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Monday / February 20.

LeBron James and Joel Berry in the Same Sentence?

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P1010809By JACK LeGWIN

Special to ZAGSBLOG

LAKELAND, Fla.- If Joel Berry wins Mr. Basketball for the state of Florida this year, he will be one of the few players in high school basketball history to have won a state player of the year award three times.

The first player to achieve this feat was LeBron James.

“It’s a blessing and an honor if I do win it three times,” the North Carolina-bound Berry told after a 39-point performance in a state semifinal win Thursday over Berkeley Prep. “It shows all of the hard work that I have put in. Getting up early in the morning and taking care of my body, it all goes into winning Mr. Basketball.”

A 6-foot point guard from Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), Berry would be the first player in Florida history to receive the honor three times, and is in a very good position to do so, averaging 24.8 points, and 4.4 assists per game, leading the Highlanders to a State Championship with a 20-point, 6-rebound performance in a win over Ribault, their second in a row.

“I’m a competitor, so to say that we could get another shot at a state title is great,” Berry said after the semifinal win. “Everyone tries to put it on me, but even because I score a lot of points, I couldn’t do it without my teammates. The last three years I’ve had the best teammates. You can see it on the court, the chemistry is there, I think our relationships are stronger than any team in this state, and that is why we are able to go back to another state championship.”

Berry has not only won during the high school season, but also during the summer, winning the Peach Jam as the starting point guard for Each 1 Teach 1 Elite, alongside Duke-Bound Grayson Allen and Ohio State-Bound D’Angelo Russell.

Ranked No.16 in the nation by ESPN in the class of 2014, Berry is the third member of the trio of talent heading to Chapel Hill next year, alongside Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson.

Photo: Jack LeGwin

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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.