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Belleville native E.J. Liddell goes 41st overall to Pelicans in NBA Draft

Liddell was picked in the second round by the New Orleans Pelicans.

BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Thursday was one of the biggest days in the history of Belleville basketball.

For the first time since Darius Miles was picked third overall in 2000, the Metro East witnessed one of their own get picked in the NBA Draft.

Belleville native E.J. Liddell went 41st overall to the New Orleans Pelicans in Thursday night's draft.

Liddell, a Belleville West High School alum is a two-time Illinois Mr. Basketball winner and a two-time state champion with the Maroons.

In three years at Ohio State, Liddell was a two-time first-team all-Big Ten selection at forward.

For many, it was evident from the very beginning at Belleville West that Liddell was going to be special.

"The first time he played at Belleville West as a freshman I think he had like 20 points and 14 or 15 rebounds in a summer league game," Belleville West Athletic Director and Liddell's high school coach Joe Muniz said. "And I walked out of there saying, 'This kid's special'. And he went on to do some special things here at Belleville West."

Even though Liddell is heading on to big things at the highest level of basketball, he knows he'll never forget his hometown.

"I rep the 618 proudly. I feel like everybody knows where I'm from," Liddell said ahead of the draft. "I mean they may not know the city, but I let everyone in the nation know where I'm from. Belleville, Illinois. Just me, having Belleville on my side and not the St. Louis area, I mean I'm from the Metro East and I know guys over there are gonna support me as well, but just being from Belleville means a lot, honestly. It just shows my humble beginnings and shows I've always had that underdog mentality."

RELATED: Belleville West alum and college hoops superstar E.J. Liddell forms special bond with local young superfan

Liddell said he worked especially hard on his shooting this past season at Ohio State, to make him a more attractive option for NBA teams.

"In high school, I didn't really have to shoot jump shots. I was taller than most people. I shot it sometimes when I felt like I needed to, but it's all about confidence really," Liddell said. "That's just with every kid, truthfully. Everybody shoots different but mine came from confidence. My freshman year my confidence was kind of down and I came back my second year and kept getting more reps up. And when I started hitting, my confidence level kept going up. So that's what I've been working on, just my mindset, whenever I shoot it I think it's going in."

Liddell doesn't just carry his hometown with him to the league. He cited his family's support as a major reason for his success.

"My whole family. Everybody in my family. My aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents... They've all meant so much to me. Always showing up to games, always supporting me even when I was a young kid just playing sports before I got to this stage. They just help me. They're my backbone. Just being able to lean on them whenever is really special to me. And I'm happy I can put myself in this position to represent the 618 but also the Liddell name," Liddell said.

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