Finding the high school player of the decade for the 2010’s took a little more digging than the previous decade. While at ESPN, it didn’t take a team of observers or even much thought to choose St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) wunderkind LeBron James as the 2000’s Player of the Decade. In fact, the only worthy discussion at the time lay in how James compared to the best players from previous decades.
Not only did the 225-pound point forward and 2003 SVSM graduate live up to the tremendous hype surrounding him, he transcended high school sports and became a cultural phenomenon during his senior year. James’ high school accomplishments and legacy clearly resonates through the current state of high school basketball and its elite players. High school players have never enjoyed a bigger spotlight than today and the biggest factor, along with the improvement of hand-held technology that makes social media thrive, is commonplace national television exposure thanks to James.
The elites at many perennial FAB 50 powers are household names while still in high school. This has resulted in players from all over the country, and now the world, wanting to attend schools that regularly appear on television and in the weekly national rankings. Just as the 1992 Dream Team helped globalize professional basketball, the globalization created by the desire to play on high school basketball’s biggest stage is clearly reflected on the Ballislife All-Decade All-American Team for the 2010s.
While at Box Hill (Melbourne, Australia), the college a young Ben Simmons was mostly familiar with was Duke, whose games on ESPN in 2018-19 drew more average viewers (2.23 million) than NBA broadcasts (just under 2) on the same network and its mother station, ABC. At the 2012 Pangos All-American Camp in Southern California, Simmons’ first exposure to American Grassroots basketball he told us he knew about Duke and not much about any other college. When Simmons left Box Hill for the states in 2013, he landed at a school that, at the time, was quickly becoming a go-to destination for elite players: Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
As a result of his skill level, production and playing a big role in Montverde Academy winning three consecutive FAB 50 national titles (2013-15), today Simmons has been named the Ballislife Player of the Decade and headlines our 30-man All-Decade All-American Elite Team for the 2010s.
After moving to Florida in January 2013, Simmons helped the Eagles overcome two regular season losses to capture the 2013 ESPN NHSI tournament (now GEICO Nationals) with a 67-65 come-from-behind title game victory over St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.). On a team led by point guard Kasey Hill (Florida), shooting guard D’Angelo Russell (Ohio St.) and post Dakari Johnson (Kentucky), Simmons made all three of his field goals, and finished with six points, four rebounds and three assists in the championship game.
In his junior campaign, Simmons teamed with Russell (who was seriously considered for All-Decade accolades) to lead the Eagles to another GEICO Nationals title. Ironically, the star of that 2012 Pangos Camp played a big role in handing Montverde Academy its only on-court loss of the 2013-14 season. That player was center Cliff Alexander and he had 30 points, 12 rebounds and five bocks in a 73-69 come-from-behind win by Curie (Chicago) that was later forfeited. That dominant performance, and some stellar showings on the post-season all-star circuit, allowed Alexander to clip Simmons, and All-Decade selections Stanley Johnson and Jahlil Okafor for Mr. Basketball USA honors.
In his senior season, Simmons didn’t have as strong as supporting cast, but it seemed at times he willed the Eagles to victory against stellar national competition. He capped his Montverde Academy career with a 20-point, 11-rebound, six assist performance in a 70-61 victory over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) at Madison Square Garden to win an unprecedented third straight GEICO Nationals crown.
Simmons had 13 points in the fourth period against Oak Hill Academy (the team Montverde Academy also defeated in the 2014 title game) and for the season averaged 27.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg, and 5.3 apg for a 31-1 club. Simmons’ domination led him to be the first consensus Mr. Basketball USA since James. He was a bonafide national player of the year candidate for two years running and the fact he also finished his career No.2 in points (145), No. 1 in rebounds (88) and No. 2 in assists (31) all-time at GEICO Nationals helped secure his status at the decade’s best all-around player.
When All-Decade choice Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.) was named Mr. Basketball USA in 2013, it marked only the second time overall a foreign-born talent had earned the nation’s highest individual honor. 1990’s All-Decade performer Felipe Lopez of now defunct Rice (New York) via the Dominican Republic was the first in 1994. R.J. Barrett enrolled at Montverde Academy the season after Simmons graduated and when the All-Decade choice was named 2018 Mr. Basketball USA, it marked the third time in six seasons the nation’s top individual performer was foreign-born. Like Wiggins, Barrett is Canadian.
Consistent exposure that James (and HD video cameras) helped create led to the globalization of elite high school basketball over the past decade. The competition level has never been better and the path to with a mythical national title never more difficult.
2010’s Ballislife All-Decade All-American Elite Team
Editor’s note: Based on high school accomplishment and the annual All-American Elite Team selections of the past 10 years. All players must have been chosen first five All-Americans to be eligible for this team. If all five first players were chosen, then second five All-Americans were given consideration. The criteria was to evaluate all high school accomplishment, not just senior year accolades, and extra consideration was given to players who were All-Americans more than once. Those considered fifth-year players in their final year of high school competition were not considered. Players are listed by year of graduation and the position they played in high school.
G — Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills (Calif.) 6-6, Class of 2016
Our 2016 Mr. Basketball USA was one of the most unique talents of the decade. There were conventional players more efficient in terms of shooting percentage and style of play, but some of the skill Ball possessed only comes around once every ten years. A pinpoint passer all 84 feet of the court with uncanny rebounding ability for a true point guard, Ball was a two-time All-American (third five as a junior). The 2016 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball honoree and a two-time Division I State Player of the Year, Ball recorded a state record 25 triple-doubles for the unbeaten 35-0 FAB 50 national champs and finished his senior season with averages of 23.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 11.7 apg, 5.1 spg, and 2.0 bpg. Ball finished his four-year career with 2,522 points, 1,204 rebounds, 1,214 assists (state No. 1 all-time) and 592 steals (state No. 2 all-time).
G — Kyrie Irving, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-2, Class of 2010
It was difficult to separate Irving and Ball, arguably the two most talented and productive lead guards of the 2010’s. Ball had two monster seasons statistically and won a FAB 50 national crown and even though Irving didn’t have as much team success, his individual skill is too hard to ignore. In some showcase games, Irving simply looked like he came down a level from college with his ability to handle the ball and score. As a senior, he stepped out of the shadows of former teammate Dexter Strickland and fellow All-Decade teammate Mike Kidd-Gilchrist to average 24.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, and 4.5 rpg for a 24-3 team that finished No. 7 in the FAB 50. The Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2010 (Kidd-Gilchrist was the winner as a sophomore the prior season), Irving scored over 2,100 career points and capped his career with a MVP performance at the Jordan Brand Classic.
F — Harrison Barnes, Ames (Iowa) 6-7, Class of 2010
Wings were by far the deepest position of the decade and that’s where the deepest discussion lay to sort through the glut of talented forwards. When Barnes gradated from Ames high school, there was little doubt he was the most well-rounded player in his class and he ended up one of the most polished of the decade. After all, there was a reason he was voted preseason A.P. College Player of the Year in 2010-11 before ever playing a single game for North Carolina. He was extremely productive at the high school level, leading the Little Cyclones to repeat, unbeaten Class 4A state titles and a winning streak of 53 games. As a senior, Barnes averaged 26.1 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 3.6 apg for the No. 10 ranked team in the FAB 50. For his career, Barnes was a two-time All-American (third five as a junior) and was a three-time all-state choice who finished with 1,787 career points.
F — Ben Simmons, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-9, Class of 2015
Our 2010’s Player of the Decade. As a senior, Simmons was the first Mr. Basketball USA consensus choice since LeBron James 12 years earlier. He played on teams that won three consecutive mythical national titles and was the difference maker in the big games for two seasons. As a junior, Simmons averaged 22.7 points and 9.5 rebounds for a team that lost once on-court against arguably the nation’s toughest schedule. As a senior, he was even better, as he dropped 27.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. A two-time first five All-American selection, Simmons’ dominance over his peers from a team perspective cannot be underestimated.
C — DeAndre Ayton, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) 7-0, Class of 2017
After first seeing the Bahamian native at the 2012 Pangos Jr. All-American Camp, it was evident the eighth-grader had a chance to be a dominant force at the highest levels of the game. By his sophomore season, it was clear Ayton was the most talented post player regardless of class in the country. He was a three-time All-American (the first since Kidd-Gilchrist and Austin Rivers in 2009-11) and made the first five twice after making second five as a sophomore. After averaging 29.2 ppg, 16.7 rpg and 3.8 bpg as a junior, Ayton used his rare combination of size, coordination and athleticism to lead Hillcrest Prep in Arizona to a 33-6 mark and to the Under Armour Grind Session championship as a senior while averaging 26 ppg, 15 rpg and 3.5 bpg.
G — R.J. Barrett, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-7, Class of 2018
After Simmons graduated, the bar was set extremely high for the Eagles’ next superstar player. In order to be mentioned in the same breath with Montverde Academy’s other star players (Hill, Russell, Simmons, etc.) Barrett knew going into his final season he needed to lead his team to a FAB 50 title. After earning fourth five All-American honors and being named National Sophomore of the Year for 2016-17, Barrett re-classified up to the 2018 class. He had two fantastic seasons for the Eagles, as he was the team’s leading scorer as a freshman and averaged 22 points and 7 rebounds in his second season. It all came together in 2017-18, as Barrett completed his career quest of leading the Eagles to the FAB 50 title. The southpaw power guard averaged 28.7 ppg for a 36-0 club that won 15 games against FAB 50 or previously ranked foes. Another notch that pushed our 2018 Mr. Basketball USA to All-Decade second five status was averaging 26.7 ppg in three wins at GEICO Nationals to seal the title and scoring an event record 177 points (22.1 ppg) in eight games.
G — Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) 6-8, Class of 2011
Likely the surprise pick on the All-Decade team for many, until one closely examines the criteria. Yes, Anderson was official runner-up to good friend Shabazz Muhammad for 2012 Mr. Basketball USA honors, but Muhammad was compared to the wings and forwards in the All-Decade deliberations, whereas Anderson was evaluated against the group of guards on the board, because, despite his 6-foot-8 frame, Anderson’s approach to the game was that of a point guard. Winning on a national level was also a strong factor in the selection process and “Slow Mo” was one of the biggest winners of the decade. In fact, he didn’t play in a losing game his last two seasons with the 65-0 Friars. St. Anthony won the mythical national title his junior year and what he did in the Friars’ huge 62-45 win over then No. 1 St. Patrick (in one of the biggest No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns of the decade) illustrated his impact at the high school level. He had 11 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals while helping to limit Kidd-Gilchrist to 7 points. A three-time all-stater, Anderson averaged 14.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 3.9 apg as a senior when the Friars went 32-0 with a repeat New Jersey TOC crown and No. 3 FAB 50 ranking.
F — Jayson Tatum, Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 6-8, Class of 2016
One of the most gifted scorers of the decade, Tatum was the third legitimate Mr. Basketball USA candidate his senior year along with fellow All-Decade choice Josh Jackson and eventual honoree Lonzo Ball. Tatum averaged 29 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg and 2 spg for a 27-5 team that finished No. 15 in the FAB 50. In his final game at Chaminade, Tatum exploded for 40 points and 14 rebounds, as the program win its first Missouri Class 5 state title. Winning that title and breaking the school scoring record held by the player in consideration for a spot on second or third five (Bradley Beal) was the reason for Tatum landing this high. Tatum was also the first four-time Metro Catholic Conference Player of the Year and a three-time Gatorade State Player of the Year.
F — Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-7, Class of 2014
Arguably the decade’s ultimate winner, Johnson kept adding wrinkles to his game and improving his team’s fortunes each of his four seasons. As a result, Johnson led the Monarchs to a 135-7 record in his four-year career and to four state titles, the first player ever to accomplish that feat in the CIF’s highest classification. A third five All-American as a junior, Johnson was a two-time D1 State Player of the Year and a finalist for Mr. Basketball USA as a senior. What secured his nod to this team was expanding his game as a senior to handle point guard duties and facilitating on a team that lost a starter after school started. Johnson averaged 25.1 ppg, 8.1 rbg, 3.1 apg and the Monarchs were still able to go 35-0 and finish No. 2 in the FAB 50 behind Montverde Academy in a close call. Johnson is the greatest player ever to don a Mater Dei uniform.
F — Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago) 6-8, Class of 2013
We didn’t get a true post on the second five, but just as he did in his lone season at Duke, Parker can play inside if need be. One of the most decorated players of the decade, Parker was a Sports Illustrated cover subject in May 2012 and one of the few to receive the “Best Since LeBron” tag. Although Wiggins edged Parker for Mr. Basketball USA honors as a senior due to a slow start from lingering injuries, he joined Johnson as a four-time state champion in the largest classification of a power state (Class 4A). He had a strong close to his senior season, which included a 29-point, 13-rebound performance over third five choice Jahlil Okafor and Whitney Young in a sectional title game. Parker went 118-15 in his four seasons at Simeon and was the 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year as a junior. He was also the first non-senior to be named Illinois Mr. Basketball and the first freshman ever to start full-time at Simeon.
G — Trae Young, Norman North (Norman, Okla.) 6-2, Class of 2017
His monster senior season made Young the third true point guard to earn a berth on this All-Decade team. Young made second team All-American as a junior, but made a big jump up is his final season at Norman North. Prior to his spectacular senior season, Young and fellow All-Decade choice Michael Porter Jr. led Mokan Elite to the 2016 Nike EYBL title while avenging 27.0 ppg and 7.3 apg. A two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year, Young averaged 42.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists for a 19-6 club. He goes down as one of the best players ever from Oklahoma along with the likes of 1982 Mr. Basketball USA Waymon Tisdale, Richard Dumas (1987), Wilfred Boynes (1975) and Alvin Adams (1973).
G — Austin Rivers, Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) 6-4, Class of 2011
This shooting guard spot came down to Rivers and Beal, and in the end Rivers’ three-time All-American status and performances in big games were too hard to ignore. He opened eyes as a sophomore when he scored 120 points against four nationally-ranked teams at the City of Palms Classic in Florida, including 46 against Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler. Rivers was named to the COP all-tourney team three times and as back-to-back Class 6A state champs, his team played in GEICO Nationals twice, where he averaged an event record 31.3 ppg in three tourney games. A two-time state player of the year, Rivers averaged 28.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 2.8 apg against a challenging national schedule as a senior and the three-time all-stater finished with 2,957 career points.
F — Zion Williamson, Spartanburg Day School (Spartanburg, S.C.) 6-7, Class of 2018
A two-time All-American (second five as a junior), Zion was tailor made for this decade, as his breath-taking dunks and gravity-defying defensive plays we captured in HD camera and spread in real time on social media every single game. One of the most viral players of the “Mixtape Decade,” Williamson is one of the most explosive talents the high school game has ever seen. What kept him off the second five (next to classmate R.J. Barrett) was a general lack of national level competition and missing nine games because of various injuries as a senior. As a junior, Williamson averaged 36.8 ppg, 13 rpg and netted 51 points in a state title game win. As a senior, Williamson led Spartanburg Day School to a third consecutive SCISA Class 2A state title and a 20-8 mark, which five of those defeats he did not play in. For the season, he averaged 36.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.4 bpg and 3.6 spg while shooting 78 percent from the field and finished his career with 3,202 points (32.0 ppg), 1,131 rebounds (11.3 rpg), 304 steals (3.0 spg) and 293 blocks (2.9 bpg).
F — Michael Porter Jr., Nathan Hale (Seattle, Wash.) 6-9, Class of 2017
Similar to his good friend and travel ball teammate Trae Young, Porter moved up from second team All-American status as a junior with a monster senior season. After leading Falter Tolton (Columbia, Mo.) to a MSHAA Class 3 state title as a junior, Porter topped that by winning a Class 3A title in Washington while averaging 37.6 ppg, 14.5 rpg and 5.2 apg. He led Hale to a 29-0 season and FAB 50 national title, including a 27-point, 15-rebound, 4-steal, 3-assist performance in a key win over all-Decade talent Marvin Bagley, III (who only played his freshman and junior year of high school) of Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon, the club that handed No. 2 La Lumiere its only loss of the season. Hale was the first team ever from Washington to win a mythical national title and Porter the first ever player from the Pacific Northwest named Mr. Basketball USA.
C — Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Chicago) 6-11, Class of 2014
The last post spot on this five came down to three Chicago big men: Anthony Davis, Cliff Alexander and Okafor. Davis was the easiest to eliminate because he didn’t have much team success and wasn’t even known outside of Illinois prior to a late growth spurt and excellent 2010 spring and summer. Davis’ high school team also finished 6-18 his senior year despite his obvious budding talent. Alexander put together one of the most dominant single-game performances of the decade versus Montverde Academy and out-played Okafor in the 2014 Chicago Public League title game, but we give the nod to the Whitney Young standout because he had the most productive career of the three. Although Alexander was Mr. Basketball USA, Okafor was Player of the Year by Parade, USA Today and McDonald’s and was a serious national player of the year candidate for two seasons. In 2013, he led the Dolphins to the CPL title over Simeon and was named Chicago Sun Times POY as a junior over Jabari Parker.
• C — Cliff Alexander, Curie (Chicago) 6-9, Class of 2014
• G — Cole Anthony, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-3, Class of 2019
• G — Bradley Beal, Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 6-5, Class of 2011
• F — Jaylen Brown, Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) 6-7, Class of 2015
• F — Anthony Davis, Perspectives Charter (Chicago) 6-10, Class of 2011
• G — De’Aaron Fox, Cypress Lakes (Katy, Texas) 6-4, Class of 2016
• F — Aaron Gordon, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) 6-8, Class of 2013
• F — Mike Kidd-Gilchrist, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-8, Class of 2011
• F — Josh Jackson, Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) 6-8, Class of 2016
• G — Brandon Knight, Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 6-3, Class of 2010
• G — Romeo Langford, New Albany (New Albany, Ind.) 6-4, Class of 2018
• F — Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 6-6, Class of 2012
• C — Jared Sullinger, Northland (Columbus, Ohio) 6-9, Class of 2010
• F — Andrew Wiggins, Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.) 6-7, Class of 2013
• G — Nigel Williams-Goss, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 6-3, Class of 2013