Mr. Basketball USA Tracker: New Candidates Emerge

With lingering injuries to top players such Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison, new candidates have emerged in the national player of the year race to challenge clear front-runner Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep.

The new year always brings change and 2013 has brought new national player of the year candidates into the fold. Twenty-one players with national reputations received recognition by GrassrootsHoops.net’s 10-man Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel, up from 17 in the preseason.

The main (albeit unfortunate) reason the floodgates have opened for new candidates is injury.

In late November, power forward Julius Randle of Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) fractured a bone in his foot and has not played since. In the preseason he appeared on nine ballots, even collecting a first-place vote, and garnered 76 points to place third. Randle has disappeared from every voter’s ballot and unfortunately won’t earn the prestigious honor.

A lingering injury has also affected the candidacy of Jabari Parker of Simeon (Chicago), last season’s National Junior of the Year and No. 2 in the preseason balloting in front of Randle with 86 points. Parker’s team opened up its season ranked No. 3 in the Grassroots Hoops FAB 50, but lost its second game 67-57 to DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas) as Parker labored and finished with five points. The Duke commit is playing himself back into shape after off-season surgery to repair a fractured foot.

Parker has picked up his play in recent weeks, but earlier this month Simeon lost to preseason and current No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 82-53 and those performances have affected his candidacy. Parker checks in at No. 3 behind clubhouse leader Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) and Aaron Gordon of Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.), who garnered 89 and 65 points, respectively. After previously appearing on all ten ballots, Parker dropped from three ballots and lost 29 points. He previously trailed Wiggins by five points, but now has to make up ground to seriously have a shot at Mr. Basketball USA

“I just don’t think Jabari Parker is in the top seven right now,” said panelist and Hall of Fame writer Frank Burlison of BurlisonOnBasketball.com. “That could change, though, when I see him again.”

Burlison and other panelists will have an opportunity to check out Parker’s progress this upcoming MLK Holiday weekend when Simeon takes on traditional national power Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) at the Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Mass. (Jan. 21, ESPNU, 2 p.m. ET).

Two candidates who didn’t appear on the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker cracked the top seven.

Jahlil Okafor, a hulking 6-foot-10 junior at Whitney Young (Chicago), has put together a string of dominant performances in leading his team to a 15-1 record. He appeared on six ballots and netted 42 points, 15 less than Parker. Okafor could conceivably earn more local honors than Parker, last year’s Gatorade National Player of the Year, and boost his candidacy in the coming weeks. Whitney Young plays California power Long Beach Poly at the Hoop Hall Classic and Simeon on Jan. 26.

The other newcomer to crack the top seven is 6-foot-10 center Dakari Johnson of Montverde Academy. On the day his team routed Simeon, Johnson announced he would attend Kentucky in the fall after moving up from the 2014 class. Johnson and teammate Kasey Hill, Montverde’s floor general headed to Florida, combined for 57 points. Hill netted 16 points in the preseason, but is now the No. 2 vote-getter on two panelists’ ballots as he looks to quarterback Montverde to a wire-to-wire No. 1 season.

That scenario, however, is still a ways off, as is the completion of the Mr. Basketball USA race. That especially holds true if Gordon leads Mitty to a third consecutive state title and Parker finishes up his season on a high note with a fourth state title in tow.

Stay logged in to GrassrootsHoops.net to track the progress of the top individual players and the nation’s Top 50 teams.

Updated Grassroots Hoops Mr. Basketball USA Tracker (Jan.17)
Rank Prev. Name Pos High School 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Total
1 1 Andrew Wiggins (9) SF Huntington Prep 8 1 0 0 0 89
2 5 Aaron Gordon (9) SF Mitty 1 3 1 1 1 65
3 2 Jabari Parker (7) SF Simeon 1 4 0 0 1 57
4 NR Jahlil Okafor (6) C Whitney Young 0 0 3 1 1 42
5 NR Kasey Hill (4) PG Montverde 0 2 0 1 0 29
6 NR Dakari Johnson (5) C Montverde 0 0 0 2 0 28
7 NR Aaron Harrison (4) SG Travis 0 0 1 1 1 27

Others Receiving Votes:

Andrew Harrison (Travis, Fort Bend, Texas) 26 pts. (4)
James Young (Rochester, Rochester, Mich.) 25 pts. (5)
Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.) 20 pts. (4)
Cliff Alexander (Currie, Chicago, Ill.) 16 pts. (2)
Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Apple Valley, Minn.) 16 pts. (2)
Noah Vonleh (New Hampton, New Hampton, N.H.) 11 pts. (2)
Kevon Looney (Hamilton, Milwaukee, Wis.) 6 pts. (1)
Jonathan Williams (Southwind, Memphis, Tenn.) 6 pts. (1)
Daniel Hamilton (St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif.) 5 pts. (1)
Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep, Arlington, Texas) 5 pts. (1)
Conner Frankamp (North, Wichita, Kan.) 5 pts. (1)
Tyler Dorsey (St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif.) 4 pts. (1)
Chris Walker (Holmes County, Bonifay, Calif.) 4 pts. (1)
Karl Towns Jr. (St. Joseph, Metuchen, N.J.) 4 pts. (1)

About Grassroots Hoops Mr. Basketball Tracker Panel
GrassrootsHoops’ 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.

Ronnie Flores is the Publisher and Editor of GrassrootsHoops.net. He can be reached at ronlocc1977@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores


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