Today we kick off the 2013-14 high school basketball season with our first installment of the preseason 2013-14 Student Sports FAB 50 national team rankings. We begin with teams No. 31-50 and our second installment will be teams No. 16-30. The complete rankings will be released by Monday, November 4.
Preseason 2013-14 Student Sports
FAB 50 National Team Rankings
Note: The STUDENT SPORTS FAB 50 is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and they were compiled by the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 14 years ago.
All 50 teams are written up with explanations for why they were placed in these positions. Montverde Academy of Florida was the 2012-13 mythical national champion and the National Sports News Service Rankings as published by StudentSportsBasketball.com were the only ones with the Eagles as preseason No. 1 last season.
Compiled by Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Doug Huff, Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
(Final 2012-13 ranking in parenthesis; The second installment for teams ranked No. 16-30 will be released by Sunday evening, November 3; Also look for preseason Region-By-Region Top 20 Rankings once the Student Sports FAB 50 is published and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Thursday, November 7.)
31. (4) Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) 26-1
Key Players: F T. J. Haws 6-4 2014 (State 5A MVP, Student Sports Underclass All-American, BYU Commit), G Frank Jackson 6-1 2016 (BYU commit).
Why This Ranking: Everybody who followed high school basketball knew Lone Peak would have special team last season, but the Knights exceeded expectations and were a national championship contender. This season, Lone Peak won’t be quite as good, but they are still good enough to be nationally ranked despite the loss of Student Sports All-Americans Nick Emery and Eric Mika. After flirting with leaving school early for college, Haws decided to return and coach Quincy Lewis is glad he did. All he did was 17.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Lewis also welcomes Jackson to the fold from Lehi, where last season he scored more points (30) against the Knights than any other single player.
The Skinny: Lone Peak has some work to do to get back near the top five, but there is no question they’ll be good — and like last year probably a bit better than advertised. Lewis has three regulars in the rotation back and 10 players with varsity experience. We’ll find out just how good during a key stretch in December when the Knights travel out of state.
32. (NR) Yates (Houston, Texas) 32-5
Key Players: F J.C. Washington 6-6 2014 (All-District, Defensive MVP), G Damion Lewis 6-1 2014 (All-District).
Why This Ranking: The Lions are highly motivated to capture Texas’ Class 3A state title after losing in last year’s state title game to No. 39 Madison of Dallas. The battle between those two clubs for supremacy in 3A will be a war and fun to watch as the season progresses. Even though coach Greg Wise lost two talented players to transfer, he still has good depth and senior forward Melvin Swift (6-7) provides rebounding and an interior anchor for a team that loves to get out and defend full court.
The Skinny: The Lions probably won’t get to the level they did when they won their last state title — a FAB 50 No. 1 finish in 2009-10 — but they’ll have the ability to rise in these rankings quickly if they pick up some key wins in November and December. As defending state champs, it would be completely justified to rank Dallas Madison higher, but the reason Yates gets the nod is its national caliber schedule.
33. (NR) Pershing (Detroit, Mich.) 25-1
Key Players: F Justin Tillman 6-8 2014 (VCU commit), F Dwayne Embry 6-8 2014.
Why This Ranking: A renowned basketball power in the Motor City, the Doughboys have the talent to win Michigan’s coveted Class A title. Tillman and Embry are loads upfront and second-year coach Wydell Henry also has transfer wing Mory Diane (Buffalo commit) in the fold from Detroit Country Day. With point guard Darsean Woodson (5-9) also back, Henry is confident his team can get the job done in its second go-around. Woodson really came on late last year and helps ease the loss of graduated standouts Kahlil Felder and Martez Walker.
The Skinny: Romulus had lost to the Doughboys earlier in the season, but returned the favor in the Class A quarterfinals, 93-91. The loss of Felder and Walker will be felt, but Pershing has enough talent to take it two steps further this season. The Doughboys just need to stay focused and peak at the right time because there is no other team in Michigan with their talent.
34. (NR) Callaway (Jackson, Miss.) 27-7
Key Players: G Malik Newman 6-4 2015 (Student Sports National Sophomore of the Year, No. 5 Hoop Scoop Top 100), F Mario Kegler 6-6 2016 (nationally-ranked sophomore), G Cortez Mitchell 6-0 2014.
Why This Ranking: New coach David Sanders will have one of the top 1-2 combos not just for this season but for the next one as well. Newman pumped in 23 ppg as a sophomore and was voted Mr. Basketball in the state, the first-ever tenth-grader to earn that prestigious honor. He also led the Chargers to their second straight Class 5A state title. With one of the nation’s top players and a solid supporting cast, there is a lot to like about Callaway.
The Skinny: Adding Kegler as an NBA-style No. 2 option with Newman as the No. 1 makes Callaway a bigger favorite in Mississippi than it already would have been with just Callaway back. Kegler was ineligible last season, but having him in the fold moved Callaway up a few notches from their original positioning when this process began.
35. (27) North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) 28-1
Key Players: G Anton Beard 6-0 2014 (all-state, Arkansas commit), G Kevaughn Allen 6-3 2015 (all-state, Student Sports Underclass All-American, Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, UConn, Mississippi State offers).
Why This Ranking: After winning the Class 7A state title, the school’s first since 1971, and defeating the Class 6A and 5A champions, the Charging Wildcats enter this season as Arkansas’ team to beat. North Little Rock does have some holes to fill up front, but it could have its best backcourt in school history according to coach Johnny Rice. Beard was an all-state selection as a junior and Allen was the state tournament MVP. Senior shooting guard Jawan Eldridge (6-2) is another player in Rice’s backcourt that will play at the D1 level.
The Skinny: As confident as Rice is about the abilities of his backcourt, he has some concerns about his frontcourt. He hasn’t developed an inside presence yet, and that keeps North Little Rock a few spots lower in the rankings than a team that dominates its in-state competition might be otherwise.
36. (20) Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 28-3
Key Players: C Adonis Delarosa 6-11 2014 (All-City, St. John’s, Pitt, Rutgers offers), G Rawle Alkins 6-4 2016 (All-City, All-State, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John’s Minnesota offers).
Why This Ranking: CTK has enough horses to offset the graduation of state Mr. Basketball Jon Severe and challenge for CHSAA and another state Federation Class AA title. Delarosa gives CTK a presence inside and it has a strong set of guards in Alkins and senior guard Andre Walker (6-0). Three talented sophomores give them depth and the players up from the JayVee team also have championship experience.
The Skinny: The Royals deserve to be ranked as the defending state champs and a talented roster, but they are going to challenged in the CHSAA by No. 50 Bishop Loughlin and Cardinal Hayes, another team we seriously considered. In New York’s Five Boroughs, Brooklyn Lincoln is ranked higher by everyone too, so CTK’s ascension in the rankings may be a slow one.
37. (NR) Westchester (Los Angeles) 29-7
Key Players: F Nick Hamilton 6-3 2014 (CalHiSports.com Underclass All-State), G Elijah Stewart 6-4 2014 (LMU commit).
Why This Ranking: Last year was supposed to be this year, meaning Westchester was supposed to be “rebuilding” with a junior-oriented team in 2012-13 with on eye on 2013-14. Instead, the Comets two-platoon unit jelled together and led veteran coach Ed Azzam to his 12th L.A. City Section major division title. Westchester has its eyes on a bigger prize this season with the return of seven letterman, including top rebounder Hamilton (10.8 rpg) and the improved Stewart. Another returnee who played a big role was senior forward Josh Rideau (6-8), who gives the Comets much needed size when it goes up against national teams at this year’s Iolani Classic in Hawaii.
The Skinny: The six-time CIF Division I state champs could get No. 7 if the breaks go its way and if Rideau shows marked improvement. Another reason to like Westchester is junior guard Akil Reese (6-2) plus Azzam’s staff always does a good job of developing contributors from its JayVee team. The Comets may not be as deep as last year, but their experience could make them more potent.
38. (35) Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) 25-5
Key Players: G Isaiah Briscoe 6-3 2015 (No. 19 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American), C Chris Silva 6-9 2015 (has high major offers), G Asante Gist 5-10 2016.
Why This Ranking: As the defending New Jersey TOC champions being led by one of the top juniors in the country, the Lions were high on our radar at the start of the preseason ranking process. It’s just not the same junior, Malachi Richardson, who was the sophomore star from last season. Richardson has transferred to Trenton Catholic. Coming in, however, is Briscoe, who played previously at St. Benedict’s and played a major role in a team ranked No. 2 last season.
The Skinny: Briscoe seems to be a smooth fit in a lineup with Silva, who is a developing player coming into just his second full season of organized hoops after arriving from the African nation of Gabon, and Gist, who showed he could quarterback a team as a freshman.
39. (NR) Madison (Dallas, Texas) 32-4
Key Players: G Admon Gilder 6-2 2015, F Devante Wheatley 6-7 2015.
Why This Ranking: After Madison captured its second Class 3A state title in four years, the Trojans have what it takes to make it three in five as seven lettermen return, including the talented Gilder. The junior guard netted 19 points in the state title win over No. 32 Yates, the team likely to be Madison’s main roadblock to another title. Wheatley will be counted on to improve his numbers because Madison lost four players over 6-foot-5 to graduation, including 6-foot-9 standout Devonte Robinson. Madison also has a new coach, Roderick Johnson, after Damien Mobley took over at Waxahachie.
The Skinny: Madison will win games by creating points off turnovers and has capable scorers, including senior guard Lebraun Armstrong (6-0), but the Trojans won’t have as much firepower inside. Yates also gets the preseason nod as the higher ranked team because it will face tougher overall competition.
40. (NR) Math, Civics, & Sciences (Philadelphia, Pa.) 26-3
Key Players: SG Lou Myers 6-2 2014 (Norfolk State commit), SF Nazeer Bostick 6-4 2016, SF Terquin “Buddha” Mott 6-6 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Mighty Elephants (which probably have the best nickname in the FAB 50) have good size and depth — both key ingredients to a national ranking. Coach Dan Jackson also has quick guards at his disposal and newcomer Samir Doughty, a 6-4 junior, is a big-time talent. Two other juniors — Mike Watkins (6-9) and Sophaun Brown (6-10) — shore up the frontcourt and make up for the loss of four starters.
The Skinny: Math, Civics, & Sciences is a team not many outside Philly know about, but it is a talented bunch and play a tough enough schedule (Montverde Academy Tournament) to warrant a national rating. The talent is in place, but if the Mighty Elephants don’t jell and find a leader, they could slip.
41. (NR) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) 26-4
Key Players: PF Ivan Rabb 6-9 2015 (No. 4 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American, CalHiSports.com State Sophomore of the Year), G Paris Austin 5-11 2015.
Why This Ranking: The Dragons get the nod as Northern California’s top-ranked team with the talented Rabb back in the fold. He continues to improve and could challenge for state player of the year honors if the Dragons live up to expectations. Austin is a playmaker who should be in line for post-season honors as well.
The Skinny: It was a tough call to put O’Dowd as the top ranked team in its region over Modesto Christian (Modesto, Calif.). After all, the Crusaders beat them when it mattered in the NorCal Open Division playoffs (57-42). We gave O’Dowd the nod because Rabb’s supporting cast, including junior forward Isaiah Thomas (6-7) and senior guard Juwan Anderson (5-11), is stronger than it’s given credit for. Besides, if Rabb is one of the nation’s best players as he’s ranked, O’Dowd should have some success in its big games this season.
42. (29) South Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie, Texas) 37-4
Key Players: C Rick Curry 6-9 2014 (Washington State offer), F Cameron McGriff 6-6 2016.
Why This Ranking: The UIL’s No. 3 ranked team, the Warriors are still smarting from last season’s 46-38 loss to Fort Bend Travis in the Class 5A state title game. South Grand Prairie slowed down twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison, but just didn’t shoot well enough to pull out the win. The Warriors have the talent and motivation to win the state title and with the twins now at Kentucky, are the early favorites with three starters and seven lettermen returning. Curry is a load underneath and our Texas insiders peg McGriff as a “special player.” Senior D.J. Thorpe (6-3) heads up the backcourt and will be counted on for leadership for a club that is still young at some positions.
The Skinny: There are a number of contenders for the Class 5A crown that will challenge SGP such as DeSoto and Converse Judson, not to mention a potential Plano West juggernaut. We like South Grand Prairie because of its combination of size and depth, not to mention motivation.
43. (NR) Northland (Columbus, Ohio) 28-1
Key Players: F Jalen Tucker 6-7 2014 (10.8 ppg), G Shemar Waugh 5-9 2015 (8.0 ppg).
Why This Ranking: The Vikings have a loaded roster, having only lost one senior (guard Armani Towns) off a club that advanced to the state Division I semifinals. A whopping 14 letterman return, including Towns’ younger brother Seth (6-7), one of the top sophomores in the Midwest with offers from Dayton, Ohio, and Xavier already. In addition to Waugh in the backcourt and Tucker up front, coach Sean Taylor also has double digit scorer Derick McKeithen back in the fold.
The Skinny: This public school power came into the state semifinals as Ohio’s No. 1 ranked team, but the unbeaten Vikings were shocked by Mentor, 80-69. Not many Midwest basketball followers expected Northland’s young team to be that good last year, so this year’s edition has something to prove. Its combination of talent and motivation could push Northland higher in the rankings if it avoids the “upset bug” that has bit a few times in recent years.
44. (NR) Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.) 25-8
Key Players: PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright 5-9 2014 (No. 25 Hoop Scoop Top 100, CalHiSports.com Underclass All-State), C Thomas Welsh 7-0 2014 (No. 55 Hoop Scoop Top 100, 3.8 GPA).
Why This Ranking: The Cubs lost a heartbreaker to Santa Monica (Santa Monica, Calif.) in the SoCal Division I regional final, but they might find it tougher this time around. It won’t be because a lack of experience (11 lettermen back) or talent (3 starters back), it will be because Loyola likely will play in the tougher open division bracket. Jackson-Cartwright runs a team as well as any lead guard in the country and Welsh is much improved and a difficult check for any high school team. Junior guard Max Hazzard (6-0) can play with Jackson-Cartwright or spell him without much fall off. Also watch for senior Khalil Bedart-Ghani (6-3), a Yale commit who gives Loyola the athleticism it hasn’t had in recent seasons.
The Skinny: Loyola is likely going to have to navigate a mine field of tough teams in both the CIF Southern Section and SoCal Open Division playoffs. In order to do that, the Cubs will need to develop their bench and keeps teams honest on the perimeter because they’ll likely face a bunch of zone defenses this season.
45. (NR) St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) 21-4
Key Players: C Karl Towns Jr. 7-1 2014 (No. 17 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Kentucky commit), G Wade Baldwin 6-3 2014 (Vanderbilt commit), G Marques Townes 6-3 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Falcons lost in last year’s NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final to No. 37 Roselle Catholic and like the Lions welcome back a stellar crew. Towns Jr., who played on the Dominican Republic national team at age 16, is one of the nation’s best players. With him and a couple of other D1 type players on the perimeter, St. Joseph is a solid nationally-ranked club.
The Skinny: With Baldwin and Townes plus others, St. Joseph has scorers on the perimeter to go with its inside strength. Not much more will be needed for Towns Jr. to lead St. Joseph to a TOC title and a likely higher final national ranking that would come with it.
46. (46) Wenonah (Birmingham, Ala.) 34-2
Key Players: G Justin Coleman 5-10 2014 (No. 86 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Alabama commit), G Kameron Hardrick 6-3 2015, G Cedric McGinnis 5-11 2014.
Why This Ranking: With Coleman back, who scored a team best 17 points in last year’s Class 5A state final and averaged 20.3 points plus eight assists and four steals, it’s easy to tab the Dragons as Alabama’s best and one of the best nationally. The team’s second leading scorer in that state final was McGinnis, who scored 12. This team has experience and a talented backcourt, but will need to develop frontcourt strength in order to warrant a higher rating.
The Skinny: Winning a fourth straight Class 5A state title and getting to a fifth straight final four shouldn’t be a problem for Wenonah. If Wenonah can post some key wins in tournaments, then its national reputation can get more enhanced.
47. (NR) Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) 29-5
Key Players: G Casey Benson 6-3 2014 (Gatorade State Player of the Year, Student Sports Underclass All-American, Oregon commit), F Dane Kuiper 6-7 2015 (New Mexico commit).
Why This Ranking: The two-time AIA D-I state champions return the state’s best player in Benson plus another starter and seven other lettermen. But what makes them a factor on a national level is the addition of Wasilla (Wasilla, Alaska) transfer Kuiper. He’s already was one of the West Region’s better underclass players, but the better competition that Arizona offers should do wonders for his game — and make the Aztecs that much tougher.
The Skinny: Corona Del Sol is waiting to see if Arizona State bound 6-10 center Connor MacDougal will be eligible pending a state appeal to his transfer. If the Aztecs add him in the middle, they’ll have the ability to climb. Either way, they have to do well against out-of-state competition to have a chance to climb near the top 30.
48. (NR) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 27-5
Key Players: G Bryant Crawford 6-2 2015 (No. 50 Hoop Scoop Top 100), F Sam Miller 6-8 2015 (Penn State, Rutgers offers), F Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof 6-7 2014 (2nd team All-WCAC, Cornell commit).
Why This Ranking: Although DC Area Player of the Year Kris Jenkins has departed for Villanova, coach Steve Turner’s team will be led by Crawford, one of the most dynamic point guards in the nation. Miller and Abdur-Ra’oof are more than solid on the interior. Besides Crawford, another reason to like Gonzaga is its depth at forward. Plus you can’t leave a WCAC team out of the national rankings picture that went 18-0 in league.
The Skinny: The Eagles also have some promising younger players, such as 2016 Nigel Stewart and 2017s Chris Lykes and Eddie Scott. If one or more of those players steps up, then they become a bigger threat to two FAB 50 ranked clubs for WCAC supremacy. Even though legendary DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) is a bit down, the WCAC is as tough as ever.
49. (NR) Centennial (Corona, Calif.) 26-3
Key Players: PG Sedrick Barefield (No. 77 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American, CalHiSports.com Sophomore All-State) 6-0 2015, W Deontae North 6-5 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Huskies make the cut as the seventh team from California on the strength of its excellent guard play and its experience. Barefield was an underclass all-state choice and North is one of the state’s most improved players. Although undersized from a national perspective, North really knows how to operate on the baseline and around the basket.
The Skinny: The Huskies’ playoff loss to Silverado (Victorville, Calif.) makes us a bit hesitant to rank them any higher since that team was easily dispatched of by nationally ranked Etiwanda in the next round, but the addition of sophomore Ike Anigbogu (6-7) gives the Huskies a much needed presence inside.
50. (NR) Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 21-8
Key Players: G Khadeen Carrington 6-3 2014 (Seton Hall commit), G Mike Williams 6-2 2014 (Rutgers commit), G Darius James 6-0 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Lions reached the New York City title game last season for parochial schools (CHSAA) and lost to No. 36 Christ The King. A solid cast of players will be back, led by an experienced backcourt with an abundance of D1 talent. The difference between Loughlin, CTK and Cardinal Hayes of the Bronx is minimal, so a CHSAA title will be a major accomplishment.
The Skinny: To move higher in the rankings, coach Ed Gonzalez’s team may need to get strong play from 6-8 A.J. Vernon. If that happens, the Lions could be one of the top two teams in all of New York.