Torrance, Calif. -- Although he can't evaluate on our behalf, panel member Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports is always willing to share his respected opinions with StudentSportsBasketball.com.
Gibbons has been evaluating prep talent since the dawn of national player rankings and team ratings. Taking an inside look at his ballot reveals results similar to what we see in the final tally of this week's EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker.
As the season is winding down, the leading candidates are starting to pull away from the pack and atop the list is Oak Hill Academy point guard Brandon Jennings. After tallying 93 out of a possible 100 points last week, Jennings picked up 87 points on nine ballots after being a unanimous candidate last week. Jennings is also first on Gibbons' scorecard heading into the McDonald's All-American game.
"He's earned it," Gibbons remarked about Jennings' position as the leading candidate in the EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker. "Last year with a more talented team around him, Jennings averaged 13 assists and this season he averaged 36 points a game, so he does what he has to make his team win. He's multi-dimensional, no one on this level can guard him and he defended when Steve Smith needed him to. Look what he did last summer, he took a makeshift team that was supposed to have Demar DeRozan (19 points, three ballots) to a major tournament title."
Last week, Samardo Samuels of FAB 50 No. 2 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) was second behind Jennings in total points and though he fell to third this week with 62 points, he's had a consistent presence every week in our results. It mirrors his season on the court for the Gray Bees that was not always spectacular but quite steady against the toughest schedule in the country.
"He's a power guy and the type of player that will step up and say, 'I'm not getting the ball enough,'" Gibbons remarked. "Don't get me wrong because that doesn't make me think he's selfish. I think he's going to be a great playing under (Rick) Pitino."
Similar to five other panelists this week, Gibbons has Samuels rated one spot below Jennings, but the Louisville recruit was noticeably absent on three ballots and that was a major reason he fell behind Jrue Holiday (Campbell Hall, North Hollywood, Calif.) after besting him by six points last week. Two weeks ago, the duo was deadlocked in the No. 2 spot with 76 points.
"He's a complete player," Gibbons said of Holiday. "He has the understanding and ability to play three positions. Holiday will be an impact player at the next level, however, I don't think he's a true point guard. With that being said, it will be interesting to seem him matched up against Tyreke Evans at the McDonald's All-American Game. I can see Evans replacing Chris Douglas-Roberts at Memphis and the Tigers not missing a beat."
While there definitely is some debate about Holiday's future position among the ten respected talent evaluators and journalists that vote every week, there is no denying Holiday's talent among the panel. He was the only candidate to appear on all ten ballots this week and has been a unanimous EA SPORTS National Player of the Year candidate three of the last four weeks.
DeRozan and Evans are two players that have seen their candidacy take a nosedive in recent weeks. Four weeks ago DeRozan appeared on seven ballots and scored 45 points (which would have put him in fifth place this week) but this week he tied with fellow Compton, California candidate Jordan Hamilton of FAB 50 No. 12 Dominguez for seventh place with 19 points. DeRozan, the Compton High wing, appeared on three ballots with Hamilton appearing on four ballots to crack the top eight list for the first time this season.
DeRozan might be one of the players whose candidacy has been negatively affected because his regular high school team's season already ended after being bounced from the playoffs. Compton High lost in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Div. I-AA playoffs whereas Hamilton's club won that same section title and will be playing for a Div. I state title against undefeated and FAB 50 No. 19 McClymonds of Oakland.
On the other hand, DeRozan and Evans are two of the players first mentioned among basketball scribes that could make big splashes at the upcoming McDonald's All-American practices and game so don't count them out just yet.
Read below to see the voting results of this week's EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker and 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.
Expert's Take: (Each week, StudentSportsBasketBall.com asks one of its ten panelists to explain his ballot.)
By Ronnie Flores -- StudentSportsBasketball.com Managing Editor
1. Brandon Jennings, PG, Oak Hill Academy (Va.) It's hard to knock this kid from his perch at the top because he hasn't played since March 1 and was so spectacular to end the season for Oak Hill. Sure, Oak Hill lost four games for the first time in five years, but where would they be without this do-it-all point guard? I think his scoring outputs, many of which were necessary for Oak Hill to be a national team, took away from the other aspects of his game, which he'll display next season at Arizona. I was hoping he and Jrue Holiday were on opposite teams at McDonald's, but it could become Kemba Walker's big opportunity to move up on my final ballot.
2. Samardo Samuels, PF, St. Benedict's (N.J.)
Although there is a lot of talk that this class is weak generally, there are a lot of great players around the country every year and many who will emerge later in their careers. On that note, I think some of the players lower on my ballot might be better college prospects than Samuels, but he got it done this season and is a winner so he gets credit for that on my ballot. What I also like about him is that you have to account for him at all times, which is not the case with some top players, and on a team with many talented players he's always the first on the scouting report you have to try and slow down.
3. Willie Warren, CG, North Crowley (Texas)
I think Warren got his season off on a negative foot when he left Oak Hill so he wasn't on a lot of people's radar early on. He has overcome a lot of that with a spectacular end to his senior season that included a Texas Class 5A state title. Like the old saying goes, winning cures many ills. What I like about Warren is he wants the ball in crunch time, as evidenced by his 15 fourth quarter points in the state title game win over Dulles. He also hit a 25-footer to keep North Crowley alive in the state tournament in an eventual overtime win.
4. B.J. Mullens, C, Canal Winchester (Ohio)
As far as true centers go, I think Mullens is easily the best among players in this class that are not fifth-year players. Is he a franchise center? No, probably not, but true big men are really hard to find and Mullens has a nice combination of skills to go along with his size. He also had a fine senior season, sharing Ohio Div. II state POY honors with William Buford. I rate Mullens slightly higher because I think he was more dominant as his shooting percentage (70 percent) and rebounding (14.5 per) will attest to.
5. Al-Farouq Aminu, W, Norcross (Ga.)
A lot of rap artists like to anoint themselves, "King of the South" but very few live up to that mantle. Well, calling AFA the "King of Georgia" is no stretch as he helped FAB 50 No. 8 Norcross win its third consecutive state title with a win over perennial power Wheeler. Three straight titles in a state loaded with good teams and players carries a lot of weight in my ballot. Aminu showed a national television audience what he could do against Greg Monroe's team and he never let up after that, scoring 17 points and blocking six shots against Wheeler.
Next week we'll hear from Patrick Stanwood, Patrick Stanwood Basketball.