With the high school season winding down, the NCAA Tournament getting ramped up and the NBA's trade deadline having just passed, it’s the perfect time to take stock of our previous Mr. Basketball USA winners still active in college or the NBA. And we’re giving ourselves a grade for how the selection turned out in comparison to his stiffest competition.
This season's final Mr. Basketball USA Tracker will be released April 6 and the announcement of the 2011-2012 ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA will be on April 12.
2011: Michael Gilchrist, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-7 (Kentucky)
Now known as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the current Kentucky forward is described by his head coach John Calipari as the hardest-working player the team, a team favored to win the NCAA title. That blue-collar attitude was developed playing for Kevin Boyle at St. Patrick. The school announced it will shut down at the end of the year. It's hard to grade the selection of Gilchrist because runners-up Austin Rivers (Duke) and Brad Beal (Florida) are highly-desired by NBA scouts, too. All three are not considered on par with Kidd-Gilchrist's fellow freshman teammate Anthony Davis. Davis simply didn't have a strong enough high school resume to be seriously considered.
2010: Harrison Barnes, Ames (Iowa) 6-7 (North Carolina)
Barnes and Sullinger. Sullinger and Barnes. You couldn't mention one without the other two years ago. We selected Barnes, primarily because Jared Sullinger's team was shocked in the state playoffs while ranked No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50. Barnes's team finished 27-0 and No. 10 in the FAB 50. Two interesting developments in the Barnes-Sullinger debate have emerged. Both players have been surpassed on mock NBA Drafts by two players from the 2011 class -- Anthony Davis (Kentucky) and Andre Drummond (UConn) -- and Barnes' high school teammate Doug McDermott (Creighton) has developed into a college All-American. Barnes and Sullinger are also expected to be drafted close to each other in June.
2009: Derrick Favors, South Atlanta (Atlanta, Ga.) 6-9 (Georgia Tech)
This pick easily could have been DeMarcus Cousins or Avery Bradley Jr. The voting went to Favors, the MVP of both the McDonald's and Jordan Brand All-American Games. Bradley was called the best guard Steve Smith's Oak Hill Academy program ever faced. Cousins’s LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.) team did beat Favors' team in an ESPN-televised game, but Favors was more impressive statistically. So far, Cousins has emerged as the best player of the trio, but he's also the most combustible. We'll give ourselves a grade, but class is still in session here.
2008: Brandon Jennings, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-1
This ultra-quick point guard will now team up with 2005 pick Monta Ellis after the Milwaukee Bucks traded center Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson in exchange for the Golden State Warriors' scoring leader. Jennings, averaging 19.1 points per game and 5.7 assists, probably should have made his first NBA All-Star team this season. Ironically, Jennings has mentioned exploring the option of playing in a bigger market where he would get more national recognition. At the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game press conference, all the players, including Jennings, stated Samardo Samuels was the most impressive player in attendance. Currently, Samuels is averaging 4.4 points per game so we don't have any reservations about this pick.
2007: O.J. Mayo, Huntington (Huntington, W.Va.) 6-5 (Southern Cal)
In one of the greatest high school classes of all-time, Mayo edged Kevin Love by the closest of margins, primarily because his team won a state championship and Love's didn't. Mayo also was an all-state player in three different states five times. Ironically, Derrick Rose has developed into an NBA MVP, but he wasn't the No. 1 prospect by any major recruiting service and was No. 3 in the pecking order whether you liked Mayo or Love. Mayo was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year to Rose and was a valuable contributor to a playoff team last year, but Love has developed into a NBA All-Star after a slow start. Mayo was on the trading block for more than a year, but he'll remain a member of the Memphis Grizzlies this season.
2006: Greg Oden, Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.) 7-0 (Ohio State)
This is one of our most talked-about selections, but in reality, the selection of Oden was unanimous. The only question was how much Kevin Durant closed the gap on Oden during the second half of his senior season at Montrose Christian. Durant did close it and had a record-breaking freshman season at Texas, but it wasn't enough for the Trail Blazers' brass to feel they should have taken him over Oden. Portland just released him. It's easy to compare the oft-injured center to another Trail Blazers' bust, Sam Bowie, but the matter of the fact is Oden had minor hand injuries at Ohio State. He didn't break his leg twice like Bowie did in college. Anybody who states Portland made a big mistake is basing that on the player Durant has developed into.
2005: Monta Ellis, Lanier (Jackson, Miss.) 6-3
"The Mississippi Missile" was selected in a close vote over junior Greg Oden. At the time, some recruiting services felt fifth-year senior Gerald Green of Gulf Shores Academy (Houston) was the best prospect in the class. Even if Green was eligible for Mr. Basketball, the choice would have been Ellis. After all, he did score 4,167 career points at Lanier, including a 42-point outburst against Oak Hill Academy. Oden would have been a solid choice, but we think we got this one right even though Ellis was just traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Milwaukee Bucks.
2004: Sebastian Telfair, Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 6-0
"Bassey" capped a storybook high school career with his selection as the No. 13 pick of the NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, but his pro career has been a disappointment. He's currently averaging 4.3 points per game and 1.7 assists for the Phoenix Suns and has never averaged double-digit scoring in his career. Dwight Howard, who just signed paperwork to waive the early termination option in his contract with the Orlando Magic, was the better high school prospect. There's a great possibility Howard would have been the choice had their high school teams not played at the 2004 Primetime Shootout in a game Lincoln won, or if Telfair had graduated as Arkansas' all-time leading scorer, and not New York's. No high school guard with Telfair's style and build has been looked at as a sure-fire pro in the same way since.
2002-2003: LeBron James, St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) 6-8
It wasn't too hard to pick James the player of the year, even in his junior season over Carmelo Anthony. In James' senior season, there simply wasn't anybody in his class and no college even bothered to seriously recruit him. To put the hype around James into perspective, he's constantly criticized despite averaging 27.5 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists so far this season. Anthony was considered in James' class as a young player, but it still remains to be seen what kind of NBA legacy 'Melo will leave. Some of his selfishness and shortcomings as a defender have been exposed in recent weeks, but the NBA is a players' league. The New York Knicks had no thoughts of trading him and the coach he couldn't co-exist with, Mike D'Antoni, is now gone.
1998: Rashard Lewis, Elsik (Houston) 6-10
He's probably best known for signing a $116 million dollar contract in the summer of 2007. Lewis' pro career, however, began on a downer as the high school star was the last player in the "Green Room," where the top dozen or so draft prospects sit with family and their agent until selected. Lewis was bypassed by the Hometown Rockets and went No. 32, the third pick of the second round. Lewis got the last laugh, making two All-Star teams and averaging more than 16 points per game in his career. Lewis clearly had a better career than JaRon Rush, who never played in the NBA, and two-sport star Ron Curry, who eventually played in the NFL.
1997: Tracy McGrady, Mount Zion (Durham, N.C.) 6-7
Nowhere on the national map as an underclassman, his performance at the 1996 ABCD Camp put him in the conversation with Lamar Odom as the top player in the country. The pick could have easily been Odom, but McGrady had a stellar senior season and was the No. 9 pick of the 1997 NBA Draft. While Odom had fewer injuries and is probably the more valuable player right now, McGrady is a two-time NBA scoring champ and a 7-time All-Star. Nobody doubts Odom's ability; it's his motivation that has lacked at times. While McGrady averages 5.7 points per game for the Atlanta Hawks, Odom spent some time this season in the D-League before returning to the Dallas Mavericks' roster.
1996: Mike Bibby, Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.) 6-0 (Arizona)
The aging point guard is currently a backup for the volatile New York Knicks. Bibby was the point guard on some talented Sacramento Kings teams that could never get over the hump in the early 2000's. He hit career-highs of 21.1 points per game in 2005-06 and 8.4 assists in 2001-02. His career, however, is nowhere near that of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, the player he was selected over. Bibby clearly had the more accomplished prep career, and some national scouts considered Tim Thomas better than both of them, but Bryant was the best long-term prospect of the bunch. To Bibby's credit, he was polished from day one in college and helped Arizona to the NCAA title as a freshman, while Bryant toiled on the Lakers' bench.
1995: Kevin Garnett, Farragut (Chicago) 6-10
"The Kid" is no longer a kid anymore; he's on the downside of a NBA career that inspired thousands of high school players to believe they could make "the jump" before the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement put an end to the practice in 2005. In this class, Stephon Marbury was nationally-known before Garnett and Ron Mercer played varsity basketball in eighth grade, but Garnett was the best player at Sonny Vaccaro's Roundball Classic and the McDonald's All-American Game. In fact, we recently ranked the 2004 NBA MVP and 14-time All-Star the No. 1 McDonald's All-American based on high school play.
1992: Jason Kidd, St. Joseph (Alameda, Calif.) 6-4 (California)
The ageless point guard put a stamp on his Hall of Fame career last season by helping the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA title, his first. In the NBA playoffs, Kidd sucked it up and played outstanding defense at times against larger players such as Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Kidd is second on the NBA's all-time list for assists and steals and is also high on the all-time list for made 3-pointers, which is ironic because he plays with a reputation as a sub-par outside shooter. Twenty years ago, some thought Roderick Rhodes was nearly on par as a talent.