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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2002

James has a season like no other Ohioan

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS - Playing basketball with Michael Jordan. Getting shoes from Kobe Bryant. Shaquille O'Neal watching from the stands.

Getting attention from the NBA's superstar players is just one way LeBron James is different from every other high school basket|ball player in Ohio.

Here's another.

A state media panel yesterday unanimously selected James, a junior from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, as Ohio's Mr. Basketball for a second straight season.

James joins Jim Jackson (Macomber) and Greg Simpson (Lima Senior) as the only two-time winners of the top individual honor for a high school hoopster, an award in its 15th season.

"To be named the best in the state is great. But I wish (the award) recognized the team, too. I'm all about the team," said James, who also was the first sophomore to be selected as Mr. Basketball.

The 6-7 James averaged 29 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 3.3 steals this season while leading SVSM (22-3) to the No. 1 spot in the Division II rankings and a third straight trip to the state tournament.

The Fighting Irish have won the last two titles in Division III.

James has been through a year unlike any other in the history of Ohio high school basketball.

Using the headline "The Chosen One," Sports Illustrated made James the first underclass high school basketball player to appear on its magazine's cover.

He's gotten to meet several players among the NBA's elite and played in Cleveland's Gund Arena before a sellout of 20,562 fans, the largest crowd to see a high school basketball game in Ohio.

Scouts also have pegged James as the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft and shoe companies are lining up to sign him to an endorsement deal.

So what's it like being a 17-year-old who knows he's going to be a multimillionaire?

"Its amazing. It's kind of unexplainable. It's a dream come true," he said. "To be recognized and to be spoken of highly by the greatest players in the NBA right now, it's great. I just have to make sure I stay focused and play hard."

Division IV All-Ohio

Patrick Phillips, a 6-3 senior at Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic who averaged 20.5 points a game, was named to the All-Ohio Division IV first team. Adam Basinger of Pandora-Gilboa, a 5-9 senior (15.5), was third team.

Bristolville Bristol's John King and Matt Witt of Tipp City Bethel share player of the year honors.



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