There are few higher personal honors in high school basketball than winning National Player of The Year (NPOY) with any platform. The three finalists for 2020 NPOY, Emoni Bates the prodigy, Cade Cunningham Mr. pro-ready, and Evan Mobley the definition of potential, have been the top player in their class and could easily be marked as the three most valuable prospects in all of Hoops. See all three young men deserve the award, in many years they’d have it in the bag yet, in the year 2020 these potential number 1 picks have built cases to add the final piece to their high school chapter or potentially the first of many.
To say Cade would have been the sleeper for this award just a year ago is laughable until you look at his competition. Winning Cunningham, gaining the number 1 spot after a dominant year on the EYBL circuit, earning league MVP. Garnering national attention through production and some of the smoothest highlights I’ve seen since Kyle “Slow-Mo” Anderson isn’t new to Cunningham but what it’s turned into as of late is.
The circuit success may have been just icing on the cake as Cade led the US FIBA U19 to gold. He’d turn into a media darling receiving Luka Doncic comparisons. No one sang his praises more than Dallas. His way of paying them back? A sell-out crowd at the American Airlines Center.
Cunningham continued his dominant ways with Kevin Boyle and Montverde Academy. Their undefeated (25-0) season of vengeance, ended early by COVID-19, taking the likes of Texas powerhouse Duncanville, Hunter Dickinson’s DeMatha, a DJ Steward Whitney Young squad, Sharife Cooper’s McEachern twice, two IMG Academy defeats, Johnathan Kuminga and The Patrick School. Do you get the trend?
Cunningham played against the best while being the best player while playing on one of the best high school teams we’ve seen in some time. The path to the national title though paved with talent seemed well within grasp.
Mobley’s been this class chosen one since the summer going into his junior year. Everything clicked, Mobley’s immense physical frame and mobility sold scouts on a much higher ceiling for the 7 footer. He was practically the ready mix prospect just add strength and behold top 5 pick, a possible franchise changer.
Now as a senior his goal was obvious; surpass what he and his brother did a year ago. Never an easy task with California’s gauntlet of elite teams, none more famous than Sierra Canyon and their 5-star assault. Mobley accomplished the latter in December before falling to them in January.
Though his team would come up short in the opening CIF Open Division round what they accomplished was admirable. He averaged near 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks a game in one of the toughest schedules in the nation while being a defensive game-changer. Production that would earn the highest honors in other years.
Mobley’s case is the hardest to fight for. By the numbers and narrative alone he’s outmatched. Being in the strongest natural conference helps but without the two things above he has the hardest hill to climb and that he tried.
But what he has on everyone is a resume reserved for high school’s best recruits. A 2-time gold medalist in the FIBA games, U17 and U19. He’s a winner and a defensive presence at the highest level. Being named Morgan Wootten National Player of The Year April 1st highlights character and game.
The case for Bates is obvious –
“I haven’t seen a talent like this at that age.” – Evan Daniels
Magic, Michael, LeBron … Emoni Bates? Meet the 15-Year-Old Next in Line – Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated
63 in a game on February 18th, 2020
Bates is the golden ticket of Basketball potential, but today it’s all about production. No one listed above boasts a better average stat line – 32 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals – to boot there’s an argument that he’s the most impactful player for his team. Don’t get me wrong Mobley and Cunningham are their team’s powerhouse but in their wake are heavily coveted recruits behind them. Behind Bates are kids still finding their lane.
No one dominates quite like this sophomore. Arguably it’s against weaker competition than his competition, but how he goes about his business is astonishing.
For Bates, it’s just not about winning the award but the symbol that comes with it. Giving this sophomore National player of The Year opens the floodgates of the Bates era. Winning puts the national stamp on a 15 year who’s prepared for this moment before his high school career started.
He’d be the first sophomore ever to win the award, putting him on a path to be the first 3 time winner. This is a legacy thing for the young man.
It’s easy to assume if the only two people stopping you from taking home one of the biggest awards in high school basketball this year when they’re gone, the next is a question of who will emerge to stop him.