This year's race for Mr. Basketball USA honors was supposed to be anyone's game. The Class of 2010 was supposed to be overshadowed by the juicy crop of juniors set to take center stage next season.
Don't count on that just yet.
If the initial 2009-10 ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball poll is any indication, the senior class will shine just fine. Of the top seven vote-getters to start the season, six are seniors.
The 10-person Mr. Basketball selection committee will vote weekly by listing their top seven candidates regardless of class. The votes are tabulated on a 10-point scoring system, with a first-place vote equaling 10 points, a second-place vote equaling nine points and so on down to four points for a seventh-place vote.
At the end of the season, ESPN RISE will name a Mr. Basketball as simply the nation's top high school player. The voting will be based on this season's performance and not take into consideration recruiting status or other off-court considerations.
Ames (Ames, Iowa) senior Harrison Barnes led the first vote.
A North Carolina recruit who's rated the nation's No. 1 prospect in the ESPNU 100, Barnes appeared on all 10 ballots and led the way with 92 points.
He easily outdistanced second-place vote-getter Brandon Knight, a Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) senior who was last season's Gatorade National Player of the Year, and Ohio State commit Jared Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio).
Knight joined Barnes as the only player to appear on all 10 ballots and had 75 points, whereas Sullinger appeared on eight ballots and had 62.
Knight has long been one of the best players in the Class of 2010, but opinion varies on his Mr. Basketball candidacy after injuries slowed him down at the end of the summer. He was No. 2 on two ballots but appeared as low as seventh on another. Sullinger, meanwhile, was the top dog on two ballots.
"Sullinger is the most efficient guy in the country," said panelist Patrick Stanwood. "If you need a bucket, you go to him. He's good for a double-double every night."
The only junior to rank among the top candidates is Michael Gilchrist, the talented forward who leads ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 2 squad St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.).
Gilchrist appeared on seven ballots, including three as the top player in the country. He finished just behind Sullinger with 58 points.
One player who is already off to a fine senior season is Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) point guard Cory Joseph. Joseph has led the nation's No. 1 team to a 10-0 start against rugged competition while averaging 21.9 points per game.
Joseph garnered 20 points in Mr. Basketball voting and appeared as high as No. 2 on one ballot.
Read below to see the voting results of the first 2009-10 ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball Tracker and stay logged into ESPNRISE.COM all season to track the progress of the top individual players -- as well as the top teams -- in the ESPN RISE FAB 50.
Others receiving votes:
Deshaun Thomas (Bishop Luers, Ft. Wayne, Ind.) 17 pts. (3)
Tristan Thompson (Findlay Prep, Henderson, Nev.) 16 pts. (2)
C.J. Leslie (Word of God Academy, Raleigh, N.C.) 14 pts. (3)
Quincy Miller (Quality Education, Winston-Salem, N.C.) 14 pts. (2)
Kyrie Irving (St. Patrick, Elizabeth, N.J.) 13 pts. (2)
Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) 12 pts. (2)
Quinn Cook (DeMatha, Hyattsville, Md.) 7 pts. (1)
Joe Jackson (White Station, Memphis, Tenn.) 7 pts. (1)
Matt Derenbecker (Metairie County, Metairie, La.) 6 pts. (1)
Tobias Harris (Half Hollow Hills West, Dix Hills, N.Y.) 6 pts. (1)
Doron Lamb (Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson ,Va.) 6 pts. (1)
Josh Selby (Lake Clifton, Baltimore, Md.) 6 pts. (1)
Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C.) 5 pts. (1)
Tony Mitchell (L.G. Pinkston, Dallas, Texas) 5 pts. (1)
Tyler Lamb (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.) 4 pts. (1)
Marquis Teague (Pike, Indianapolis, Ind.) 4 pts. (1)
Adonis Thomas (Melrose, Memphis, Tenn.) 4 pts. (1).