Mr. Basketball USA is the title bestowed upon GrassrootsHoops.net’s National Player of the Year. We examine the resumes of six early favorites, five others with strong cases and list other potential candidates. The Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, which tracks the progress of the top candidates throughout the season, is now in its sixth year.
During the regular season, GrassrootsHoops.net will release its Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, an inside look at the nation’s top on-court performers, according to a panel made up of 10 high school basketball and recruiting experts, including six McDonald’s All-American selection committee members. Now in its sixth year, the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker begins with its preseason voting results Nov. 21.
The Early Favorites*
Aaron Gordon, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) 6-8 SF
Resume: The reigning CalHiSports.com Mr. Basketball averaged 22.9 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 blocks for a 31-3 team that won a CIF Div. II state title. In last year’s final tracker, Gordon appeared on four ballots and netted 12 total points, the third highest total among juniors behind Julius Randle and Jabari Parker.
Why He Could Win: He’s California’s first legit Mr. Basketball USA candidate since Tyson Chandler of Dominguez (Compton, Calif.) in 2001 when the current New York Knick was a runner-up to Dajuan Wagner of Camden (N.J.). He’s a dynamic talent capable of carrying his Mitty team on his back.
Why He Wouldn’t: No other starters return this year at Mitty, so either Gordon is going to carry this team — or Mitty is going to struggle in the big games. Gordon is going to get hammered too, so he has to improve on the line and keep defenses honest.
Tyus Jones, Apple Valley (Minn.) 6-1 PG Jr.
Resume: He led Apple Valley’s 23-6 squad with averages of 28.1 points, 8.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals and showed throughout the Nike EYBL that he could put up those type of numbers against top-notch competition.
Why He Could Win: He’s the finest guard from the state of Minnesota since 1997 first-team All-American Khalid El-Amin. He was edged by Andrew Wiggins for national sophomore of the year honors. Considering Wiggins reclassified back to the 2013 class, you can technically say no sophomore had a better season last year than Jones.
Why He Wouldn’t: Jones will challenge Andrew Harrison this season for the title of nation’s top point guard and might be the only underclass guard in the Mr. Basketball USA conversation. The fact he’s an underclassman will work against him unless he and his team has a historic season. Also, history is working against him because no player ever from the state of Minnesota has ever won.
Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Chicago) 6-9 C Jr.
Resume: Okafor played well as a sophomore — averaging 18.5 points and 12.3 rebounds. Whitney Young, however, didn’t live up to expectations last year with 10 losses.
Why He Could Win: Okafor is another Chicago big man with loads of potential — and opportunity — to have a big 2012-13 season. Make no mistake, Okafor’s candidacy will hinge on how well Whitney Young fares in the holiday tournaments and in its match up with Simeon on Jan. 26.
Why He Wouldn’t: Whitney Young had injuries and started three sophomores, but the team looked average at times as Okafor’s dominance didn’t translate over to his teammates. If Whitney Young doesn’t play up to expectations Okafor’s individual accolades will suffer.
Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago) 6-8 SF
Resume: He was the fourth underclassman to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year award, which is based on athletic and academic achievement and was the first non-senior to be named Illinois Mr. Basketball in the 32-year history of the award. Parker has led Simeon to three consecutive state titles and the team finished ranked No. 6 in the country last season.
Why He Could Win: The 2011-12 National Junior of the Year appeared on all ten ballots in last year’s final tracker, finishing with 83 points — 11 less than eventual winner Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA). With all the media attention, all the big games and the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago again next year, Parker has plenty of advantages in this race. Simeon is one of the nation’s top teams and Parker’s high school production has been consistent for three years. If it is again this season, he’ll be in the thick of the race.
Why He Wouldn’t: Simeon opened up No. 1 in the nation last season and didn’t get the big win they needed against Findlay Prep. Will Parker have that signature performance this time around? That is the only thing missing from Parker’s prep resume. Sometimes, the top candidates are more scrutinized than the other candidates.
Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) 6-9 PF
Resume: Averaged 21.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists a game while shooting 65.2 percent from the floor for the nation’s No. 10 ranked team. Randle led Prestonwood to the City of Palms Holiday tournament title with an MVP performance and was dominant at times during the Nike EYBL.
Why He Could Win: The highly-recruited left-handed combo forward spent the majority of his junior season in the top seven of the weekly tracker voting, finishing in fifth place behind Nerlens Noel (Kentucky) and in front of Marcus Smart (OSU). There is no reason to think he won’t have another standout season and be in the thick of the race once again. He just needs a few breaks to go his way in Prestonwood’s big games.
Why He Wouldn’t: Prestonwood was delivered a serious blow this preseason when sophomore Mickey Mitchell tore his ACL playing football. The Lions were already short on depth even with a healthy Mitchell. During stretches during the past two summers, Randle completely dominated national competition, so he’ll have to be more consistent even against lesser competition because team success is usually an important factor in this race.
Andrew Wiggins, Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.V.) 6-7 SF
Resume: Wiggins was the top-ranked player in the National Class of 2014 and when he re-classified to 2013, he leapfrogged Randle and Parker as the top recruit in the nation. This happened because of his scoring ability, 6-foot-11 wing span, explosive first step, and fast-twitch athleticism. That unique skill set translated into 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.7 blocks per game last season for a 28-2 team which was ineligible for our national ratings.
Why He Could Win: Last year’s national sophomore of the year barely cracked the Mr. Basketball USA radar but that will change after a sensational summer and dominant performance at the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit. Bottom line because of his overwhelming talent, he is a strong candidate.
Why He Wouldn’t: Huntington Prep will play in big showcase games this season, but Wiggins’ overall high school accomplishments are still not on par with those of Randle and Parker. But similar to the national player rankings, Wiggins could change the dynamics of this race.
Cliff Alexander, Curie (Chicago) 6-9 C Jr.
Resume: As a sophomore, Alexander averaged 13.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, but it was last summer when he emerged as a household national player. He was MVP at the Pangos All-American Camp and also had a standout NBPA Top 100 Camp.
Why He Could Win: This candidate is one of three in the Windy City, including potential front-runner Jabari Parker (Simeon) and fellow junior Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young). When he’s on and healthy, Alexander can dominate at the prep level.
Why He Wouldn’t: He’s a candidate the panel will likely take more time to evaluate against Curie’s toughest foes. That doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t win, but he’s got some ground to make up.
Nick Emery, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) CG 6-1
Resume: As a junior, Emery averaged 21.6 points for the 22-3 Class 5A state champs. Lone Peak finished No. 33 in the nation. Emery has proven he can fill it up against top-notch out-of-state competition.
Why He Could Win: This could be a historic season for Lone Peak and potentially for Emery. The BYU commit could lead the finest high school team Utah has ever produced. That will look great on his resume.
Why He Wouldn’t: Lone Peak will again face national competition and Emery has plenty of talent with him in the backcourt, including junior T.J. Haws. Having Haws around could actually hinder his candidacy because he and others on the team are more than capable of leading Lone Peak to wins. Playing the majority of his games in Utah could also make some on the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker committee hesitant to place him too high on their ballots.
Aaron Harrison, Travis (Fort Bend, Texas) 6-4 SG
Resume: Aaron earned District 23-5A MVP honors as a junior after averaging 18.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 steals per game while leading Travis to a 36-4 record and state title game appearance.
Why He Could Win: Shooting guard Aaron gets the slight nod here over twin brother and point guard Andrew because he’s actually the more accomplished high school player although Andrew is rated slightly higher as a college prospect. If Aaron leads Travis to a state title and puts up prolific statistics, he’ll be thick in the race.
Why He Wouldn’t: Obviously the twins make Travis a nationally-ranked team, but only one person can win Mr. Basketball USA. Does Aaron get hurt by his brother’s presence, or is Andrew superior in ability and Aaron just gets more credit because he scores more? It’s an interesting dynamic but sometimes two is not better than one when it comes to individual honors.
Kasey Hill, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-1 PG
Resume: This cat-quick point guard can dominate a high school game with his scoring prowess and decision-making in the open court. He’s a big-game performer, as he showed during last year’s NHSI when he almost led his team to the tourney title.
Why He Could Win: Montverde Academy is our preseason No. 1 ranked team and coach Kevin Boyle’s team plays in enough big games (including a match up with No. 3 Simeon at the Cancer Research Classic) to boost Hill’s candidacy.
Why He Wouldn’t: To put it frank, teammate Dakari Johnson. The 6-foot-10 center who played for Boyle at St. Patrick and sat out last season, might develop into an dominant high school player in his own right. Johnson has big-game experience and could play with a renewed passion after re-classifying to the 2013 class.
Rondae Jefferson, Chester (Chester, Pa.) 6-7 SF
Resume: This smooth lefty is a huge match up problem for any team in high school basketball. As a junior, he was a second team All-American after sparking the Clippers to a repeat Class AAAA state title.
Why He Could Win: In his last 58 outings, Jefferson has not been on the losing side and that is a big feather in his cap. If Chester, which finished No. 4 in the nation last season, tacks on a significant amount of games to its current 58-game winning streak, Jefferson will likely emerge as a serious candidate.
Why He Wouldn’t: He displayed his versatility during the Nike Peach Jam and Under Armour Elite 24 and is an elite talent. Jefferson, however, will likely need big performances in the post-season national all-star games to surpass the front-runners. That could be a lot to ask for from a team-first player.
Seniors On The Radar
C — BeeJay Anya, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 6-9
G — Anthony Barber, Hampton (Va.) 6-2
F — Jabari Bird, Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) 6-5
F — Brian Bridgewater, Scotlandville (Baton Rouge, La.) 6-6
G — Nate Britt, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-2
G — Conner Frankamp, North (Wichita, Kan.) 6-1
G — Isaac Hamilton, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) 6-5
F — Kris Jenkins, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 6-6
G — JaJuan Johnson, Southwind (Memphis, Tenn.) 6-5
G — Matt Jones, DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas) 6-4
F — Nick King, East (Memphis, Tenn.) 6-7
G — Juwan Parker, Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, Okla.) 6-4
F — Bobby Portis, Hall (Little Rock, Ark.) 6-9
F — Roschon Prince, Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) 6-6
F — Wayne Seldon, Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.) 6-5
G — Tahj Shamsid-Deen, Columbia (Decatur, Ga.) 5-10
PF — Noah Vonleh, New Hampton School (New Hampton, N.H.) 6-8
SF — Ishmael Wainwright, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) 6-6
C — Chris Walker, Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.) 6-9
C — Jonathan Williams III, Southwind (Memphis, Tenn.) 6-9
G — Nigel Williams-Goss, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 6-3
G — James Young, Rochester (Rochester Hills, Mich.) 6-5
Juniors To Watch
G — Joel Berry, Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.) 6-1
G — Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.) 5-9
G — T.J. Haws, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) 6-4
F — Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-5
F — Kevon Looney, Hamilton (Milwaukee, Wis.) 6-7
F — Trey Lyles, Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis, Ind.) 6-8
F — Theo Pinson, Wesleyan Christian Academy (Greensboro, N.C.) 6-5
G — Isaiah Whitehead, Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 6-4
G — Tyler Dorsey, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) 6-4
F — K.J. Lawson, Melrose (Memphis, Tenn.) 6-5
G — Marcus LoVett Jr., Providence (Burbank, Calif.) 5-11
G — Malik Newman, Callaway (Jackson, Miss.) 6-2
C — Diamond Stone, Dominican (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) 6-9
F — Karl Towns, St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) 6-11
*Editor’s note: Listed alphabetically; The Mr. Basketball USA honor is based on high school accomplishment, not future college/pro potential. GrassrootsHoops.net does not knowingly select fifth-year players, and those ineligible due to age or academics, as Mr. Basketball USA or to its various All-American teams.