State’s top honor goes to Archbishop Mitty of San Jose’s 6-foot-8 junior. The last junior to be the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year was Tyson Chandler and the one before that was Jason Kidd.
It’s one thing to be chosen as the Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year for a state as big as California. But doing it as a junior puts that player in an even more exclusive club.
Aaron Gordon, the dynamic 6-foot-8 forward from Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, is now a member of that club after being named as the 2012 Mr. Basketball honoree.
Gordon tops a group of four other finalists – Mater Dei’s Katin Reinhardt and Xavier Johnson along with La Verne Lutheran’s Grant Jerrett and Richmond Salesian’s Jabari Bird – primarily due to his dominant showing in leading Mitty to its second straight CIF Division II state title.
“That’s just crazy,” said Gordon when told of the selection by ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports on Monday afternoon. “I didn’t think I’d get that.”
In the team’s 78-57 triumph over La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad, Gordon racked up 33 points and 20 rebounds and shut down La Costa Canyon top scorer Matt Shrigley. For the season, Gordon averaged 22.9 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 blocks.
“The fourth time being at (Power Balance Arena) made it feel kind of like a home gym,” said Gordon, who is traveling this weekend with his Oakland Soldiers AAU team to a tournament in Minnesota. “But Mitty is a great school with a great principal and great athletes. When we play by the principles we go by, it’s easy to win.”
Still, it was not all peaches and cream for the Monarchs. After traveling to the Torrey Pines tourney in San Diego, Gordon was diagnosed with mononucleosis. There were several close calls and then came back-to-back losses to Serra of San Mateo and De La Salle of Concord.
“After those two games, we met as a team and really picked it up on defense,” Gordon said. “We told ourselves we would not lose any more games this season.”
Mitty didn’t in fact lose again and ended up No. 3 in the state overall and No. 35 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.
Gordon is grateful to his coach, Tim Kennedy, and to his teammates for helping him get the opportunity to have such a monster showing in a state final and added: “We had a bunch of good shooters, we were really good at spreading the floor and everybody, even some guys on the bench, all came through.”
The last junior to be Mr. Basketball in California was Tyson Chandler from Dominguez of Compton in 2000. The previous one before Chandler was Jason Kidd from St. Joseph of Alameda in 1991. Those two helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA World Championship.
The only other juniors in the last 60 years who are on the all-time list of winners would be John Williams from Crenshaw of Los Angeles (1983), Bill Cartwright of Elk Grove (1974), Cliff Pondexter from San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno (1972), Keith Wilkes of Ventura (1969) and Fred LaCour from St. Ignatius of San Francisco (1955). Only Pondexter and Wilkes did not repeat as overall statewide MVPs during their senior years.
When Gordon was chosen last week as the San Jose Mercury-News Player of the Year for the second straight season, he was described as the most talented player in the history of the South Bay. Time will tell if that turns out to be true (after all, NBA sensation Jeremy Lin is considered from the South Bay), but the only other South Bay player on the all-time state list is former NBA player Dennis Awtrey, who played at now-closed Blackford of San Jose in 1966.
Another of the best ever from the South Bay also happens to be Aaron’s older brother, Drew. The teams he led at Mitty didn’t win state titles, but those teams in 2007 and 2008 had to play Mater Dei. Drew was a standout this year at New Mexico and his name is now showing up on pre-NBA draft boards, mostly as a middle of the second-round selection.
“My brother is just a beast and he used to push me around and dunk on me all over the place,” said Aaron, who also has an older sister, Elisabeth, currently playing at Harvard. “I used to get mad at him, but now I know that my game has just developed from his.”
While Gordon is excited to hear about his connection to those types of players and his possible place in California history, he’s quick to put it all in perspective. He knows he’s still got one more year to go in high school and then it will be off to college. As the No. 3 player in the ESPN Super 60, he’s got offers from every major college and soon will begin to pare down his list of favorites.
“I know I’m just a high schooler with a lot of basketball in front of me,” he said. “You always want to work to get better. And I didn’t get Gatorade National Player of the Year. Thinking about stuff like that keeps me hungry.”
OF THE YEAR
(All selections by Cal-Hi Sports)
Note: All-time list before 1978 compiled by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis, based on research.
2012 Aaron Gordon, San Jose Archbishop Mitty, 6-8 Jr.
2011 Ryan Anderson, Long Beach Poly, 6-8
2010 Allen Crabbe, Los Angeles Price, 6-6
2009 Kawhi Leonard, Riverside Martin Luther King, 6-7
2008 Jrue Holiday, North Hollywood Campbell Hall, 6-3
2007 Taylor King, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-8
2006 Chase Budinger, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, 6-8
2005 Amir Johnson, L.A. Westchester, 6-10
2004 DeMarcus Nelson, Sacramento Sheldon, 6-3
2003 Trevor Ariza, L.A. Westchester, 6-8
2002 Hassan Adams, L.A. Westchester, 6-4
2001 Tyson Chandler, Compton Dominguez, 7-1
2000 Tyson Chandler, Compton Dominguez, 7-0 Jr.
1999 Casey Jacobsen, Glendora, 6-6
1998 Tayshaun Prince, Compton Dominguez, 6-8
1997 Baron Davis, Santa Monica Crossroads, 6-2
1996 Corey Benjamin, Fontana, 6-6
1995 Paul Pierce, Inglewood, 6-7
1994 Jelani Gardner, Bellflower St. John Bosco, 6-6
1993 Charles O'Bannon, Lakewood Artesia, 6-7
1992 Jason Kidd, Alameda St. Joseph, 6-4
1991 Jason Kidd, Alameda St. Joseph, 6-4 Jr.
1990 Ed O'Bannon, Lakewood Artesia, 6-9
1989 Tracy Murray, Glendora, 6-8
1988 Chris Mills, L.A. Fairfax, 6-7
1987 LeRon Ellis, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-11
1986 Scott Williams, Hacienda Heights Wilson, 6-10
1985 Tom Lewis, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-7
1984 John Williams, L.A. Crenshaw, 6-8
1983 John Williams, L.A. Crenshaw, 6-7 Jr.
1982 Tony Jackson, Oakland Bishop O'Dowd, 6-4
1981 Dwayne Polee, L.A. Manual Arts, 6-5
1980 Ralph Jackson, Inglewood, 6-3
1979 Darren Daye, Granada Hills Kennedy, 6-7
1978 Greg Goorjian, Crescenta Valley, 6-2
1977 Cliff Robinson, Oakland Castlemont, 6-7
1976 Rich Branning, Huntington Beach Marina, 6-2
1975 Bill Cartwright, Elk Grove, 7-1
1974 Bill Cartwright, Elk Grove, 7-0 Jr.
1973 Marques Johnson, L.A. Crenshaw, 6-5
1972 Cliff Pondexter, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 6-7 Jr.
1971 Roscoe Pondexter, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 6-6
1970 Bill Walton, La Mesa Helix, 6-10
1969 Keith Wilkes, Ventura, 6-5 Jr.
1968 Paul Westphal, Redondo Beach Aviation, 6-2
1967 Curtis Rowe, L.A. Fremont, 6-6
1966 Dennis Awtrey, San Jose Blackford, 6-9
1965 Bob Portman, S.F. St. Ignatius, 6-5
1964 Russ Critchfield, Salinas, 5-10
1963 Edgar Lacey, L.A. Jefferson, 6-6
1962 Joe Ellis, Oakland McClymonds, 6-5
1961 Gail Goodrich, L.A. Poly, 5-11
1960 Paul Silas, Oakland McClymonds, 6-6
1959 Steve Gray, S.F. Washington, 6-4
1958 Billy McGill, L.A. Jefferson, 6-9
1957 Tom Meschery, S.F. Lowell, 6-5
1956 Fred LaCour, S.F. St. Ignatius, 6-4
1955 Fred LaCour, S.F. St. Ignatius, 6-4 Jr.
1954 Willie Davis, Alameda, 5-11
1953 Bill Bond, Long Beach St. Anthony, 6-1
1952 Willie Naulls, San Pedro, 6-5
1951 Ken Sears, Watsonville, 6-7
1950 Don Bragg, S.F. Galileo, 6-3
List extends back to 1905 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book and Almanac.
Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.