Video: Michael Porter Jr. highlightsSee the MaxPreps Player of the Year contender in action last week.
The high school basketball season always seems to come into focus in mid-January.
Events like the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions in Missouri, Flyin' to the Hoop in Ohio and the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Massachusetts aide that process by showcasing some of the nation's best players and teams over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend.
With that in the books, it's a good time to take our initial look at this season's MaxPreps National Player of the Year candidates. Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills took top honors a year ago. Other past winners include Kevin Love, Jabari Parker and Ben Simmons.
Marvin Bagley III, Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)
6-10 | Junior | Forward
It says a lot about Bagley that he could put up 23.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as the new guy on a talented, experienced roster without disrupting the pre-existing chemistry. He was a difference-maker on high school basketball's biggest weekend as No. 2 Sierra Canyon beat three ranked teams in four nights at the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions and Spalding Hoophall Classic.LiAngelo Ball, Chino Hills (Calif.)
6-5 | Senior | Wing
His credentials weren't deemed good enough for a spot in the McDonald's All-American so this may be viewed as a stretch by some. But he's averaging 34.7 points per game for a team that has won 54 in a row and is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation. Should Chino Hills stumble down the stretch, his candidacy may be viewed in a different light. But until someone beats the Huskies, put some respect on the middle Ball brother's name.Michael Porter Jr., Nathan Hale (Seattle)
6-9 | Senior | Forward
After making the move with family from Missouri to Seattle over the summer, Porter has taken his game to a rare level of excellence. Total high school basketball mastery. He led the Raiders to a big win over Bagley and Sierra Canyon in December at the Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon, overcoming a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Porter averaged over 32 points and 17 rebounds in four outings at that event is is putting up over 35 points per night on the season.Ja'vonte Smart, Scotlandville (Baton Rouge, La.)
6-4 | Junior | Guard
Building a legacy in Baton Rouge, Smart is averaging 27.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as a junior. He put up 40 in the championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic two weekends ago. Scotlandville is 20-1 and ranked No. 9 in this week's High School Top 25. Zion Williamson, Spartanburg Day (Spartanburg, S.C.)
6-7 | Junior | Forward
Must be doing big things when Drake is wearing your jersey as a high school junior. Williamson is averaging 35.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals per outing and is the undisputed MVP of the social media highlight game. Spartanburg Day is 15-6 against a challenging schedule that has included 10 games against teams outside the state of South Carolina.
OTHERS TO CONSIDERR.J. Barrett, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.):
Just a sophomore, he's leading the Eagles in scoring for the second year in a row.Brian Bowen/Jaren Jackson, La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.):
Tough to separate these two as they have both been outstanding for the Lakers – ranked No. 2 in this week's Independent Top 10.Jordan Brown, Woodcreek (Roseville, Calif.):
Already over 1,500 career points as a junior, he's averaging 27 points and 16 rebounds per game for one of Northern California's best teams.Trevon Duval, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.):
Stock rising. IMG was elevated to No. 1 in this week's Independent Top 10 thanks in large part to Duval's 16.1 points, 7.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game.Romeo Langford, New Albany (Ind.):
Don't count out the southern Indiana star after a couple of ugly early losses. He's averaging around 30 points per game and the Bulldogs have won eight in a row in dominant fashion.Collin Sexton, Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.):
It's been up and down for the Falcons so far against a national schedule. But the high-scoring guard could make a run at top honors if he can lead Pebblebrook to a state title. Gary Trent Jr., Prolific Prep Academy (Napa, Calif.):
Besieged by injuries, Prolific Prep called upon the future Duke Blue Devil to raise his game and he has delivered. The NorCal independent was unbeaten up until last weekend.Kris Wilkes, North Central (Indianapolis):
Put up 32 points in a showdown victory over Langford and New Albany back in December. The Panthers were riding high with an undefeated record and Top 10 national ranking until a setback in the championship game of the Marion County Tournament last Saturday.