As we move toward February and closer to the end of the season, the CSN Preps Player of the Year Power Rankings are becoming an interesting race as many of the top players in the area are still putting up tremendous performances on a weekly basis.
Since the first Power Rankings for Player of the Year back on January 10, there has been some re-shuffling of the order and a new face in the top five candidates as Zion-Benton senior Milik Yarbrough joins the club thanks to his prolific scoring and success of the Zee-Bees.
When looking for a Player of the Year candidate, statistics certainly matter, but other factors such as team success and individual performances in big games also come into play as well.
Over the next few weeks we'll occasionally check in on the top Player of the Year candidates with a Power Rankings of the players you need to know about.
Comcast SportsNet will have cameras across Chicagoland on Friday for "High School Lites," which starts at 11 p.m. and is streamed live at csnchicago.com, and we'll have footage of many of these candidates as we get closer to the playoffs in March.
5. Milik Yarbrough, Zion-Benton
Due to the unfortunate injury that sidelined North Chicago senior JayQuan McCloud, the Murray State commit has missed some action and fallen from the Player of the Year Power Rankings, his spot has been replaced by another prolific scorer in Lake County’s Milik Yarbrough of the Zee-Bees. A strong and skilled 6-foot-6, Yarbrough can score from nearly anywhere on the floor at the high school level and has the Zee-Bees at No. 3 in our Preps Power Rankings with a 19-1 (8-0, North Suburban Lake) record.
Yarbrough now has a ridiculous 2,378 career points and is 29 points shy of the Lake County scoring record held by Deerfield's Ryan Hogan heading into the weekend. The win over Stevenson and the clutch play of Yarbrough hitting the game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation is a signature moment of the season.
4. Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic
It's fantastic that the McDonald's All-American voting committee recognized Tyler Ulis for the 2014 version of the game earlier this week. Not only was the 5-foot-9 point guard and Kentucky commit deserving of the honor, but as a pass-first point guard, Ulis should make the all-star setting of the McDonald's game bearable with his unselfish play. Although Ulis suffered a sprained right wrist during January, he still played through it and put up big numbers for No. 4 Marian Catholic, who is 15-2 (3-0, East Suburban Catholic Conference).
Ulis had 30 points at the prestigious Flyin' to the Hoop event in Dayton, Ohio over Martin Luther King Day weekend in front of a lot of national talent evaluators and McDonald's committee members while also putting up 23 points, nine assists and five rebounds in a loss to Stevenson and our No. 3 candidate in the Player of the Year rankings, Jalen Brunson.
3. Jalen Brunson, Stevenson
Brunson and the Patriots sit at No. 2 in our latest CSN Preps Power Rankings at 17-1 on the season and after Brunson's unbelievable effort in the battle against Marian Catholic and Ulis, the junior point guard sits at No. 3 in our Player of the Year Power Rankings.
Brunson was simply magnificent against Marian Catholic, going for 32 points and seven rebounds in the win at the When Sides Collide Shootout. But even more impressive was Brunson's efficiency in that win. Brunson's 32 points came on only 14-field goal attempts, making eight of those. Brunson consistently gets to the free throw line and makes shots, making him a difficult cover on a nightly basis. Since Stevenson has won Proviso West and knocked off the previous No. 1 team in the area, Brunson gets the slight edge over Yarbrough -- who beat Brunson and Stevenson for their only loss on the season -- and Ulis as this point in a very long race.
2. Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young
Whitney Young is the hottest team in the area, as the No. 7 Dolphins (16-4, 8-0 Red-West) and Okafor have won eight straight games. Also a McDonald's All-American selection, the Duke commit has really hit his stride in 2014 as Okafor is putting up big numbers against Red-West competition. Okafor had 24 points and 13 rebounds in the big win over Orr and also 30 points and 12 rebounds against Farragut and 31 points against Marshall.
The margin between Okafor and our current Preps Player of the Year Power Rankings leader, Cliff Alexander is shrinking rapidly and it should be a fun race between the two All-American big men as the City Playoffs loom in February.
1. Cliff Alexander, Curie
As if Cliff Alexander needed a signature performance to begin with, the Kansas commit and McDonald's All-American had a couple of them against marquee opponents since the last edition of the Player of the Year Power Rankings.
How about 29 points and 17 rebounds against then-No. 5 North Chicago? Or 30 points, 26 rebounds and 14 blocks against Red-Central rival King?
But it was the 30-point, 13-rebound, five-block performance on national television against Montverde, the No. 1 team in the country, at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass that has Alexander at the No. 1 spot for now.
Against a team with seven senior Division I players, Alexander led the Condors to a come-from-behind victory with his ridiculous fourth quarter that had the nation buzzing.
Curie sits at No. 1 in our Preps Power Rankings at 18-1 and Alexander is the reason why.
We'll have more updates to these rankings in the coming weeks as there are many more big games to come in the month of February, including the Zion-Benton and Stevenson rematch that will feature Yarbrough against Brunson on February 7 in Lincolnshire.