Saturday, March 31, 2012
Mr. Basketball State Player of Year Finalists
By Mark Tennis
Just like the girls, a group of five boys are in line to be selected as the 2012 honoree by Cal-Hi Sports. The Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year list now goes back almost 100 years and includes numerous NBA superstars.
Two players from CIF Division I state champion Mater Dei of Santa Ana plus two highly ranked juniors from the San Francisco Bay Area and a McDonald’s All-American have been chosen by Cal-Hi Sports as finalists for the 2012 Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year.
The Mater Dei seniors – Katin Reinhardt and Xavier Johnson – aren’t the only members of a CIF state championship team to be a Mr. Basketball finalist, either.
Junior forward Aaron Gordon from Archbishop Mitty of San Jose led his team to back-to-back Division II titles in 2011 and 2012, junior forward Jabari Bird from Salesian of Richmond was on the Division IV title-winning squad last weekend while senior center Grant Jerrett from La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.) was on the Division III state champ roster last season as a junior.
Here is a closer look at the five players:
Jabari Bird (Salesian, Richmond)
His teammates jokingly thank him for getting the honor to play with him, but there is no joking about this high-flying talent that scored 23 points in a 70-56 win over Price of Los Angeles in the CIF Division IV state finals. Yet to commit to a college, the No. 8 rated player in the ESPNU Super 60 has offers from multiple schools, including several in the Pac 12. With Bird’s return next season, the Pride should be the favorite to defend their state title as he makes another run at a potential Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year award. Bird averaged nearly 20 points per game this season, a total that would have been much higher if Salesian was in closer games.
Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose)
The 6-foot-8 junior, who often handles the ball at the point for the Monarchs, was sensational in leading his team to the CIF Division II state championship. In a 78-57 win over La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad, Gordon racked up 33 points (one of the top 10 best ever in a CIF state final) and pulled down 20 rebounds. He fell one rebound short of the Division II title game record that he himself set with 21 last year when Mitty won its first CIF state crown. A younger brother of University of New Mexico standout Drew Gordon, Aaron averaged nearly 24 points per game for the season. He is the No. 3 ranked player on the ESPNU Super 60.
Grant Jerrett (La Verne Lutheran, La Verne)
Averaging more than 22 points per game for the Trojans, the Arizona-bound forward nearly led his team to the state finals once again, but the season came to an end with a one-point loss to Price of Los Angeles in the Division IV SoCal finals. During the regular season, Jerrett had a high game of 35 points. He also scored 30 points in a 68-66 win over St. Patrick of New Jersey. With an additional average of 10 rebounds per game and possessing solid grades, the student-athlete was earlier named the Gatorade California Player of the Year. Jerrett scored eight points and grabbed two rebounds in 16 minutes of action in Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.
Xavier Johnson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
A transfer after his sophomore season from Chaparral of Temecula, Johnson hit for 18 points per game and had a team-best 9.2 rebounds per game for the back-to-back CIF Division I state champions. The 6-foot-6 senior already has been chosen as the Orange County Register’s Player of the Year in what we know was a very close call. Monarchs’ coach Gary McKnight told Steve Fryer of the Register that Johnson was the team’s “most consistent player” and that he “busted his tail every night.” Johnson will play next year at Colorado.
Katin Reinhardt (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
The other part of the MD duo to collect a Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist tag is Reinhardt. A 6-foot-5 senior guard headed to UNLV, Reinhardt led the Monarchs with 18.6 points per game and was second on the team in assists. Despite having his right thumb wrapped, Reinhardt pumped in 30 points and nearly set a state title game record with six 3-pointers (he broke the D1 game mark but was one short of the overall best) in the team’s win against Sheldon of Sacramento. It was Mater Dei’s second straight state crown. Reinhardt’s season-best was 35 points against Christ the King of Middle Village, N.Y., at the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass.
For corrections or comments and to make your vote known about who you think should be Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year for 2012, email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.