#1 High School Baseball Player Inks With NC State

Pack Pride has learned that shortstop Justin Upton, the country's top high school baseball prospect, has signed with NC State and will announce his intentions today at a 5:00 PM press conference at Great Bridge High School.

Justin Upton is the nation's #1 high school baseball prospect according to several publications, including Baseball America. At 6'2 and 190 pounds, he's being touted as potentially the #1 pick in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft.

He is so talented that some scouts said he would have been a top-five draft pick in the 2004 MLB Draft. Jerry Ford, a scout for Perfect Game USA, told USA Today that Justin would have been the first position player taken if he were eligible for the 2004 draft.

"We've been fortunate to have had some success while Justin's been here," Great Bridge High School head coach Wiley Lee said. "We were Virginia AAA State Champions in 2003, and we've been two-time regional champions during his stint here. Obviously we're excited about that, and we're looking forward to his senior year.

"Individually he's been the player of the year in our district and a two-time all-district shortstop. Last year he was named Gatorade State Player of the Year as a junior. He's had some unbelievable individual accomplishments for a player that has only completed his junior season."

Upton chose to sign with NC State because of strong ties to the program and the region. His father, Manny Upton, is a college basketball referee who officiates Atlantic Coast Conference basketball games. His mother is a local high school teacher. Because of ties such as these, electing to sign with the Wolfpack was an easy decision.

"Obviously it's a school that's in driving distance for his parents to come down," coach Lee said. "Ryan Pond is also going there, and NC State's head coach is tremendous. Also, we knew coach Guzzo, with him coming down from Old Dominion. So, there were some ties already there."

Last year, Upton was the only junior named to USA Today's 2004 All-USA high school baseball team, batting .565 with eight home runs, 23 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, and a 1.138 slugging percentage.

On August 5th he was also named the inaugural AFLAC National High School Player of the Year at the 2004 AFLAC All-American Awards Dinner at the Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor Hotel. Upton was presented with the inaugural Jackie Robinson Award by the late Hall of Fame player's wife, Rachel Robinson, and legendary Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. The AFLAC National High School Player of the Year recognizes the nation's top high school rising senior, who demonstrates outstanding character, exhibits leadership, and embodies the values of being a student-athlete in both his schoolwork and community affairs.

If his name sounds familiar to baseball fans it's because Justin's older brother, B.J. Upton, is a shortstop for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and was the No.2 overall selection in the 2002 amateur draft.

The comparisons have always been there for the Upton brothers, and they will likely continue as Justin's expected to be selected in the upcoming draft. However, if he chooses to attend college, he will play for Elliott Avent and the NC State Wolfpack.

Upton has already signed his letter of intent, and he will announce his decision to attend NC State today at a local press conference.

Justin Upton is the highest rated recruit to ink with NC State since Raleigh (NC) Athens Drive outfielder Josh Hamilton signed with the Wolfpack in 1998. However, he would never play a game at NC State, instead signing with the Tampa Bay Devils Rays after being chosen with the No.1 overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft.

NC State landed perhaps its best recruiting class ever this fall, and stay tuned for more on Thursday as we profile other Wolfpack baseball signees, including three potential MLB draft selections!

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