Torrance, Calif. -- With the announcement of the 2008 McDonald's All-American team this past week, it's a fun time to argue whom should have and should have not made the team. It's also a good time to talk about what constitutes a recruiting list and how that differs from the annual EA SPORTS All-American Boys Basketball Team.
Most of the players that made this year's McDonald's All-American team are in the midst of fine senior seasons. Nearly all of them have also been rated among the top college prospects in the country in credible recruiting lists that are compiled by McDonald's All-American voters in the business of rankings players. The selection process is somewhat constrained because of the need to select a certain number of players at each position while at the same time trying to divide the country into a true East versus West format.
"In some years, the strength of the group might be the wing players or the lead guards, but you still have to select a pivot player, who might not be as deserving, to fill out the roster," explained panel member Doug Huff, a member of the McDonald's All-American selection committee since its inception.
Among the players selected this year, the three that benefited the most from strong play during their senior seasons are 6-foot-6 Sylven Landesberg from Holy Cross of Flushing, New York, six-foot point guard Larry Drew from FAB 50 No. 15 Taft of Woodland Hills, Calif. and 6-foot-2 guard Mike Rosario of top-ranked St. Anthony of Jersey City, New Jersey. While it can be debated that some other players could have been selected instead of that trio based on their position in various recruiting lists, there is no debate the trio is leading their respective high school teams to a bunch of wins against strong national level competition and are deserving of playing in the most well-known of all the national high school all-star games.
Rosario, Drew and Landesberg have all been mentioned on at least one ballot as a top seven candidate for national player of the year honors through the first seven weeks of the EA SPORTS National Player of the Year Tracker. Nine of the 24 players selected for the March 26 game in Milwaukee, meanwhile, have not received any consideration for national player of the year honors so far.
Taking a look at our 2007 EA SPORTS All-American Boys Basketball Team reveals a few first team selections that were not consensus top 25 national recruits. Six-foot-7 forward Jon Diebler of Upper Sandusky, Ohio was not a McDonald's All-American, but he did end his career as the Buckeye State's all-time scoring leader and led his team to the state Div. II title game. Chris Wright from St. John's of Washington, D.C. was in the same boat as Diebler from a national recruiting standpoint but he was the first three-time D.C. All-Metro selection since DeMatha's Adrian Dantley, the 1973 EA SPORTS National Player of the Year.
Recruiting lists are based on a player's future college and/or pro potential, and not necessarily on his high school performance. The annual EA SPORTS All-American teams are reserved for the nation's best players regardless of their college potential and are reflective of those top players that lead their team to state championships. The team is also chosen after the various all-state teams from around the country have been selected. So obviously, state players of the year are more likely to be chosen than those that just rate high on recruiting lists.
The most poignant example of all-american teams taking into consideration local consensus and the makeup of the various all-state teams occurred in 1981. Center Patrick Ewing from Rindge and Latin High School in Cambridge, Mass. was the nation's top player and recruit by almost everyone that saw him play. Panelist and McDonald's All-American selection committee member Bob Gibbons, Publisher and Editor of All-Star Sports in Lenoir, North Carolina, however, saw a young player right in his own backyard that caught his eye with his work ethic.
That player was 6-foot-4 Michael Jordan from Laney High School in Wilmington, a town along the Atlantic Coast in New Hanover County. Even though Jordan wasn't as physically dominant as Ewing, he was an ever-improving player that had the drive and work ethic to be the best, something that is not always evident in young players. When the veteran talent evaluator was introduced to the all-state player, Jordan asked him, "Mr. Gibbons, it's a pleasure to meet you. What can I do to be a better player?" Gibbons recalled. "I mean, imagine Michael Jordan asking me what he can do to be better. He was the first 40-year old to score 40 points in a NBA game. Even when he was 40-years old, he worked harder than NBA rookies. That's was separates Jordan from the rest."
As a senior at Laney, however, Jordan was not North Carolina's state player of the year. Both Jordan and Asheville High School standout Robert "Buzz" Peterson were selected Parade and McDonald's All-Americans, but it was Peterson, Jordan's future college roommate at the University of North Carolina, that was chosen Mr. Basketball. So even though Jordan scored a then-record 30 points in the 1981 McDonald's All-American game played in Wichita, Kansas, Ewing was given the nod as EA SPORTS National Player of the Year since Peterson wouldn't beat out the future Georgetown and NBA great in evaluations as a player or prospect.
The 1982 NCAA title game between North Carolina and Georgetown, and numerous NBA playoff battles years later, proved Jordan would have the last laugh over Ewing and every other 1981 prep All-American.
This year's national player of the year selection is likely to stir up some chatter down the road since three seniors from around the country look like worthy player of the year choices. In this week's EA SPORTS Player of the Year Tracker, Oak Hill Academy's Brandon Jennings regained the top spot after dropping last week to the No. 2 spot by one point behind South Atlanta's Derrick Favors, still only a junior. Favors, who finished in fourth place this week with 63 points, saw his season came to an end Friday night when South Atlanta lost to East Hall in the first round of the AAA state tournament.
Jennings finished with 82 points after scoring 79 points last week and again appeared on nine of ten ballots. Right behind Jennings with 78 points is Louisville commit Samardo Samuels. The St. Benedict's of Newark, New Jersey forward continues to shine against tough competition and it will be interesting to see the voting next week in light of his 19-point performance in the Gray Bees' big win on national television Thursday night. Like Samuels is to Jennings, guard Jrue Holiday from Campbell Hall of North Hollywood, Calif. is only four points behind the candidate in front of him with 74 total points. Holiday, however, has been rewarded for his overall excellence and is the only player to appear on all ten ballots among the voting panel.
Will this year's EA SPORTS National Player of the Year selection one day evoke memories of Ewing, Jordan, and Peterson? It's hard to say, but whoever is picked there are likely to be supporters of the other top candidates since we never have ties or co-players of the year in our selection process.
Next week we'll take a look at some of the closest player of the year races ever from years past, but for now read on to see the voting results 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.
1. Brandon Jennings, PG, Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
The left-handed point guard put an exclamation point on his school record season by scoring 63 points, including 13 of 21 three-point goals, in a 120-58 blowout of Bonner Academy of Raleigh on February 19. His 63-point performance broke the school record of 61 points set by Calvin Duncan back in 1981. Jennings has also decided several close victories this season, including a 78-77 victory over FAB 50 No. 2 Duncanville, with his defense (100 steals) while scoring at a 35.4 points per game clip. Did I mention he also dishes out 6.8 assists a game?
2. Samardo Samuels, PF, St. Benedict's (N.J.)
Like Jennings, Samuels has faced some of the best teams in the land and has responded with one big game after another. He checks in with 24.2-point, 10.7-rebound, 4.1-blocked shot norms for a one-loss juggernaut that won two major holiday tournaments and has won other big games. In the McDonald's All-American game, the West team is loaded with guards so if Samuels can lead the East to victory while dominating up front it could help his candidacy.
3. Tyreke Evans, SG, American Christian (Pa.)
Looking at the votes in the tracker each week, it seems as if some voters really like Evans while others are not so sure. He was the class player of the year when he was a freshman and sophomore so there is no doubting his talent level. He had a chance to make a strong statement Thursday when American Christian faced FAB 50 No. 1, and unbeaten, St. Anthony of Jersey City on national television, but he was up and down again. With some distractions around him, Evans is still putting up 32.1-point, 8.8-rebound, 5.5-assist norms this season against a challenging schedule so he's already is in the POY conversation.
4. Derrick Favors, PF, South Atlanta (Ga.)
This 6-foot-9 post player stepped up his play from a good sophomore season and because he's been so dominant, now is the highest rated player among underclassmen in the player of the year talks. The Class of 2009 has some good big man like Renardo Sidney and Demarcus Cousins, but Favors has been the most consistent and even is in the conversation with Samuels as the most dominant frontcourt player so far this season. A loss last week probably won't help his stature in the tracker but he's had a take-notice season and should be a highly-ranked All-America selection.
5. Jrue Holiday, PG, Campbell Hall (Calif.)
The top West Coast candidate has had a consistent point-assist-steal season to cap a very productive career. In fact, he makes triple-doubles look very easy and sometimes he comes close to quadruple-doubles in categories like blocks and rebounds. He earns high credits from many first-hand observers out West and consistently appears on nine or ten ballots. All the experts on the panel can't be wrong so I'm not the only one who thinks Holiday is a great player and a serious player of the year candidate.
Next week we'll hear from Jerry Meyer, Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst.