Now nearly 45 years later, Xenia High School Head Coach Kent Anderson has something he thinks the locals will enjoy saying even more:
“Mr. Basketball lives in Xenia.”
XHS senior Samari Curtis has been named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball for 2019, as determined by a distinguished panel of Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association and Associated Press media members.
Curtis, a University of Cincinnati commit, will receive the Mr. Basketball award Friday night at the OHSAA boys basketball state tournament.
Other finalists for the award included Norwalk’s Brandon Haraway, Davis Black (Byesville Meadowbrook), Ben Roderick (Olentangy Liberty), Zach Rasile (McDonald), Devon Grant (Lorain) and Bo Myers (Logan). Haraway finished tied for fourth in the voting among the seven finalists.
Anderson told Curtis he would be doing a routine interview in recognition of his being selected onto the Division I All-Ohio team as its Player of the Year. It wasn’t until he met with a local writer that the wily coach dropped the news.
Curtis was overcome with emotion.
“Lebron (James) is my most favorite player, ever. He’s the reason I started playing basketball. So to get an award that he got … it’s so humbling,” Curtis, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, said upon learning he would join his childhood idol as a recipient of the Mr. Basketball Award.
James, now an NBA star with the Los Angeles Lakers, was the Mr. Basketball recipient from 2001 through 2003, during those years when Curtis was first learning the game from his older brothers Marcus and Aaron.
Curtis led the always-tough Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring three of his four years with the Buccaneers. During his senior season, Curtis finished with a 34.4 points per game scoring average. He also had the second-most assists in the GWOC with 5.8 per contest.
His 224 made free throws this season are unofficially the ninth most free throws made in Ohio High School Athletic Association boys basketball history. Curtis made more free throws than anyone else in the league had even attempted. His 514 career free throws made put him 13th on the OHSAA’s all-time list. He set the school record for points in a single game at 52 in a non-league home win on Feb. 5.
At the prestigious Flyin’ to the Hoop basketball showcase in January, Curtis scored 44 points against First Love Christian Academy (Pa.). His total is the second most points scored in that event’s history.
Yet despite all the scoring accolades, Curtis takes pride in his leadership qualities the most.
“From my sophomore year to my senior year, coach Anderson has really helped me to try and see the floor as a coach, like how he sees it,” Curtis said. “Senior year, I had a lot of sophomore teammates. So I really had to step my leadership up, on the defensive and offensive end. … If coach wouldn’t have helped me with that, I don’t think we would’ve been as successful this year.”
Anderson says he had a hard time getting his star scoring machine to shoot the ball, when the preseason started. On a roster loaded with underclassmen, Curtis had other plans first.
“I said ‘Samari, what are you doin’? Shoot the ball!’” Anderson laughed. “He said, ‘Coach, I’ve gotta get these guys ready to play basketball.’ That was his mindset in terms of what he wanted to do to help his team get ready for the season ahead. And now it’s come back to him.”
Curtis played a support role on the Buccaneers team as a freshman, but vowed to improve himself in the offseason. The day after that season ended, he was in the weight room.
“Freshman year, I didn’t have very much athleticism,” he said. “But I could shoot though, and that kept me on the floor. I had two good players in Ray James and Rocky James, and so I just tried to make my shots when I could. Do what I could to make a play. … I couldn’t really do too much off the dribble my freshman year, but that’s most of my game now. I’m a better defender, I’m stronger, I jump higher. I got better all around.”
XHS Athletic Director Nathan Kopp appreciated the fact that Curtis stayed at the same school, despite there being other programs that would’ve loved to have him.
“The number that resonates with me is “one” — the number of high schools Samari attended during his high school career! This is a tribute to Samari and his belief in Xenia, and it also says a lot about Kent Anderson and his coaching staff and the relationships they are able to forge with the student-athletes at Xenia High School,” Kopp said.
Curtis is now headed to UC, where he hopes to major in Business Management while playing for the Bearcats.
Ohio Mr. Basketball Ohio winners
2019: Samari Curtis, Xenia
2018: Dane Goodwin, Upper Arlington
2017: Kaleb Wesson, Westerville South
2016: Xavier Simpson, Lima Senior
2015: Luke Kennard, Franklin High Schol
2014: Luke Kennard, Franklin High School
2013: Marc Loving, Toledo St. John's Jesuit
2012: Justin Fritts, Mentor
2011: Trey Burke, Columbus Northland
2010: Jared Sullinger, Columbus Northland
2009: Jared Sullinger, Columbus Northland
2008: William Buford, Toledo Libbey
2007: Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky
2006: O.J. Mayo, North College Hill
2005: O.J. Mayo, North College Hill
2004: Jamar Butler, Lima Shawnee
2003: LeBron James, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
2002: LeBron James, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
2001: LeBron James, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
2000: Tony Stockman, Medina; Chester Mason, Cleveland South
1999: Isaac Jefferson, Columbus West
1998: William "Sonny" Johnson, Garfield Heights
1997: Kenny Gregory, Independence
1996: Jason Collier, Springfield Catholic
1995: Damon Stringer, Cleveland Heights
1994: Aaron Hutchins, Lima Central Catholic
1993: Geno Ford, Cambridge
1992: Greg Simpson, Lima Senior
1991: Greg Simpson, Lima Senior
1990: Bob Patton Jr., Youngstown Liberty
1989: Jimmy Jackson, Toledo Macomber
1988: Jimmy Jackson, Toledo Macomber