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Sunday, November 13, 2011
Inside look at Mr. Basketball USA candidates

By Ronnie Flores

Preseason ESPNHS All-State Teams

Mr. Basketball USA is the title bestowed upon the National Player of the Year by ESPNHS.

During the regular season, ESPNHS will release its Mr. Basketball USA Tracker, a weekly look at the nation's top on-court performers, according to a panel made up of 10 high school basketball and recruiting experts, including five McDonald's All-American selection committee members. Now in its fifth year, the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker begins with its preseason voting results Nov. 17.

The early favorites*



Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) 6-7, PG

ESPNU 100 Rank: No. 5

Resume: He was spectacular for the Friars last season, earning second team ESPNHS All-American honors after netting 14.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He was one of the top two players on the No. 1-ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Why he could win: Anderson is a legit triple-double threat every game he plays. He has a huge impact on the outcome of games, and the defending champs will play some big ones.

Why he wouldn't: He'll have to carry more of the load and sometimes that's too much for a team shooting for the No. 1 spot in the ratings. The Friars can't afford many slip-ups. It remains to be seen if the lost production of guard Myles Mack hurts or helps Anderson's candidacy.

DaJuan Coleman, Jamesville-DeWitt (DeWitt, N.Y.) 6-10, C

ESPNU 100 Rank: 14

Resume: As a junior, he was named second team ESPNHS All-American after averaging 24.5 points and 14 rebounds per game. He earned Class A Tournament MVP honors for the second straight season.

Why he could win: It's simple -- if he leads his team to a sterling record and another state title he'll be in the running. Coleman earned ESPNHS National Freshman of the Year honors in 2008-09 and has led the Red Rams to a 75-7 record and three Class A state titles.

Why he wouldn't: The lack of national competition he’ll face outside of the East Region could hurt his candidacy. It will stand out as a negative factor if Jamesville-DeWitt doesn't win a state chip.

Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 6-6, SG

ESPNU 100 Rank: 1

Resume: As a junior, the smooth lefty earned first team ESPNHS All-American honors by averaging 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds for a 25-6 club. His junior campaign ended with a thud, as Gorman was upset in the state semifinals, but some analysts considered Muhammad the West Region’s top player regardless of class last year.

Why he could win: He has the talent and team around him to not only be regarded as the best player in Nevada’s history, but the first ever ESPNHS National Player of the Year from the state.

Why he wouldn't: The team around him. Only injury or a total Gorman collapse would prevent Muhammad from appearing on a ton of ballots each week. Gorman had up-and-down performances against national competition and his teammates need to rise to the occasion.

Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 6-8, SF

ESPNU Super 60 Rank: 1

Resume: As a sophomore, he averaged 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for a team that finished 30-2 and ranked No. 9 in the FAB 50. Parker was named ESPNHS National Sophomore of the Year and Nationa Freshman of the Year in those respective seasons.

Why he could win: Being the top player on the No. 1 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 is a good start. Plus, Parker has the great combination of talent and work ethic. Traditionally Illinois teams don’t travel far to play national competition (they don't really have to), but that's not the case with Simeon.

Why he wouldn't: If he doesn't make those talented teammates better or Simeon doesn't live up to expectations, his candidacy will suffer. Traditionally, juniors don't win national player of the year honors and only three have been by ESPNHS -- LeBron James (2002), Lew Alcindor (1964) and Jerry Lucas (1957). You're talking about two of the top five high school players ever and another all-time great. Parker would have to prove he's in that select company.

Tony Parker, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) 6-9, PF

ESPNU 100 Rank: 31

Resume: As a junior, he averaged 17.5 points, 15.6 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game for a team that finished 31-2 on-court and ranked No. 6 in the POWERADE FAB 50. Parker was named the Peach State’s second-ever ESPNHS National Junior of the Year, following Louis Williams of South Gwinnett (Snellville, Ga.) in 2003-04.

Why he could win: If T.P. plays with consistency throughout the year, he could become Georgia's second winner in four years, alongside Derrick Favors of South Atlanta. Georgia’s Class AAAA Player of the Year scored 21 points and grabbed 22 boards in a state title-game win. Similar performances this season, with the rugged schedule Miller Grove plays, makes for a strong candidate.

Why he wouldn't: Miller Grove has a brutal five-week stretch in its schedule where it faces Oak Hill Academy, plays at the City of Palms Tournament and Bass Pro Tournament Champions, and squares off against No. 1 Simeon and defending FAB 50 champ St. Anthony. It's sink or swim time for Parker. To play at the level necessary every night for Miller Grove to win all those games may be asking a bit too much.

Marcus Smart, Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) 6-4, SF

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart is the No. 11 ranked prospect in the 2012 class but is one of the best players now.
ESPNU 100 Rank: 11

Resume: Smart earned second-team ESPNHS All-American honors after pumping in 14 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Marcus finished 39-1 and ranked No. 5 in the FAB 50.

Why he could win: Is he a shooting guard? A point guard? A small forward? It's one of the most pressing recruiting questions of the 2011-12 season, but for what Smart does for his high school team the answer doesn't really matter. He's the ringleader on a team that has four starters back. He's simply a winner.

Why he wouldn't: Panelists might view Smart as a product of a great team and system, not the most talented individual in the country. That could happen if he doesn't have big games on the big stages or clearly separates himself from teammates. To Smart's credit, he's a team-oriented player, but the varying opinions on his future potential could hurt his candidacy, especially if Marcus doesn't win its showcase games.



Strong cases



Justin Anderson, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) 6-6, SF

ESPNU 100 Rank: 61

Resume: He averaged 13.4 points per game for a 25-1 team that finished No. 2 in the FAB 50 last season. He saved his best for last, hitting a clutch 3-pointer in overtime of the title game of the National High School Invitational. He averaged 14.7 points and 8.3 in Montrose Christian’s three tournament wins.

Why he could win: Anderson will have a great opportunity to impress early in a game against FAB 50 No. 5 Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas). From there he'll have to show individually he's one of the top talents because there is no doubting his worth to the Mustangs.

Why he wouldn't: The presence of teammates Michael Carrera and Ishmael Wainwright on a balanced and loaded team might breed average numbers for Anderson in Stu Vetter's system. That wouldn't mean he isn't playing well; however, it could mean he won't catch the panel's eye.

Anthony Bennett, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 6-8, PF

ESPNU 100 Rank: 7

Resume: Bennett earned second-team Underclass All-American after averaging 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds for a balanced 28-4 club. He missed games because of injury, but he proved his worth during the summer. Repeated standout performances caused Bennett to skyrocket up in various player rankings.

Why he could win: When you shoot 71 percent from the field and 54 percent from 3-point land and are as big and powerful as Bennett, you know we're talking about a major league talent. Bennett also plays for a team that will get plenty of exposure and give the panel a good gauge of how he stacks up to the rest of the legitimate candidates.

Why he wouldn't: He plays on arguably the most loaded team in the country, but will all the talent mesh to make Bennett a legit candidate? In the Findlay Prep frontcourt, Brandon Ashley also might emerge, plus three-year letter winner Winston Shepard could develop into the team’s top candidate because he's so versatile. The Pilots' luxury of talent could be a hindrance to individual honors.

Perry Ellis, Wichita Heights (Wichita, Kan.) 6-9, PF

ESPNU 100 Rank: 37
Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett has the talent and competes against the competition necessary to earn ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA honors.
Resume: Ellis earned first-team ESPNHS All-American accolades last season, shooting over 72 percent from the field while averaging 22.6 points and 7.9 rebounds for a 25-0 team ranked No. 11 in the POWERADE FAB 50. Ellis won ESPNHS National Sophomore of the Year and was just as spectacular as a junior.

Why he could win: With Ellis in the lineup, Heights has won 72 of 75 games, three consecutive Class 6A state titles and enters the season on a 44-game winning streak. It will be hard to overlook Ellis if he ends his prep career without another loss and a fourth state title.

Why he wouldn't: On the summer circuit, evaluators, quite frankly, expected more from Ellis. Has he shown enough improvement and does he play enough strong competition to earn the top national individual honor?

Amile Jefferson, Friends’ Central (Wynnewood, Pa.) 6-7, SF

ESPNU 100 Rank: 24

Resume: The first-team ESPNHS Underclass All-American averaged 17.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for a team that finished No. 38 in the FAB 50. This summer, the two-time Class AA all-state pick led the NBPA Top 100 Camp in scoring (20.8) by a fairly wide margin.

Why he could win: His team opens up the season ranked No. 23 in the FAB 50 and Friends’ Central plays enough top-level competition to give Jefferson the platform to boost his candidacy.

Why he wouldn't: Jefferson has to prove he's the top player in his own backyard before he can be honored as the nation's top player. Chester's Rondae Jefferson could emerge for a team ranked even higher than Friends' Central. Savon Goodman of Constitution (Philadelphia) is another talent that could take away Jefferson's shine locally.

Nerlens Noel, The Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.) 6-10, C

ESPNU Super 60 Rank: 2

Resume: The nation's best shot-blocker arguably had the nation’s most productive summer, leading BABC AAU to the Nike EYBL Peach Jam title. He also led BABC to the title game of the AAU 17U Super Showcase.

Why he could win: He plays for one of the top New England prep school programs in the country. If Noel proves he's the top player on the prep school circuit and has big showings in showcase games, there's no reason he can be in the running until the very end.

Why he wouldn't: He plays for one of the top New England prep school programs in the country. With post-graduates on the roster, The Tilton School is not eligible for the FAB 50 and historically players from prep schools have been hurt because of that situation. As the old saying goes, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. Noel has to show continued offensive improvement to grab more attention from the panelists.

Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) 6-9, PF

ESPNU Super 60 Rank: 3

Resume: Randle was named an ESPNHS Sophomore All-American after leading the Lions to the TAPPS Class 5A title game while averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds per game. That followed a freshman season where he was named TAPPS 5A Newcomer of the Year after averaging 15.0 points and 9.8 rebounds.

Why he could win: He's a special talent with the ability to take over games. He can dominate inside and is much too athletic for post players to handle. On the flip side, he's too strong for wing players to handle. His team plays in some showcase games, so if he starts off strong he should garner some votes.

Why he wouldn't: Randle doesn't have as strong a supporting cast around him like some of the other top candidates. If Prestonwood doesn't win big games, he could get overshadowed despite his unique individual talents. Among TAPPS schools, Isaiah Austin could take votes away. Other contenders, like Marcus Smart, could steal some votes in his own backyard.

Seniors on the radar



F -- Cameron Biedscheid, Cardinal Ritter (St. Louis, Mo.) 6-7

F -- Jordan Adams, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-5

F -- Brandon Ashley, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 6-9

C -- Isaiah Austin, Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas) 7-0

W -- Omar Calhoun, Christ The King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 6-3

F -- Ricardo Gathers, Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.) 6-7

G -- Archie Goodwin, Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.) 6-5

F -- William "Shaq" Goodwin, Southwest DeKalb (Decatur, Ga.) 6-8

F -- Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.) 6-6

F -- Grant Jerrett, La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.) 6-9

W -- Xavier Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-6

G -- Braxton Ogbueze, United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.) 6-0

G -- Marcus Paige, Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) 6-1

G -- Rodney Purvis, Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) 6-4

G -- James Robinson, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 6-3

G -- L.J. Rose, Westbury Christian (Houston, Texas) 6-3

W -- Winston Shepard, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 6-8

G -- D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-3

W -- Rasheed Sulaimon, Strake Jesuit (Houston, Texas) 6-3

Juniors to watch



F -- Brian Bridgewater, Episcopal (Baton Rouge, La.) 6-6

G -- Nate Britt, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 6-2

G -- Aquille Carr, Patterson (Baltimore, Md.) 5-6

G -- Stephen Clark, Douglass (Oklahoma City, Okla.) 5-10

F -- Aaron Gordon, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) 6-6

G -- Aaron Harrison, Travis (Fort Bend, Texas) 6-4

G -- Andrew Harrison, Travis (Fort Bend, Texas) 6-4

G -- Kasey Hill, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-1

G -- Juwan Parker, Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, Okla.) 6-4

G -- Tahj Shamsid-Deen, Columbia (Decatur, Ga.) 5-10

F -- Ishmael Wainwright, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) 6-6

Impact Sophomores



G -- James Blackmon Jr., Bishop Luers (Ft. Wayne, Ind.) 6-2

G -- Parker Cartwright, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.) 5-8

G -- T.J. Haws, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) 6-4

C -- Dakari Johnson, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-10

F -- Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-5

F -- Trey Lyles, Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis, Ind.) 6-8

F -- Theo Pinson, Wesleyan Christian Academy (Greensboro, N.C.) 6-5

C -- Craig Victor, St. Augustine (New Orleans, La.) 6-8

G -- Isaiah Whitehead, Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 6-4

F -- Andrew Wiggins, Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.) 6-7

*Editor's note: Listed alphabetically; The Mr. Basketball USA honor is based on high school accomplishment, not future college/pro potential. ESPNHS does not knowingly select fifth-year players, and those ineligible due to age or academics, as Mr. Basketball USA or to its various All-American teams.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN