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There might not have been a better big-game performer in the nation, including seniors, than the 6-foot-3 Rivers, this year's National Junior of the Year. The son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers averaged 24.3 ppg, including a 45-point outing in the Wildcats' win over FAB 50 No. 4 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.). Rivers burst onto the national scene with a MVP performance at the 2008 City of Palms Classic, but was unable to lead his team to a state title that year.
In 2009, Gilchrist, for his part, led the Celtics to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title. He earned Gatorade State Player of the Year honors over teammates Dexter Strickland (North Carolina) and Kyrie Irving (Duke signee) to earn top national billing among sophomores.
This season the tables turned. Rivers led Winter Park to a Class 6A state title, while Gilchrist was unable to compete for another TOC title as St. Patrick was banned from the post-season. Rivers is the second consecutive junior player of the year from Florida, following Brandon Knight of Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), a team Winter Park defeated this past season on ESPN2 behind a 41-point performance from Rivers.
Rivers and Gilchrist enter the 2010-11 season with a shot to earn All-American honors for the third consecutive season and are front-runners for Mr. Basketball USA honors.
Gilchrist has long been considered the top college prospect in the 2011 class with Rivers not far behind. Heading into the summer evaluation period, a couple of players on the 30-man junior team could challenge Gilchrist for the top spot in the ESPNU 100.
"There is so much room for kids to grow," Scouts Inc. National Recruiting Director Paul Biancardi said. "Gilchrist and Rivers, however, have been the most consistent players in the class. They have proven it within the high school ranks and summer circuit."
Team success helped Perry Ellis of Wichita Heights (Wichita, Kan.) earn the nod among sophomores over last year's top freshman, DaJuan Coleman of Jamesville-Dewitt (Dewitt, N.Y.). Ellis led Wichita Heights to its second consecutive Class 6A state title and to a No. 44 finish in the ESPNHS FAB 50. He averaged 22.2 points and 10.4 rebounds to earn the state player of the year nod for the second consecutive season. Ellis has a chance to join UCLA alum Lucious Allen of Wyandotte (Kansas City, Kan.) and fellow Heights graduates Darnell Valentine and Antoine Carr, as one of Kansas' all-time great prep players.
Top-tier talent is plentiful in Chicago, but the 2013 class is emerging as an exceptional group even by Windy City standards. Leading the pack is Jabari Parker, the son of ex-NBA player Sonny Parker. A freshman starter at city power Simeon, the 6-foot-6 forward helped the Wolverines capture their fourth Class A state crown. He averaged 9.3 ppg and had big outings against tough competition, including a 18-point performance against FAB 50 No. 2 Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.). Windy City legend Ronnie Fields of Farragut, Sonny Parker's alma mater, was Illinois' last national freshman of the year honoree in 1992-93.
The annual Underclass All-American Team was selected by the editors of ESPNHS, which has named All-American teams and compiled national rankings in numerous sports for over 20 years. The format for the team calls for selection after every team finishes its season, making ESPNHS honors more reflective of players who led teams to state championships.Juniors (30):
*2010 ESPNHS All-American
Note: Similar to the overall All-American first and second team, selections are based on high school accomplishment, not future college/pro potential, and are reflective of those that lead their teams to state playoff success. ESPNHS does not knowingly select fifth-year players, and those ineligible due to age or academics, Mr. Basketball USA or to its various All-American teams.
Doug Huff, Ryan Canner-O'Mealy, Mark Tennis, and Harold Abend contributed to this article.