The finals ballots are in and after the expanded ballots are tallied, for the first time in nine years there is a tie at the top. UCLA bound point guard Lonzo Ball of FAB 50 champion Chino Hills (Calif.) and Kansas bound wing Josh Jackson of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) both net 85 overall points. Will there be a co-National Player of the Year? What is the difference in their candidacies? The only other players to receive at least one second-place vote are Alabama-bound Braxton Key and junior center DeAndre Ayton.
After last summer’s grassroots season created preseason positioning for legitimate national player of the year candidates, the production at major holiday tournaments, showcases and various state playoff tournaments around the country that changed that original positioning. Even after the national high school all-star game circuit closed out the season, for the first time ever the final Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com balloting has ended in a tie.
After the completion of the 2015-16 high school basketball season, the distinguished Mr. Basketball USA panel had a hard time deciding if UCLA-bound Lonzo Ball of FAB 50 national champion Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) or Kansas-bound Josh Jackson of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) was the best and most productive player in the country. Both players are considered top five senior recruits in the country and have compelling resumes, so the factors that will ultimately decide who will forever be bestowed with the prestigious honor of 2015-16 Mr. Basketball USA must be further reviewed and broken down.
For starters, there will be no co-national player of the year. For decades, we’ve never had ties when it comes to team rankings or individual honors — and we never will. We’ll continue to break down the relevant results or factors and ultimately pick a winner or No. 1 team — and take any heat that comes with it. The Ball-Jackson debate is no different.
Jackson, who missed seven Prolific Prep games while resting nagging injuries or because of schedule college visits, averaged 26.9 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 6.3 apg, 3.5 steals and 3.9 blocks for a 26-7 team. Jackson likely help his candidacy with a strong performance at the 2016 McDonald’s All-American Game after he was overtaken by Ball in points in the second-to-last tracker, but he still finished with the same amount of overall points as before (85). Jackson appeared on nine overall ballots, while Ball was one of two candidates to appear on each ballot.
Ball had a historic season for Chino Hills, which finished 35-0 and the first team from California to finish No. 1 in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com in 16 years. The 6-foot-6 point guard averaged a triple double of 23.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg and 11.7 apg to go along with 5.1 spg and 2.0 bpg. While Jackson went 9-of-11 from the field to finish with 19 points while looking like perhaps the most NBA-ready player in Chicago for the McDonald’s Game, Ball also played a great hand in helping the West team to victory. He didn’t score, but tallied four rebounds, two blocked shots and tied the event record with 13 assists. A few weeks later at the 2016 Ballislife All-American Game (watch the complete BILAAG here), Ball broke the event record for assists with 13 (as did guard Andrew Jones of MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas).
Although he appeared on one more ballot than Jackson, Ball actually had two votes lower than second place to allow Jackson to finish with the same overall point total. Jackson didn’t have a vote lower than second place, while Ball finished with sixth first place votes, with the other four going to the Kansas-bound small forward who originally hails from Michigan.
The other candidate to appear on all ten ballots was Duke-bound forward Jayson Tatum from Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.), Gatorade’s National Player of the Year choice. Behind the strength of six third-place votes and two fourth-place tallys, Tatum finished a strong No. 3 in overall points with 67. Junior center DeAndre Ayton of Hillcrest Academy (Phoenix, Ariz.), who finished in fourth place with 58 points, was the only candidate other than the two front-runners to tally more than one second-place vote. Tatum, despite his consistency on the ballots, did not tally a second place vote. Twenty-five candidates earned recognition as a national player of the year candidate in the final, expanded tracker.
Since the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker began for the 2007-08 season, there has never been a tie in the final balloting before the Ball-Jackson race. At the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, small forward Harrison Barnes of Ames (Ames, Iowa) finished with 89 points on nine ballots to edge power forward Jared Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio) by a single point. Barnes, who now plays for the defending NBA champ Golden State Warriors, edged Sullinger behind the strength of eight first place votes, while the current Boston Celtics power forward tallied the other two first-place votes and six second-place votes. Barnes was eventually named Mr. Basketball USA for 2009-10.
Barnes is carving out a more than solid NBA career and although it was a tough choice, in retrospect it appears Barnes was the correct call. With the panel having an even tougher time splitting hairs between Ball and Jackson, will the right choice be made this year? Only time will reveal that answer.
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.
|1T||1||Lonzo Ball (10)||Chino Hills (CA)||6||2||0||0||85|
|1T||2||Josh Jackson (9)||Prolific Prep (CA)||4||5||0||0||85|
|3||4||Jayson Tatum (10)||Chaminade (MO)||0||0||6||2||67|
|4||3||DeAndre Ayton (8)||Hillcrest Academy (AZ)||0||2||2||2||56|
|5||5||De'Aaron Fox (9)||Cy Lakes (TX)||0||0||0||1||48|
|6||8T||Markelle Fultz (6)||DeMatha (MD)||0||0||0||1||29|
|7||6||Miles Bridges (6)||Huntington Prep (WV)||0||0||0||0||27|
|8||7||Mustapha Heron (5)||Sacred Heart (CT)||0||0||0||1||25|
|9||NR||Terrance Ferguson (4)||API (TX)||0||0||0||2||20|
|10T||10||Bam Adebayo (4)||High Point (NC)||0||0||0||1||18|
|10T||NR||Cassius Winston (4)||U of D Jesuit (MI)||0||0||1||0||18|
|12T||16T||Frank Jackson (5)||Lone Peak (UT)||0||0||0||0||11|
|12T||13||Malik Monk (3)||Bentonville (AR)||0||0||0||0||11|
|14||8T||T.J. Leaf (5)||Foothills Christian (CA)||0||0||0||0||10|
|15||16T||Braxton Key (1)||Oak Hill (VA)||0||1||0||0||9|
|16||NR||Rawle Alkins (1)||Word of God (NC)||0||0||1||0||8|
|17T||NR||Trevon Duval (1)||API (TX)||0||0||0||0||4|
|17T||12||Alterique Gilbert (1)||Miller Grove (GA)||0||0||0||0||4|
|17T||NR||Brandon McCoy (1)||Cathedral Catholic (CA)||0||0||0||0||4|
|20||16T||Davy Singleton (1)||Bishop Montgomery (CA)||0||0||0||0||3|
|21T||NR||Jarrett Allen (1)||St. Stephen's (TX)||0||0||0||0||2|
|21T||16T||Marques Bolden (1)||DeSoto (TX)||0||0||0||0||2|
|21T||15||Ethan Thompson (1)||Bishop Montgomery (CA)||0||0||0||0||2|
|24T||NR||Wendell Carter Jr. (1)||Pace Academy (GA)||0||0||0||0||1|
|24T||NR||Chris Lykes (1)||Gonzaga (DC)||0||0||0||0||1|
2015-16 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Basketball Recruiting
Frank Burlison, BurlisonOnBasketball.com Publisher
Van Coleman, TheBasketballChannel.net VP of Content
Ronnie Flores, Ballislife.com National Grassroots Editor
Clark Francis, Hoop Scoop Editor & Publisher
Bob Gibbons, All-Star Sports
Jerry Meyer, 247Sports.com Director of Scouting
Scott Phillips, NBC Sports National College Basketball Writer
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.