Power forward from FAB 50 No. 6 Columbus (Miami,Fla.) makes history in being named 2023 Mr. Basketball USA by Ballislife.com. The talented twin and son of former NBA player Carlos Boozer is the first ever sophomore earn the nation’s highest individual high school basketball honor dating back to the first Mr. Basketball USA Tracker in 2008, the first real time choice in 1996 and in the long history of retroactive picks dating back to 1955.
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High school basketball has changed plenty in recent years. There has always been attention and hype for the very best players, especially big men, dating back to the 1950s with future NBA standouts Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry Lucas. Basketball is a unique sport at the youth and high school level in that it’s much easier to predict future individual success than other team sports such as football and baseball. One player can also greatly change a team’s fortunes much faster.
In light of that, it’s not a surprise sophomores Cameron Boozer, Cooper Flagg, Meleek Thomas and Koa Peat were considered among the elites of high school basketball for the 2022-23 season. This year’s national player of the year race featured a wide-range of candidates, and from the beginning, that sophomore quartet were serious candidates.
The results of the final 2022-23 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker are historic because for the first time ever a sophomore is the honoree for the production-based national player of the year honor selected by Ballislife’s 10-man panel of national scouts. No tenth-grader has ever been considered the best high school player in America, until now.
Boozer, the terrific power forward who led Columbus (Miami, Fla.) to the FHSAA Class 7A crown and No. 6 final FAB 50 ranking, topped the voting in this season’s final tracker and today is honored with the title of 2022-23 Mr. Basketball USA.
“Wow, Mr. Basketball USA Player of the Year is an incredible honor,” Boozer told Ballislife. “I feel lucky to be selected among so many outstanding players this year. I feel like any time you are recognized for an award such as this it takes you back for a minute and just makes you very thankful for everything it took to accomplish this goal. I am extremely appreciative of the honor and hope to be a great representative of Mr. Basketball USA Player of the Year.”
Boozer is appreciative of earning the nation’s most prestigious individual honor and the scouts, media and fans alike are appreciative of his tremendous skill level and dominance as a mere tenth-grader. Boozer teamed up with his twin brother Cayden to lead the Explorers to a 26-4 record against national competition and it was actually Cayden who had a big game in the state final with 21 points. Throughout the season, it was Cameron who consistently dominated foes to the tune of 21.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 4..2 apg and 2.0 bpg, while shooting 62.1 percent from the field, 41.6 from 3-point line and 89.1 percent from the free throw line.
Despite having only one high school season under his belt, Boozer started out No. 4 in the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker balloting, but moved to No. 1 in late February by one point over USC-bound senior Isaiah Collier of FAB 50 No. 20 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.), who ended up being his stiffest challenger for player of the year honors and is the Senior Player of the Year honoree. Boozer led a group of five candidates that appeared on nine of 10 ballots (among a record group of 34 players nominated for player of the year honors) with 84 points, including six of the 10 first-place votes (no other player had more than one first-place vote). The others to appear on nine ballots: Collier with 76 points (five second place votes), Texas-bound forward Ronald Holland of Duncanville (Texas) with 71 points (five third place votes), Kentucky-bound guard D.J. Wagner of Camden (N.J.) with 56 points (one second place and one third place vote) and Kentucky-bound forward Justin Edwards of Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.) with 50 points (one first place vote). Edwards was a recent MVP at the 2023 Ballislife All-American Game in Norwalk, Calif.
All of the four candidates to seriously challenge Boozer were all seniors. To get a better perspective of just how dominant Boozer was this season and how the panel feels about his ability, one only needs to look at how a rare it has been for a sophomore to be considered for first or second five All-American honors over the years on the annual All-American Elite Team, which will be published for the 29th time in the next week.
In the 16 years of Mr. Basketball USA balloting, only Emoni Bates (a sophomore at Eastern Michigan who recently declared for the 2023 NBA Draft) has come close to the top of the balloting as a sophomore. In 2020 he finished in fourth place behind Mr. Basketball USA Cade Cunningham (Pistons), Evan Mobley (Cavs) and Jalen Green (Rockets) with 48 points while appearing on eight ballots. Before the balloting era, a high school sensation named Lew Alcindor was considered the unofficial runner-up to Edgar Lacey of Jefferson (Los Angeles, Calif.) in 1963 and was a two-time honoree over the next two seasons. Lucas, one of high school basketball’s first stars known nationwide, was the first sophomore to be first five All-American and was also a two-time honoree (1957-58). As a sophomore in 2000-01, LeBron James probably should have received more serious consideration among Dajuan Wagner (the choice and D.J. Wagner’s father) and future NBA big men Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry. Only three sophomores have been second five All-Americans over the years: DeAndre Ayton in 2015, Michael Gilchrist in 2009 and O.J. Mayo in 2005 and among that trio only Ayton didn’t go on to be named Mr. Basketball USA.
The senior class of 2023 is considered one of the weaker classes overall in recent memory, despite some individual brilliance, and the 2024 class, led by class player of the year Tre Johnson, is considered a mild group as well with one season to go. 2025 is a different story and is off to a roaring start, as the three before-mentioned tenth-graders appeared on the ballots and are considered among the best players in the country, regardless of class.
D.J. Wagner, who played at Camden as his father did over 20 years ago when he was the nation’s top player, was the class player of the year in each season as an underclassmen before Boozer moved to the front of the pack this past season. Each season is its own entity, so what will Boozer do for an encore? How will next season play out? What does his development curve look like with two more seasons of high school basketball?
“Who in the junior class is going to keep them (the sophomores) off the top of the list next year?” lamented panel member Van Coleman of Nothing But Net Magazine. “Tre Johnson, Ian Jackson and Dylan Harper, those guys have to step it up because, right now, Boozer is at the top of the list, followed very closely by Flagg in his own class. There’s not much difference between the juniors and those sophomores. I don’t know if the voters will put Flagg as high as he really needs to be. As far as the seniors go, Wagner had the best career, Collier had the best season and Holland came on late.”
Next season the process will start all over again with a clean slate, but based on production, Boozer is considered the best for 2022-23.
Editor’s Note: Click on the “+” sign next to each player’s number to view how many first, second, third or fourth place votes he got and his overall point total. Previous tracker results are also listed (“Prev.”).
|1||1||Cam Boozer (9)||Columbus (FL)||6||1||1||1||84|
|2||2||Isaiah Collier (9)||Wheeler (GA)||1||5||2||0||76|
|3||5T||Ronald Holland (9)||Duncanville (TX)||1||1||5||1||71|
|4||3||D.J. Wagner (8)||Camden (NJ)||0||1||1||3||56|
|5||5T||Justin Edwards (9)||Imhotep Charter (PA)||1||0||0||2||50|
|6||7||Jackson Shelstad (4)||West Linn (OR)||0||1||0||0||26|
|7||8||Tre Johnson (5)||Lake Highlands (TX)||0||0||0||1||24|
|8||NR||Meleek Thomas (3)||Lincoln Park (PA)||1||0||0||1||22|
|9||10||Flory Budunga (3)||Kokomo (IN)||0||1||0||0||15|
|10||6||Cooper Flagg (4)||Montverde Academy (FL)||0||0||0||0||14|
|11||15||Dylan Harper (4)||Don Bosco Prep (NJ)||0||0||0||0||11|
|12||16T||Aaron Bradshaw (4)||Camden (NJ)||0||0||0||0||9|
|13T||9||Xavier Booker (1)||Cathedral (IN)||0||0||1||0||8|
|13T||11T||DeShawn Harris-Smith (2)||Paul VI (VA)||0||0||0||0||8|
|13T||NR||Koa Peat (2)||Perry (AZ)||0||0||0||0||8|
|13T||NR||Ja’Kobe Walter||Link Academy (MO)||0||0||0||0||8|
|17T||11T||Jared McCain (2)||Centennial (CA)||0||0||0||0||7|
|17T||NR||Blake Buchanan (1)||Lake City (ID)||0||0||0||1||7|
|19T||11T||Matas Buzelis (2)||Sunrise Christian (KS)||0||0||0||0||6|
|19T||16T||Baye Fall (1)||Accelerated Schools (CO)||0||0||0||0||6|
|21T||NR||Elliot Cadeau (2)||Link Academy (MO)||0||0||0||0||5|
|21T||19||Mackenzie Mgbako (1)||Roselle Catholic (NJ)||0||0||0||0||5|
|23T||NR||Bronny James (1)||Sierra Canyon (CA)||0||0||0||0||4|
|23T||NR||Dedan Thomas Jr. (1)||Liberty (NV)||0||0||0||0||4|
|25T||NR||Ian Jackson (1)||Cardinal Hayes (NY)||0||0||0||0||3|
|25T||NR||Ace Bailey (1)||McEachern (GA)||0||0||0||0||3|
|27T||18||Isaiah Elohim (1)||Sierra Canyon (CA)||0||0||0||0||2|
|27T||NR||Cody Williams (1)||Perry (AZ)||0||0||0||0||2|
|29T||NR||Cayden Boozer (1)||Columbus (FL)||0||0||0||0||1|
|29T||NR||Stephon Castle (1)||Newton (GA)||0||0||0||0||1|
|29T||NR||Zoom Diallo (1)||Curtis (WA)||0||0||0||0||1|
|29T||NR||A.J. Dybansta (1)||St. Sebastian’s (MA)||0||0||0||0||1|
|29T||NR||V.J. Edgecombe (1)||Long Island Lutheran (NY)||0||0||0||0||1|
|29T||NR||Aden Holloway (1)||Prolific Prep (CA)||0||0||0||0||1|
2022-23 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Basketball Recruiting
Frank Burlison, BurlisonOnBasketball.com Publisher
Van Coleman, Nothing But Net Magazine
Jordan Divens, Maxpreps.com National Basketball Editor
Ronnie Flores, Ballislife.com National Grassroots Editor
Chris Lawlor, Blue Star Media National Analyst
Jerry Meyer, McDonald’s All-American Voter
Horace Neysmith, AllMetroHoops.com
Patrick Stanwood, Patrick Stanwood Basketball
Dinos Trigonis, Fullcourt Press Editor & Publisher
About Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Ballislife.com’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.
For the all-time list of Mr. Basketball USA honorees, 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