Mr. Basketball USA breakdown

As the playoffs heat up in many states, this week is a perfect opportunity to explain the criteria that goes into selecting the ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA winner and give some insight on what it takes to earn national player of the year honors.

The talent of previous winners is clearly evident to those lucky enough to witness them in high school, but what separates the winner from other strong candidates?

Talent level

This is the most important factor. The winner must possess the skills to make an immediate impact on the college level. Nearly all past winners projected as NBA players, but not all of them start the ascension to player of the year candidate from the same point.

Just look at where 1997 winner Tracy McGrady was as an underclassman compared to runner-up Lamar Odom. McGrady was a non-descript forward at Auburndale (Fla.) as a junior. He wasn't on anyone's radar the summer before transferring to Mount Zion (Durham, N.C.), whereas Odom was one of the nation's best players since his sophomore year at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.).

Of the 57 eventual Mr. Basketball USA choices, only two did not go on to play in the NBA: forward Bill Raftery of St. Cecelia's (Kearney, N.J.) in 1959 and Damon Bailey of North Lawrence (Bedford, Ind.) in 1990.

Team success

Leading a POWERADE FAB 50-ranked team and helping it win a state title is a significant factor. Those teams generally play tough competition, which nowadays means the candidate's team challenged itself against competition from outside its region.

Two years ago, Jared Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio) led the nation's No. 1 ranked team before the Vikings were stunned 71-45 in the Ohio regional playoffs by an unranked team. The other top candidate that season, Harrison Barnes of Ames (Iowa), led his team to a 27-0 record and No. 10 final FAB 50 rating. If Barnes' team would have lost even one game, or if Sullinger's team would have won the state title, Sullinger might have been the winner instead of Barnes.

Many of the 10 experts on the tracker panel weigh this factor nearly as much as individual talent. That's what makes Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), No. 2 in the balloting behind front-runner Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), such an intriguing candidate. The defending FAB 50 champions are riding a 59-game winning streak. If you include Anderson's sophomore season at now defunct Patterson Catholic (Patterson, N.J.), he has a 87-1 record in games he's started.

Head-to-head comparisons

This doesn't happen often, but it's a clear-cut factor that can't be overlooked. Last season, Michael Gilchrist of St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) and Austin Rivers of Winter Park (Fla.), played against each other on national television. St. Patrick won 75-66.

Gilchrist scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but he had the stronger supporting cast. In the balloting the week after that game, the panel didn't penalize Rivers much, if at all. He did score 38 points to keep his team within striking range.

Gilchrist was the eventual Mr. Basketball USA choice, but what if Rivers had scored 38 points in a Winter Park victory?

State and national records

Raftery and Bailey never played in the NBA, but they have another thing in common -- they had record-breaking prep careers for winning programs.

Raftery scored 827 points in 1959, then a New Jersey single-season state scoring record. Bailey lived up to the tremendous hype that Hoosier Hysteria created around him. Bailey averaged 31.3 points per game as a senior for a state title-winning team in the Indiana single-class tournament and finished with 3,134 career points, a state record.

Others Receiving Votes:
Grant Jerrett (La Verne Lutheran, La Verne, Calif.) 14 pts. (2)
Katin Reinhardt (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.) 11 pts. (2)
Amile Jefferson (Friends' Central, Wynnewood, Pa.) 9 pts.
Kris Dunn (New London, New London, Conn.) 9 pts. (1)
Tyler Dorsey (Ribet Academy, Los Angeles, Calif.) 6 pts. (1)
Marcus Paige (Linn-Mar, Marion, Iowa) 6 pts. (1)
Rondae Jefferson, Chester (Chester, Pa.) 5 pts. (1)
Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana,
Calif.) 5 pts. (1)
Gabe York (Orange Lutheran, Orange,
Calif.) 4 pts. (1)
Razhaun Henderson (Bishop Alemany,
Mission Hills, Calif.) 4 pts. (1)
Jahlil Okafor (Whitney
Young, Chicago, Ill.) 4 pts. (1)

About ESPNHS Mr. Basketball Tracker Panel
ESPNHS' panel of 10 experts, which includes five McDonald's All-American selection committee members, casts its vote each week for the top national player of the year candidates. Each panelist lists the top seven candidates regardless of class. The votes are then tabulated on a 10-point scoring system with a first-place vote equaling 10 points, a second-place vote earning nine points and down to four points for a seventh-place vote. The number in parenthesis refers to the numbers of ballots on which a player appeared and previous rankings refers to position in previous tracker.