Torrance, Calif. -- High school basketball is inherently a team sport, but often times the game is defined by individual performances that are remembered long after the details of the teams involved in the game are long forgotten.
This is especially true among the game's greatest players. Not many remember the scoring records or career totals of Power Memorial's Lew Alcindor, the seven-foot center from New York considered by many veteran observers as the most dominant prep big man of all-time. Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), dominated the prep scene in the mid-1960's and is only one of three players twice named national player of the year by the editors of StudentSportsBasketball.com.
His Power Memorial team was named mythical national champions by the National Sports News Service (precursor to the Rivals.com FAB 50) in 1963 and 1964. While the casual basketball fan may not be aware of Power Memorial's team success with Alcindor in the lineup, most are aware of the mega match up that took place during Alcindor's senior season at Cole Field House on the University of Maryland campus.
Riding a 71-game winning streak, Jack Donahue's club met up with Morgan Wooten's DeMatha High (Hyattsville, Md.) team that was riding a 29-game winning streak of its own. While the Panthers' streak included a 65-62 win over the Stags and even though Alcindor was the most dominant high school player since Philadelphia Overbrook's Wilt Chamberlain 10 years earlier, DeMatha used its balanced lineup and team defense to hold Alcindor to 16 points, 17 below his average, as Wooten's club pulled off the 46-43 upset. Despite being selected a three-time prep all-american, that legendary game in which Alcindor tasted defeat for the first time since his freshman season is the one prep hoops fans remember the most.
In 2003, wunderkind LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary, Akron, Ohio) joined Alcindor and Jerry Lucas from Ohio's Middletown High School (1957-58) as the only players named national player of the year by Student Sports twice in their prep careers. James was a household name that would become the No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft only a few months after leading the Fightin' Irish to their third state title in four years.
While some do recall that James' team finished as the FAB 50 national champions, the Irish actually started out No. 7 in our preseason rankings and actually exceeded expectations playing one of the toughest schedules ever assembled by a high school team. James' 2,646 career points and 30.6 points per game average as a senior will be long forgotten, if they're not already, but who will ever forget when his season, and the Irish's, was nearly derailed when he was suspended for two games for accepting a pair of "throwback" jerseys from a local sporting goods store?
St. Vincent-St. Mary survived the two games without James, including a 63-62 squeaker over Canton McKinley, and he came up with the most memorable performance of his prep career when he came back from his suspension. At the Primetime Shootout in Trenton, New Jersey, James went for 52 points in a dominating 78-52 win over eventual California Division I state champ Westchester of Los Angeles. The Fightin' Irish beat teams from seven states that season with no game more memorable than when James nearly single handily demolished a fine team that finished No. 4 in the final FAB 50 ratings.
A signature performance at the recent Pangos Dream Classic in Southern California helped South Atlanta's Derrick Favors move up one spot in this week's EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker. The junior center for the Hornets had 32 points and 29 rebounds in a 78-77 victory over a Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) team that came into the contest ranked No. 48 in the Rivals.com FAB 50.
Last week, Favors appeared on six ballots overall with one voting member on our 10-man panel tabbing the talented junior No. 3 on his ballot. This week, Favors' dominant performance vaulted him up one spot on the list of top EA SPORTS National Player of the Year candidates and this week he appeared on nine ballots with two panel members selecting him as their top overall POY pick if the season were to end right now.
While a dominant individual performance might sway voting on a weekly basis, the 2008 EA SPORTS National Player of the Year will eventually be chosen based on his performances throughout the season, all the way through the various state playoffs and national all-star games. That is reflected in this week's voting results as the top three choices remain the same from last week. Brandon Jennings of perennial FAB 50 power Oak Hill Academy took over the top spot from St. Benedict's forward Samardo Samuels, as the talented left handed-point guard appeared on all ten ballots.
Six panel members tabbed Jennings as as their top choice, with Samuels being selected as one of the top two choices on seven of the nine ballots he appeared on. Jrue Holiday of Campbell Hall, who went for 35 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and nine steals in the narrow one-point double overtime loss to Favors' South Atlanta club, remains in the third spot this week behind Jennings and Samuels. His sensational performance last week and his overall play so far this season, however, inched him closer to the leaders as he appeared on all ten ballots and tallied 76 points, a single point less than Samuels. Last week, Holiday appeared on nine ballots and was 11 points behind Jennings for the No. 2 spot.
Read below for the point totals in this week's EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker. 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, StudentSportsBasketball.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.
Each panelist is asked to list his top seven EA SPORTS 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 ( ) before the player's name refers to his ranking on the previous week's tracker and the second number in parenthesis () refers to the number of ballots a player appeared on this week.
Expert's Take: (Each week, StudentSportsBasketBall.com asks one of its ten panelists to explain his ballot.)
By Justin Young -- Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst
1. Derrick Favors, PF, South Atlanta (Ga.)
After his amazing 32-point, 29-rebound and eight block performance against Jrue Holiday and Campbell Hall at Pauley Pavilion, Favors is a no-brainer choice in my mind for the number one spot in the EA SPORTS Player of the Year voting this week. No other big man in the country does more for his team than Favors. Unlike most elite level big men, the 6-foot-8 junior creates his own offense instead of having the luxury of being fed the ball every time down the floor. He maximizes his effort with a high basketball IQ and a tremendous skill set for a post player of his age.
2. Samardo Samuels, PF, St. Benedict's (N.J.)
The Louisville bound big man had consistently sat atop my voting each week, until Favors' mind-blowing effort in Southern California. Samuels didn't drop, he simply moved out of the way. Don't be surprised to see him climb back to my top spot soon. Samuels is the high school version of Tyler Hansbrough. He's a bull in a china shop and plays with tremendous intensity, power and strength inside the paint for one of the best high school basketball teams in the nation. Samuels's effort, like Hansbrough, makes up for his good but not great athleticism around the cup.
3. Jrue Holiday, SG/PG, Campbell Hall (Calif.)
Is there a more efficient guard in America right now? Few players can dominate a game in every aspect like Holiday. He certainly proved that last week at the Pangos Dream Classic. Holiday scored 35 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, made nine steals and collected seven steals against Derrick Favors in a heart-breaking double overtime loss on his future college court. Holiday has been playing at a high-level all year and has also thrived on the big stage this season. I like the fact he does so much for his team and doesn't demand the attention like so many other talented guards do.
4. Renardo Sidney, PF, Fairfax (Calif.)
The Mississippi native can officially be called a West Coaster now. The 6-foot-10 stud has been indoctrinated with what it takes to earn respect in Southern California and every major city off the Interstate 5 corridor. Sidney scored 36 points and grabbed 19 rebounds against Western League rival Westchester and helped his team claim the hard fought win. Later in the week in Seattle, Sidney posted 24 points and 22 rebounds in a one-point loss to Franklin. According to the West Coast hoops mavens, Sidney can score with little trouble but it is his rebounding that has impressed the most.
5. Brandon Jennings, PG, Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
It is hard to argue against results. And more times than not, this future University of Arizona point guard gets results. Jennings scored 37 points on Monday in Greensboro, N.C. against The Christ School (N.C.) a day after he scored the game-winner in Springfield, Mass., at the Hoop Hall Classic. Jennings also scored 32 points in a close win against Mount Saint Joseph (Md.). These kind of numbers and close wins have become the trademark this season for Jennings and his Oak Hill Academy team.
Next week we'll hear from Dinos Trigonis, Fullctpress.net Editor-in-Chief and Publisher.