POY Tracker: Alexander A Slam Dunk

Cliff Alexander of Curie (Chicago) leads the nation's top-ranked team in the Student Sports FAB 50 and is the current favorite for national player of the year by an overwhelming margin.

Cliff Alexander of Curie (Chicago) leads the nation’s top-ranked team in the Student Sports FAB 50 and is the current favorite for national player of the year by an overwhelming margin.

With his epic performance at the recent Hoophall Classic, power forward Cliff Alexander replaces point guard Emmanuel Mudiay as the top Student Sports National Player of the Year candidate. Besides Alexander, Jahlil Okafor and Cheick Diallo garner first-place votes.

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For many, the MLK holiday weekend is a time to reflect, but for the Mr. Basketball USA Tracker panel it’s also a good time to evaluate the nation’s best high school basketball players.

Many of the nation’s top teams traditionally participate in MLK showcase games around the country, giving the panel plenty of opportunity to evaluate the top candidates for national player of the year against strong competition. The biggest convergence of talent was the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

On one of high school basketball’s biggest stages in front of many panel members, the best MLK performance — and the best individual performance we’ve seen this year and in recent memory — was turned in by power forward Cliff Alexander of Curie (Chicago). The Kansas recruit and McDonald’s All-American choice led his team to a double digit come-front-behind 73-69 victory over Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) with 30 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. It wasn’t so much his stats, it was his sheer dominance against arguably the most talented team in the country which left a lasting impression.

Alexander’s performance at the Hoophall Classic brought about changes to the voting results of the latest Student Sports Mr. Basketball USA Tracker. He’s now the top-vote getter — and Curie is the current No. 1 team in the Student Sports FAB 50. Alexander and previous front-runner Emmanuel Mudiay are the only candidates to appear on all 10 ballots and Alexander now has a 18-pont lead (96 to 78) over the point guard from Prime Prep Academy (Fort Worth, Texas) after trailing him by nine points on the previous tracker.

It goes to show the tracker panel values performance against strong competition over potential and projection and is not afraid to change its opinion if production warrants it. Because of the performance versus Montverde Academy and other beastly outings this season, Alexander’s overall point total is the highest since the middle of last season when Andrew Wiggins (97 points) separated himself from Jabari Parker. Parker eventually closed the gap so it will be interesting to see if Mudiay, Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) or Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young (Chicago) can do the same down the stretch.

“Based on what we saw in Springfield, Mass., you have to make Cliff the No. 1 player,” McDonald’s All-American voter and panel member Clark Francis of the Hoop Scoop said. “The race is close, depends on what happens at McDonald’s and other places, but Cliff Alexander and Stanley Johnson have opened things up on the rest of the pack.

“I don’t think anyone else is in it. Mudiay was average at the Hoophall Classic and Okafor knocked himself out of contention. We’re coming down the stretch and it’s a two-horse race. Stanley Johnson is still running strong and can rally. Everyone else has faded.”

There was only one newcomer among the top seven and he’s the second highest rated junior on the board — center Cheick Diallo of Our Savior New American (Centerreach, N.Y.). There isn’t a consensus on Diallo’s national player of the year candidacy, but he topped one panelist’s ballot, was No. 2 on another and No. 4 on a third. Okafor also garnered one first place vote, with Alexander grabbing the other eight.

“Diallo was tremendous at Hoophall…second best performer there to Alexander,” McDonald’s All-American voter and panel member Frank Burlison of BurlisonOnBasketball.com said. “I would make him No. 1 in the 2015 class right now.”

Of all the players in the 2014 class to appear on a ballot, only forward Daniel Hamilton of St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and Shaqquan Aaron of Rainier Beach (Seattle) were not chosen to participate in the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game.

Stay logged in to StudentSportsBasketball.com to track the progress of the nation’s top individual players and the nation’s Top teams.

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About Mr. Basketball USA Tracker Panel
Student Sports’s panel of 10 experts, which includes six McDonald’s All-American selection committee members, casts its vote for the top national player of the year candidates. Each panelist lists his 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 the previous tracker.

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