Reeves Nelson shouldered much expectation as he entered his junior season.
The 6-foot-8-inch Modesto Christian High star completed a summer that saw him vault to the top of many recruiting lists. He had the size, speed and skills. And when he put them together on the court, he was almost never stopped.
Nelson averaged 26 points and 17 rebounds per game for the 29-5 Crusaders. He set a Stanislaus District record with 52 points in a victory over Clovis East, then broke that record with 53 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal victory over Encina.
For his effort, Nelson has been named The Bee's 2008 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
"You look back and remember the good things," Nelson said. "Coming together as a team. Winning sections even though we weren't the top seed. That wild Clovis East game in overtime.
"It was a great year, but the goal every year is to win state. So in that respect we fell a little short."
Nelson was rarely slowed in a game this season. He shot from the outside, powered it up and in down low and many times grabbed a rebound and sailed the length of the court for a dunk or layup. For the third year, MC was the Northern California runner-up.
He also drew college coaches from across the country and verbally committed to national power UCLA just before his team left for a trip to Lexington, Ky.
Nelson and his floppy hair have been on television highlight shows, and his dunks are all over YouTube. But the hair is gone, shaved away just before the All-District photo shoot. A friend, Robby Burkett, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. And once Burkett started losing his hair because of his chemotherapy, Nelson and five other friends shaved their heads in a sign of camaraderie.
That shaved head will be on display again this summer, as Nelson -- a five-star prospect -- has been invited to AAU showcases around the world. He's playing for the Pump N Run travel team and will travel the country playing in tournaments. He's going to be a part of the adidas national team, which travels the country for clinics and showcases. And he's one of 35 players invited to tryouts for the United States Junior National Team from July 1-3 in Washington.
"He's already among the great players to come out of Modesto Christian," MC coach Gary Porter said.
That puts him in the company of Chuck Hayes (now with the Houston Rockets), Richard Midgley (formerly of Cal), Adrian Oliver (San Jose State) and Michael Porter (Kentucky).
Nelson already is the most highly recruited. He had a good high school season, too.
All this from a kid whose first love was baseball.
"But when I was 10, my best friend talked me into playing in a basketball tournament," said Nelson, who won't turn 17 until Sept. 18. "I was hooked."
And he has one more goal to meet before his high school days are over: a state title.
"We'll be a solid team next year," Nelson said. "Winning state is a big goal."
He's already accomplished quite a lot.
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.