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The last Ohio athlete to win national boys basketball player of the year honors from ESPN RISE was LeBron James of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's.
His selection was a no-brainer for the 2003 season. Even at the conclusion of his 2001-02 junior campaign, James was a slam-dunk choice, even with seniors and future NBA stars Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony having standout campaigns.
|Former Ohio State star Clark Kellogg's performances in the Ohio state tournament cemented his status among the legendary players in the famed Class of 1979.|
The selection of Clark Kellogg, the last Ohio product to earn national player of the year honors before James, definitely wasn't as clear-cut.
The 1979 graduate of Cleveland St. Joseph's and college basketball analyst for CBS Sports didn't have as much fanfare going into his senior season as many of the other top players in the star-studded Class of '79 did. This despite the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward's averages of 28 points and a whopping 22 rebounds per game as a junior.
Big men such as Ralph Sampson (Harrisonburg, Va.) and Sam Bowie (Lebanon, Pa.), and forwards Antoine Carr (Wichita Heights, Wichita, Kan.), James Worthy (Ashbrook, Gastonia, N.C.) and Dominique Wilkins (Washington, N.C.), all overshadowed Kellogg. So did a skinny guard out of Chicago who was the junior player of the year in 1977-78: future NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas (St. Joseph's, Westchester, Ill.).
Perhaps it was St. Joseph's 18-4 record in '78 or the fact Kellogg was a bit young for his class and still growing. Whatever the reason, he clearly wasn't the front-runner for player of the year honors in a year stacked with blue-chippers.
The same holds true this year for Columbus Northland's Jared Sullinger.
"There are a lot of different factors going into each season," said panelist Doug Huff, who saw many of the top players in the '79 class play and has been a member of the McDonald's All-American selection committee since the game's inception in 1978. "Sampson, Worthy and Dominique, those big-time guys had names that grew because of what they did in the summer. Plus the Cleveland area has not traditionally been on the national radar for big-name players. Sullinger had a little more momentum going in because his team won the state title as a junior."
Despite his team's success and state player of the year accolades as a junior, Sullinger was absent from two ballots and fell 30 points short of front-runner Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa) in the preseason ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball USA Tracker.
Kellogg built momentum as his season wore along and closed with a bang, scoring 51 points in a 79-65 state title game loss to Columbus East. The McDonald's All-American and captain of the Ohio all-state team then put on a show-stopping performance at the 1979 Derby Festival Classic to edge Thomas and Sampson for the honor now referred to as ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball USA.
Sullinger's momentum-building moment came a little earlier than his fellow Buckeye State native. It was a 32-point, 17-rebound performance during a 53-52 victory over then-FAB 50 No. 1 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) on Dec. 17 that propelled Sullinger. This week, he appeared on nine ballots and increased his point total from 72 to 82 (out of a possible 100 points) from the previous tracker published Dec. 17.
The season is far from over and others could pass Sullinger, like he has Barnes, especially during the various state tournaments around the country. Before its state tourney begins, FAB 50 No. 2 Northland has a date with No. 9 Oak Hill Academy on Jan. 16 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN) and after, the McDonald's All-American game will be played in Sullinger's hometown.
"Kellogg had one of the best individual state tournament performances in Ohio's history," Huff said. "Sullinger has definitely got similar skill for the next level, or two."
Read below to see the voting results of the third 2009-10 ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball Tracker and stay logged into ESPNRISE.com all season to track the progress of the top individual players -- as well as the top teams -- in the ESPN RISE FAB 50.
Click here to check out the high school games on TV this season.
|ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball USA Tracker|
|1||3||Jared Sullinger (9)||PF||Northland||3||5||0||1||0||82|
|2||1||Harrison Barnes (8)||W||Ames||5||1||1||0||1||73|
|3||4||Michael Gilchrist (8)||W||St. Patrick||1||2||3||0||0||62|
|4||NR||Deshaun Thomas (6)||PF||Bishop Luers||1||0||1||1||1||40|
|5||2||Brandon Knight (6)||PG||Pine Crest||0||0||1||1||2||36|
|6||5||Cory Joseph (5)||PG||Findlay Prep||0||0||1||2||1||32|
|7||7||Austin Rivers (5)||SG||Winter Park||0||0||0||2||2||30|
Others Receiving Votes:
Kyrie Irving (St. Patrick, Elizabeth, N. J.) 25 pts. (4)
Joseph Young (Yates, Houston, Texas) 24 pts. (5)
Quincy Miller (Quality Education, Winston-Salem, N. C.) 17 pts. (2)
Josh Selby (Lake Clifton, Baltimore, Md.) 14 pts. (2)
Joe Jackson (White Station, Memphis, Tenn.) 12 pts. (2)
Perry Jones (Duncanville, Texas) 9 pts. (1)
Jordan Burris (Stockdale, Bakersfield, Calif.) 7 pts. (1)
Terrence Jones (Jefferson, Portland, Ore.) 6 pts. (1)
Marquis Teague (Pike, Indianapolis, Ind.) 5 pts. (1)
C.J. Leslie (Word of God Academy, Raleigh, N.C.) 4 pts. (1)
LeBryan Nash (Lincoln, Dallas, Texas) 4 pts. (1)
Adam Smith (Fayette County, Fayetteville, Ga.) 4 pts. (1)
Adonis Thomas (Melrose, Memphis, Tenn.) 4 pts. (1)