In roughly a month, Sports Illustrated will name the SI All-American Player of the Year along with our first, second and third teams, highlighting the top high school basketball players in the country.
Earlier this week, we released our list of 50 finalists, which was cut down from 104 when the season began in December.
Obviously, the sample size for an SI All-American-worthy appointment has been limited during a global pandemic, but from showcases to club tournaments to high school seasons, elite players have had opportunities to show and prove.
RELATED: SI99 Basketball Rankings
Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, Minn.) forward Chet Holmgren is the top player in the SI99 basketball rankings; a 7-foot-1, 195-pound do-it-all type with a 7-6 wingspan, which allows him to dominate playing every position on the court.
Holmgren has obliterated the competition this season on both ends of the floor, averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 4.2 blocks a game. His most dominant games have been in nationally televised games against other players in serious contention for the SI All-American Player of the Year award like his 31-point, 13-rebound, six-block performance in a win 78-71 win over Emoni Bates and Ypsi Prep (Mich.).
The prevailing question is: Can anyone snatch the ultimate appointment of Player of the Year from Holmgren?
A number of players have made a legitimate case to make things interesting as we come down the home stretch.
Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) shooting guard Jaden Hardy averaged 34 points, seven rebounds and four assists while running with his club team Air Nado (Nev.). Hardy, who is ranked No. 3 overall in the SI99, pumped in 30 points in a matchup against Holmgren and Team Sizzle (Minn.) in October.
Still, even more impressive than Hardy’s stat line is the manner in which he went about producing it. Hardy’s range and efficiency is akin to Stephen Curry and Trae Young. He’s an elite athlete who can finish strong in the lane and plays with supreme energy.
RELATED: SI All-American Finalists Revealed
Odea (Seattle) center Paolo Banchero and Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) forward Michael Foster, the No. 2 and No. 4 prospects in the SI99, have put up dominant numbers this season. The two matched up in January and posted strong stat lines in a classic battle. Foster posted 28 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks in the win. Banchero posted 29 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in the loss.
The underclassmen are staking their claim this season too.
Bates is averaging more than 30 points a game against an impressive slate of competition this season, Montverde (Fla.) Academy forward Jalen Duren is averaging 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks despite playing on a team stocked with more than eight high-level Division I prospects. The Eagles are also the No. 1 team in the country. Also, Kell (Marietta, Ga.) point guard Scoot Henderson is averaging 31 points, five rebounds and six assists a game.
All three players are considered top 10 talents in the 2022 class. The SI99 for 2022 will be unveiled later this year.
As we enter the final stretch in the mad dash to fill 15 spots on the SI All-American teams, opportunities for shuffling abound.
Nothing is set in stone.