2021-22 National Underclass POYs

Today we honor our underclass players of the year D.J. Wagner (Juniors), Ian Jackson (Sophomores) and Cameron Boozer (Freshmen) along with National Coach of the Year Joe Auer of Heights (Wichita, Kan.). These players along with 2021-22 Mr. Basketball USA Dariq Whitehead will headline the 28th Annual Elite All-American Team.

2021-22 Mr. Basketball USA: Dariq Whitehead, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-5 G Sr.
The Duke-bound wing guard is the fourth national player of the year from Montverde Academy in the past eight seasons. He was part of two FAB 50 national championship teams for the Eagles and led them to a No. 2 ranking this past season as a senior. To view the full Mr. Basketball USA release, the Mr. Basketball Tracker voting results, and comments from Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle, CLICK HERE.

For all-time Mr. Basketball USA honorees dating back to 1954-55, CLICK HERE

2022 National Junior of the Year: DJ Wagner, Camden (N.J.) 6-3 G
Although he came up just short of his goal of leading Camden to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Tournament of Champions crown, it was another spectacular and successful season for the son and grandson of former NBA players. Wagner led “The High” to its first TOC title game since 1999-2000, the year his father Dajuan Wagner led the Panthers to the TOC crown.

Wagner had a clean look in the final seconds of the 61-58 loss to Roselle Catholic (N.J.) in the TOC final and finished with 23 points and six steals, as Camden finished 31-3 and No. 12 in the final FAB 50. For the season, Wagner averaged 19.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg and 3.5 spg against a national schedule and tough in-state competition. Wagner actually got to play the first complete season of his high school career, as his freshman season was cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak, while there was no post-season in 2020-21 when he averaged 22.0 ppg for a 13-0 team that finished No. 5 in the FAB 50. In three seasons with Wagner in the lineup, Camden has won 73 of 77 games with a season to go.

Ron Holland of FAB 50 No. 1 Duncanville was the only other junior considered for this honor. Holland appeared on two of the ten ballots in the final Mr. Basketball USA Tracker and netted four points (including a last-place vote), while Wagner finished in fifth place behind leading vote getter Dariq Whitehead with 36 points. Wagner appeared on eight ballots, including three third-place votes, by far the best showing of any underclassman. Wagner has been named class player of the year in each of his three high school seasons and the last player to earn top honors in each season of his four-year career was OJ Mayo of Huntington (W. Va.) between 2004-07. The last time a New Jersey player earned top honors among juniors came in 1995-96, when Anthony Perry led now defunct St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) to the FAB 50 national title.

For all-time Junior Player of the Year honorees dating back to 1966-67, CLICK HERE

2022 National Sophomore of the Year: Ian Jackson, Cardinal Hayes (N.J.) 6-5 F

It was a break-out season of sorts for the talented wing who led the Cardinals to their second New York Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) city title in five seasons. Jackson is considered one of the best prospects in the national 2024 class, but he really didn’t get a chance to show how talented he was as a freshman because the CHSAA didn’t conduct a 2020-21 regular season because of COVID-19.

Jackson displayed his athleticism, skill level and never-ending motor by averaging 19.8 ppg, five rpg and four apg for a Cardinal Hayes team that bounced back from losing to Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.) in the Archdiocesan title game to defeat the same club, 79-59, in the CHSAA city title game. Jackson had 21 points and four assists in that game for a team that finished ranked No. 19 in the FAB 50 at 26-3, including a split of four games with Stepinac.

Playing alongside CHSAA MVP Tobe Awaka, Jackson was a first team all-CHSAA selection and last summer was a member of the 2021 USA Basketball 16U National Team that captured the gold medal at the 2021 FIBA Americas 16U Championship in Xalpala, Mexico. Jackson is the first sophomore honoree from New York since Lance Stephenson (Lincoln, Brooklyn) in 2007 and the first CHSAA selection since Felipe Lopez of now defunct Rice (New York) in 1992.

For all-time Sophomore Player of the Year honorees dating back to 1967-68, CLICK HERE

2022 National Freshman of the Year: Cameron Boozer, Columbus (Miami, Fla.) 6-8 F

Last season there wasn’t a clear-cut choice, as in the case in some years, and the 2024 group didn’t get much of a chance to be evaluated in front of national media or college coaches during the summer of 2020. That wasn’t the case for the class of 2025. Last summer some of the freshmen-to-be turned scouts’ eyes, particularly Boozer, Cooper Flagg (Nokomis, Newport, Maine) and Koa Peat (Perry, Gilbert, Ariz.). All three of them turned in terrific seasons in leading their respective team to a state title, but Boozer was the only one to lead his team to a victory over a FAB 50 ranked club. It was a close decision, but his talent level and leading his team to a state title in Florida’s highest classification was the difference.

Boozer, the son of 1999 All-American Elite Team second five choice Carlos Boozer (Douglas, Juneau, Ak.), is already powerfully built like dad with good skill for his age. He averaged 18.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 4.0 apg and 2.2 bpg for the FHSAA Class 7A state champions. Boozer capped off a season in which the Explorers went 29-2 and finished No. 45 in the FAB 50 by defeating nationally-ranked Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) in the title game, 45-44.

Boozer went for 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the breakthrough win over Dr. Phillips, while his brother Cayden (16.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.1 apg), also freshman, hit the game-winning free throw with five seconds remaining. Cameron is the first selection from a FHSAA program since Brandon Knight (Pine Crest, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) in 2007.

For all-time Freshman Player of the Year honorees dating back to 1969-70, CLICK HERE

2022 National Coach of the Year: Joe Auer, Heights (Wichita, Kan.)

After its first losing season in more than 20 years in 2019-2020, the veteran coach helped the program bounce back from that 8-13 record two years ago to lead his young group to the state quarterfinals in 2020-21 and to his sixth Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) state title since 2008-09. The Falcons captured this year’s Class 6A state crown with a 61-54 victory over Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) to finish 23-2 and No. 19 in the final Southwest Regional Top 20 Rankings.

Under his leadership, Heights captured four consecutive state title between 2009-2012. This year’s state title was the first since 2015, when Heights went 21-4 and won the KSHSAA Class 5A state crown. By capturing this year’s state title, Auer joins a list of six current and former Kansas coaches to win six state titles. In KSHSAA history, one coach has won seven and one eight, while the legendary Walter Shubolm led Wyandotte (Kansas City, Kan.) to 10 state titles (and three runner-up finishes) between 1957-1969.

Auer has led the program for 27 seasons and is now well over 400 career victories. Auer also coached Heights’ baseball program for 17 season and recorded 282 wins on the diamond. Earlier this season, he went over 700 career victories across both sports. Next year’s Heights team will be strong, too, with first team Class 6A first team all-state pick Marcus Zeigler returning for his senior season, along with talented T.J. Williams, a junior-to-be. Auer is the first ever coaching honoree from Kansas dating back to the 1969-70 season.

For all-time National Coach of the Year honorees dating back to 1969-70, CLICK HERE

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at ronnie@ballislife.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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