Luke Kennard, Jimmy Jackson, Jared Sullinger, Trey Burke.
Add Samari Curtis to that list.
Xenia’s high-scoring senior guard is Ohio’s Mr. Basketball for 2019.
“That’s great company,” he said of winning the award presented by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association. “It means so much to me. It means so much to me because I’m from Xenia. I’ve always wanted to put Xenia on the map for something good other than a tornado. I think I did good. I think I did good.”
Curtis was the team’s No. 3 scorer averaging 13.4 points per game as the Buccaneers won a share of the GWOC South his freshman season (2016).
He led the GWOC in scoring each of the next three seasons, averaging 24.1 points per game as a sophomore, 30.4 last season and 33.8 in 2019.
Along the way he learned a lot about how to adapt as Xenia had to break in four new starters each of the last three seasons and posted a cumulative record of 41-30.
“The thing that’s made him so, so special is each of the last three years he’s had to start over, to play with a new team so to speak,” Xenia coach Kent Anderson said. “He’s had to redefine our team each of the last three years and put up ridiculous numbers while doing that, and I just think it’s a credit to him to be able to play with that many different guys and teams and still have the success he’s had.”
»RELATED: Curtis signs with Cincinnati
Curtis was third in the GWOC in assists (5.2 per game) this past season while shooting 34.1 percent from 3-point range and making 51 percent of his field goals. He made 224 free throws (eighth most in a single season in OHSAA history) while the young Buccs went 13-11 and finished third in the GWOC American South.
With 2,109 points, Curtis shattered Robert Siwo’s school scoring record (1,537). Anderson said it means a great deal that he stayed with the program in an age when highly regarded prospects finishing their careers at prep schools has become a trend.
“He wanted to stay here and take that challenge,” Anderson said. “He had plenty of challenges in AAU. He’s going to obviously have that at the next level. So what he was looking for was hey how can I build the team up around me? I think that’s his perspective, and he did just that. The preseason this year I couldn’t even get him to shoot. He said, ‘Coach, I’ve gotta get these other guys ready to play varsity basketball.’ We started two other sophomores and he had to take on that role, so from a leadership perspective he’s done a great job doing that.”
»RELATED: Curtis a program changer at Xenia
Next up for Curtis is the University of Cincinnati .
He signed to play for coach Mick Cronin’s Bearcats because he feels the program’s reputation for gritty basketball fits him.
“UC is a great school for me,” he said, noting he recently found out he is related to current UC star Jarron Cumberland, who is from Wilmington. “They just fit me. I’m a tough player. I play with my emotions. I play with my heart out every time and that’s the school that fits me perfectly. The coach is me. Me and him can relate on a lot of things. That’s why picked the school.”
Curtis is the first future Bearcat to win the Associated Press/OPSWA Mr. Basketball Award and joins a list of winners that includes seven players who have made it to the NBA (so far) and numerous college standouts.
While Kennard (Franklin, 2014, 2015) and Jason Collier (Springfield Catholic Central, 1996) are the only area winners of the AP/OPSWA award, the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association’s version has produced several more local winners — Kennard, Travis Trice (Wayne, 2011), Romain Sato (Dayton Christian, 2000), Brooks Hall (Troy, 1999), Andre Hutson (Trotwood-Madison, 1997) and Collier.
Finding out he won the award brought Curtis to tears.
“It was all surreal to me, just knowing all the hard work I’ve been through,” he said. “My brother pushing me in the gym. Late nights, early mornings. I just couldn’t hold back the tears.
“I never judge anybody off leaving their town to go get a better opportunity, but to stay home and do it in front of my friends and family, they get to watch me every day, it feels so great to do it in my hometown.
“I’m always going to represent Xenia no matter where I go.”
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