POY Tracker: Fortunes Change For Nation’s Elite

Chet Holmgren, the preseason top vote-getter in the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com, leads the voting in the updated balloting for national player of the year. The fortunes of some of the other top preseason candidates, however, has drastically changed.

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There was always plenty of uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 high school basketball season way before any sanctioned games were played. Would health departments give guidance and clearance to state associations? Would school districts follow suit with sanctioned games after their state associations created guidelines?

Fortunately for a vast majority of states around the country, high school basketball and winter sports are being played. As of February 18, only seven states have yet to play sanctioned games, with the Baltimore Catholic League set to tip-off this week. Not every state will have a full slate of regular season games and some states, such as Illinois and Indiana, have canceled their post-season.

Chet Holmgren, the nations’ best center and unsigned prospect in the 2021 class, leads the way as the top national player of the year candidate in the latest Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com. The 7-foot-1 center from FAB 50 No. 9 Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, Minn.) was the top vote-getter (10 points) on seven ballots and No. 2 on the other three for 97 points out of a possible 100.

“Holmgren is easily the top player in any class over the past two years,” said panelist Frank Burlison of burlisononbasketball.com. “Along with Zion Williamson, he’s one of the two most compelling prospects I’ve seen over the past 10 years or so.”

One only needs to look at the plight of the other top candidates after Holmgren in the updated Mr. Basketball USA Tracker voting results to realize how much the response to COVID-19 has affected the high school basketball landscape.

The two other candidates who appeared on all 10 ballots in the preseason voting, undecided forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. of Hamilton (Sussex, Wis.) and undecided guard Jaden Hardy of Coronado (Las Vegas, Nev.), are no longer on the ballots. Baldwin, the national class player of the year the past two seasons, was No. 2 behind Holmgren in the preseason but a severe ankle injury has sidelined him since early December. Hardy, who was No. 5 in the balloting, was able to play in some fall league contests, but the Clark County Unified School District that Coronado belongs to cancelled the winter high school basketball season on December 1.

The player who was No. 3 in the preseason voting behind Baldwin, Duke-bound power forward Paolo Banchero of O’Dea (Seattle, Wash.), has also seen his fortunes changed. He is now No. 4 in the balloting with 59 overall points while appearing on seven ballots. Banchero’s positioning is based on the premise O’Dea, currently No. 12 in the FAB 50, will play its season in the spring. WIAA programs are supposed to conduct two, 10-week seasons beginning April 26. Banchero is without question one of the nation’s most dominant talents, but the fragmented season means he won’t get to play out-of-region competition or have any matchups against any of the other 18 Mr. Basketball USA candidates.

It was also announced today the 2021 McDonald’s All-American Game is canceled. All the above mentioned players are shoo-ins for the game and it’s practices are usually a good barometer to gauge many of the Mr. Basketball USA candidates in one setting. That is another opportunity taken away from the 16 senior candidates. McDonald’s will still announce its rosters for the game and celebrate the honorees virtually.

The top candidate who has participated in what one would consider a “normal” season is Auburn-bound Jabari Smith of FAB 50 No. 35 Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) and his production is reflected in voting tally. Sandy Creek’s season began on November 21 and the team is 21-4 against a tough schedule. Smith, a versatile forward who impacts both ends of the floor, is No. 2 in the balloting with 73 overall points whole posting season norms of 23.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg, and 2.8 bpg. Although he didn’t garner a No. 1 vote, Smith did garner two No. 2 votes (nine points each) and joins Holmgren as the only two candidates to appear on all ten ballots.

Besides Holmgren (7) and Banchero (2), the only other candidate to receive a first place vote is junior center Jalen Duren of FAB 50 No. 1 Montverde Academy. Duren, a physical presence underneath who defends the glass well for the nation’s top-ranked team, appeared on nine ballots with 63 points, good for third place overall. On the season, he’s the leading scorer (14.9 ppg, 63.6% FG) for a Eagles team with three players averaging over 13 points per game, while adding 9.4 rpg and 2.2 bpg.

Duren has supplanted Emoni Bates of YSPI Prep Academy (Ypsilanti, Mich.) as the top vote-getter among underclassmen and is a legitimate national POY candidate should he close the season strong. Bates, No. 4 overall in the preseason balloting, is now No. 6 after garnering 32 overall points, including one second place vote and one third. He appeared on eight ballots in the preseason (including four second-place votes), but appeared on five ballots is the updated tracker. YSPI Prep, a start-up, independent prep program, has had some trouble building its schedule thus far because of COVID-19 and sanctioning regulations and is 7-2 on the season with Bates averaging 23.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 3.0 apg.

Bates was one of the hottest rising names in basketball at all levels last season, but that has slowed somewhat in 2020-21.

The fast-risers in the latest Mr. Basketball USA Tracker are a pair of point guards who didn’t garner any preseason attention. Kennedy Chandler, the catalyst for FAB 50 No. 2 Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Air, Kan.), came in at No. 5 in the balloting while appearing on seven ballots. The Tennessee-bound Chandler has hit big shots throughout the season for a 18-2 club and is currently averaging 15.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.6 apg and 3.5 spg.

The second point guard to garner serious national POY consideration is TyTy Washington of AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.). He too has been a catalyst for one of the best teams in the country (which owns a win over Sunrise Christian Academy). The Creighton-bound lead guard had 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists in the Sunrise Christian victory and is currently averaging 21.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.9 apg, and 2.6 spg.

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.

RankPrev.NameHigh School1st2nd3rd4thTotal
11Chet Holmgren (10)Minnehaha Academy (MN)790097
26Jabari Smith (10)Sandy Creek (GA)024273
38Jalen Duren (9)Montverde Academy (FL)121063
43Paolo Banchero (7)O’Dea (WA)222059
5NRKennedy Chandler (7)Sunrise Christian (KS)000444
64Emoni Bates (5)YSPI Prep (MI)011032
7NRTyTy Washington (3)AZ Compass Prep (AZ)001222
810TD.J. Wagner (3)Camden (NJ)001016
9NRHunter Sallis (3)Millard North (NE)000015
1012TMike Foster (2)Hillcrest Prep (AZ)000113
11T7Kendall Brown (2)Sunrise Christian (KS)000011
11T16TJ.D. Davison (2)Calhoun (AL)000011
1310TDaimion Collins (1)Atlanta (TX)00017
14NRTrevor Keels (1)Paul VI (VA)00006
1516TDaron Holmes (1)AZ Compass Prep (AZ)00005
16TNRKobe Bufkin (1)Grand Rapids Christian (MI)00004
16TNRMoussa Diabate (1)IMG Academy (FL)00004
16T12TNolan Hickman (1)Wasatch Academy (UT)00004
16T9Caleb Houstan (1)Montverde Academy (FL)00004

About Mr. Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Ballislife.com’s panel of 10 experts, which includes five 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.

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