Brighton's James is ESPN Boston Mr. Basketball

ESPNBoston.com and its high schools section today announce that Malik James, junior point guard of the Brighton High Bengals, is the recipient of its “Mr. Basketball” Award, presented annually to the top high school basketball player in Massachusetts.

The Mr. Basketball award winner was chosen by a panel made up of ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents. James will be presented with the Mr. Basketball award at a date later this school year. He joins King Philip’s Jake Layman (2012) and St. John’s Prep’s Pat Connaughton (2011) as recipients in ESPNBoston.com’s three-year history.

“We are honored to present Mr. James with our third annual Mr. Basketball award,” said ESPN Boston high schools editor Brendan Hall, who coordinates the site’s basketball coverage. “It was a wide-open field this year, but nobody elevated his game more in the playoffs than Malik. Plain and simple, Brighton doesn’t win its first state championship this season without Malik’s heroics.”

The 6-foot-1 James was masterful in Brighton’s run to its first-ever MIAA Division 2 state championship in school history. He averaged 20 points per game over a six-game run through the tournament, which culminated with a 59-41 win over South Hadley in Saturday’s state final at Worcester’s DCU Center. Most dramatically, he led the Bengals to a comeback victory over Scituate in the Eastern Mass. final at TD Garden. Brighton trailed by 11 points with four minutes to go, but James sealed the victory with a three-point play with 1.8 seconds to go.

With the win over South Hadley, Brighton became the first Boston City League team to win both a Boston City championship and state championship in a decade, following a 2003 Charlestown squad that current Brighton head coach Hugh Coleman served as an assistant on.

“It’s been remarkable to watch the way Malik has evolved the last two seasons,” Hall said. “He is someone that demonstrated special gifts early in his career, but it took the second half of this season for all of us to realize what a leader he has become for his team. He made all the right decisions on the court these playoffs and was a fun player to watch.”

In 27 games this season for the 21-6 Bengals, James averaged 22 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds per game. Over the last two seasons, the Bengals have gone 42-10 with two North titles, two state final appearances and the school's first Boston City and state championships.

James is expected to finish his high school career next season at a prep school. In a three-year career at Brighton spanning 73 games, he notched 1,006 points and 608 assists.