POY Tracker: Lonzo Ball is New Front-Runner!

UCLA bound point guard Lonzo Ball of FAB 50 No. 1 Chino Hills (Calif.) takes pole position in updated Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com. Ball's team is two wins away from a perfect 35-0 season, but will the post-season all-star circuit help candidates such as Josh Jackson and Duke-bound Jayson Tatum?

The tidal wave known as the Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) boys basketball team has slowly grown since the start of the season and with potentially two games to go, is about to crest. It started when the Huskies opened the season No. 11 in the preseason FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com, caught the nation's attention when they captured the City of Palms Tournament championship and eventually elevated to No. 1 in the national rankings, and reached a fevered pitch when BIL live-streamed their 71-67 victory over Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) in late January.

Since then, it has been turn-away, standing room only crowds to catch the nation's No. 1 ranked high school team as it chases a perfect 35-0 season and a mythical national title. The only thing standing in the way of perfection for Chino Hills is a SoCal Open regional final rematch with Bishop Montgomery (currently ranked No. 20 in the FAB 50) and a CIF Open Division state final victory on March 26 against a likely FAB 50 ranked foe from Northern California.

With the team success Chino Hills has enjoyed so far, it's no surprise its best player, 6-foot-6 UCLA-bound senior point guard Lonzo Ball, has seen his individual status among his peers and personal accolades also rise. Ball has already earned Gatorade State Player of the Year, Naismith and McDonald's Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year Accolades, so it's should come with little surprise Ball moved up a spot to take over as the leading national player of the year candidate in the 2015-16 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com.

Ball tallied 87 points on nine ballots, two more than 6-foot-8 small forward Josh Jackson of Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.), who still is the lone candidate among 19 to appear on every single ballot. Jackson, who has missed seven of Prolific Prep's games, is averaging 26.9 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 6.3 apg, 3.5 steals and 3.9 blocks. Ball, through 30 games, is averaging 24.4 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 12.9 apg, 4.5 blocks and 4.1 steals with 17 double doubles and 14 triple-doubles. That production, combined with the Huskies's success, helped Ball garner seven first place votes and one second place vote.

Jackson tallied one first place vote, as did Duke-bound forward Jayson Tatum of Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) and junior DeAndre Ayton of Hillcrest Academy (Phoenix, Ariz.). Ayton actually surpassed Tatum in total points from the previous tracker (up to 67 points from 66 while Tatum fell from 68 to 63).

"If his team wins the next two games, then Chino Hills will go down as one of the most dominant state champions ever from the region and state," said panel member Frank Burlison of BurlisonOnBasketball.com. "Ball is the best high school player in the country and, in reality, I'm not sure it's close based on both ends of the floor production and team performance."

Ball started out No. 6 in the preseason voting on four ballots with 30 points, worked his way up to No. 3 in the second voting go-around in early January (67 points on eight ballots), and to No. 2 behind Jackson on the third go-around (79 points on nine ballots).

It's been an amazing season for Chino Hills so far, but after the CIF state championships, Ball will participate in the McDonald's All-American Game, where Jackson, Tatum and others can still make one last impression on the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel. For Mr. Basketball USA honors, the whole season is accounted for, as it's not an award basically decided upon before the beginning of state tournaments around the country.

That makes Ball's ascension, and the race, that much more interesting. There are some panelists who don't write think the race is over yet. Will the triple double maestro hold off all challengers until the entire high school season is complete?

"Lonzo Ball has really helped himself this winter and he's the go-to guy on the undefeated, best team in the country, but that's a bit ridiculous (his point total)," said panel member Clark Francis of the Hoop Scoop. "Physically, athletically, and skill-wise, Josh Jackson is most ready to make the jump to a higher level right now."

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
12Lonzo Ball (9)Chino Hills (CA)711087
21Josh Jackson (10)Prolific Prep (CA)153085
34DeAndre Ayton (9)Hillcrest Academy (AZ)121367
43Jayson Tatum (8)Chaminade (MO)112263
55De'Aaron Fox (9)Cy Lakes (TX)002053
68Miles Bridges (4)Huntington Prep (WV)000022
79TMustapha Heron (3)Sacred Heart (CT)000118
8T6TMarkelle Fultz (3)DeMatha (MD)000115
8T6TT.J. Leaf (3)Foothills Christian (CA)000115
1011Bam Adebayo (2)High Point (NC)000112
11NRShamorie Ponds (2)Jefferson (NY)000111
12NRAlterique Gilbert (1)Miller Grove (GA)00108
1312Malik Monk (1)Bentonville (AR)00017
1414Mohamed Bamba (1)Westtown School (PA)00006
1517TEthan Thompson (1)Bishop Montgomery (CA)00005
16TNRMarques Bolden (1)DeSoto (TX)00004
16TNRFrank Jackson (1)Lone Peak (UT)00004
16T15TBraxton Key (1)Oak Hill (VA)00004
16TNRDavy Singleton (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 the previous tracker.