As the season heads to its home stretch, the race for National Player of the Year is still wide open. There are five elite players among 19 vote-getters with a legitimate chance to earn MR. Basketball USA honors, led by sophomore forward Cameron Boozer of Columbus (Miami, Fla.). The updated balloting shows the senior (2023) class still has something to prove and also shows what’s portrayed by mainstream media outlets is not what scouts necessarily feel behind closed doors.
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Just as there is no dominant team in this season’s FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com, there is no one dominant player in the country who outshines the rest as the latest Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com shows. The nation’s elite individual talent has been identified, as far as having the most productive 2022-23 season is concerned, but among the 19 top national player of the year candidates there is no consensus as to whom is the best or most dominant.
Of the 19 candidates who appeared on the ballots of the 10-man Mr. Basketball USA Panel, eight received a first place (10 points) or second place vote (nine points). Six players earned at least one first place vote, with sophomore forward Cameron Boozer of FAB 50 No. 6 Columbus (Miami, Fla.) the top vote-getter with 70 overall points, besting USC-point senior point guard Isaiah Collier of FAB 50 No. 36 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) by two points and Kentucky-bound shooting guard D.J. Wagner of FAB 50 No. 10 Camden (N.J.) by eight points. Wagner was the leading vote-getter in the preseason (with 71 points) when garnered four of the 10 first place votes. He earned two in the latest voting, two second place votes and 62 total points.
The other candidates to receive first place are Texas-bound forward Ronald Holland of FAB 50 No. 4 Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas), Kentucky-bound Justin Edwards of Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Michigan State-bound forward Xavier Booker of Cathedral (Indianapolis, Ind.). Holland came in fourth place over all with 54 points, Edwards in fifth with 52 votes overall, while Booker appeared on two overall ballots, finishing first on one and third on the other for 18 total points.
Three things stand out with the voting results. One, Boozer is a sophomore and no tenth-grader has ever been named Mr. Basketball USA or a consensus national player of the year. Not Lew Alcindor, not LeBron James, no one, so the company Boozer is keeping is worth nothing. Two, Boozer’s point total would represent a number significantly lower than the average total of the eventual annual honoree, who is often above 90 points overall. Not one single candidate, not even Boozer or Collier, appeared on all ten ballots. Three, the senior class still hasn’t established a true pecking order and the ones who are most popular on social media, particularly Bronny James of Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) and Mikey Williams of San Ysidro (Calif.), did not receive any votes. James was named a McDonald’s All-American, to the 13-man USA Team for the Nike Hoop Summit and is being pegged by ESPN as a 2024 NBA lottery pick.
One player who is certainly being rewarded for his senior season of high school is Oregon-bound point guard Jackson Shelstad of FAB 50 No. 20 West Linn (West Linn, Ore.). He did not appear on any preseason ballots, but appeared on four ballots this time around, including a second-place vote, for 25 overall points. Shelstad has been selected for the Nike Hoop Summit.
“With the obvious conclusion that this 2023 class has not met expectations, it is apparent that the creme of the current high school talent rests with several talented underclassmen with Cameron Boozer being exhibit A,” said panel member Dinos Trigonis, Nothing But Net Magazine publisher and Pangos All-American Camp director. “While Boozer does not give max effort 100 percent of the time, his displays of dominance signals the arrival of a special player to track.
“What’s also apparent here, as the voting results show, is the obvious disconnect between the day-to-day regional and local scouts and some of the national media, particularly ESPN. They have anointed players to “can’t miss” status based on celebrity rather than accomplishment.”
It’s no secret that the 2023 class has been considered one of the weakest ones nationally in recent memory, in terms of NBA Draft prospects and projected collegiate impact. That is reflected in the voting totals of the latest Mr. Basketball USA Tracker. What is also apparent is the end-of-season playoff games and the national all-star circuit will hold as much importance as it has had in many seasons, in terms of individual accomplishment and honors and deciding whom are the best bets to standout at the next levels of the game.
This wide open Mr. Basketball USA race will be fun to track over the next month and a half.
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||4||Cam Boozer (9)||Columbus (FL)||2||1||2||1||70|
|2||2||Isaiah Collier (9)||Wheeler (GA)||3||1||1||1||68|
|3||1||D.J. Wagner (8)||Cathedral (IN)||2||2||1||0||62|
|4||5T||Ronald Holland (7)||Duncanville (TX)||1||2||2||0||54|
|5||5T||Justin Edwards (7)||Imhotep Charter (PA)||1||2||0||2||52|
|6||8T||Cooper Flagg (5)||Montverde Academy (FL)||0||0||1||1||28|
|7||NR||Jackson Shelstad (4)||West Linn (OR)||0||1||0||0||25|
|8||10||Tre Johnson (4)||Lake Highlands (TX)||0||0||0||1||20|
|9||3||Xavier Booker (2)||Cathedral (IN)||1||0||1||0||18|
|10||11||Flory Budunga (2)||Kokomo (IN)||0||1||0||1||16|
|11T||11T||Jeremy Fears (2)||Joliet West (IL)||0||0||0||0||11|
|11T||NR||DeShawn Harris-Smith (1)||Paul VI (VA)||0||0||0||1||11|
|11T||21||Jared McCain (2)||Centennial (CA)||0||0||0||0||11|
|11T||19||Matas Buzelis (2)||Sunrise Christian (KS)||0||0||0||0||11|
|15||NR||Dylan Harper (1)||Don Bosco Prep (NJ)||0||0||1||0||8|
|16T||14||Aaron Bradshaw (1)||Camden (NJ)||0||0||0||1||7|
|16T||12T||Baye Fall (1)||Accelerated Schools (CO)||0||0||0||1||7|
|18||16T||Isaiah Elohim (1)||Sierra Canyon (CA)||0||0||0||0||6|
|19||8T||Mackenzie Mgbako (1)||Roselle Catholic (NJ)||0||0||0||0||5|
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.