The top players in the class of 2014 take center stage in the national player of the year race as the underclass players lose traction. Emmanuel Mudiay and Cliff Alexander remain the front-runners, but Jahlil Okafor and Stanley Johnson garner the most first-place votes.
The new year always brings change and 2014 has brought new national player of the year candidates into the fold. Twenty players with national reputations received recognition by StudentSportsBasketball.com’s 10-man Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel, up from 18 in the preseason with eight new candidates.
The top four positions remain the same, with Emmanuel Mudiay of Prime Prep (Ft. Worth, Texas) as the No. 1 vote-getter. In the preseason, the SMU-bound lead guard garnered 76 points on nine ballots. This time around he was the only Mr. Basketball USA candidate to appear on all ten ballots, collecting 83 points. That was nine more than center Cliff Alexander (74) of Student Sports FAB 50 No. 10 Curie (Chicago).
The only difference among the top four from the preseason was center Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young (Chicago) breaking his third-place tie with forward Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). Okafor appeared on two more ballots than he did in the preseason, while Johnson appeared on one less with the same amount of points he collected back in November.
In a nutshell, members of the panel really like the production of either Okafor or Johnson (who each collected three first place votes) and all ten panel members think Mudiay is a top five candidate. One ballot showed Mudiay as the No. 1 national player of the year candidate.
“Stanley (Johnson) has been tremendous at everything he’s been at and Okafor and Alexander were great in person,” said panelist and Hall of Fame writer Frank Burlison of BurlisonOnBasketball.com. “I love Myles Turner’s potential, but he’s not as good as Okafor right now. “It’s hard to break it down (among juniors) and the seniors have just been that good.”
In the preseason, the 2015 class was pushing the 2014 class for national recognition, but some of the juniors have not lived up to their lofty billing, have seen their teams struggle or just haven’t gotten the national exposure. As a result, many junior candidates have lost traction with the panel — with the exception of one.
Ben Simmons, of FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) appeared on three ballots in the preseason, including one third place vote. The smooth 6-foot-8 forward shared votes with senior teammate D’Angelo Russell. With Russell hurt for an early portion of the season, Simmons stepped up and his production was reflected in the ballot results. The junior from Australia jumped up to No. 5 in the balloting (up from No. 9 in the preseason) and appeared on an additional four ballots after earning co-MVP honors at the Culligan City of Palms Classic along with senior Isaiah Whitehead of Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.), who appeared on two ballots after receiving no consideration in the preseason.
“We all hadn’t seen Ben Simmons as much, but he has great skills and lets the game come to him,” said panelist and McDonald’s All-American voter Clark Francis of the hoopscooponline.com. “Simmons is so fluid in his game and more explosive and athletic than he looks.
“It’s an evolving process, that’s we we keep watching and evaluating. We take heart and results into consideration, not just potential.”
Stay logged in to StudentSportsBasketball.com to track the progress of the nation’s top individual players and the nation’s Top teams.
|1||1||Emmanuel Mudiay (10)||Prime Prep||1||5||1||2||83|
|2||2||Cliff Alexander (9)||Currie||1||2||4||2||74|
|3||3T||Jahlil Okafor (9)||Whitney Young||3||0||1||1||69|
|4||3T||Stanley Johnson (7)||Mater Dei||3||1||2||1||62|
|5||9||Ben Simmons (7)||Montvede Academy||0||0||0||2||39|
|6||5||Tyus Jones (6)||Apple Valley||0||1||1||1||38|
|7||8||Myles Turner (3)||Trinity||0||1||1||0||23|
|8||17||Cheick Diallo (2)||Our Savior||1||0||0||0||16|
|9||6||Malik Newman (3)||Calloway||0||0||0||0||13|
|10T||NR||Justin Jackson (2)||HCYA||0||0||0||0||11|
|10T||NR||Isaiah Whitehead (2)||Lincoln||0||0||0||0||11|
|12||NR||Trey Lyles (2)||Arsenal Tech||0||0||0||0||9|
|13||7||Tyler Dorsey (1)||St. John Bosco||0||0||0||1||7|
|14T||15||Daniel Hamilton (1)||St. John Bosco||0||0||0||0||6|
|14T||NR||Tom Welsh (1)||Loyola||0||0||0||0||6|
|16T||NR||Shaqquan Aaron (1)||Rainier Beach||0||0||0||0||5|
|16T||NR||Thomas Bryant (1)||Huntington Prep||0||0||0||0||5|
|16T||NR||Karl Towns (1)||St. Joseph||0||0||0||0||5|
|19T||NR||Benny Boatwright||Village Christian||0||0||0||0||4|
|19T||NR||Theo Pinson||Wesleyan Christian||0||0||0||0||4|
About Mr. Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Student Sports’s panel of 10 experts, which includes six McDonald’s All-American selection committee members, casts its vote for the top national player of the year candidates. Each panelist lists his top seven candidates regardless of class. The votes are then tabulated on a 10-point scoring system with a first-place vote equaling 10 points, a second-place vote earning nine points and down to four points for a seventh-place vote. The number in parenthesis refers to the numbers of ballots on which a player appeared and previous rankings refers to position in this season’s preseason tracker.