Torrance, Calif. -- Coming into the 2007-2008 high school basketball season, there was not a consensus pick as to whom the nation's top college and NBA prospect was after the summer evaluation period ended. So it's not surprising that uncertainty has translated over into the regular high school season as a handful of players can be considered a legitimate No. 1 prospect.
Not only is there debate as to whom the top prospect is, but also to whom the top current player is as it relates to high school teams and that fact has been clearly demonstrated in the EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker conducted by StudentSportsBasketball.com. In the past month, five different players have received top billing as the leading candidate for EA SPORTS National Player of the Year honors. In years past it was often a two-horse race (O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love last year, Chris Webber and Glenn Robinson in 1991, etc.) or painfully obvious whom the choice would eventually be (Greg Oden in 2006, Jason Kidd in 1992, Patrick Ewing in 1981, etc.).
This season is quite different.
Two of the favorites coming into the season, Delvon Roe (St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio) and Greg Monroe (Helen Cox, Gretna, La.), have seen their candidacy take a nose-dive for different reasons. Roe was lost to injury in a nationally-televised contest against Jrue Holiday and his team at Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) while Monroe scored in single digits against FAB 50 ranked Norcross (Ga.) in another nationally televised game. Monroe was not just hurt by that game, however, as his team's lack of success on a national level has also hurt his candidacy so far. Helen Cox opened the season ranked No. 28 in the Rivals.com FAB 50, but has seven losses with all of them coming against opponents outside the state of Louisiana.
For the first time this season, Monroe did not appear on a single ballot among the ten respected talent evaluators and journalist that vote on the EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker on a weekly basis. In Monroe's defense, he did not have an opportunity to play in all the games Helen Cox lost and one would be foolish to think he's still not one of the Class of 2008's top prospects. Monroe will also have the unique opportunity to shine on the national all-star game circuit where many of the seniors on the ballots in recent weeks will match up against each other. What might be even more surprising than Monroe's absence is the disappearance of Kenny Boynton (American Heritage, Plantation, Fla.) from all ten ballots. The talented junior guard is one of the five players that has received a first place vote during the past month.
Monroe's and Boynton's absence is just a microcosm of the ballots turned in this week, as the overall number of legitimate candidates seems to be shrinking as the post-season nears. Two weeks ago, no less than 26 players received mention as an EA SPORTS National Player of the Year candidate, but this week that number is down to 16 players. Despite that dwindling number, the post-season does offer a glimmer of hope for players left off the ballots this week or for those that have not yet appeared on one. The playoffs are usually where the contenders are separated from the pretenders anyway since the EA SPORTS All-American Team is reflective of those top players that lead their teams to state championships.
Before the top players and teams can think about state titles, however, there are still some big-time showcases on tap before the playoffs begin such as the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, New Jersey in two weeks. Big performances in big games have helped vote-getters such as junior Derrick Favors (South Atlanta, Ga.), who appeared on all ten ballots last week with 84 out of a possible 100 points. On the inaugural EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker, Favors appeared on three ballots with 18 total points so just because a candidate lost ground or didn't appear on any ballots this week, doesn't mean they can make up ground in the weeks to come.
With that in mind, read below for the point totals in this week's EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker. Make sure to stay logged in to StudentSportsBasketball.com all season long to track the progress of the top individual players as well as the top teams in the Rivals.com FAB 50.
Each week, StudentSportsBasketball.com's panel of ten experts, which includes two active McDonald's All-American selection committee members, casts its votes for the top EA SPORTS Player of the Year candidates.
Each panelist is asked to list his top seven EA SPORTS Player of the Year candidates regardless of class, and the votes are tabulated on a 10-point scoring system with a first place vote equaling ten points, a second place vote equaling nine points and down to four points for a seventh place vote. The number in parenthesis ( ) before the player's name refers to his ranking on the previous week's tracker and the second number in parenthesis ( ) refers to the number of ballots a player appeared on this week.
1. Brandon Jennings, PG, Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
Jennings was as impressive last summer as anybody on the prep level – earning several national No. 1 rankings - and he's continued that torrid assault on opposing defenses this winter – averaging 36 ppg. and 7 apg. His season high so far is 49 points against Greensboro Dudley and he's had several games with 40 or more. If the Arizona signee continues his stellar play, he will be a lock for the 2008 McDonald's Game and will also be in the mix for EA SPORTS and several other national player of the year awards this spring.
2. Samardo Samuels, PF, St. Benedict's (N.J.)
A strong and physical ox on the block, Samuels, is having a terrific senior season so far for the Gray Bees. As of last week, St. Benedict's was 17-1 with a No. 4 Rivals.com FAB 50 national ranking and Samuels is the main reason why. The Louisville signee was named MVP of the City of Palms Classic and the Bojangles Invitational in December so he played a big role in handing No. 6 Chester, No. 12 Moeller and No. 22 South Atlanta their only losses.
3. Jrue Holiday, PG, Campbell Hall (Calif.)
Very active, athletic and multi-dimensional guard plays to win each time out and that's why I like him. The UCLA-bound Holiday is currently averaging 23.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 5.6 apg so you know he's a well-rounded player. His 35 point, 18 rebound, seven assist, nine steal effort against Derrick Favors and South Atlanta at the recent Pangos Dream Classic was simply an amazing performance.
4. DeMar DeRozan, W, Compton (Calif.)
The ultra-athletic DeRozan is the leading scorer in Southern California (29.3 ppg) and is also pulling down nearly eight rebounds (7.8 rpg) to go along with three steals (2.9 spg) per game. DeRozan is not only getting it done for Compton, he also possesses as much upside as any player in the high school ranks. The USC-bound swingman is showing up on the NBA radar, as DraftExpress.com already has him pegged as the projected No. 2 pick of the 2009 NBA Draft.
5. Derrick Favors, PF, South Atlanta (Ga.)
Blue-collar workhorse in the paint has put up some incredible numbers this season and has led South Atlanta to a fine 20-1 record. In fact, the Hornets hold a No. 22 Rivals.com FAB 50 ranking with their only loss a 57-43 setback to No.4 St. Benedict's and Samardo Samuels. Despite that loss, it hard not to like Favors' 32-point, 29-rebound winning effort versus Campbell Hall at the Pangos Dream Classic. It was a performance for the ages.
Next week we'll hear from Patrick Stanwood of Patrick Stanwood Basketball.