Josh Jackson, arguably the most explosive wing player in the country and one of its best all-around players, leads voting in preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com, now in its ninth year. The Prolific Prep senior was two votes away from being the second unanimous selection in the history of the nine-year voting process to select our national player of the year.
There are plenty of factors that go into an individual award such as national player of the year: Playing for a winning team, where the team is located and whom it plays, and things such as eye-popping statistics are important — especially when the nation’s best players don’t have an opportunity to play on same court too often.
When many of the best do get together under one roof to compete, however, the dynamics change. Then it’s about whose skill level is the most advanced, who has the most confidence in his skill level and who has the proper mentality to rise to the occasion.
At the 2015 USA Basketball Junior National Team Minicamp in Colorado Springs, Col. in October, 6-foot-8 shooting guard/small forward Josh Jackson of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) stood out among his peers. He was the most explosive wing-type with the ball skills to match. Jackson shot it well, displayed uncanny passing ability and a great feel for when to attack, pull back or direct teammates to an open spot. He had confidence in his arsenal and most importantly, the more intense the competition got, the more focused and better he played.
The Detroit native also displayed leadership abilities and was not afraid to jump a teammate for a missed opportunity or being out of position. It was a classic case of the cream rising to the top and a pecking order clearly being established.
Jackson’s individual skill level is reflected in the preseason 2015-16 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com.
The tracker’s voting results left no doubt as to whom the early favorite to capture Mr. Basketball USA honors for the 2015-16 season is. All 10 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel members had the Prolific Prep senior on their preseason ballot. Jackson was the only candidate to appear on every ballot. His 98 points are tied for second most in the nine-year history of the Mr. Basketball USA voting process (preseason, in-season or final tracker included). Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings, the only consensus national player of the year Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) has ever produced, tallied 98 points in the February 8, 2008 tracker.
Last season, current LSU freshman Ben Simmons of FAB 50 national champion Montverde Academy (Fla.) was a unanimous top vote-getter (earning 100 points) in every tracker published. He was the run-away Mr. Basketball USA honoree and is living up to his advanced high school billing so far in Baton Rouge.
Will Jackson approach that kind of dominance over his peers this season?
“He’s the most NBA-ready player in the country,” hoopscooponline.com Publisher and McDonald’s All-American voter Clark Francis said of Jackson. “The No. 1 (Harry Giles) and No. 3 player (Thon Maker) in the 2016 class aren’t eligible, and DeAndre Ayton had a 50-50 summer, so I think he’s disproportionately lower than his talent level at this point. If you’re a good player, and will be seen on the national circuit this season, it’s there for the taking.”
Ironically, Harry Giles was in attendance at the USA Basketball Junior National Team Minicamp with Jackson, but did not play. One has to assume last year’s National Junior of the Year would have pushed Jackson throughout the season had he not torn his ACL in Oak Hill Academy’s first game of the season. Maker doesn’t play for an American program and Dennis Smith Jr., arguably the nation’s top point guard coming into the 2015-16 season, won’t play this season because of an ACL tear and will leave for N.C. State at the semester break. Those missing players have changed the dynamics of the national player of the year race.
Point guard De’Aaron Fox of Cypress Lakes (Katy, Texas), who recently announced for Kentucky, finished second to the uncommitted Jackson with 63 points while appearing on nine ballots. He garnered one first place vote, with the tenth one going to Duke-bound Jayson Tatum of FAB 50 No. 7 Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.). Tatum finished in third place with 60 points. He appeared on eight ballots and garnered three second-place votes. Ayton, last year’s National Sophomore of the Year, appeared on half of the ballots, but two voters had him No. 2 behind Jackson.
“It’s a bit of a strange year, with the major injuries and the players in flux, in school and out,” said McDonald’s voter and The Basketball Channel Vice President of Basketball Operations Van Coleman. “When we see who’s playing well during the season, it will start to level out. Because it’s the preseason voting, I strongly factored in what I saw through the July viewing period, but it’s also a case of ‘What have you done for more lately?’ I think that’s what you see with some of these candidates.”
To begin the 2015-16 season, 18 players received recognition by the Mr. Basketball USA 10-man panel. Last year, there were 19 national player of the year candidates to begin the season.
Stay logged in to Ballislife.com to track the progress of the nation’s top individual players and the nation’s Top teams.
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.
|1||NR||Josh Jackson (10)||Prolific Prep (CA)||8||2||0||0||98|
|2||NR||De'Aaron Fox (9)||Cy Lakes (TX)||1||1||1||2||63|
|3||15T||Jayson Tatum (8)||Chaminade (MO)||1||3||1||1||60|
|4||NR||Malik Monk (7)||Bentonville (AR)||0||0||3||2||49|
|5||5T||DeAndre Ayton (4)||Hillcrest Academy (AZ)||0||2||1||0||37|
|6||11T||Lonzo Ball (4)||Chino Hills (CA)||0||0||2||2||30|
|7||NR||Rawle Alkins (4)||Word of God (NC)||0||1||0||1||29|
|8||NR||Miles Bridges (4)||Huntington Prep (WV)||0||0||0||1||24|
|9T||NR||Trevon Duval (3)||API (TX)||0||0||1||0||16|
|9T||NR||Terrance Ferguson (3)||API (TX)||0||0||0||0||16|
|11T||NR||Wendell Carter (3)||Pace Academy (GA)||0||0||0||0||13|
|11T||NR||Mustapha Heron (2)||Sacred Heart (CT)||0||0||0||1||13|
|13||NR||Bam Adebayo (2)||High Point (NC)||0||0||0||0||12|
|14||NR||Markelle Fultz (2)||DeMatha (MD)||0||0||0||0||11|
|15T||NR||Mohamed Bamba (1)||Westtown (PA)||0||0||0||0||5|
|15T||NR||Frank Jackson (1)||Lone Peak (UT)||0||0||0||0||5|
|15T||NR||P.J. Washington (1)||Findlay Prep (NV)||0||0||0||0||5|
|18||NR||Ethan Thompson (1)||Bishop Montgomery (CA)||0||0||0||0||4|
About Mr. 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 last season’s final tracker.