Duke commit Cooper Flagg named Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year

Duke commit Cooper Flagg was named the 2024 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year on Wednesday. It's one of the most prestigious high school basketball awards in the country, and Flagg beat out nearly half a million other student-athletes who play boys basketball nationwide.

He joins the ranks of Jayson Tatum, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, who all won the award as high school seniors. Past winners have combined to produce five NBA MVP awards, 76 All-Star appearances, 14 NBA championships, 28 NBA first-round draft selections and three Hall of Famers.

"It's just an incredible honor to be included in this list of players," Flagg told Yahoo Sports. "Just seeing how all the hard work is paying off and it just motivates me to keep getting better and better."

Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero surprised Flagg with the award Tuesday afternoon in the gym at Montverde Academy outside of Orlando in front of Flagg's family, high school coaches and teammates.

Banchero had a similar path to Flagg before hitting the NBA and being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2022. He was a top prospect coming out of high school and Banchero also chose to play his one year of college at Duke.

"My main advice to him is just to take everything one step at a time," Banchero told Yahoo Sports. "Obviously he's in high school right now and needs to finish off his season and after that he's going to be at Duke and just take all that in and enjoy it because that freshman year, there's nothing like it. You learn so much and grow as a player."

SPRINGFIELD, MA - JANUARY 14: Cooper Flagg of Montverde Academy (32) shoots the ball during the first half of the Spalding Hoophall Classic high school basketball game between Montverde Academy and Prolific Prep on January 14, 2024 at Blake Arena in Springfield, MA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cooper Flagg is the early projected No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Flagg, a 6-foot-9 senior, is the No. 1 player in the senior class and picked the Duke Blue Devils over the Connecticut Huskies. He is one of the best rim protectors in high school basketball, regardless of class, and can beat players offensively in a variety of ways. One of the most underrated parts of Flagg's game is his passing and how easily he finds his teammates, even weaving passes through traffic.

"His game is going to translate really well," Banchero said. "I think he has good instincts on the court and just his feel for the game, on top of his length and athleticism playing on the wing, he's going to cause a lot of problems on both ends. He's just going to keep getting better. This isn't even as close as to how good he's going to be when he's in the NBA and around that environment."

Duke head coach Jon Scheyer is bringing in the No. 1 recruiting class led by Flagg and top international prospect Khaman Maluach.

"Watching them [Duke] play this season has me itching to get out there," Flagg said with a laugh. "I'm really excited to play alongside Khaman with just his length, athleticism and rim protection and just all the guys we have coming in next year."

Duke will most likely be losing Kyle Filipowski to the NBA Draft after this season, and Flagg will be walking into a role where he can impact the game immediately.

"I just want to come in and just kind of settle into my game," Flagg said. "The coaching staff is just telling me that as long as I'm myself and I continue to work and put in those hours and just trust everything I've put into it, I'll be just fine and be able to make that impact right away."

Last summer, Flagg had a chance to get in the gym and work out with some of the best players in the NBA. He watches a lot of Tatum and Kevin Durant and looks to add some of their skillset to his game. He attended Tatum's camp and got to work out with Tatum, Banchero and Bradley Beal. Flagg also went to Steph Curry's camp and received some feedback from LeBron James after he watched Flagg play at Nike's Peach Jam.

"The biggest thing I'm learning from those guys is how they carry themselves," Flagg said. "When you're at that level, you have to carry yourself as a professional every single day with everything you do, so for me right now, it's just building those good habits and continuing to work hard."

Flagg and the Montverde Eagles are on a historic run this high school season, still undefeated and chasing a national championship. Outside of Flagg, the Eagles also have Baylor commit Robert Wright III, Georgia commit Asa Newell, Maryland commit Darik Queen, LSU commit Curtis Givens and five-star Liam McNeeley. Some regard this Montverde team as one of the best high school basketball teams of all time.

"It's definitely a high-pressure thing, but I think it's something, from the start of the season, we've taken in and taken accountability for," Flagg said. "We know we're going to get everyone's best shot and just the way we practice every day, we're motivated by that. The thought of everyone's going 100% every time they see us makes us play better."

Prior to hitting nationals, Flagg will participate in the McDonald's All American game Tuesday in front of several NBA scouts and executives. He's been on their radar since Nike's Peach Jam in 2022 and is the early projected No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.

"He's a player that has gotten better every time I've seen him play," one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. "For him to be on a team like Montverde and make the players around him better, that says a lot about who he is as a player. He plays hard, plays the right way and has a high IQ for being so young."

Flagg is the fourth Duke player to win the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year and the third player from Montverde Academy.