2023-24 Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year: Seneca’s Paxton Giertz repeats the feat

Fighting Irish junior all-state guard wins honor for the second straight year

Seneca junior guard Paxton Giertz, the 2023-24 Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Seneca junior Paxton Giertz got off to a great start to the season and just kept going from there.

“The first game this season at our Turkey Tournament when I went over 1,000 career points was a great way to get things started,” Giertz said. “That mark was a goal I wanted to reach ever since coming in freshman year. Winning the (Tri-County) conference tournament after falling short last season is another great memory. But really, the best memories are just playing with this group of guys and having great coaches to learn from, which all made this season just so much fun.”

Giertz, who repeats this season as the Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year and first-team selection, helped lead the Fighting Irish to a 23-10 mark. He averaged an area-best 21.6 points, to go along with 5.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 steals. He made 104 3-pointers and shot 82.4% from the free-throw line.

Going into his senior season, Giertz will be nine points away from passing Garrett Callahan (2002-2006) for second place on the program’s all-time list, and 148 shy of surpassing Seth Evans (1,847, 2005-2009) to become the all-time leading scorer.

“You look at the all-time scoring leaders here at Seneca, and to think some of those guys didn’t have the 3-point shot, it’s pretty amazing to me,” Giertz said. “I was able to pass my uncle Mark Aubry’s scoring mark towards the end of the season, and that one is pretty special. He was third all-time and just a special player and athlete here at Seneca.”

Giertz, who helped Seneca win the Tri-County Conference Tournament championship for the first time, was a unanimous TCC first-team pick, as well as the Player of the Year in the conference. He was named to the Seneca Turkey and Effingham/Teutopolis Christmas Classic All-Tournament teams, Illinois Media 2A All-State second team and IBCA 2A All-State third team.

Seneca's Paxton Giertz shoots a jump shot over Streator's Landon Muntz during a game on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2023 at the United Center in Chicago.

“We knew coming into this season – because we lost some keys players, second options from the perimeter from last season’s team – we were going to face more defenses and more schemes to try and stop him ... more box-and-one’s and more double teams,” Seneca coach Russ Witte said. “That happened, so for him to put up the numbers he did and to also be our best defender that plays the point of our full-court press, that’s pretty impressive.

“We are going to ask the same from him next year, and that’s with losing a couple of solid post players. He has been asked to do a lot, and I’d put Pax’s all-around season up at the top against any other in the history of Seneca basketball. He was really special.

“He’s a three-sport athlete, top of the crop in every one of his sports, a tremendous competitor, a National Honor Society student, and just great kid. Every coach would take him on their team, but I’m glad he’s on our side.”

Giertz said there were so many special moments during the season, but one really stands out.

“There are a lot of cool and special moments I can think of that I had during the season, but my favorite was a game against Putnam County in a home game. I got my first in-game dunk,” Giertz said. “They were inbounding from underneath their own basket; we were in our 1-2-2 defense and one of my teammates stole the ball around the three-point line. I immediately started to leak out, they found me, I took two or three dribbles and all of a sudden, I’m in the air and throwing it down. My legs felt really good that night in warmups, so I already had told myself if I got a chance [to dunk] I was going to go for it. It just worked out.”

Heading into his senior season Giertz already has his priorities set in the things he will be working on.

“I’m going to continue to work on being a more consistent 3-point shooter,” Giertz said. “I shoot a lot of them, but even this year after working all offseason, they just didn’t go down as efficiently as I would have liked. I also need to be more controlled when I take the ball to the basket. Just have more trust in my ability to finish.

“That said, I feel like it’s important to work on everything, work to be an all-around good player. So that’s my focus going into next season, to be the best player I can be for not only myself, but for my teammates.”

Seneca's Paxton Giertz runs in all alone to score against Midland during the Tri-County Conference Tournament on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 at Putnam County High School.
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