a unanimous Mid-Illini Conference First Team selection, averaged 12.5 points per game this season, second-highest for the squad. That included 121-of-245 (49 percent) from the floor and 96-of-131 (73 percent) from the free throw line.

He also led the team in rebounding and assists, averaging 7.8 and 4.2 per contest respectively.

Smith was named the MVP at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament as the Little Giants placed second.

Other players receiving votes included Lewistown’s Nathan Parker and Farmington’s Jacob Uryasz.