POY Tracker: Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball Close Gap on Josh Jackson!

Preseason clubhouse leader Josh Jackson still leads voting in updated Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com, but Duke-bound Jayson Tatum and UCLA-bound Lonzo Ball are gaining ground with fantastic starts to their senior campaigns. Junior DeAndre Ayton is fourth player to garner first place vote.

It's hard to deny the individual talents of 6-foot-8 small forward Josh Jackson of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.). Despite playing for a program that didn't participate in Holiday events where the 10-man Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel congregated at such as the City of Palms Classic or Tarkanian Classic, and even though Prolific Prep won't compete for a state title, Jackson still is the leading vote-getter in the latest 2015-16 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com.

Through 17 games, Jackson is averaging 28.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 3.4 steals, and 3.1 blocks per game against a national schedule. Jackson, who is reportedly considering Michigan State, Arizona, Maryland, Kansas and UNLV and will sign in the spring, was the only candidate among 20 to appear on all 10 ballots. Jackson collected 89 points and four first-place votes, the most of any candidate but down four from his total of eight in the preseason.

Two talented seniors who play for more traditional high school programs have made in-roads as serious challengers to Jackson for this prestigious award. Jayson Tatum, who plays for parochial program Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.), and Lonzo Ball, who has led public school Chino Hills (Calif.) to the No. 1 spot in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings, accounted for a combined five first place votes and are both within 22 overall points of Jackson after he led the voting by 35 points in the preseason.

Tatum, a 6-foot-8 wing headed to Duke University, has turned in monster individual games against a national schedule and moved up from third place to second place behind Jackson with 70 overall points. Tatum went for 27 points versus FAB 50 No. 3 Oak Hill Academy, had 40 points in a home victory over Mr. Basketball USA candidate Malik Monk and Bentonville (Ark.) and recently had a career-high 46 points in a win over Miles Bridges and his talented Huntington Prep team at the Cancer Research Classic. Tatum, who appeared on eight ballots, is currently averaging 30.3 ppg.

"Jayson Tatum has done a nice job opening this season with impressive personal performances and big teams wins for a school that doesn't normally play this type of national schedule," said panel member and NBC Sports national college basketball and recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. "His 3-pointer looks much improved since the summer and fall and he's now scoring efficiently from all three levels on the floor in many games."

Tatum garnered two first place votes, one less than Ball, who also appeared on eight ballots and garnered 67 points. Ball, a 6-foot-6 point guard known for serpentine full-court passes and court awareness rarely seen at the high school level, currently has Chino Hills 13-0 and atop the FAB 50. His production in the context of winning is clearly reflected in the ballots of the 10-man Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel. The MVP of three Holiday events, Ball went from appearing on four ballots and collecting 30 points to appearing on an additional four and finishing with 67 points.

Ball's 33 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 7 blocks and 4 steals in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic championship game win over Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) are not exaggerated (his assist total is more conservative than liberal) and the type of numbers he's put up on a consistent basis so far this season. Chino Hills defeated teams from eight different states during December.

"Lonzo Ball is the fastest rising senior and if he continues to dominate as he did at COP & MaxPreps Holiday Classic he may become the leading challenger to Tatum by February," said McDonald’s voter and The Basketball Channel Vice President of Basketball Operations Van Coleman.

"Lonzo Ball has been a force early this high school season and his Chino Hills team has the undefeated record to help prove it," Phillips added. "Although Ball's personal numbers might be a tad inflated with Chino Hills' up-tempo style of play, there is no taking away from the kinds of competition that Ball has outplayed and defeated."

The only other candidate to garner a first place vote was 7-foot junior DeAndre Ayton, last year's National Sophomore of the Year at Balboa City School (San Diego, Calif.) who is now at Hillcrest Academy (Phoenix, Ariz.). Jackson was awarded the same honor two seasons ago at Consortium College Prep School in Detroit.

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
11Josh Jackson (10)Prolific Prep (CA)450089
23Jayson Tatum (8)Chaminade (MO)224070
36Lonzo Ball (8)Chino Hills (CA)311267
45DeAndre Ayton (7)Hillcrest Academy (AZ)110351
52De'Aaron Fox (6)Cy Lakes (TX)003142
614Markelle Fultz (6)DeMatha (MD)001237
74Malik Monk (5)Bentonville (AR)010129
813Bam Adebayo (3)High Point (NC)010021
98Miles Briges (3)Huntington Prep (WV)000014
10TNRCharles Bassey (2)St. John's (TX)000010
10T11TMustapha Heron (2)Sacred Heart (CT)000010
12TNRCarsen Edwards (2)Atascocita (TX)00008
12T7Rawle Alkins (1)Word of God (NC)00108
14NRTy-Shon Alexander (1)Oak Hill (VA)00017
15NRSeventh Woods (1)Hammond (SC)00006
16TNRLi'Angelo Ball (1)Chino Hills (CA)00005
16T11TWendell Carter (1)Pace Academy (GA)00005
16TNRT.J. Leaf (1)Foothills Christian (CA)00004
19TNRM.J. Walker (1)Jonesboro (GA)00004
19T18Ethan Thompson (1)Bishop Montgomery (CA)00004

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.