The final, expanded 2017-18 Mr. Basketball ballots are in and after they are tallied, there is a clear-cut top candidate. Duke-bound wing R.J. Barrett of FAB 50 champion Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) out paces explosive Zion Williamson of Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina with 98 overall points out of 100. Besides Williamson, the candidates that received at least one second-place vote are undecided Romeo Langford and standout junior Vernon Carey, with junior center Charles Bassey appearing as the top player on one ballot.
The two most prominent factors when it comes to honoring individual players for their high school basketball accolades are production and winning. That clearly is reflected in the results of the final 2017-18 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com.
R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-7 senior guard, led Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) to its fourth FAB 50 mythical national title in six seasons. The Eagles finished unbeaten at 36-0 and recorded their first-ever wire-to-wire No. 1 finish with the Ontario, Canada native leading every step of the way.
A couple of off-season happenings shaped this season’s national player of the year race. The would-be top returning vote-getter in the final 2016-17 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, 6-foot-10 Marvin Bagley of Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.), decided to join the 2017 recruiting class and enroll at Duke. Last season’s National Junior of the Year finished as the No. 3 vote-getter and this season was the ACC Player of the Year and is expected to be one of the top picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Barrett followed in Bagley’s footsteps and also re-classified, joining the 2018 class after earning National Sophomore of the Year honors and being the only tenth-grader to earn first team honors (fourth five) on our 2016-17 All-American Elite Team. Barrett didn’t receive much national player of the year recognition as a sophomore (tied for 19th place), but things changed in July 2017 after he led Canada to the FIBA 19U World Cup title in Cairo, Egypt. Barrett was the leading scorer (21.6 ppg) in the event and recorded 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in a 99-87 semifinal win over Team USA.
Barrett’s big summer was reflected in the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker balloting. Every single scout on the 10-man tacker panel (see below) had him as their leading candidate or No. 2 for 2017-18 national player of the year honors. He received six first-place votes and finished with 96 points, five more than forward Zion Williamson of Spartanburg Day School (Spartanburg, S.C.), who was technically the highest returning vote-getter (No. 5 overall) from 2016-17 after Bagley left early for college. Williamson’s 89 points included three first-place votes, five second-place votes, a third-place vote and a fifth-place vote.
All throughout this past season, Barrett wanted to prove he was the best player in the country and to put himself alongside the other Montverde Academy greats who have played for Kevin Boyle. In order to do that, Barrett felt Montverde Academy needed to win GEICO Nationals and the mythical national title. He accomplished that goal, as the Eagles did not lose a game while he averaged 28.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, and 4.4 apg. Barrett averaged 26.7 ppg in the three games at GEICO Nationals, including 25 points and 15 rebounds in the 76-58 championship game victory over No. 2 University School (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.).
In the final balloting for 2017-18, Barrett strengthened his candidacy over Williamson, as those two spectacular players remained the only Mr. Basketball USA candidates to appear on each ballot. Even after production at major holiday tournaments, showcases and various state playoff tournaments around the country changed positioning among other candidates, it did not alter the panel’s evaluation of Barrett and Williamson very much.
Barrett was the No. 1 vote-getter on all but one of the panelist’s ballots, finishing with 98 overall points, seven more than Williamson. The Spartanburg Day sensation recorded eight second-place votes, while again garnering one third-place and one fifth-place vote. As a senior, Williamso led Spartanburg Day to a third consecutive SCISA Class 2A state title, as SDS went 20-8. For the season, he averaged 36.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.4 bpg and 3.6 spg, while shooting 78 percent from the field. Of those eight losses for Spartanburg Day, Zion missed five of those games. Williamson’s foot was in a boot for a short period of time this season and he did have some lingering injuries that affected his candidacy, but it was more likely a case that Barrett was just that spectacular and productive for the No. 1 ranked team in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com.
“Barrett, based on his individual performances and Montverde’s unbeaten record, is an easy choice as No. 1,” said panel member Frank Burlison of BurlisonOnBasketball.com. “Williamson, my choice as best player/”prospect” in the 2018 class, is No. 2.”
As in the preseason, only Barrett and Williamson appeared on all ten ballots. Both are headed to Duke, where they will be joined by Cam Reddish of Westttown School (West Chester, Pa.) for the 2018-19 season. Reddish, the only other player to receive a No. 1 vote in the preseason, finished in fifth place in the final balloting with 50 points on seven ballots, including five third-place votes.
Reddish was the No. 3 vote-getter in the preseason, but jumping up in the final balloting to that position was junior power forward Vernon Carey of FAB 50 No. 2 University School (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). He had a spectacular campaign, leading the Sharks to a state crown and a runner-up finish at GEICO Nationals, and received one second-place vote and three third-place votes while appearing on nine ballots. The only other candidate to appear on nine ballots was Romeo Langford, who scored 3,002 career points for FAB 50 No. 28 New Albany (New Albany, Ind.).
Charles Bassey, a 6-foot-10 junior at Aspire Basketball Academy (Louisville, Ky.) who was the National Freshman of the Year in 2015-16, got the first-place vote that denied Barrett a perfect score. For the season, the big man averaged 19.3 ppg, 11.4 rpg and 3.0 bpg.
It will be interesting to see how this spring and summer’s travel ball circuit affects the candidacy of Carey and Bassey heading into next season. As we saw a year ago, alot can change once the high school season is complete.
In all, 28 candidates earned recognition as a national player of the year candidate in the final, expanded tracker.
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. Preseason tracker results are also listed (“Prev.”).
|1||1||R.J. Barrett (10)||Montverde Academy (FL)||9||0||1||0||98|
|2||2||Zion Williamson (10)||Spartanburg Day (SC)||0||8||1||0||86|
|3||7||Vernon Carey (9)||University School (FL)||0||1||3||1||56|
|4||4||Romeo Langford (9)||New Albany (IN)||0||1||1||3||51|
|5||3||Cameron Reddish (7)||Westtown School (PA)||0||0||5||1||50|
|6||9T||Nasir Little (6)||Orlando Christian Prep (FL)||0||0||0||1||32|
|7T||6||Charles Bassey (5)||Aspire Academy (KY)||1||0||0||0||23|
|7T||11||Keldon Johnson (5)||Oak Hill (VA)||0||0||0||0||23|
|9||9T||Tre Jones (5)||Apple Valley (MN)||0||0||0||1||19|
|10||NR||Emmitt Williams (5)||Oak Ridge (FL)||0||0||0||1||16|
|11||5||Bol Bol (3)||Findlay Prep (NV)||0||0||0||0||12|
|12T||NR||Onyeka Okongwu (3)||Chino Hills (CA)||0||0||0||1||11|
|12T||12T||Foster Loyer (2)||Clarkston (MI)||0||0||0||1||11|
|14T||15T||Jordan Brown (2)||Prolific Prep (CA)||0||0||0||0||7|
|14T||8||Darius Garland (2)||Brentwood Academy (TN)||0||0||0||0||7|
|14T||NR||James Wiseman (2)||Memphis East (TN)||0||0||0||0||7|
|17T||17||Scottie Lewis (2)||Ranney School (NJ)||0||0||0||0||6|
|17T||NR||Jalen Green (1)||San Joaquin Memorial (CA)||0||0||0||0||6|
|17T||NR||Nico Mannion (1)||Pinnacle (AZ)||0||0||0||0||6|
|20||14||Cole Anthony (2)||Archbishop Malloy (NY)||0||0||0||0||5|
|21T||NR||Jalen Smith (2)||Mt. St. Joseph (MD)||0||0||0||0||4|
|21T||NR||Ashton Hagans (1)||Newton (GA)||0||0||0||0||4|
|21T||NR||E.J. Montgomery (1)||Wheeler (GA)||0||0||0||0||4|
|24||NR||Cassius Stanley (1)||Sierra Canyon (CA)||0||0||0||0||2|
|25T||NR||Devin Dotson (1)||Providence Day (NC)||0||0||0||0||1|
|25T||NR||Bryce Hamilton (1)||Pasadena (CA)||0||0||0||0||1|
|25T||NR||Talen Horton-Tucker (1)||Simeon (IL)||0||0||0||0||1|
|25T||NR||Colby White (1)||Greenfield (NC)||0||0||0||0||1|
2017-18 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Basketball Recruiting
Frank Burlison, BurlisonOnBasketball.com Publisher
Van Coleman, TheBasketballChannel.net VP of Content
Ronnie Flores, Ballislife.com National Grassroots Editor
Clark Francis, Hoop Scoop Editor & Publisher
Bob Gibbons, All-Star Sports
Jerry Meyer, 247Sports.com Director of Scouting
Scott Phillips, NBC Sports National College Basketball Writer
Patrick Stanwood, Patrick Stanwood Basketball
Dinos Trigonis, Fullcourt Press Editor & Publisher
About 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.