Preseason FAB 50: (16-30)
We continue our preseason Student Sports FAB 50 national team rankings release with an in-depth look at teams No. 16-30. We began with teams No. 31-50 on Friday and our final installment will be teams No. 1-15 on Monday evening, 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 parentheses; The final installment will be for teams ranked No. 1-15 on Monday, November 4; 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)
16. (34) Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) 30-4
Key Players: SF Brandone Francis 6-5 2014 (No. 52 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Florida commit), PF Dante Buford 6-8 2014 (No. 63 Hoop Scoop Top 100, South Carolina, Miami, Oklahoma offers), PF LaDamion Keys 6-9 2014 (No. 87 Hoop Scoop Top 100).
Why This Ranking: Last season, ACD lost to only two programs — Huntington Prep of West Virginia and The Rock of Gainesville — and coach Rex Morgan doesn’t think this year’s club should lose to more than two teams, either. He’s really high on this team because of its quickness and the depth that is provided by a talented group of newcomers, including senior point guard Nate Mason (6-0). Francis showed this summer he’s a big-time player and Buford will make teams pay if they concentrate too much on Francis on the perimeter. Keys is a player a lot of the country will be surprised by how good he is. For this team, he provides offensive rebounding and a good post defender.
The Skinny: Not too many programs have three top 100 types and excellent depth surrounding them. ACD does and there aren’t many weaknesses on this team. Morgan’s club is going to have to prove it can win the big games on a loaded schedule. If it does, then it will have the opportunity to creep towards the top five as Morgan envisions.
17. (2) St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) 30-2
Key Players: G Jonathan Williams 6-0 2014 (VCU commit), C Norbertas Giga 6-11 2014, F Elijah Cain 6-6 2014 (Drexel, George Mason, Rider offers).
Why This Ranking: The Gray Bees came within two points (67-65) of Montverde Academy in the NHSI finals after defeating then No. 1 Findlay Prep in the semifinals to end that program’s 54-game winning streak. St. Benedict’s also ended the 83-game winning streak of St. Anthony’s (Jersey City, N.J.), but Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Mike Young (Pittsburgh) and Denzell Taylor (Old Dominion) graduated and junior Isaiah Briscoe transferred out, so the Gray Bees will likely come down a notch. Williams is the only returning starter, but coach Mark Taylor believes his club will still be strong because of its size (three players over 6-9) and depth. Giga is a strong presence in the post, but Taylor doesn’t have an All-American guard like last year with Ennis.
The Skinny: The Gray Bees play the schedule to rise — or quickly fall — if all the newcomers don’t jell. Taylor has mentioned chemistry is something he hopes this talented roster develops. St. Benedict’s will win games because of its depth and length on defense, but could drop some games against a tough schedule because of inexperience. Briscoe was a big loss, but the clutch ability and leadership of Ennis is what will be missed the most.
18. (22) La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) 26-6
Key Players: F Sam Logwood 6-7 2014 (Auburn commit), G Jalen Coleman 6-4 2015 (No. 47 Hoop Scoop Top 100), F Joseph Toye 6-7 2015 (Big 10, Big 12, Big East offers), G Munis Tutu 6-1 2015.
Why This Ranking: The Lakers begin right around where they left off last season. Despite a youthful roster that includes only two seniors, coach Alan Huss is confident this group can help the program take the next step towards a top 10 ranking and a victory at the NHSI. Logwood was last year’s leading scorer (17 ppg) and is the leader up front. Coleman heads up the backcourt, but it will be the development of the role players, particularly the bigs, that determine the outcome of the season.
The Skinny: Last season, La Lumiere feel flat at the end of the season after climbing to as high as No. 4 in the FAB 50. Huss is quite aware that the key to this season will be for his club to jell at the right time. That could be the big difference between this year and last.
19. (28) De La Salle (Minneapolis, Minn.) 30-1
Key Players: F Reid Travis 6-7 2014 (Student Sports Underclass All-American, No. 30 Hoop Scoop Top 100, offers from Duke, Stanford, Minnesota, Gonzaga), F James Lawson 6-4 2014, G Jarvis Johnson 6-0 2015 (No. 91 Hoop Scoop Top 100).
Why This Ranking: The Islanders won their second straight Class 3A state title last year and lost their only game to preseason FAB 50 ranked Blue Valley Northwest of Kansas by just five points. This was also during a season when Travis and Lawson were still playing football. Both are now concentrating solely on basketball, which can only make both players better.
The Skinny: Travis, who was the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Metro Player of the Year, averaged 28.4 points and nine rebounds per game as a junior. In addition to having Lawson back, two other returning starters are Johnson and 6-4 senior Sacar Amin. Johnson is a big-time junior and and helps to make sure all his scorers are happy. With all that experience around, it should make it more difficult for opponents to double-team Travis and that will lead to “Ws.”
20. (NR) Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 23-8
Key Players: F Marcus Derrickson 6-7 2015 (Student Sports Underclass All-American, No. 34 in Hoop Scoop Top 100), G Josh Reaves 6-4 2015, G Kevin Dorsey 5-11 2015, G Franklin Howard 6-4 2015 (No. 55 Hoop Scoop Top 100).
Why This Ranking: Montverde Academy, last year’s FAB 50 No. 1, knows all about the Panthers since they handed the Eagles one of their two losses on a bucket in the closing seconds by Dorsey. Most of that team is back, making the Panthers a dangerous squad for any opponent. This club has an extremely high ceiling, but must first prove its the best team in the powerful Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) over teams such as No. 23 St. John’s College and No. 48 Gonzaga, not to mention Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.).
The Skinny: If Howard had not had off-season knee surgery, Paul VI probably would have been near the top 10 to start the season. He averaged 11.5 ppg and hopes to be back during the season. Derrickson is a Georgetown commit who led the team in scoring (12.8 ppg) and can gobble up rebounds. Even without Howard, it’s a strong unit. It’s just probably not top 10 in the nation strong. This team can easily rise because of its talent, but can rapidly fall too if it’s inconsistent in WCAC play.
21. (NR) St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) 20-12
Key Players: F V.J. King 6-6 2016 (Student Sports Underclass All-American), G Jalen Hudson 6-4 2014 (Virginia Tech commit).
Why This Ranking: This is a talented unit that was a bit inconsistent at times last season because of its youth. Still, the Irish fought their way to the state Division II title game where they fell to Bishop Watterson of Columbus, 55-52. Hudson, who scored 17 points in the state title game, and King, the team’s leading scorer and one of the nation’s top sophomores, have some firepower around them — and also another year’s worth of experience under their belts.
The Skinny: Longtime head coach Dru Joyce blames himself for that state title game loss — but he doesn’t expect to hold the same sentiment this year. With the addition of freshman Jonathan Williams, a 5-10 guard, and later in the season his older brother Joshua, a 6-2 senior all-state transfer, St. Vincent-St. Mary fully expects to win the state crown. On a national level, the No. 7 seed at the prestigious City of Palms Tournament will be tested right away against Whitney Young of Chicago.
22. (42) Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) 30-3
Key Players: G Keith Pinckney 6-2 2014 (All-State, Western Kentucky, Boston, Tulane, Lehigh offers), G Alterique Gilbert 5-11 2016 (Student Sports Freshman All-American, Georgia State offer), F James Walker 6-5 (All-Region, Alabama A & M, Valdosta State offers).
Why This Ranking: When you’re a five-time defending state champion in a power state like Georgia, you deserve to be ranked. Not only that, the Wolverines have four starters back, including an outstanding backcourt. Gilbert burst onto the scene last year and was one of the best freshmen in the country. Coach Sharman White was supposed to have another freshman of that caliber contribute this year, Terrell “Too Tall” Coleman (6-5), but tragically on the eve of the first day of practice he passed away playing in a weekend showcase.
The Skinny: After a so-so showing in national events last season, Miller Grove is eager to prove it has one of the nation’s best programs. The Wolverines will have to win the showcase games to move high up in the FAB 50. They have the talent and with Coleman’s death certainly have the motivation. Coleman was going to help on the interior, so it be up to Walker and others to pick up the slack.
23. (NR) St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) 20-17
Key Players: G Tre Campbell 6-2 2014 (Georgetown commit), G Darian Anderson 6-0 2014 (Farleigh Dickinson commit), F Darian Bryant 6-4 2014 (George Washington commit), G James Palmer 6-4 2014 (Miami commit).
Why This Ranking: You got to like a team that only lost one senior and returns nine letterman. And were not just talking about players, either. The Cadets return one of the best collection of guards in the country, if not the best. Campbell can run the point, Anderson is a big-time scorer and Bryant and Palmer provide length and size from the wings.
The Skinny: This is one team we went out on a limb for a bit. Their loss total was high last year, but the Cadets were also breaking in a new head coach (Sean McAloon) in one of the toughest conferences in America (WCAC). We gave the nod to No. 20 Paul VI among WCAC teams because it has more size and experience, but some local prep writers favor St. John’s. As if it needed another guard, Anthony Cowan transferred in from Good Counsel, which should make the Cadets’ brand of small ball even more potent.
24. (24) Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.) 29-1
Key Players: PG Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn 5-11 2014 (Michigan St. commit), F Travis Munnings 6-7 2014, SF Nathan Bain 6-6 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Buffaloes, who don’t compete for a state title put do play against KSHSAA schools, were rolling along last season before being throttled by No. 13 Prime Prep Academy, 73-45. The nature of that loss made it very difficult to gauge SCA on a national level, but two earlier wins over solid teams from Memphis and an avenging 64-54 victory over Prime Prep put the season in proper perspective. Coach Kyle Lindsted has another talented club and it starts with Nairn, a three-year starting lead guard. Lindsted’s team isn’t filled with five-star type recruits, but he does have players with D1 ability that buy into the team concept and runs his plays.
The Skinny: Nairn, Munnings, Bain and sophomore dynamo Roman Young (5-9) all logged heavy minutes against Prime Prep. If Munnings can play big and 6-8 Nebraska recruit Keanu Pinder, who played for Australia at the FIBA U19 World Championships, play as good as advertised, SCA will have an opportunity to move up. Lindsted won’t go as far to say this team is better than last year’s, but he does think this year’s team plays better together.
25. (44) Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.) 35-1
Key Players: G Grayson Allen 6-4 2014 (Student Sports Underclass All-American, No. 36 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Duke commit), G Christian Terrell 6-2 2014 (Florida Gulf Coast commit), C David Sharpe 6-8 2014 (high major football recruit).
Why This Ranking: Coach Jim Martin’s squad won the 2013 Class 3A state title with a win over Coral Springs Christian behind Allen, who scored 31 points. Terrell, who became a YouTube sensation over the summer with a spectacular dunk, had 13 in the same game. The Stallions’ only loss came to No. 16 Arlington Country Day. With a big-time player like Allen, you have to like this team’s chances at another state title.
The Skinny: Allen can take over games like someone you’d expect going to Duke. If Sharpe can continue to provide some inside muscle despite the distractions of football recruiting, Providence should be even better than last season. Montverde Academy is without a doubt Florida’s preseason No. 1, but Providence is right on the heels of Arlington Country Day for No. 2.
26. (NR) St. Rita (Chicago, Ill.) 19-8
Key Players: SG Charles Matthews 6-6 2014 (No. 14 Hoop Scoop Top 100, 11 ppg, 7 rpg), W Victor Law 6-7 2014 (No. 50 Hoop Scoop Top 100, 14 ppg, 9 rpg, Northwestern commit).
Why This Ranking: Not only do the Mustangs have two Top 100 players, coach Gary DeCesare has the luxury of five returning starters. All five have D1 ability and are unselfish. St. Rita also has a ton of motivation after losing in the state regional finals on a last-second shot. Charles Matthews is one of the best juniors in the country and his older brother, senior guard Dominique Matthews (6-2), is a three-year starter and the team’s returning scorer. If junior Myles Carter (6-8) gets some help up front, this team will be difficult to knock off.
The Skinny: There is a sizable gap between Illinois’ No. 1 team (Whitney Young) and the No. 2 team, whichever one we decided on. We went with St. Rita because of its talent, experience and coaching. We also like St. Rita in this position because it will be tested right away against Mr. Basketball USA candidate Cliff Alexander and regionally-ranked Curie and at the Chicago Elite Classic.
27. (NR) Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.) 31-1
Key Players: G Tyus Jones 6-2 2014 (Student Sports Second Five All-American, No. 4 Hoop Scoop Top 100), C Brock Bertram 6-9 2016.
Why This Ranking: This is all about Jones. He’s handling the pressure of being called by many the greatest player in Minnesota history with class and ease. He’s led a USA junior national team and in last year’s state final had 26 points, made 18 of 18 free throws, and had a near triple-double with 11 rebounds and eight assists. Apple Valley avenged its only loss in that game. This year, with De La Salle of Minneapolis returning more depth and more starters, we’re starting that club higher. Both squads, however, are FAB 50 worthy and national-level contenders with the ability to move up.
The Skinny: Coach Zach Goring not only has Jones returning in the backcourt, but he’s also got one of the state’s top interior players with Bertram. The key for the Eagles and their national ranking will depend on a reported televised matchup against national power Whitney Young of Chicago, which features fellow Mr. Basketball USA candidate Jahlil Okafor, one of Jones’ best friends.
28. (NR) Plano West (Plano, Texas) 19-14
Key Players: F D.J. Hogg 6-7 2015 (No. 63 Hoop Scoop Top 100), PF Mickey Mitchell 6-6 2015 (No. 12 Hoop Scoop Top 100).
Why This Ranking: The Wolves were one of the toughest teams to judge coming into this season, but also one of the most intriguing. Hogg is, well, a hog up front and the team’s returning leading scorer. Grid-Hoop stud Soso Jamabo (6-3) is also capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night and is an experienced floor man. The big addition to the team is Mitchell, an Ohio State commit and one of the best juniors in the nation. He can dominate when healthy. Another big addition is senior guard Avery Johnson Jr. (5-11), the son of the former pro player and coach.
The Skinny: Plano West was in line for a top 20 ranking and perhaps even a top 15 until 6-9 Frisco Liberty transfer Tyler Davis was ruled ineligible to compete for Plano West by the University Interscholastic League’s 10-5A District Executive Committee. Even if Davis doesn’t win an appeal, Plano West will be a good team. On the other hand, they did have 14 losses and Mitchell is coming back from an ACL so we’ll use caution before we rank them too high.
29. (NR) Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio) 23-3
Key Players: C Nathan Fowler 6-10 2015 (No. 95 Hoop Scoop Top 100), G Grant Benzinger 6-2 2014 (Wright State commit), G Tre’ Hawkins 5-10 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Fighting Crusaders are more famous around the country for their gridiron lore, but Moeller can play some roundball, too. Moeller cracks the top 30 because it has 10 lettermen back and lost only one in-state game last season. Fowler is a big man who can get it done and Hawkins is fearless in crunch time. Both were second team Greater Catholic League selections, while Benzinger was a first team choice.
The Skinny: Moeller did lose only one game in Ohio, but it was a 57-56 heartbreaker to Springboro in a district title game. Coach Carl Kremer has no doubt his team can get over the hump this season, because of the veteran leadership and Fowler’s improvement. Moeller also has the ability to keep up with teams more talented — and Benzinger’s toughness is one of the reasons why.
30. (NR) Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) 27-6
Key Players: F Ricky Madison 6-6 2015 (12 pts in state final); G Khalen Pinkett 5-11 2014 (11 pts in state final); G Andre Chatfield 6-5 2014 (Harvard commit); F Lorenzo Carter 6-6 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Blue Devils have been ranked among the best in the Southeast Region with five state titles in the last eight years. With most of the players from last year’s deep, athletic roster returning, this year should continue the tradition of fine teams. Norcross has talent across the board, but it remains to be seen if it has someone who can lead them to the big-time win against national competition.
The Skinny: Coach Jesse McMillan often has to tinker with his lineup early in the season since several of his regulars are on the Norcross football team. This year’s football team will again be playing into December. That could perhaps cost them an early game or two. Once the depth kicks in, however, the Blue Devils can be overwhelming.