The post-season is in full bore for the nation's top teams -- and individual players -- and that means it's crunch time in the race to win the coveted ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball USA honor.
For some Mr. Basketball candidates, crunch time will be a literal term, not just a figurative one, with Thursday's announcement of the 2010 ESPN RISE National High School Invitational dates and times. This year's ESPN RISE NHSI will take place in Baltimore, Md. and quarterfinal action for the eight boys' teams selected to participate will begin Thursday, April 1 (2pm ET, ESPNU).
The championship game is set for Saturday, April 3 at 1:30 pm (ET). Last year's inaugural NHSI was won by Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), 74-66, over six-time FAB 50/National Prep Poll national champion Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).
The Pilots are likely to get a return invite to the NHSI and that will create some unique challenges for their two top players, forward Tristan Thompson and point guard Cory Joseph. Both are slated to play in the McDonald's All-American Game in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, March 31, the night before the NHSI begins.
Depending on which eight boys' teams eventually get a coveted invite, a few other Mr. Basketball candidates could face the same scenario as Thompson, who will return to practice next week after missing time with a bum ankle, and Joseph, who garnered 50 points (an increase of 23 points from the previous week) and appeared on a season-high nine ballots.
"It's obviously a bit disappointing with the McDonald's game," remarked Findlay Prep associate head coach Todd Simon. "If we play, Tristan and Corey are going to be gone from our practices three or four days leading up to our quarterfinal game. Plus we have never flown in the day of a game before, but it's something those to might have to do."
Joseph closed out his regular season strong last weekend with a school record 38 points, on 12 of 15 shooting and a 14 of 15 mark from the charity stripe, in an easy victory over Westwind Prep (Ariz.). He followed that triple-double performance (10 rebounds, 10 assists) with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in a victory over Impact Academy (Nev.). Joseph and his teammates will have a few weeks off to prepare for the calm before the storm.
Another scenario that impacts the Mr. Basketball race is the possible inclusion of Florida schools that are members of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) in the NHSI.
The girls state champions have already been crowned in Florida and this weekend the boys state finals take place. Brandon Knight, the No. 3 finisher in this week's tracker with 63 points, saw his season come to an end with a 18-point performance in Pine Crest's loss in the Class 3A state final on Thursday night. For another Mr. Basketball candidate, however, boosting the overall resume with a state title and possible trip to the NHSI is still alive.
"I heard all about that," said Winter Park junior standout Austin Rivers hours before his team was set to take on Boyd Anderson in the Class 6A semifinals. "It would be so cool to play in something like that. I feel like we would compete well in it (the NHSI). We're gonna put everything into winning this state title and worry about that stuff later."
Read below to see the voting results of the eleventh 2009-10 ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball Tracker. Stay logged into ESPNRISE.com to track the progress of the top individual players -- as well as the top teams -- in the ESPN RISE FAB 50.
Others Receiving Votes:
Quincy Miller (Quality Education Academy, Winston-Salem, N.C.) 23 pts. (3)
Michael Gilchrist (St. Patrick, Elizabeth, N.J.) 13 pts. (2)
Omar Calhoun (Christ the King, Middle Village, N.Y.) 8 pts. (1)
Jayvaughn Pinkston (Bishop Loughlin, Brooklyn, N.Y.) 7 pts. (1)
Deshaun Thomas (Bishop Luers, Fort. Wayne, Ind.) 7 pts. (1)
Joe Jackson (White Station, Memphis, Tenn.) 6 pts. (1)
Daylen Robinson (Northeast, Kansas City, Mo.) 6 pts. (1)
DeAndre Daniels (Taft, Woodland Hills, Calif.) 5 pts. (1)
Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) 5 pts. (1)
Perry Jones (Duncanville, Texas) 4 pts. (1)
Cody Kessler (Centennial, Bakersfield, Calif.) 4 pts. (1)
Shabazz Muhammad (Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev.) 4 pts. (1)