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January 11, 2008
Torrance, Calif. -- Although many previous EA SPORTS National Player of the Year selections have gone on to success at the higher levels of the game, the award truly rewards high school performance among the nation's top basketball players.
A player's position in respected recruiting rankings have little bearing on the selection each season. In most years, our national player of the year selection going back to 1955 has indeed been a consensus top five recruit, but the eventual pick usually played for a winning program with the statistical resume and championships to back up his POY candidacy.
In 2004, Lincoln of Brookyln standout Sebastian Telfair was the choice over eventual No. 1 NBA Draft pick Dwight Howard of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Sure, Howard was the better pro prospect and has proven to be a more productive NBA player, but Telfair's Railspitters team beat Howard's SACA club and the Coney Island native scored 30 points, including the game-winning three-pointer. Telfair finished his prep career with three state PSAL titles, a state federation title and scored 2,785 career points. That scoring mark broke the New York state record of 1989 national player of the year choice Kenny Anderson. Those championships, records and the win over Howard's club was the difference.
In 2005, the pick was shooting guard Monta Ellis from Lanier of Jackson, Mississippi and though he was taken lower in the NBA Draft than he would have liked, there are some NBA GM's that are now shaking their heads wishing they would have picked the Mississippi scoring phenom a little higher. It didn't take a rocket scientist to pick Greg Oden of Lawrence North of Indianapolis in 2006 and last year it was basically a two-horse race between O.J. Mayo of Huntington, West Virginia and Kevin Love of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Whereas Love's team lost during the state tournament, Mayo led the Highlanders to an unprecedented third consecutive state Class AAA title. Individually, the USC freshman standout won all-state honors in three different states and three state crowns with two different teams.
There is some debate in basketball circles as to whom is the top player in the country this season. As a whole, the class isn't considered as strong as last year's bumper crop and that is reflected in player rankings, team rankings and the inaugural EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker for this season. No less than 22 different players received some recognition as a top national player of the year candidate by a panel of ten respected basketball talent evaluators and journalists.
The top positions in the Rivals.com FAB 50 National Rankings figure to have some shuffling among the top teams as the season progresses and the same is true for the EA SPORTS POY Tracker. While nothing is certain in this year's topsy-turvy prep basketball season, one thing that will definitely not happen is the selection of last year's EA SPORTS National Junior Player of the Year, Delvon Roe, winning the top individual honor among players in all classes this season. Roe is likely out for the season after reportedly suffering a torn meniscus during the first quarter of St. Edward's (Lakewood, Ohio) overtime win over Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) that was televised nationally by ESPN2 in December.
Just last night, another ESPN2 telecast pitted FAB 50 ranked Norcross, Ga. against a Helen Cox (Gretna, La.) team featuring Greg Monroe, one of the top POY candidates heading into the season. Monroe missed some showcase games on the West Coast during the holiday tournament season and was eager to showcase his player of the year candidacy on national television. Another EA SPORTS National Player of the Year candidate, Al-Farouq Aminu and the Blue Devils (ranked No. 3 in the Southeast Region) had other ideas and overcame a 12-0 deficit to win going away, 59-48.
Monroe, on two ballots last week, was hoping to impress his fans and our ten panelists, but the Georgetown recruit was limited to eight points. Al-Farouq Aminu, who was listed on one ballot, made a positive impression by breaking his team's 12-0 deficit with a bucket over Monroe and finished with a game-high 29 points.
As the season progresses many players, such as Wake Forest commit Aminu, will improve their player of the year candidacy with stellar performances in showcase games or by leading their respective clubs to state titles. Others might drop if their team doesn't live up to expectations or if they flutter in showcase events.
With that in mind, we present the inaugural EA SPORTS National Player of the Year tracker for the 2007-2008 season. Make sure to stay logged in to StudentSportsBasketball.com all season long to track the progress of the top individual players as well as the top teams in the Rivals.com FAB 50.
Each week, SSBasketball.com's panel of ten experts, which includes two active McDonald's All-American selection committee members, casts its votes for the top EA SPORTS Player of the Year candidates.
The panel is asked to list his seven top player of the year candidates regardless of class, and the votes are tabulated on a 10-point scoring system with a first place vote equaling ten points, a second place vote equaling nine points and down to four points for a seventh place vote. The number in parenthesis ( ) refers to the numbers of ballots a player appeared on.
By Ronnie Flores -- StudentSportsBasketball.com Managing Editor
Next week we'll hear from Brad Eye, StudentSportsBasketball.com East Region Correspondent.
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