Preseason POY Tracker: Who Wants It Most?

Kentucky-bound guard D.J. Wagner of Camden (N.J.) leads wide-open voting in 2022-23 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com. The 6-foot-3 guard’s candidacy could be historic, but he’s by no means a slum dunk to emerge as the 2022-23 national player of the year among 21 candidates. The Mr. Basketball USA Tracker is now in its sixteenth season.

RELATED: All-Time Mr. Basketball USA Winners | Final 2021-22 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker 

When putting together the 2022-23 preseason FAB 50 National Team Rankings, it was evident this was going to be a wide-open season. There was no dominant high school team over the other elite ones. On that note, it wasn’t difficult to peg FAB 50 power and six-time national champion Montverde Academy (Fla.) as preseason No. 1. It was the safe pick.  


On November 22, preseason No. 4 AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.), playing in its first-ever National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) game, downed Montverde Academy, 65-54. If this early-season game is any indication, the race for the FAB 50 national title will be wide open.  

The same can be said about the nation’s most prestigious individual honor: Mr. Basketball USA. If the preseason voting results by the 10-man tracker panel is any indication, a number of worthy candidates can emerge as the nation’s best player for the 2022-23 season. In a season in which 21 players received recognition as a national player of the year candidate, five different candidates received at least one first-place vote (worth 10 points) and four more received at least one second-place vote (worth nine points). 

The top vote-getter in the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com with 71 total points was Kentucky-bound guard D.J. Wagner of preseason FAB 50 No. 7 Camden (N.J.). Wagner was the returning top vote-getter in last season’s final balloting (coming in fifth place behind Mr. Basketball USA honoree Dariq Whitehead of Montverde Academy in Florida) and led the way to begin this season by garnering four first place votes, two second place votes, a third place vote and one sixth place vote. Wagner appeared on eight ballots and no player among the 21 candidates appeared on all ten ballots. So for now Wagner leads the way, but based on the 16-year history of the tracker, where the eventual honoree usually appears on all 10 ballots and receives over 90 points, he’s not a slam dunk choice. At least not yet, as Camden opens up its season in early December.  

Similar to Montverde Academy on the team side, it would seem Wagner is a solid and the safe choice in a year where there is no sure-fire future No. 1 NBA Draft choice. 

“No one in the senior class has established himself over the class, so D.J. (Wagner) holds up, because no one wanted it enough,” said said panel member Van Coleman of Global Sports Television and Nothing But Net Magazine. “The most improved player of the summer was Cameron Boozer. If he has a season like he played at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, he could be the one. He’s on course to be a special player.”

Boozer, a sophomore (2025 class) at FAB 50 No. 18 Columbus (Miami, Fla.), received one first place vote and came in fourth place overall with 40 points while appearing on six ballots. Kentucky-bound Justin Edwards of No. 10 Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.) received one first place vote and finished tied for fifth place with returning All-American Ronald Holland of No. 7 Duncanville (Texas), who did not garner a first place vote, but did receive two second place votes and appeared on five ballots. Both Edwards and Holland finished with 36 overall points.

Michigan St.-bound big man Xavier Booker of No. 13 Cathedral (Indianapolis, Ind.) also garnered a single first place vote, in addition to two second place votes, and came in No. 3 overall in total points with 43. Coming in No. 2 overall behind Wagner with 57 overall points was USC-bound power guard Isaiah Collier of No. 12 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.). Collier garnered three first place votes, but no second place votes. His point total also consisted of two third place votes, one fourth place vote and one seventh place vote.

While we’ve known for a while the 2023 class has some work to do to match the accomplishments of the elites of recent classes, the sophomore class looks like it could develop into the best one since the 2020 class that included second year NBA players Cade Cunningham (Pistons), Evan Mobley (Cavs), Jalen Green (Rockets) and Scottie Barnes (Raptors). Not only is Boozer, the son of former NBA player Carlos Boozer, a legit national player of the year candidate, Montverde Academy’s Cooper Flagg and guard Meleek Thomas of Lincoln Park Performing Arts (Midland, Pa.) were two other sophomores that also received recognition from the tracker panel.

Only two sophomores have been first five All-Americans in the last 25 years: NBA star LeBron James of St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) in 2000-01 and Eastern Michigan wing Emoni Bates of Lincoln (Ypsilanti, Mich.) in 2019-20. By the middle of his sophomore year when he had a spectacular outing against eventual FAB 50 champ Oak Hill Academy (Va.) in a one-point loss, there were whispers James was the best player in the country over any seniors. That 2001 class, ironically, included Wagner’s father and eventual Mr. Basketball USA honoree Dajuan Wagner, who was a teammate for a time in the NBA with James.

D.J. Wagner, Dajuan and grandfather Milt (a 1981 All-American at Camden) are likely to be the first ever third generation McDonald’s All-Americans next March. Should D.J. earn Mr. Basketball USA honors, he and his father would become the first father-son national player of the year combo. 

Bates finished fourth in the 2010-20 season’s Mr. Basketball USA voting behind honoree Cunningham, Mobley and Green. Bates was the first sophomore ever to earn a credible national player of the year honor (Gatorade). Is what transpired to Bates over the past two years keeping Boozer from being the top candidate this season? Will the tracker panel have some reservations about placing a sophomore on too high of a pedestal?        

LISTEN and WATCH (23:39) what the hosts of Ballislife’s “In the Paint” podcast have to say about the Boozer-Bates dynamic and their breakdown of the preseason Mr. Basketball USA voting. 

Make sure to like and subscribe to the “In the Paint” podcast and 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
15DJ Wagner (8)Camden (NJ)421071
2NRIsaiah Collier (7)Wheeler (GA)302157
3NRXavier Booker (6)Cathedral (IN)120143
4NRCam Boozer (6)Columbus (FL)100240
5TNRJustin Edwards (5)Imhotep Charter (PA)101035
5T20TRonald Holland (5)Duncanville (TX)021035
7NRIan Jackson (5)Cardinal Hayes (NY)000126
8TNRMackenzie Mgbako (4)Roselle Catholic (NJ)010024
8TNRCooper Flagg (4)Montverde Academy (FL)001024
10NRTre Johnson (3)Lake Highlands (TX)001021
11NRFlory Budunga (3)Kokomo (IN)010020
12TNRJeremy Fears (2)Joliet West (IL)010014
12T18Baye Fall (2)Accelerated Schools (CO)001014
14NRAaron Bradshaw (2)Camden (NJ)001012
15NRSimeon Wilcher (1)Roselle Catholic (NJ)01009
16TNRMeleek Thomas (2)Lincoln Park Performing Arts (PA)00008
16TNRIsaiah Elohim (1)Sierra Canyon (CA)00108
18TNRAce Bailey (1)McEachern (GA)00017
18TNRMatas Buzelis (1)Sunrise Christian (MO)00017
18TNRSean Stewart (1)Montverde Academy (FL)00017
21NRJared McCain (1)Centennial (CA)00006

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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