Commentary

Derrick Favors headlines 2009 EA SPORTS Boys' All-Americans

Georgia Tech recruit is the Peach State's first-ever Mr. Basketball USA

Originally Published: April 23, 2009
By Ronnie Flores & Doug Huff | ESPNHS.com

First Five

G -- Brandon Knight, Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 6-3 Jr.
The junior point guard not only led his team to a 28-4 record and a second straight state Class 3A title but also was named Florida's Mr. Basketball as well as the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Academics play a key role in the Gatorade honor, but still for a junior to receive that honors is rare. Knight averaged 31.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game this past season. He earned class player of the year honors as a freshman, but was edged out as a sophomore after missing the first 14 games of the season recovering from off-season back surgery. This year, there was no slowing him down as he was selected the EA SPORTS National Junior of the Year.

G -- Avery Bradley Jr., Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 6-3 Sr.
Throughout the season, Bradley proved he was the nation's most explosive wing guard as he averaged 19.1 points, shot 55 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range. In addition to his solid shooting percentage, Bradley utilized a dependable pull-up jumper and could always finish at the rim. Package that with his unique competitiveness, and it's easy to see how Bradley willed the Pilots to victory with a MVP performance at the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational, Findlay Prep not only concluded its season with a perfect 33-0 record but also finished No. 1 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national ratings. He's the unofficial Mr. Basketball USA runner-up to Derrick Favors.

F -- Lance Stephenson, Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 6-5 Sr.
Stephenson finished his storied prep career with as many honors and accolades as any prep player in New York City history. It's often hard for New York players to live up to the tremendous hype always bestowed on the best players, but Stephenson more than held his own. A four-year starter, Stephenson broke the all-time state scoring record held by 2004 EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Sebastian Telfair, also of Lincoln, as the powerful wing player finished with 2,846 points. During his sophomore and junior campaign, he led the Railsplitters to consecutive Class AA state federation titles. As a senior, he averaged 28.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists while helping Lincoln to its record fourth consecutive New York City PSAL title. The St. John's Redman would love to ink his letter of intent to help revive the school's basketball program, but he may head out of state for college.

F -- DeMarcus Cousins, LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.) 6-10 Sr.
Rated as the No. 4 player in the ESPNU 100, he averaged 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 6.7 blocks for LeFlore. The team was No. 27 in the final ESPN RISE FAB 50 after playing in Alabama's Class 5A semifinals. Cousins was named a McDonald's All-American and had 14 points and eight rebounds in the East's 113-110 win over the West. DeMarcus had already previously played for USA Basketball at the 2007 Youth Developmental Festival but once again put on a USA jersey as one of 10 members of the USA team that recently took on the World team at the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit. He previously was headed to join John Calipari at Memphis but will now follow the head coach who is leaving Memphis and will go to Kentucky.

C -- Derrick Favors, South Atlanta (Atlanta, Ga.) 6-9 Sr.
The Mr. Basketball USA honoree led the Hornets a 29-3 record and the school's first-ever Class AAA state title. A national player of the year candidate as both a junior and senior, Favors is the first-ever national player of the year honoree from the Peach State dating back to 1955. Despite Georgia's tradition-rich legacy of prep players, only Dwight Howard of Southwest Atlanta Christian was seriously considered for national honors before the arrival of Favors at South Atlanta. Howard, now a star center for the Orlando Magic, was the runner-up to New York's Sebastian Telfair in 2004.

Second Five

G -- Kenny Boynton, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) 6-3 Sr.
The 6-foot-3 senior guard ended his five-year varsity career with 3,387 points  the third best total in Florida history. This season, the University of Florida recruit averaged 31 points per game while shooting 58 percent from the floor. He also recorded norms of 7.5 assists and 6.8 rebounds per contest. The McDonald's All-American Game participant had a career high of 61 points for a single game, a total he achieved as a junior. One of the most talked-about players in South Florida history, Boynton's battles with good friend and travel ball teammate Knight already are fork lore in Florida basketball circles.

G -- Xavier Henry, Putnam City (Oklahoma City, Okla.) 6-6 Sr.
Henry missed some of the 2008 summer circuit with injuries and his senior season didn't start any better after he missed the team's first nine games because of an unfortunate car accident. He came back with a vengeance, however, as he led Putnam City to a 25-4 won-loss record and an Oklahoma Class 6A state title. A student of the game, Henry is also a good student in the classroom and combines his NBA-ready body with a knack for finding ways to score off the bounce, in the post or on the perimeter. A four-year standout, Henry averaged 28.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals per contest as a senior. He's not yet decided on a college, but he may join new coach John Calipari at Kentucky or may head to Kansas, the alma mater of his father.

F -- Michael Gilchrist, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-7 Soph.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore wing emerged this season to help the Irish to a 30-3 record and the all-class state Tournament of Champions title. He averaged 14.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and three blocks per game as an all-state honoree. A gifted sophomore who named New Jersey's player of the year by Gatorade, Gilchrist is regarded by some scouts as a better prospect than any player in the national Class of 2010. He has been named the EA SPORTS National Sophomore Player of the Year over fourth team member Austin Rivers.

F -- John Henson, Sickles (Tampa, Fla.) 6-10 Sr.
He made his presence felt in his only season in Florida after moving from Texas. The North Carolina recruit averaged 17.7 points, 12.4 rebounds and 6.1 blocked shots per game as a senior. The agile 6-foot-10 power forward played his junior season at Round Rock, Texas, where he had norms of 22 points and 11 rebounds per game. Henson made the move due a change of jobs by his father. As a sophomore, he was just 6-4 but shot up six inches in less than two years. At the same time, Henson maintained many of the guard skills he developed when he was smaller.

C -- Keith "Tiny" Gallon, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-8 Sr.
With a larger-than life persona, Gallon is a great quote and a great young man to be around. This season, however, he finally took his game seriously and his improved work ethic produced some spectacular results. He was the top player for a Oak Hill team that lost only its final game against FAB 50 champ Findlay Prep to finish 41-1, setting a single-season school record for victories in the process. Gallon, a Texas native, almost didn't make it back to Oak Hill for his senior season as veteran coach Steve Smith actually dropped him from the team in the off-season. He came back and led the famed Warriors with 16 ppg and 10.3 rpg while also leading the team in field goal percentage. Not only did Gallon drop weight this season, he successfully added a solid outside shot to his repertoire. He has signed with Oklahoma.

Third Five

G -- Peyton "Pepe" Siva, Franklin (Seattle, Wash.) 6-0 Sr.
After helping Franklin win a Class 4A state title as a freshman, Siva's game came full circle as a senior, as he again led the Quakers to a state title, this time in 3A. Siva is a high-flyin', crowd-pleasing guard that not only improved his distributing ability over his prep career, but really made a great effort to improve defensively. He was named Metro League Player, Washington's Mr. Basketball and chosen the Seattle Times State Player of the Year over a strong group of candidates. The unselfish guard netted 18.1 points per game, and went for a season-high 35 points in a Sea-King District championship game victory over highly-regarded Bellevue.

G -- Michael Snaer, Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, Calif.) 6-5 Sr.
After a spectacular spring and summer elevated Snaer into consideration as one of the nation's top 25 recruits, some prep evaluators thought his ability might not have matched the preseason hype. Snaer proved otherwise with a spectacular season that saw him lead the Mustangs to a 24-6 record while averaging 28.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.6 steals per game. Combine Snaer's production with a work ethic and supreme confidence, and it's easily understandable why Snaer was the unofficial runner-up to Kawhi Leonard for state player of the year honors. It was a close enough evaluation that if Rancho Verde would have beaten Mater Dei in the CIFSS Div. I-AA playoffs, it might have tilted the selection in Snaer's favor. In a losing effort, Snaer scored 32 points and also had a 13-point performance at the 2009 McDonald's All-American Game.

F -- Harrison Barnes, Ames, (Ames, Iowa) 6-6 Jr.
The son of former Iowa State standout, Ronnie Harris, Barnes might be the Hawkeye State's best prep talent ever. As a junior, Barnes led Ames to its first state title since 1991 when the Little Cyclones' star player was current Minnesota Timberwolves assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg. For a team that won the Class 4A state title with a 26-0 record and No. 41 rating in the ESPN RISE FAB 50, Barnes averaged 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds. The current No. 1 player in the 2010 ESPNU 100, the intense recruiting battle for Barnes will be one of the top stories of the 2009-10 season.

F -- Kawhi Leonard, M.L. King (Riverside, Calif.) 6-7 Sr.
There were a couple of players in California that were better offensively and perhaps just as good defensively, but no player dominated on both ends of the floor quite like the 2009 Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year. With long arms and huge hands, Leonard could dominate the boards against players much taller and he also had the ability to defend and shoot a high percentage on the wing. Leonard, who grew an inch and put on at least 15 pounds of muscle this past year, finished with norms of 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game and led King to its second consecutive CIF Div. I SoCal regional final. "He was an excellent choice for state player of the year," remarked Woodland Hills Taft head coach Derrick Taylor, whose last two seasons were ended by Leonard's Wolves in the SoCal Div. I regional playoffs.

C -- Mason Plumlee, Christ School (Arden, N.C.) 6-10 Sr.
He capped his high school career with a victory over future Duke teammate Ryan Kelly and Ravenscroft as he scored 19 points in a 62-54 win for Christ School's third straight NCISSA state championship. The Asheville Citizen- Times named him its player of the year as he averaged 15.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game with a total of 20 double-doubles. Christ School finished with a 36-2 record and for the first time in school history was ranked as one of the teams in the nation by outlets like ESPN RISE. Plumlee was named a McDonald's All-American and finished second in the slam dunk competition held at the Powerade Jam Fest before the game. Besides Kelly, there will be another familiar face at Duke as his brother Miles already is part of the Blue Devil basketball team.

Fourth Five

G -- Dominique O'Connor, Westchester (Los Angeles) 5-9 Sr.
In a year when three of the top four ranked teams in the state hailed from the L.A. City Section, it only makes sense O'Connor was a serious Mr. Basketball candidate after earning L.A. City Section Player of the Year honors. The Western League MVP was a two-time all-city choice and a three-year varsity performer for the Comets. He played his best in big games, including a game-high 16 points and five steals in Westchester's victory over Oakland McClymonds in the Div. I state title game. He averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game, but more importantly provided senior leadership to a young Comets team that exceeded preseason expectations.

G -- Abdul Gaddy Jr., Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma, Wash.) 6-3 Sr.
He was relied on even more this season with the transfer of Avery Bradley to Findlay Prep as he did all he could in leading the Lions to the West Central District championship game. Gaddy averaged 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game and has signed to stay in state to play in college at the University of Washington where he'll be for at least two years as a result of skipping third grade and just turning 17 in January. Gaddy was a McDonald's All-American selection, Jordan Brand Classic all-star selection and was one of 10 players selected for the 2009 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team that took on the World Select Team in the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit.

G -- Austin Rivers, Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) 6-3 Soph.
The 6-foot-3 guard opened some eyes with his four-game performance in the prestigious City of Palms Holiday Tournament in Florida last December. Rivers scored 120 points in four games against nationally-ranked teams, including 46 in a win over eventual Georgia Class 5A champion Marietta Wheeler. For the season, he averaged 23.6 points and earned all-state honors. The son of Boston Celtics' head coach Doc Rivers has said he'll sign with Florida, but he's still a sophomore so actually signing with the Gators won't take place until next year.

F -- Jared Sullinger, Northland (Columbus, Ohio) 6-8 Jr.
The Ohio Mr. Basketball award has been handed out for 22 years and Sullinger this year became just the fifth junior to receive the honor. The 6-foot-8 power forward led his team to the state Division 1 championship with a 27-1 record. The Ohio State recruit averaged 19.9 points and 14.8 rebounds a game. He also shot 67 percent from the floor and enters next season as a serious Mr. Basketball USA candidate. He'll likely be one of the showcase players for next year' McDonald's All-American game as well since those festivities will take place in Columbus next season.

C -- Renardo Sidney, Fairfax (Los Angeles) 6-9 Sr.
A three-time all-state selection by CalHiSports.com, Sidney moves up to the first team after receiving second team All-American honors as a junior. His statistical output improved each season of his varsity career and he finished his senior season with averages of 25.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in leading Fairfax to a 27-5 record. Sidney can face and stroke a soft jumper, is an effective passer and ball-handler, but is most dominant when he does what most talented big men should and that's control the paint. Hailed as one of the finest post players to come out of the L.A. City Section ranks in generations, the Mississippi native will stay in Los Angeles for college as he plans to enroll at USC in the fall.

CLICK HERE for the 2008-09 Underclass All-American team

2008-09 EA SPORTS Mr. Basketball USA: DERRICK FAVORS
A repeat selection to the first team, Favors followed up a spectacular junior season with a true MVP senior season for the Hornets. After an early exit from last year's postseason, Favors led South Atlanta to a 29-3 record and the school's first-ever Class AAA state title. In the championship game victory, he finished with 38 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks and posted season norms of 28.1 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.0 blocks. His 2,341 points, 1,511 rebounds and 741 blocked shots are all school records. He concluded his season by cementing his status as the nation's top frontcourt player with a 19-point, MVP performance at the 2009 McDonald's All-American Game. Favors led his East team to victory by closing the McDonald's game with two spectacular dunks and closed out his prep career by scoring 21 points in an MVP performance at the Jordan Brand All-American Classic in New York.

EA SPORTS All-America Second Team (30):

F -- Bryant Allen, Maplewood (Maplewood, Mo.) 6-0 Sr.
F -- Roger Franklin, Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas) 6-5 Sr.
G -- Tim Frazier, Strake Jesuit (Houston, Texas) Sr.
G -- Erick Green, Paul VI Catholic (Fairfax, Va.) 6-2 Sr.
G -- Fred Gulley, Fayetteville (Fayetteville, Ark.) 6-2 Sr.
G -- Tyler Haws, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) 6-5 Sr.
G -- Jordan Hulls, Bloomington South (Bloomington, Ind.) 6-0 Sr.
G -- John Jenkins, Camp Station (Gallatin, Tenn.) 6-4 Sr.
F -- Milton Jennings, Pinewood Prep (Summerville, S.C.) 6-9 Sr.
G -- Elijah Johnson, Cheyenne (North Las Vegas, Nev.) 6-2 Sr.
F -- Wally Judge, Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) 6-9 Sr.
C -- Ryan Kelly, Ravenscroft School (Raleigh, N.C.) 6-10 Sr.
G -- Anthony Marshall, Mojave (North Las Vegas, Nev.) 6-3 Sr.
G -- Tommy Mason-Griffin, Madison (Houston, Texas) 5-11 Sr.
F -- Jeronne Maymon, Memorial (Madison, Wis.) 6-7 Sr.
G -- Leslie McDonald, Briarcrest Christian (Memphis, Tenn.) 6-4 Sr.
G -- Dalton Pepper, Pennsbury (Fairless, Pa.) 6-5 Sr.
F -- Jereme Richmond, Waukegan (Waukegan, Ill.) 6-6 Jr.
G -- Durand Scott, Rice (New York, N.Y.) 6-5 Sr.
G -- Darius Smith, Marshall (Chicago) 6-2 Sr.
C -- Josh Smith, Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) 6-9 Jr.
G -- Dexter Strickland, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-3 Sr.
F -- DeShaun Thomas, Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.) 6-7 Jr.
C -- Jeremy Tyler, San Diego (San Diego, Calif.) 6-11 Jr.
F -- Demetrius Walker, St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.) 6-3 Sr.
G -- Maalik Wayns, Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.) 6-1 Sr.
F -- David Wear, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-10 Sr.
F -- Royce White, Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) 6-7 Sr.
F -- Shawn Williams, Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas) 6-7 Sr.
C -- Mouphtaou Yarou, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) 6-10 Sr.

(Editor's note: ESPNHS editors have selected All-America teams and compiled national rankings for over 20 years. Similar to the selection of the Underclass All-American team, these lists do not include players who have exhausted their regular high school eligibility. The team is based on high school performance last season and not necessarily college potential.)

Ronnie Flores and Doug Huff cover high school sports for ESPNHS.com.