National high school boys basketball player of the year: Meet 20 top candidates

January 24, 2023
4 mins read
National high school boys basketball player of the year: Meet 20 top candidates

Several states are at different points of their high school boys basketball season, with some just hitting the midpoint and others starting the playoffs next month. 

But in every state we’ve seen enough to gain a decent understanding of each team’s makeup and which players have looked like the best of the best.

Here are 20 players who have had a national MVP-worthy season thus far.

Darrin “Dai Dai” Ames, sr., Kenwood (Illinois)

Ames had one of the best performances of the season at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, scoring a tourney-record 65 points, and the point guard scored 27 going up against DJ Wagner and Camden (New Jersey) on Friday. The Kansas State commit is averaging 23.3 points and 4.4 assists this season for the No. 1 team in the SBLive Illinois Top 25.

Ace Bailey, jr., McEachern (Georgia)

Listed at 6-foot-10, Bailey possesses a rare mix of size and skill for the high school level, with the ability to slash through the lane and shoot the 3. The top-ranked junior in Georgia held offers from Kentucky, Kansas and Auburn, among others, but recently committed to Rutgers.

Omaha Biliew, sr., Waukee (Iowa)

Biliew led Waukee past crosstown rival Northwest last week and then signed autographs for the fans after the game. The 6-foot-8 forward gets a lot of attention for his thunderous dunks, but the Iowa State signee can also step out and hit the 3.

Cameron Boozer, Columbus (Florida)

Considered the top sophomore recruit in the country by just about every outlet in the land, Boozer is performing as expected this season. The son of two-time NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer is averaging 21.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists playing alongside twin brother Cayden.

Blake Buchanan, sr., Lake City (Idaho)

Buchanan shot up the 247 Sports national recruiting rankings nearly 100 spots in late summer, and he’s put together a senior season showing he’s worthy. Through 10 games the unselfish 6-foot-10 Virginia commit was averaging 17.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while shooting 69% from the field for the top team in Idaho.

Markus Burton, sr., Penn (Indiana)

Burton is a pure scorer from the point guard position, averaging 28.6 points per game this season after putting up 26.9 a game last season. He recently became Penn’s all-time leading scorer and his approaching 2,000 in his career. He’ll be playing for Notre Dame next season.

Isaiah Collier, sr., Wheeler (Georgia)

Collier doesn’t need to score to control a game, but he’ll pour it on if it’s there. The unselfish superstar point guard is 247 Sports’ No. 1-ranked senior recruit and will be playing for USC next season. One of his highlights of this season was going head-to-head with Centennial’s Jared McCain and coming out on top.

Justin Edwards, sr., Imhotep Charter (Pennsylvania)

Edwards led Imhotep to the City of Palms championship in December and has risen to No. 1 in ESPN’s recruiting rankings for the Class of 2023. The 6-foot-7 Kentucky commit has led Imhotep to a 15-2 start playing a national schedule and the No. 8 spot in the national SBLive/Sports Illustrated Top 25.

Kwame Evans Jr., sr., Montverde Academy (Florida)

Evans committed to Oregon over the summer, becoming the Ducks’ second-highest-rated prospect after Bol Bol. At 6-foot-10, Evans looks like a post but plays like a guard. He has an unselfish style that lends itself well to playing on a team stacked with stars like Montverde, and he’s a menace on defense. Evans made headlines recently by pushing the Bronny James-to-Oregon narrative.

Ron Holland, sr., Duncanville (Texas)

One of the early favorites to go No. 1 in the 2024 NBA Draft, Holland looks like a man among boys in high school. The 6-foot-8 forward can jump out of the gym and can score from anywhere on the floor. He has Duncanville back up to No. 2 in the SBLive/Sports Illustrated Top 25 after getting upset by West Linn on New Year’s Eve at the Les Schwab Invitational

Aden Holloway, sr., Prolific Prep (California)

A North Carolina native signed to Auburn, Holloway runs the show offensively for the No. 4 team in the country with his elite sharpshooting and playmaking ability. “Aden has been the catalyst for us,” Prolific Prep head coach Ryan Bernardi said.

Tre Johnson, jr., Lake Highlands (Texas)

Johnson entered his junior season having already eclipsed the 1,000-point mark, and his play this year has carried him to the top of the Class of 2024 recruiting rankings. He recently scored 30 in a double-overtime win over Highland Park and has shown this season that he’s more than just a scorer.

Karter Knox, jr., Tampa Catholic (Florida)

Knox is averaging 20.8 points and 10.1 rebounds this season playing some tough in-state and out-of-state competition for Tampa Catholic. The 6-foot-6 wing is 247 Sports’ No. 5-ranked recruit in the Class of 2024.

Jared McCain, sr., Centennial (California)

The defending California Gatorade Player of the Year has been as consistent as ever this season playing a national schedule. The 6-foot-2 Duke signee is averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game and had a phenomenal tournament at the City of Palms Classic in Florida.

Darryn Peterson, soph., Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (Ohio)

One of the top recruits in the country in the Class of 2025, Peterson averaged 25.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game as a freshman. Earlier this season, he broke the CVCA school record for points in a game by scoring 51 points in a win over Tuslaw, and he fought back tears in a win he dedicated to his late grandmother.

Labaron Philon, jr., Baker (Alabama)

Few have been filling it up like Philon this season. The 6-foot-4 guard is averaging a whopping 36.6 points per game while also dishing 4.9 assists a night. He’s been flying up the Class of 2024 recruiting rankings and is reportedly down to Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee, though he recently announced an offer from Louisville.

Jackson Shelstad, sr., West Linn (Oregon)

Shelstad isn’t sneaking up on anybody in the Pacific Northwest, but he became a national sensation with his MVP performance in leading West Linn to the Les Schwab Invitational championship, knocking off Sierra Canyon and then Duncanville. The Oregon commit has skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings thanks to his strong senior year.

Jaylin Stewart, sr., Garfield (Washington)

Stewart has led Garfield to a 15-0 start, including a big comeback win earlier this month over rival O’Dea while playing through foul trouble. The 6-foot-7 slasher will try to end his high school career with a Class 3A state title before heading to UConn.

DJ Wagner, sr., Camden (New Jersey)

Wagner is on track to join his father (Dajuan) and grandfather (Milt) as a 2,000-point scorer at Camden. He’s also already being projected as a 2024 lottery pick and would become the first third-generation NBA player of all time. The returning New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and Kentucky commit is averaging 20 points a game again this season.

Ja’Kobe Walter, sr., Link Academy (Missouri)

Walter leads a loaded Link Academy team in scoring at 13.4 points per game. Between the Texas native’s high school career at McKinney and now the No. 1 team in the national SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25, the Baylor commit has over 2,000 career points.


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