A year from now, if the University of Cincinnati continue its trend of success, Samari Curtis will get his first taste of March Madness as a freshman for the Bearcats. As for today, the 6-foot-4 Xenia High School senior is basking in the exhilaration of being named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball.
Luke Kennard, Jimmy Jackson, Jason Collier, O.J. Mayo, Jared Sullinger and Trey Burke are among the award’s recipients whose careers led to the NBA. Then there is LeBron James, who was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball from Akron St. Vincent/St.Mary in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Curtis says he is humbled and proud to share a title with those names, mentioning that James is the reason he started playing basketball.
“It means so much to me because I’m from Xenia,” Curtis told reporters. “I’ve always wanted to put Xenia on the map for something good, other than a tornado.”
Curtis ended his Xenia High School basketball tenure as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,109 points. He averaged a GWOC-best 34.4 points per game as a senior. Curtis also owns Xenia’s single-game record of 52 points and the single-season scoring record with 816 points.
Pacing a young Buccaneers team to a 13-11 record and a third-place finish in the GWOC American South, Curtis was third in the league with 5.2 assists per game, hit 34.1 percent beyond the arc and made 51 percent of his overall field goals. His 224 free throws made is eighth most in a single season in OHSAA history.
Curtis had multiple opportunities to depart Xenia and finish his high school career at an acclaimed prep school as many high-profile juniors and seniors do today, but he opted to remain in his hometown before beginning college at UC.
“I never judge anybody for leaving their town to go get a better opportunity, but to stay home and do it in front of my friends and family, it feels so great to do it in my hometown,” Curtis said. “I’m always going to represent Xenia no matter where I go.”
Curtis is the third Dayton area player to earn Mr. Basketball honors. Franklin’s Kennard won in 2014 and 2015 before playing college basketball at Duke while Collier of Springfield Catholic Central won in 1996 and headed to Indiana University. Kennard was drafted 12th overall in the NBA. Collier was selected 15th overall. Perhaps it is a sign of what’s to come for Curtis.