High School Basketball

Mr. Basketball Justice calls season a 'dream come true'

In February, he guided his team to a second straight All "A" Classic state title.

Saturday, Elisha Justice earned MVP honors for leading Shelby Valley to the PNC/KHSAA Boys' State Tournament title.

Friday, he was officially named this year's Mr. Basketball in the commonwealth.

"It's crazy up here," Justice said soon after receiving the Mr. Basketball trophy and the No. 1 jersey that he will wear in the annual Kentucky-Indiana summer all-star series.

"This is a dream season for our senior year, like a dream come true," he said. "To win back-to-back All 'A' titles and then come out and win the Sweet Sixteen, the Mr. Basketball — that just tops everything off and makes it that much better."

Justice also received (Kentucky) Gatorade Player of the Year honors Friday in a packed Shelby Valley gymnasium. Capacity is listed at 2,800 but, with families and feeder schools invited, some of the crowd was seated on the floor. According to Coach Jason Booher, about 10 television crews and four or five radio stations were represented.

Justice, a 5-foot-10 guard, finished his high school career with a state-record 540 steals, school records of 2,086 points and 633 assists, and 470 rebounds.

Having turned down several mid-major scholarship offers, he plans to walk on at Louisville next season.

Asked if he is willing to listen to potential new suitors, Justice said, "I haven't talked with anybody yet, so I don't know. ... I thought if somebody else came in and offered, I thought (Louisville) would. I don't know anything, though, and if that was to happen I'd be fine at Louisville."

Just to be clear, you're willing to listen to other offers?

"I guess so," Justice said.

He is Pike County's third Mr. Basketball. Todd May of Virgie won in 1982. Phelps' Ervin Stepp won in 1980. Previous winners from the 15th Region are Wayland's "King" Kelly Coleman (1956) and Paintsville's John Pelphrey (1987) and J.R. VanHoose (1998).

Booher said Justice "deserves every bit of it." Having coached him since the middle of his eighth-grade year, the coach said Justice not only is great on the floor, "he's that much more of a great kid off the floor."

Booher recalled telling Justice after his eighth-grade season that he could become the best basketball player ever to come out of the 15th Region.

"He said, 'Coach, do you really think I can do that?'" Booher recalled. "I said, 'I guarantee you can if you work hard because I know how good you are defensively already as an eighth-grader, you handle the ball like no other and, if you develop a shot ... you'll become the very best in Pike County history.' I think he's done that."

Recalling the same conversation, Justice remembers being caught off guard, something that rarely happens on the court. But he believed.

"At that time, I was so young and I was just happy to be up here playing. Then Coach comes up to me and talks to me like that. That was just crazy," Justice said. "Once he talked to me about that, I knew that as long as you work for something that you can make it happen. I really wanted it, so I killed myself in the off-season just working and trying to get better."

Three Sweet Sixteen trips later, he's Mr. Basketball.