Who’s The Top National POY Candidate?

Chet Holmgren of preseason FAB 50 No. 14 Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, Minn.) leads the voting in 2020-21 preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com, now in its fourteenth year. The 7-foot-1 center leads crop of 17 candidates, including two others who appeared on all 10 ballots: Patrick Baldwin of Hamilton (Sussex, Wis.) and Jaden Hardy of Coronado (Las Vegas, Nev.).

RELATED: All-Time Mr. Basketball USA Winners | Final 2019-20 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker |

There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 high school basketball season. The one thing certain about this season is Chet Holmgren, the nations’ best center and unsigned prospect in the 2021 class, is the leading candidate for national player of the year honors. The 7-foot-1 big man from Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, Minn.) leads a group of 17 candidates who received recognition in the preseason 2019-20 Mr. Basketball USA Tracker powered by Ballislife.com.

As a junior, Holmgren averaged 14.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 4.9 bpg playing alongside another bonafide Mr. Basketball USA candidate in Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), and likely didn’t get the recognition his unique game as a shot-blocker and game changer deserved. With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing since the end of the 2019-20 season and with no true end in sight, the nation’s best players didn’t get to play in the grassroots summer setting available in prior summers. Depending on ones locale, players got varying amounts of opportunities to work on their game or showcase their skills. Nobody played in front of a D1 college coach and no one will until at least April 15.

What the limited amount of exposure events has shown is whom has been working on his game during the pandemic, and whom has not. Count Holmgren as one of the elites who clearly has gotten better since the world changed this past March.

“Chet has gone from a prospect to a player; he did that at the end of last season,” said panelist Paul Biancardi, the National Recruiting Director for ESPN.com. “During the quarantine period he worked on his body to gain 15 pounds, did a ton of skill work and studied film to be ready for the games.”

After Holmgren, there is varying opinions on the leading candidates. Two other prospects appeared on each of the ballots of the 10-man Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel: Forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. of Hamilton (Sussex, Wis.) and combo guard Jaden Hardy of FAB 50 No. 37 Coronado (Henderson, Nev.). Baldwin, last season’s National Junior Player of the Year and the class POY each of the past two seasons, came in second place overall with 70 points, while coming in at No. 3 (eight points each) on five ballots. Hardy, who has played excellently in fall league competition with his high school team, came in at fifth place with 59 points, including a second place vote and three fourth place votes.

Two other elite prospects were able to snag a first place ballot from Holmgren, who came in No. 2 on those same ballots. One went to Duke-bound power forward Paolo Banchero of FAB 50 No. 20 O’Dea (Seattle, Wash.) and the other to junior sensation Emoni Bates of YSPI Prep Academy (Ypsilanti, Mich.). Banchero did not appear on one ballot, while Bates, last season’s national sophomore of the year at Lincoln (Ypsilanti, Mich.), garnered four second place votes while missing altogether on two ballots.

Bates was one of four underclassmen to receive recognition from the panel and the only one who can realistically challenge Holmgren in the national player of the year race, unless something drastically changes in terms of games missed or seasons cancelled. The other three were junior guard Amari Bailey of No. 17 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.), junior big man Jalen Duren of No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) and sophomore DJ Wagner of No. 15 Camden (N.J.). Wagner was last season’s national freshman of the year and Duren and Kaleb Houstan (who re-classed up to the 2021 class) are the only pair of teammates to appear on any ballot. Houstan is the lone returning starter for the defending FAB 50 national champions.

Plenty of factors go into naming a credible high school national player of the year: namely production, winning and talent level. The top five candidates, plus Jabari Smith of No. 46 Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.), clearly check off those three boxes. But so far Holmgren’s unique combination of elite ability on both ends of the floor, his offensive skill level at his size and having the opportunity to carry a club that should be very good (but doesn’t contain an overwhelming roster) gives him the edge as the regular season begins to tip-off in some areas on the country (but certainly not all).

Our hope is we get to see these 17 elite talents on display and that there are enough games played to get a good sense of whom is the most deserving of Mr. Basketball USA honors at the conclusion of a season that will be unlike any one we’ve ever seen.

“Chet is a world-class shot blocker and the greatest mismatch in the high school game,” Biancardi said. “What has stood out for to me is his rebounding. The effort and commitment he has exerted on the glass has been impressive. Recently, he has posted some triple doubles against top competition. His growth in the game, production level along with the ability to make his team win is special.”

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
120TChet Holmgren (10)Minnehaha Academy (MN)820098
215TPatrick Baldwin (10)Hamilton (WI)005170
312Paolo Banchero (9)O'Dea (WA)111568
44Emoni Bates (8)YSPI Prep (MI)141066
5NRJaden Hardy (10)Coronado (NV)011359
6NRJabari Smith (8)Sandy Creek (GA)022053
7NRKendall Brown (3)Sunrise Christian (KS)000115
8NRJalen Duren (3)Montverde Academy (FL)000013
9NRCaleb Houstan (2)Montverde Academy (FL)00009
10TNRDaimion Collins (1)Atlanta (TX)00006
10TNRD.J. Wagner (1)Camden (NJ)00006
12TNRMike Foster (1)Hillcrest Prep (AZ)00005
12TNRNolan Hickman (1)Wasatch Academy (UT)00005
12TNRA.J. Griffin (1)Archbishop Stepinac (NY)00005
15TNRAmari Bailey (1)Sierra Canyon (CA)00004
15TNRJ.D. Davison (1)Calhoun (AL)00004
15TNRDaron Holmes (1)Montverde Academy (FL)00004

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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