Eye on POY: New Jersey girls basketball

The window on the Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.

Danaejah Grant

Senior guard, Piscataway (N.J.)

2011-12 Team record: 19-6 (Group IV)

2011-12 Team standing: Group IV, North 2 first round vs. Union on Tuesday

2011-12 Points per game: 22.7

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 12.9

2011-12 Assists per game: 3.5

2011-12 Steals per game: 4.1

Academics: B average

Collegiate destination: Clemson University

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Averaged 33.0 PPG in conference tournament; Over 2,400 career points; First Team All-State; Four-time Greater Middlesex Conference All-Star.

Michaela Mabrey

Senior guard, Manasquan (Manasquan, N.J.)

2011-12 Team record: 24-2 (Group III)

2011-12 Team standing: Group III, Central second round vs. TBA on Wednesday

2011-12 Points per game: 17.6

2011-12 Rebounds per game: 6.5

2011-12 Assists per game: 6.1

2011-12 Blocks per game: 1.0

2011-12 Steals per game: 2.9

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: University of Notre Dame

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: McDonald's All-American; WBCA All-American; Battle of the Boardwalk MVP; Second Team All-State.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.

Samantha Clark: Senior center, St. Rose (Belmar, N.J.)

Aliyyah Handford: Senior guard, Shabazz (Newark, N.J.)

Teanna Muldrow: Junior forward, East Orange (East Orange, N.J.)

Brittney Sykes: Senior guard, University (Newark, N.J.)

Sandra Udobi-Ofogu: Senior forward, Life Center Academy (Burlington, N.J.)

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.