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Monday, April 16, 2012
Mr. Basketball 2012: Aaron Gordon

By Mark Tennis

California high school boys basketball, Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year
Gordon's length is tough to beat on offense or defense.
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.

California high school boys basketball, Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year
Gordon's perimeter skills, such as bringing the ball up against the press, make him an elite prospect.
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.”

MR. BASKETBALL
STATE PLAYERS
OF THE YEAR
ALL-TIME LIST


(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.