The final ballots are in and the closing to Jahlil Okafor’s spectacular season tightens the Mr. Basketball USA race. Cliff Alexander, Stanley Johnson and Emmanuel Mudiay are the three candidates to appear on every ballot.
Throughout the major holiday tournaments, showcases and various state playoff tournaments around the country, one name consistently appeared on all ten Mr. Basketball USA Tracker ballots: 6-foot-5 power guard Emmanuel Mudiay of Prime Prep (Ft. Worth, Texas). While the SMU-bound talent was the most consistent candidate, consistency isn’t always the most important factor in one’s national player of the year candidacy.
Although the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel didn’t find any fault with Mudiay’s pedigree, spectacular and dominant performances, combined with team success, made it a four-horse race as the season wore along. Spectacular and dominant were the themes behind the season Kansas-bound power forward Cliff Alexander of Curie (Chicago) had — particularly his 30-point, 12-rebound and five-block performance to hand eventual Student Sports FAB 50 mythical national champion Montverde Academy its only on-court loss.
After that performance on MLK Monday, Alexander leapfrogged Mudiay into the No. 1 spot after trailing him in the second tracker of the season. Alexander tallied 96 points that week to best Mudiay by 18 points. Even though eligibility issues created a tumultuous ending to Curie’s season, the panel never lost sight of the fact Alexander had several dominant performances on the court. He averaged 24 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks per game and twice tallied a tracker record-tying 98 points.
After Curie lost in the first round of the Illinois Class 4A state tournament, Whitney Young (Chicago), the team that 2012-13 Student Sports National Junior of the Year and Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor played for, went on to capture the state title after the Dolphins lost to Curie in a controversial CPL title game. Okafor’s state title, plus his dominant performances at the McDonald’s All-American Game (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Nike Hoop Summit (14 points, 10 rebounds), helped him climb back in the race after losing traction to preseason front-runner Mudiay, Alexander and Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).
In the previous tracker, Okafor tallied 62 points and had one first-place vote. In the final tracker, the Whitney Young standout gained 14 points overall, including another first place vote and an additional second place vote to finish three points behind Johnson, who also gained traction on Alexander.
Johnson, bound for Arizona, capped his memorable prep career by becoming California’s first player to start in and win four consecutive CIF state titles — and he did it in the highest classification. Johnson led Mater Dei to a 35-0 record and No. 2 finish in the FAB 50 while gaining eight overall points in the final balloting. Johnson finished with six second place votes and only appeared lower than No. 4 on one ballot.
“Okafor and Johnson, those two guys in my mind are clearly the top candidates and Cliff would be third,” said ESPN National Director of Basketball Recruiting and panel member Paul Biancardi. “Okafor was the MVP of McDonald’s and both of those guys won state championships and fit the description of the award. They are dominant players for their programs and without those two guys, their teams wouldn’t have the success they did. I love Mudiay as a prospect, but his team didn’t win enough.”
In the final, expanded tracker where the panel nominates its top 10 candidates, a greater emphasis is placed on the entire season rather than week-to-week results. Even though Prime Prep didn’t qualify for Dick’s Nationals, Mudiay still gained five overall points in the final balloting as the top four candidates clearly separated themselves from the pack. He joined Alexander and Okafor as the only candidates with a first-place vote.
No less than 25 candidates earned recognition as a national player of the year candidate in the final, expanded tracker. Make no mistake, however, the nation’s most prestigious honor will be decided between Mudiay, Johnson, Okafor and Alexander.
Was Okafor’s and Johnson’s closing month enough to surpass Alexander? Was Mudiay’s individual brilliance and consistent placement on ballots enough to overcome a season in which Prime Prep lost six games?
The 2013-14 Student Sports Mr. Basketball USA will be announced the evening of April 16.
|1||1||Cliff Alexander (10)||Curie||7||1||1||1||93|
|2||2||Stanley Johnson (10)||Mater Dei||0||6||1||2||79|
|3||4||Jahlil Okafor (9)||Whitney Young||2||3||2||1||76|
|4||3||Emmanuel Mudiay (10)||Prime Prep||1||0||3||3||71|
|5||5||Ben Simmons (7)||Montverde Academy||0||0||0||3||41|
|6||7||Tyus Jones (6)||Apple Valley||0||0||1||1||34|
|7||6||Cheick Diallo (4)||Our Savior||0||0||2||0||27|
|8||9||Justin Jackson (4)||HCYA||0||0||0||0||18|
|9||8||Myles Turner (4)||Trinity||0||0||0||0||17|
|10||NR||Trey Lyles (5)||Arsenal Tech||0||0||0||0||14|
|11||16T||Malik Newman (5)||Callaway||0||0||0||0||13|
|12T||NR||Josh Jackson (3)||Consortium||0||0||0||0||9|
|12T||16T||Kelly Oubre (3)||Findlay Prep||0||0||0||0||9|
|14||NR||D'Angelo Russell (4)||Montverde Academy||0||0||0||0||8|
|15||10T||Ivan Rabb (4)||Bishop O'Dowd||0||0||0||0||7|
|16||16T||Karl Towns (3)||St. Joseph||0||0||0||0||6|
|17T||NR||Rashad Vaughn (1)||Findlay Prep||0||0||0||0||5|
|17T||14T||Isaiah Whitehead (1)||Lincoln||0||0||0||0||5|
|19T||16T||Thomas Bryant (1)||Huntington Prep||0||0||0||0||4|
|19T||14T||Daniel Hamilton (1)||St. John Bosco||0||0||0||0||4|
|21||NR||Thon Maker (1)||Carlisle||0||0||0||0||3|
|22T||NR||Devin Booker (1)||Moss Point||0||0||0||0||2|
|22T||13||Tyler Dorsey (1)||St. John Bosco||0||0||0||0||2|
|22T||12||Tyler Ulis (1)||Marian Catholic||0||0||0||0||2|
|25||NR||Dwayne Morgan (1)||St. Frances||0||0||0||0||1|
2013-14 Student Sports Mr. Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Basketball Recruiting
Frank Burlison, BurlisonOnBasketball.com Publisher
Van Coleman, TheBasketballChannel.net VP of Content
Ronnie Flores, Student Sports Basketball Editor
Clark Francis, Hoop Scoop Editor & Publisher
Bob Gibbons, All-Star Sports
Doug Huff, Student Sports Senior Rankings Editor
Aran Smith, NBADraft.net President
Patrick Stanwood, Patrick Stanwood Basketball
Dinos Trigonis, Fullcourt Press Editor & Publisher
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 the previous tracker.