New Orleans bound: Former Belleville West star selected in 2nd round of NBA draft

·3 min read

E.J. Liddell’s dream of making it to the NBA finally came to reality Thursday night.

Liddell, who helped Belleville West bring home consecutive IHSA state basketball titles as a junior and senior, was selected 41st overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second round of the NBA draft, which took place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Liddell was the 11th pick of the second round.

Overall, Thursday’s outcome was the culmination of a tremendous high school and college ride for the Belleville native.

Liddell, 20, finished his high school basketball career as a top 50 recruit according to ESPN’s high school basketball rankings in 2019. He won Illinois Mr. Basketball in consecutive years as well, the first player since Jabari Parker to accomplish that feat in 2011 and 2012.

Liddell’s sensational high school career led him to receive multiple scholarships from NCAA Division I schools, including Ohio State, Illinois and Missouri.

In the end, the Buckeyes won out and Liddell enjoyed a tremendous three seasons in Columbus. While at Ohio State, he was the team’s main guy for his final two campaigns. In his junior year, he led the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game, along with 7.9 rebounds per game and 2.6 blocks per game, all career highs.

He earned All-Big Ten First-Team his sophomore and junior year. His No. 1 ranking in blocks for the Big Ten got him a spot on the All-Defense First-Team Big Ten as a junior.

As far as the next level goes, some scouts see Liddell fitting into any NBA team as a undersized forward who does the dirty work while hitting 3-point baskets.

A 6-7, 240 pound forward, players Liddell has been compared to are Grant Williams, Draymond Green, PJ Tucker and former NBA champion Antoine Walker. All have been key pieces in getting their teams to the NBA Finals the past 20 seasons.

Ohio State ‘s E.J. Liddell (32) plays during the second half of a college basketball game Loyola Chicago in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Pittsburgh, Friday, March 18, 2022. Ohio State won 54-41.
Ohio State ‘s E.J. Liddell (32) plays during the second half of a college basketball game Loyola Chicago in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Pittsburgh, Friday, March 18, 2022. Ohio State won 54-41.

About the New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans finished 36-46 in the 2021-22 campaign. Despite finishing 10 games under. 500, the Pelicans made the postseason where they lost in the first round.

They play in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference which includes the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.

New Orleans actually originated as the Charlotte Hornets — based in Charlotte, North Carolina — before the franchise moved to Louisiana. The team began play during the 2002-03 NBA season as the New Orleans Hornets before later changing their name to Pelicans.

Overall, Liddell will try to rejuvenate a franchise that has struggled during their 20 seasons in New Orleans, which includes finishing above .500 just six times and making the playoffs only three times the past 11 seasons.

The franchise’s best campaign in the bayou was 2007-08 when they went 56-26 and advanced to the conference semifinals.

A couple other franchise notes:

  • After three seasons in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina forced New Orleans to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 2005, where they were the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for two campaigns.

  • The Hornets then returned to New Orleans full-time for the 2007–08 season.

  • Following the 2012-13 campaign, the franchise changed its name to the New Orleans Pelicans.

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