Underclass Players of the Year Harry Giles III, DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III made a tremendous impact this season and are selected the nation’s top players among juniors, sophomores and freshmen, respectively. The next end-of-season honors squad published with be the 21st Annual Grassroots Hoops All-American team.
Junior of the Year
Harry Giles III, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) 6-10 PF
One of the nation’s top forwards regardless of class, Giles made quite a splash this season after missing his sophomore year because of a torn ACL. Giles has the ability to take over games with his athleticism and relentlessness around the basket. By season’s end, Giles was a bonafide Mr. Basketball USA candidate after receiving little fanfare in the preseason (he appeared on only one ballot among the 10-man Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel).
On the season, Giles averaged 23.9 points and 12.5 rebounds per game the NCISAA Class 3A runner-ups. With Giles leading the way, Wesleyan finished 28-5 against national competition and No. 7 in the final Grassroots Hoops FAB 50. Giles led WCA to third place at the City of Palms Tournament and to the title game of the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions. He was also one of the best players on the USA team that won the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships in Dubai.
Giles is the first junior honoree from North Carolina since Shavlick Randolph of Broughton in Raleigh for the 2000-01 season and the second overall. Current Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning was the first in 1982-1983 after leading Page of Greensboro to a 26-0 mark and No. 2 USA Today Super 25 ranking.
Sophomore of the Year
DeAndre Ayton, Balboa City School (San Diego, Calif.) 7-0 C
The whispers about just how talented this young seven-footer grew quite loud last summer when he went for 17 points and 18 rebounds in an exhibition game victory over North Carolina while in the Bahamas. Ayton played for the Providence Storm and yes, we’re talking about the North Carolina Tar Heels. Regular grassroots basketball observers already seen his immense talent at events such as the 2014 LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas and the 2013 Pangos All-American Camp before his freshman year of high school.
Ayton made quite a splash in his first season of high school basketball, averaging 21.1 points, 16.0 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals. The only draw back to those numbers is Balboa City School finished 16-14, but Ayton’s individual talent (not to mention his statistical output) is undeniable. He shot 63 percent from the field and earned good reviews for being patient and not getting frustrated with teammates for whom the game doesn’t come quite as easily.
Ayton’s situation is also unique in that Balboa School is not allowed to play CIF sanctioned programs, as he put up his numbers against a myriad of prep schools and academy programs. Since he does play for and attend a private institution (as opposed to an after-school academy-type program) he is eligible for Grassroots Hoops post-season honors. Ayton is the first sophomore selection from California since Jason Thomas from Dominguez of Compton, who later played football at UNLV, and Vernon “Schea” Cotton from Mater Dei of Santa Ana, a prodigal talent who later played at Alabama, were honored in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
Freshman of the Year
Marvin Bagley III, Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) 6-10 C
There were some first-year players that contributed or played secondary roles on FAB 50-ranked or regionally-ranked teams, but only one was arguably the best player on a mythical national title contender. Bagley was that player and not only was he a key cog on a team that finished No. 14 in the FAB 50, he was named large schools state player of the year by AZCentral.com.
Bagley came in with tremendous expectations and lived up to those, averaging 19.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists per game for a 32-1 club that lost only to a FAB 50-ranked team from California. In the state title game, he went for 16 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals in a rout of Desert Vista of Phoenix. With the win, Corona del Sol captured its fourth consecutive Division I state title and has not lost to an in-state foe in 70 games. Those numbers could grow to unprecedented levels with Bagley in the Corona del Sol lineup.
His father Marvin Bagley II, played wide receiver at North Carolina A&T, and he has a younger brother, Marcus, who is quite a prospect in his own right. Marcus attends Kyrene Aprende Middle School in Chandler. The only other national player of the year in any class from Arizona is 1996 Mr. Basketball USA Mike Bibby from Shadow Mountain of Phoenix.
Note: ESPN selections 2010-2012; EA SPORTS selections 2003-2009; Student Sports selections prior to 2003; Selections are based on high school accomplishment, not future college/pro potential, and are reflective of those that lead their teams to state championships. The editors of GrassrootsHoops.net do not knowingly select fifth-year players, and those ineligible due to age or academics, Mr. Basketball USA or to its various All-American teams.