Although inclement weather cancelled some big games in the Midwest, there was still plenty of big games that will shake up the next edition of the Student Sports FAB 50. The big winners are Prime Prep Academy (Fort Worth, Texas), Curie (Chicago) and St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.).
Snow and heavy ice wiped on a potential monster matchup on Friday between preseason Student Sports FAB 50 No. 5 White Station (Memphis) and No. 13 Prime Prep Academy (Fort Worth, Texas) at the Marshall County Hoopfest in Benton, Ky.
White Station was unable to make the trip, but Prime Prep Academy served notice on Saturday that it’s a legitimate contender for the mythical national title with a 67-50 over Quality Education Academy (Winston-Salem, N.C.). Earlier in the season, QEA defeated No. 4 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), now 12-1 on the season.
Prime Prep Academy (7-0) lost highly-regarded 2015 prospect Elijah Thomas in the preseason, but the charter school still has Student Sports Mr. Basketball USA front-runner Emmanuel Mudiay in the fold. The nation’s No. 2 ranked prospect, Mudiay led the way with 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Others stepping up included Willie Hollins (11 pts.) and freshman P.J. Washington (11 pts.).
In a potential game with FAB 50 national title implications, it could be unbeaten Prime Prep versus No. 2 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) on Friday, December 20 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas as part of the Tarkanian Classic. Findlay Prep is now 13-0 on the season and has three more games before the showdown with Mudiay and company.
Another big winner over the weekend was regionally-ranked Curie (Chicago). The Condors opened up No. 11 in the Midwest Regional rankings, but will definitely move up in the next rankings shuffle. Curie opened up its season with a 72-69 victory over No. 26 St. Rita (Chicago) on December 1. Controversy followed that victory when star center Cliff Alexander, the nation’s No. 3 ranked prospect, was reportedly to sit out the next game after receiving two technical fouls against St. Rita.
Curie’s game with Evangelical Christian (Landover, Tenn.) at the Marshall County Hoopfest on Friday was cancelled, then confusion reigned with regards to the status of the Kansas-bound big man against No. 9 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) back in the Windy City at the Chicago Elite Classic on Saturday. Curie coach Mike Oliver scheduled a Friday game with Farragut Academy, but the game wasn’t played.
Eventually, the IHSA reversed its initial ruling that Alexander could not play against Bishop Gorman. According to the Chicago Tribune, Alexander must sit out a January 4 game scheduled to be played in Michigan. Alexander took out his frustrations against the Gaels, as he dominated their frontline with 22 points and 20 rebounds and five blocked shots in a 66-62 victory.
Another positive from the Chicago Elite Classic for Curie was St. Rita bounced back with a 69-59 victory over No. 48 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.).
Chicago teams had a mixed bag of results at the elite showcase while California came away with two big victories.
The biggest occurred when No. 15 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) knocked off No. 3 Whitney Young (Chicago) 62-59 on a last-second 3-pointer by UConn commit Daniel Hamilton. The 6-foot-7 forward got the ball with just under five seconds left and launched a shot from the top of the key with about .5 seconds to help Bosco get back on track after a 2-2 start to the season.
Hamilton, the younger brother of NBA forward Jordan Hamilton, finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. The Braves also got a big-time performance from sophomore forward Vance Jackson. The transfer from La Salle (Pasadena, Calif.) struggled at the Pac Shored Tournament in Southern California, where the Braves suffered losses to unranked Mayfair (Lakewood, Calif.) and No. 37 Westchester (Los Angeles), but he provided a big lift versus Whitney Young. Jackson made five 3-point shots and finished with 19 points.
Duke-bound center Jahlil Okafor, last year’s Student Sports National Junior of the Year, finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds in a losing effort. St. John Bosco will look to continue the positive momentum when it opens the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., against No. 25 Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.) on December 18. After an early season rout at the hands of No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), the Stallions got back on track Saturday with a big-time 93-74 victory over No. 16 Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.).
The team that won the Pac Shores Tournament, host and regionally-ranked Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.), also ventured to Chicago. The Seahawks dropped a 55-46 decision to unranked Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.). Redondo Union couldn’t stop Benet Academy from knocking down its perimeter shots.
“It was a good experience for our young team,” Redondo Union coach Reggie Morris Jr. said. “We are fairly young and lack alot of experience. Benet was a very skilled and well coached team, the kind of team that you will meet in the late rounds of the playoffs.”
No. 7 Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.) also ventured to the Windy City and showed it was worthy of its high preseason ranking with a 74-68 victory over Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Ill.). The game was billed as a matchup between point guard Tyler Ulis (Kentucky) and Jordan McLaughlin (USC), but Etiwanda’s overall balance and excellent man-to-man defense was too much for Marian Catholic to overcome despite 30 points from Ulis.
McLaughlin (17 pts.) and forwards Kenny Barnes (24) and Kameron Edwards (16) all played well for the Eagles. The Eagles might have what it takes to unseat No. 6 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) as California’s Open Division champion.
Etiwanda will get stronger when it adds transfer center Jordan Naughton (6-9) after Jan. 6. Mater Dei is currently 4-0, but suffered its second player defection when glue forward Mario Soto (6-6) decided to transfer to nearby Saddleback Valley Christian. Soto, a four year varsity player, follows 7-foot sophomore center Jayce Johnson as players to leave the program since the start of the school year.
No. 10 Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) moved to 4-0 with a big win Saturday over No. 22 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.). Wheeler got off to a 10-0 start and held off the Wolverines 63-52, in the featured game of the Nike Explosion Showcase in Marietta, Ga. National Top 25 recruit Jaylen Brown led Wheeler with 22 points. Elijah Staley, one of the nation’s top Grid-Hoop players headed to Mississippi State, added 19 points. Wheeler never trailed against the five-time defending state champion.