NEPSAC awards: rankings vs. productivity

Filled with some of the top prospects in the country, the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) is loaded with talent, especially in its highest divisions.

The NEPSAC announced its postseason awards earlier this week. The honors were voted on by the league’s coaches and illustrate what can often be a vast difference between a player’s ranking and his overall productivity in high school.

Future Providence Friar SG Ricardo Ledo (Providence, R.I./South Kent School) and Michigan-bound PF Mitch McGary (Chesterton, Ind./Brewster Academy) are Class AAA’s two highest-ranked players, listed at No. 19 and No. 22 respectively in the most recent ESPNU 100, but neither was voted first-team All-New England. Ledo was on the second-team, while McGary finished outside the top 10 in the voting and was consequently listed as honorable mention.

Instead it was future Vermont forward Ethan O’Day (Mansfield, Conn./Northfield Mount Hermon) who finished second overall in the voting to league MVP Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/Brewster). The future St. John's forward isn’t eligible for this year’s ESPNU 100 because of his status as a postgraduate but was ranked No. 22 in the 2011 class.

NC State-bound T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster Academy) is ranked No. 32 in 2012 and he lived up to that billing by joining Sampson and O’Day on the first-team All-New England, along with future Boston College PG Olivier Hanlan (Gatineau, Quebec/New Hampton) and Xavier-bound PG Semaj Christon (Cincinnati, Ohio/Brewster Academy).

Class AA has two of the biggest names in the country in No. 1 overall recruit Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton) and Arizona signee Kaleb Tarczewski (Claremont, N.H./St. Mark’s), No. 5 overall -- both of whom earned first-team All-New England honors but were beaten out for Player of the Year honors by future Iowa State PF Georges Niang (Methuen, Mass./Tilton), who is ranked No. 69 overall in the ESPNU 100.

Michigan signee Nik Stauskas (Mississauga, Ontario/St. Mark’s), junior PG Rene Castro (Milton, Mass./Worcester Academy) and sophomore SG Wayne Selden (Boston/Tilton) also earned first-team honors, while Missouri-bound SG Dominique Bull (Worcester, Mass./Tilton), junior C Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston/Tilton), junior PF Kyle Washington (Champlin, Minn./Hotchkiss), junior PF Austin Colbert (Lakeville, Conn./Hotchkiss) and junior PF Dominic Woodson (Round Rock, Texas/Vermont Academy) all finished outside of the top 15 in the voting.

Class A wasn't without its surprises either as third-year sophomore PF Chris McCullough (New York/Salisbury), currently ranked No. 12 in the ESPNU 25, earned first-team All-New England but finished behind Boston University-bound guard John Papale (Wallingford, Conn./Choate) in Player of the Year honors.

While some could view these discrepancies as ammunition to attack our national rankings, that isn’t the case. In a league as competitive as the NEPSAC, there are lessons to be learned, especially because the results are voted on only by the league’s coaches. In my mind, the notable examples lie with the biggest discrepancies, not in the variance between being named MVP and earning first-team All-New England honors.

But when players are ranked among the nation’s elite and not perceived to be among the elite contributors in their respective league, we have to ask ourselves why?

Similarly, it says a lot for guys like O’Day, Niang, and Hanlan, who have earned recognition through the consistency of their productivity, not the potential of their physical tools.