Posted On: 10/23/18 8:49 AM

For the first time in three seasons, someone else will win the crown of Mr. Basketball in the state of Louisiana. Ja’Vonte Smart, who won the title his last three years of high school, has moved on to begin his career at LSU. With Ja’Vonte transitioning to the next level, the door has been left wide open for someone to take the crown this year. In this Prep Hoops article, we will take a look at the contenders, dark horses, and long shots to be named Mr. Basketball.

The Contenders

Mylik Wilson / 6’3″ / Rayville High School / 2019

Some people would just assume that Wilson is the prohibitive favorite to be Mr. Basketball because he is on the number one player in the state.  Those people would be correct.  Mylik was the top player in the 2019 class and did nothing short of solidifying that during the summer.  He played at a high level during the EYBL (Nike) grassroots season.  Then he followed that up with stellar play in June with Rayville and in late summer during the grassroots tournaments in Las Vegas.  Wilson can do it all on offense and defense.  He is Rayville’s best help defender and also their top scorer.  If he puts up numbers similar to last season’s double-double while his team wins another title, he should become Mr. Basketball going away.  

Jordan Wright / 6’5″ / Dunham High School / 2019

Last season Jordan Wright had a storybook ending to his junior season.  He led Dunham to a state title with an MVP performance in the championship culminated with the winning bucket.  Wright might be able to duplicate the state title performance; however, to become Mr. Basketball, he will have to have some big time games during the season.  Dunham has games against Scotlandville, St. Thomas More, Madison Prep, and Bossier during the season.  In those games, Wright would have to be the best player on the floor while leading his team to victory.  If he can be that player and lead Dunham to back-to-back titles, the title of Mr. Basketball will be well within his grasp.  

Greg Hammond / 6’5″ / Sophie B. Wright High School / 2019

One of the most gifted scorers on the high school level is Greg Hammond.  He scores the rock as easy as breathing in some games.  However, to be in the running for Mr. Basketball, Hammond will have to do more than just score.  Hammond will have to become the unquestioned leader of his team on offense and defense.  With another challenging schedule this season, Hammond will get the platform to perform against top competition and prove that he can be “the man” night after night.  The Sophie B. Wright team has three very good players (3 of the top 10 players in 2019).  Hammond, who is the state’s third ranked player, needs to play to that lofty status.    If Hammond can become the undisputed “top dog” on this talented team, Mr. Basketball honors will be bestowed upon him at season’s end.     

Reece Beekman / 6’2″ / Scotlandville Magnet High School / 2020  (pictured above)

Beekman is arguably one of the best in the 2020 class coming into this season.  He is a point guard who can score at all three levels and has a basketball IQ that is off the charts.  His court vision separates him from most point guards. Reece finds guys in the optimum position to score.  Losing Ja’Vonte Smart will be eased with Beekman at the point.  Scotlandville always plays a tough schedule so Beekman will have several games to showcase his stellar ability and make statements.  His team will be definitely be contenders to win another state championship which will help his cause even more.  If he plays to his capability, the Mr. Basketball title could very well remain on the Scotlandville campus for another season. 

Jalen Cook / 6’0″ / Walker High School / 2020

Cook might be the only contender on this list that may get a late start to the season.  Cook is a main cog on the Walker football team and a deep playoff run might have him not showing up until almost Thanksgiving.  Even if he misses some time, Cook has the talent to overcome a late start.  He was the point guard on the 5A state championship and will have some weapons playing with him this year.  Cook can take over games with his scoring or play-making ability.  Often times the game is in his hands so he will more than likely have an effect on the outcome.  With games against the likes of East Ascension, Madison Prep, and Scotlandville (district), Cook will have the spotlight for some seriously high profile contest.  I can definitely see him walking away with the title of Mr. Basketball if things break his way.  

The Dark Horses

Damiree Burns / 6’7″ / Sophie B. Wright High School / 2019

I know that I said his teammate is a strong contender from the crown; however, this guy should not be overlooked.  Burns is making a lot of noise going into his senior year and his upside is ridiculously high.  Damiree has always had a post up game and at 6’7″ he is a match up nightmare for most in the post.  Now that Burns has begun to hit his jump shot regularly, he is almost to hard to guard.  Even though his teammate is a natural born scorer, Burns may be more important because of the variety in his game.  If Burns becomes Wright’s best player and they end up supplanting Peabody and Madison Prep in 3A, I can see Damiree winning the Mr. Basketball crown.  

Jahein Spencer / 6’5″ / Madison Prep Academy / 2019

Spencer, a UAB commit, is moving into his senior year as the go-to guy for the Chargers.  Jahein is coming off of a summer where he got a chance to morph into that role through his summer play with MP and with Louisiana Elite.  Being the go-to guy on his team is one thing.  Becoming Mr. Basketball is something totally different.  With the schedule that Madison Prep has, Spencer will get a chance to show he is the best.  A home-and-home series with Rayville as well as games against Walker and Bossier will help his case if he is the best player on the floor.  Good showings against teams of this caliber may indeed prove that Jahein is the best player in the state and worthy of being Mr. Basketball.

Darius Smith / 6’4″ / Peabody Magnet High School / 2019

Smith is another player who made tremendous strides during the summer.  He played well during the summer grassroots season as well as the month of June with Peabody.  His three point shot is much improved and he was shooting them without hesitation.  Smith seems to be filling the scoring void created with the departure of Dwight Simon to LSU-Eunice.  Coupled with his improved scoring is his top notch defensive ability.  There were instances last year that he shutdown top scorers in the state when he faced them.  Just like these other dark horses, to be Mr. Basketball, he will need to be his best against the best.  A 3A championship mixed in with big outings against Sophie B. Wright, Bossier, and others could propel Smith to the top of Mr. Basketball list.  

Jacoby Decker / 5’9″ / Bossier High School / 2019

Coming into this season, Decker has a resume’ that is worthy of Mr. Basketball consideration.  He is a 2 time all state performer and the reigning 1-4A player of the year.    This season he has the fact of knowing that he is playing on one of the top three teams in the state.  Bossier is loaded and he is the leader of the team.  With his play, he has proven that he can take over games and be the biggest difference in a Bearkat victory.  If he can prove that fact to the sports writers around the state, Decker may be the overwhelming choice to win the title.  Games against some of the players on this list mixed in with tough tournaments in Lake Charles and Natchitoches will give him the chance to place his name squarely on the list.  If successful, Mr. Basketball may be Jacoby Decker.

Ladamien Bradford / 6’5″ / Jonesboro-Hodge High School / 2020

If Beekman and Cook are the numbers one and two as far as point guards are concerned, Ladamien Bradford will probably be number three.  The 6’5″ guard from Jonesboro is one of the most dynamic players in the state.  He can handle the rock, find open players, and score on his own.  Bradford is probably one of the most unheralded players because he plays in class 1A.  Even though he plays in that class, his talent is undeniable.  His biggest obstacle will be how he fairs against teams who make him shot jumpers.  Another knock on him will Jonesboro-Hodge’s schedule.  Other than district duels with Chance Robinson (Lincoln Prep), Bradford does not have many high profile games to showcase his talent.  With that said, if he dominates play in 1A and some how takes his team on a championship run, Mr. Basketball could very well be his.  

Other players will certainly emerge during the season as very good players and contend for the Mr. Basketball title.  With the talent around the state, the player who replaces Ja’Vonte Smart with this honor will be one of the best the state has to offer.  I look forward to seeing who will be the next Mr. Basketball for the state of Louisiana.