Posted On: 03/12/19 12:01 AM
The first Mr. Basketball honor was awarded in 1981, when Maple Valley’s Todd Berkenpas took home the crown. For just the third time in the award’s history, there are two winners this year, as the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association has tabbed both North Linn’s Jake Hilmer and Bettendorf’s DJ Carton as the co-winners of the 2019 Mr. Basketball award.
Hilmer, the Lynx’s record setting point guard, capped his high school career off last Friday, helping North Linn win their first state title in boys basketball, as they rolled through the 2A field. He finished his career with 2,332 career points, 1,106 assists and 534 steals. His point total ranks 10th all-time in the state, while his assist and steals totals are both the best the state has seen.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling knowing that I won probably the most prestigious award there is. You look at the names of guys you are joining as ‘Mr. Basketball’ and it’s like, wow, I’m on a list with some of the most special talents the state has ever seen,” Hilmer said. A consummate teammate who always has handled himself with class on and off the floor, Hilmer said that setting a positive example for others is the thing that he really values. “I got to play on a big stage and represent not only myself, but my school and my community as well. I always try to represent in a positive way. There will always be people to pick at flaws in my game, but I don’t want to leave those people anything negative to say about my character or how I handle myself.”
Capping off his senior season with a state title was a fitting way for Hilmer’s career to end. As a sophomore, the Lynx finished third in Class 1A. As a junior, they were the runner-up. And as a senior, they won it all in Class 2A. “Ending with a state title meant everything to me. It was about leaving with North Linn on top,” Hilmer said. “I’ll have that championship to share with that group of guys forever, and that’s a group of dudes who deserve it as much as anyone.” The fact that his dad serves as co-head coach (along with his grandfather) also put an extra cherry on top. “I’m glad we won one for that man. (He) cares more than anyone about his players, and I’ve seen that first hand for more than these last four years. He’s been a championship level coach for long before this season.”
Hilmer will head to Upper Iowa next season, where he plans on playing both baseball and basketball for the Peacocks. He has high hopes for the success they’ll have on the basketball court there, as well. “I don’t plan on this being my last championship,” Hilmer said.
Bettendorf point guard DJ Carton was also named Mr. Basketball by the IPSWA. Carton has enjoyed a meteoric rise throughout the Iowa basketball landscape over the last few years, turning himself from a potential mid-major prospect into one of the most coveted point guard prospects in the country, and the most highly regarded Iowan since Marcus Paige in the national recruiting rankings.
The lead guard was the leader of a Bettendorf team that reached the #1 spot in Class 4A this season before falling in the substate final to Dubuque Senior. He averaged 24.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists this year, and became the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer. Unavailable to comment for this story, Carton will head to play his college ball for Chris Holtmann at Ohio State.
Hilmer and Carton are both their respective school’s first Mr. Basketball winners.