2023-24 National Underclass POYs

Today we honor our underclass players of the year Cameron Boozer (Juniors), Jalen Montonati (Sophomores) and Jaylan Mitchell (Freshmen) along with National Coach of the Year Jim Baker of Central Cabarrus (Concord, N.C.). These players along with 2023-24 Mr. Basketball USA Cooper Flagg will headline the 30th Annual Elite All-American Team.

2023-24 Mr. Basketball USA: Cooper Flagg, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-8 F
Flagg was the Gatorade State Player of the Year as a freshman at Nokomis Regional (Newport, Maine) before spending the last two seasons at Montverde Academy. He was one of the best players in the country last season as a sophomore when he came in No. 10 in the final 2022-23 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker and earned second five Elite Team All-American honors. Flagg is one of the best shot-blocking small forwards to come down the pike in many years and his shooting is better than advertised. He shot 54.7 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from 3-point range as a senior and has a vast array of shots from the elbow in.

Flagg is the third consecutive Mr. Basketball USA honoree from Florida and the second in three years from Montverde Academy that is headed to Duke, joining 2022 honoree Dariq Whitehead, who has played two games in the NBA so far. To view the full Mr. Basketball USA release, the Mr. Basketball Tracker voting results, and comments from Flagg's coach, CLICK HERE.

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

2024 National Junior of the Year: Cameron Boozer, Columbus (Miami, Fla.) 6-9 F
When it comes to this year's choice among juniors, it goes to show how expectations work and how each season is slightly different from the previous ones. Boozer, the son of 1999 second five Elite Team All-American Carlos Boozer of Juneau-Douglas (Juneau, Alaska), was only the fourth non-senior national player of the year last season and the first sophomore, but this season did not receive a first place vote in the final Mr. Basketball USA Tracker despite putting up similar numbers to his sophomore campaign. He was one of only four players to appear on all ten ballots after leading Columbus to its third consecutive FHSAA Class 7A state by posting averages of 22.2 ppg while shooting 62 percent from the field (234-378), 41 percent from the 3-point line (43-105) and 82 percent from the free throw line (155-188), 11.4 rpg, 2.7 apg and 2.1 bpg for the No. 2 team in the FAB 50. He also averaged 24.5 ppg in two losses against FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy of Florida. Boozer has been the class player of the year in each of his three seasons of high school and has a chance to be the first three time first five All-American since LeBron James in 2001. He's the first honoree in the junior class from Florida since Jalen Duren of Montverde Academy in 2021. Duren subsequently re-classified after that season to enroll at Memphis.

For all-time Junior Player of the Year honorees dating back to 1954-55, CLICK HERE

2024 National Sophomore of the Year: Jalen Montonati, Owasso (Okla.) 6-7 F

Last season it was easy to peg in Cameron Boozer as the chose among tenth-graders after earning national player of the year honors, but this year the race was closer among a strong group of candidates. Guards Brandon McCoy of St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and Caleb Holt of Buckhorn (New Market, Ala.) both did enough to deserve this honor, but the choice is Montonati, one of the most honor-laden talents so far in what is shaping out to be a terrific class. McCoy and Holt helped their team win state titles below the top division, but it was Montonati who helped his team win an Oklahoma state crown in the top division (Class 6A) by scoring 34 points in a 57-53 overtime victory over Edmond North.

For the season, the talented forward averaged 23.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 2.0 apg for a 26-4 team that finished No. 7 in the Southwest Regional Top 20 rankings. His all-around skill level is terrific at his size and despite being the focus of defenses, Montonati shot 54 percent from the field and 44 percent from the 3-point line. Montonati was also honored on the prestigious Oklahoman's Super 5 and was named Gatorade State Player of the Year, the first ever sophomore choice from Oklahoma. He also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2023 FIBA 16U AmeriCup and hopes to be part of another gold-medal wining team this summer at the 2024 FIBA World Cup in Turkey. Montonati is the first ever player from Oklahoma chosen in this class.

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

2024 National Freshman of the Year: Jaylan Mitchell, Reitz (Evansville, Ind.) 6-8 SF
The ninth-grade national class is showing great promise and its pecking order is still being established, but there are already a handful who've made a big impact on quality teams. In terms of combining best all-around talent with production, Reitz is our choice. The 15-year old helped make Reitz a competitive team in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (SIAC) by averaging 15.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg. 3.9 apg, 2.2 spg. He earned All-SIAC first team honors and is already considered one of the best players nationally in the class. The 15-year old stood out at the recent USA Basketball Mini-Camp, as he displayed a nice shooting touch with the ability to score in a variety of ways. In addition to his obvious physical talents, Mitchell makes the right reads and excels on the defensive end. He's the third ever freshman choice from the Hoosier State, joining North Central's Eron Gordon in 2013 and Indiana legend Damon Bailey from North Lawrence, who was already nationally known as a ninth-grader in 1987.

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

2024 National Coach of the Year: Jim Baker, Central Cabarrus (Concord, N.C.).
The Vikings own the nation's longest winning streak at 65 games and the architect of the program is its veteran coach with 36 years of college coaching experience. Baker was a D1 assistant for 12 years and the head coach at Catawba College for 20 years. For the last seven seasons, he's been the head coach at Central Cabarrus and the program has qualified for the state playoffs the past five seasons. For the past three seasons the Vikings have been dynamite, winning three consecutive South Piedmont Conference Tournament titles and losing only one game.

With its 90-62 victory over 71st of Fayetteville, the Vikings captured their second consecutive North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Class 3A title, as D.J. Kent was named the game’s most valuable player with 20 points, nine rebounds, five steals, two assists and two blocks. With the victory, Central Cabarrus finished 33-0 and No. 12 in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings. The Vikings went 32-0 in 2022-23, finished No. 7 in the FAB 50 and have now won 95 of their last 96 games heading into the 2024-25 season under Baker's leadership.

Baker's teams are known for their terrific defensive concepts and fast-paced offense. In this year's state title game victory over 71st, Central Cabarrus scored 24 points off 24 turnovers and were credited with 15 steals. In his first season at the high school level in 2017-18, Central Cabarrus went 4-21, but the program got better each season to the point it reached a national level of success the past two years.

Baker is the first honoree from a NCHSAA program and the second ever from North Carolina, joining legendary Greensboro Day mentor Freddy Johnson, who was honored in 2016-17 and has nearly 1,200 coaching victories at the high school level.

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 [email protected]. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores


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