Posted On: 03/12/18 8:42 PM
Before the Sweet Sixteen gets underway on Wednesday afternoon at Rupp Arena, 16 Mr. Basketball hopefuls will be honored by the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation. The 2017 group has seen much more turmoil and change amongst the top players over their high school careers than in many years past. Just this year alone, the perceived favorite to be named Mr. Basketball has changed multiple times over the course of the regular and postseason. Here’s a brief look at the nominees before diving into who the favorites and dark horses are as we head towards the awards ceremony on Tuesday night:
1st: JJ Reed – Paducah Tilghman
2nd: Detorrion Ware – Christian County
3rd: GCorian Gardner – Owensboro
4th: Skyelar Potter – Warren Central
5th: Mickey Pearson – John Hardin
6th: Curt Lewis – Valley
7th: Jay Scrubb – Louisville Trinity
8th: Cobe Penny – Anderson County
9th: Adam Kunkel (Cooper) & CJ Fredrick (Covington Catholic)
10th: Will Philpot – George Rogers Clark
11th: Eric Boone – Bryan Station
12th: Trevon Faulkner (Mercer County) & Steven Fitzgerald (Pulaski County)
13th: Andrew Taylor (Corbin) & Markelle Turner (Knox Central)
14th: Caleb Bonny – Estill County
15th: Wyatt Battaile – Pikeville
16th: Dalton Barnett – Menifee County
Highly Unlikely: Just because their statistics and accomplishments pale in comparison to the other nominees, you can likely eliminate JJ Reed, GCorian Gardner, Curt Lewis, Cobe Penny, Will Philpot, Markelle Turner, Caleb Bonny, Wyatt Battaille and Dalton Barnett. I would think Eric Boone has an outside shot to win but Boone wasn’t even voted as the 11th region player of the year by the coaches, Junior Michael Moreno took that honor. Andrew Taylor got himself in some trouble a while back and I suspect that eliminated him from the Mr. Basketball race as well.
The Western Kentucky Bias: Unfortunately, many of the best players in the state don’t get the recognition they deserve because they reside in the western part of the state and their names and abilities are not as widely known. As a result, Skyelar Potter and DeTorrion Ware are likely eliminated from real contention for the award. Which is a shame because those two are likely in the top 5-6 most deserving of the award.
The Split Votes: Because Adam Kunkel and CJ Fredrick split the 9th region player of the year award, they are likely to split that voting base. It’s hard to see either one of them winning it, but crazier things have happened.
Dark Horse: Jayden Scrubb has a shot to win the award as he is the best player in Louisville and is fairly well known across the state. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a perceived bias towards Louisville players in the Mr. Basketball voting.
The Runner-Up: Mickey Pearson has had a tremendous career at John Hardin and is going to have opportunities to play in the NCAA tournament at Saint Louis. If the state tournament were played before the Mr. Basketball voting and John Hardin won a few games at Rupp, Pearson could well end up the winner. Unfortunately for him, his profile right now across the state may not be high enough to garner the votes necessary to win the award.
The New Favorite: Trevon Faulkner is a worthy nominee and has had a great career as a 5 year starter for the Titans. Faulkner checks all the boxes as a 3,000 point scorer in addition to pulling down 1,000 career rebounds. The reason I think he will be the winner of the award is that several media members have been promoting Trevon all season and the folks running the social media accounts for Mercer County have been inundating people with various graphics, videos and other social media posts promoting Trevon. Unless there is a voter backlash due to how aggressively he’s been marketed, I think Trevon Faulkner is the 2018 Mr. Basketball.
Ultimately, it depends on if voters view the Mr. Basketball award as a “best career” award or a “best Senior season” award. If you want the best career numbers, Faulkner, Taylor, Pearson or even Cobe Penny could be the pick. If you’re looking for the best senior season, it could be Fredrick, Scrubb or Potter. All three put up monster numbers on their way to leading their team to Rupp Arena. Regardless of who wins, you can expect them to represent the state well and be someone that the Commonwealth can be proud of. Good luck to all the nominees!