Preseason FAB 50: (1-15)
We conclude our preseason Student Sports FAB 50 national team rankings release with an in-depth look at the top 15 teams. We began with teams No. 31-50 on Friday, continued with teams No. 16-30 and now have published an in-depth look at the nation’s 50 best teams. Montverde Academy of Florida is the preseason No. 1 team for the second consecutive season.
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. Montverde Academy is also this year’s preseason No. 1 ranked team. CLICK HERE to view the all-time list of preseason No. 1 ranked teams.
Montverde Academy: Preseason No. 1 for the Second Straight Season
When it comes to breaking down the nation’s top teams, the difference between them is literally one or two possessions. Had Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) lost to long time power Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) in the first round of last year’s National High School Invitational, the Eagles would not be where they are today — the preseason No. 1 ranked team in the 2013-14 Student Sports FAB 50 team rankings.
Oak Hill Academy had a chance to win that game in regulation before succumbing in overtime, 77-71. “We had a couple of games where it could have went either way, and it went our way,” said Montverde Academy head coach Kevin Boyle.
Montverde lost back-to-back games in different states on buzzer-beating shots, but rebounded to capture the 2013 NHSI title, its first ever, with a two-point win over a St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) team that snapped a 54-game winning steak by Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) in the semifinals.
The Pilots and Whitney Young (Chicago) were also seriously considered for the No. 1 spot, but a key graduation loss for Findlay Prep and a couple of outgoing transfer losses for Whitney Young tipped the scales in favor of Montverde Academy — by a narrow margin.
Preseason 2013-14 Student Sports
FAB 50 National Team Rankings
Compiled by Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Doug Huff, Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
(Final 2012-13 ranking in parenthesis; Look for preseason Region-By-Region Top 20 Rankings on Wednesday, November 6 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Thursday, November 7.)
1. (1) Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 26-2
Key Players: SG D’Angelo Russell 6-4 2014 (No. 13 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American, Ohio State commit), SF Ben Simmons 6-9 2015 (No. 6 Hoop Scoop Top 100), G Jalyn Patterson 6-0 2014 (LSU commit), PG Ahmaad Rorie 6-0 2014 (Cal commit), F Justin Bibbs 6-5 2014 (Virginia Tech commit), G Brendan Boyle 6-1 2014 (Stetson, Florida Golf Coast, Jacksonville offers).
Why This Ranking: The Eagles grab the top spot for the second consecutive season because of their combination of experienced coaching, talented players, and loaded schedule. They don’t have quite the household names of No. 2 Findlay Prep, but the roster is loaded with good size and one of the nation’s best and deepest backcourts. For example, coach Kevin Boyle has two D1 players, including 6-10 Makinde London, who are fighting to find minutes in the rotation. Russell is a potential Mr. Basketball USA candidate — and so is teammate Simmons. Still only a junior, Simmons could develop into one of the nation’s best players regardless of class playing a full year under Boyle. This team won’t be as powerful inside as it was last year, but the Eagles will have a quicker lineup and will be hard to match on the wing and backcourt.
The Skinny: The Eagles have firepower, length, good shooting and experienced players in pressure situations such as Patterson. Against their daunting schedule, they are going to need it. Their regular season will come down to a key 11-game stretch in December and January where they’ll have a chance to meet No. 3 Whitney Young, No. 5 White Station, No. 10 Wheeler and No. 11 Lincoln, not to mention a few others in the FAB 50. Before last season, Boyle had a reputation as a great coach who couldn’t quite get over the hump, so it will be interesting to see how his team responds now that he has that coveted mythical national title in his pocket.
2. (3) Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 35-1
Key Players: SG Rashad Vaughn 6-5 2014 (No. 9 Hoop Scoop Top 100), SF Kelly Oubre Jr. 6-7 2014 (No. 21 Hoop Scoop Top 100), PF Craig Victor III 6-8 2014 (No. 42 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American, Arizona commit), PF Horace Spencer 6-8 2015 (No. 27 Hoop Scoop Top 100), PG Derryck Thornton Jr. 6-1 2016 (CalHiSports.com all-state freshman at Sierra Canyon), PF Jonah Bolden 6-8 2014 (No. 69 Hoop Scoop Top 100).
Why This Ranking: Could Findlay Prep be No. 1? Easily, but taking in all the factors it boiled down to three. The Pilots have a first year coach and more importantly, only one returning player. They’ll be one of the best teams in the nation, but there will be an adjustment period, even if it’s a small one. The biggest factor, however, is the graduation loss of Student Sports First Five All-American Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington). He played in the program for four years and sacrificed individually for the good of the team as much as any high school player we’ve seen in recent memory. Simply put, without him Findlay Prep doesn’t own a 54-game winning streak. On the flip side, there’s an abundance of talent and depth, and similar to Montverde Academy, there are future D1 players who won’t see the floor much.
The Skinny: Findlay Prep has the ability to win its second FAB 50 national title, but must avoid a letdown at an inopportune time (such as last year’s loss to St. Benedict’s or the loss to La Lumiere in 2012). Give this program credit; it had already beaten half the field at last year’s NHSI and still rolled out the ball. Jerome Williams is a players’ coach and the talented roster will buy in. In fact, Vaughn and Oubre Jr. are already displaying the senior leadership that the staff was hoping one of the new players would display. If Vaughn and Oubre Jr. shoot a high percentage and if there are no bouts of selfishness, this team will be awfully tough to beat.
3. (6) Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) 27-4
Key Players: C Jahlil Okafor 6-10 2014 (Student Sports National Junior Player of the Year, No. 6 Hoop Scoop Top 100), F Paul White 6-8 2014 (No. 33 Hoop Scoop Top 100), PG Miles Reynolds 6-2 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Dolphins were in serious contention to be Chicago’s second program in three years (Simeon) to be the nation’s preseason No. 1 preseason ranked team, but the transfer of senior forwards L.J. Peak (No. 47 Hoop Scoop Top 100) and Joseph Toye knocks Whitney Young down a notch. Coach Tyrone Slaughter feels the biggest loss is Peak’s defensive ability, but he’s confident incoming transfers Skyler Nash, a 6-5 junior from Chicago De La Salle, and Anthony Mosely, a 6-1 junior from Chicago Providence St. Mel, will provide a spark to this team, albeit in different fashion. Mosely is set to start in the backcourt alongside Reynolds, an underrated guard capable of double digits in points and assists. Of course, Whitney Young’s strength is its frontcourt, led by Okafor and White, arguably the best 1-2 inside punch in high school basketball.
The Skinny: If Mosely and Nash mesh with the nine returning lettermen (six who were in the rotation), Whitney Young will have a solid shot and Illinois’ first No. 1 ranking since Manual (Peoria, Ill.) in 1996-97. Coach Slaughter is not too particularly concerned with a slow start because he feels other elite teams will be at the same stage early. Last year, Okafor was a serious Mr. Basketball USA candidate, but some national scouts thought his spring and summer was only adequate and he slipped in some credible national rankings. A motivated Okafor is bad news for the Dolphins’ opponents.
4. (23) Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 33-6
Key Players: G Caleb Martin 6-6 2014 (No. 56 Hoop Scoop Top 100, N.C. State commit), F Cody Martin 6-6 2014 (No. 65 Hoop Scoop Top 100, N.C. State commit), G Shelton Mitchell 6-4 2014 (No. 76 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Wake Forest commit).
Why This Ranking: The famous boarding school finished last season with its lowest ranking in the FAB 50/National Prep Poll era (1988 to current), but the Warriors should be back in the thick of the No. 1 race with an experienced lineup — and a much bigger one to boot. Veteran coach Steve Smith, who owns seven No. 1 FAB 50 finishes, can play multiple styles depending on the matchup. He can go small ball with senior guards or he can slow it down and go inside with four players 6-foot-9 or bigger. It’s been many years since Oak Hill has had this kind of depth, perhaps since its 2005-06 team. With 11 players with D1 ability, Smith is excited about his team’s prospects for a successful campaign.
The Skinny: Oak Hill struggled at times last year against national competition — especially when point guard Nate Britt Jr. was out. If Oak Hill’s guards stay healthy, the “Road Warriors” will definitely finish ranked higher than last season. Exactly where they’ll finish in the top 15 depends on how quickly a young (but talented) frontcourt develops.
5. (NR) White Station (Memphis, Tenn.) 22-6
Key Players: F Leron Black 6-7 2014 (No. 24 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Illinois commit), PG Chris Chiozza 5-11 2014 (Florida commit), SG Davell Roby 6-4 2014 (St. Louis commit), PG Nych Smith 5-9 2015 (Arkansas, Florida International, Massachusetts offers).
Why This Ranking: The Spartans have the talent, experience and schedule to compete for the FAB 50 mythical national title. It starts with Black, a Student Sports All-American candidate who is highly motivated to erase the memory of last year’s 65-62 playoff loss to Germantown. Black missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, but if White Station plays to its potential it shouldn’t have to come down to that against a local team. The other starters have D1 ability and depth is added by sixth man Derrick Dandridge (6-7) and senior transfer Laderius Coleman (6-5).
The Skinny: With the talent at his disposal, coach Jesus Patino is worried most about chemistry and selfishness more than opponents. He is going to tweak a few defensive schemes to get the most out of this club and prepare for the bigger national teams White Station will face. If White Station jells quickly and beats No. 13 Prime Prep at the Marshall County Hoopfest, it could be headed for a memorable season.
6. (7) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 34-2
Key Players: F Stanley Johnson 6-7 2014 (No. 1 Hoop Scoop Top 100, CalHiSports.com Division I State Player of the Year, CIF Southern Section Division I-AA co-Player of the Year), F Mario Soto 6-6 2014, SG Rex Pflueger 6-6 2014.
Why This Ranking: When Johnson found out Mater Dei was ranked No. 43 in the preseason last year, he simply told StudentSportsBasketball.com “too low.” The junior forward backed up those words by leading Mater Dei to its third consecutive state title — and the first ever in the CIF’s new open division. Throughout last season and this past summer, Johnson elevated his game from a top 20 player nationally in his class to the Hoop Scoop’s No. 1 player in the nation and a consensus top five player. With Johnson, you get the sense Mater Dei will be in the mix in every big game it plays. Soto is a great glue player and Pflueger provides much needed athleticism and shooting on the perimeter.
The Skinny: Johnson will try to hand coach Gary McKnight his eleventh state title and make history as the first player to ever win four consecutive California state titles in the major division. He’s going to need help, however, if Mater Dei has aspirations of the program’s first mythical national title. We were going to start Mater Dei at No. 5, but 7-foot sophomore center Jayce Johnson recently transferred to nearby JSerra, so it will be up to fellow sophomore M.J. Cage (6-10) to step up.
7. (13) Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.) 28-4
Key Players: PG Jordan McLaughlin 6-0 2014 (No. 41 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American, CIF Southern Section Division I-AA co-Player of the Year, USC commit), PG Dominick Alexander 6-0 2014, F Kenny Barnes 6-4 2014.
Why This Ranking: The Eagles are the defending champion in one of the country’s toughest playoff sections (CIFSS Div. I-AA) and could be even better this season. The reason being, McLaughlin is a senior and the pieces around him are bigger –literally. With transfer center Jordan Naughton (6-9), Etiwanda has the big post presence its lacked on recently successful teams. Under coach Dave Kleckner, Etiwanda is always one California’s best defensive teams, so if the Eagles develop some dependable perimeter shooting around McLaughlin a state title is a good possibility.
The Skinny: California’s new open division playoff has land mines at every turn, and No. 6 Mater Dei was able to avenge its loss to the Eagles in the section final with a resounding win (60-37) in the regional final. McLaughlin had a poor shooting night, so a key to this season will be to develop secondary scoring. If that happens, this program will have an excellent shot at winning its first CIF state title.
8. (NR) Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.) 23-6
Key Players: SG Ja’Quan Newton 6-3 2014 (No. 37 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American, Miami commit), CG Troy Harper 6-1 2014 (Campbell commit), G Lamarr Kimble 5-11 2015 (Drexel, La Salle, Hofstra, Manhattan offers).
Why This Ranking: The Saints are talented and motivated to win the PIAA Class 3A title after a stunning loss in last year’s Elite Eight. It all starts with the backcourt, led by Newton, one of the nation’s best guards. If he has a strong start to his senior season he could be selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game. Goretti can defend all over the court and will look to jump on teams from the outset. The Saints have underrated role players and the chemistry on the roster is excellent because many of the players also are together on the Team Final grassroots team.
The Skinny: If seniors Tony Toplyn (6-6) and Jamal Custis (6-6) don’t step up, Goretti will have trouble with some of the national teams on its schedule. Custis is one of the nation’s top Grid-Hoop players and coach Carl Arrigale is hoping his frontline’s quickness and athleticism will give slower teams fits. We’ll find out if N-G can force its tempo when it faces East (Denver, Colo.) in the opening round of the City of Palms Tournament.
9. (11) Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 29-3
Key Players: C/F Stephen Zimmerman 7-0 2015 (No. 3 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American), F Chase Jeter 6-10 2015 (No. 13 Hoop Scoop Top 100), PG Noah Robotham 6-0 2014 (Idaho, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UC-Davis offers).
Why This Ranking: The Gaels begin the season right near where they left off in 2012-13. The Gaels crack the top 10 because they have one of the best frontlines in high school basketball, led by Zimmerman. Many scouts feel Zimmerman is the most skilled big man in the country and a matchup nightmare with his ability to hurt teams on the perimeter. Jeter is one of the most improved forwards in the country, and the experience this duo got last year will be invaluable. Robotham is a capable lead guard, but Bishop Gorman is going to have to develop perimeter threats in order to open up the inside for Big Zimm and company.
The Skinny: In recent seasons, the Gaels have been a dominant in-state program, but the results have been mixed at the national level. Last season, a young team won all the games it should, but lost its three 50-50 games (to Mater Dei, Whitney Young, and Findlay Prep). Those game will have to swing Gorman’s way in order for the Gaels to move up.
10. (NR) Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) 21-9
Key Players: C Daniel Giddens 6-10 2015 (No. 23 Hoop Scoop Top 100), SF Jaylen Brown 6-5 2015 (No. 23 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American), F Elijah Staley (all-state, Mississippi commit for football).
Why This Ranking: Losing only three seniors and returning a whopping 11 lettermen from a team that advanced to the Class AAAAAA semifinals, Wheeler is in good position to win its sixth state title. Not only do the Wildcats have experience, they have an abundance of talent led by Staley, one of the nation’s better Grid-Hoop players, a leader and someone to get the ball to when the going gets tough. Giddens flanks Staley up front and is one of the best junior big men in the country. Brown is an athletic wing who can score and also take pressure off of the primary ball-handlers.
The Skinny: The semifinal loss was a bitter pill to swallow, as Wheeler had a chance to tie or win the game at the end against Hillgrove of Powder Springs, but couldn’t convert a jumper. Wheeler’s motivation, combined with its talent, plus the coaching of five-time state champ Doug Lipscomb, will be tough to beat in Georgia. It will be a matter of avoiding a slow start for Wheeler to make noise nationally.
11. (NR) Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 26-6
Key Players: SG Isaiah Whitehead 6-4 2014 (No. 15 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American), F Desi Rodriguez 6-5 2014 (Buffalo, Hofstra, Niagara, Towson offers), G Elisha Boone 6-4 2014 (Hofstra, Drexel, George Mason offers).
Why This Ranking: The Railsplitters are the consensus choice as the top team in the five boroughs and all of New York. The defending PSAL champions are hungry in their quest to capture the New York Federation Class AA title after a flat performance in last year’s semifinal against Long Island Lutheran. It all begins with Whitehead, one of the nation’s top players and scorers. Whitehead is nearly unstoppable in one-on-one situations and has quality pieces around him. Rodriguez can score up front and coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton welcomes the addition of Boone, who can play both guard spots, from Quest Prep in Las Vegas.
The Skinny: Morton, who has won eight PSAL titles, wants to find consistency from his players and have them peak at the right time. The Railsplitters have a tough schedule, so they can quickly rise — or fall. The motivation for Whitehead is every past Lincoln perimeter great (Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair, and Lance Stephenson) has led the program to a state federation title and he wants to join that select company.
12. (43) Rainier Beach (Seattle) 25-4
Key Players: G Shaqquan Aaron 6-8 2014 (No. 29 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Louisville commit), F Dujuan Piper 6-6 2014 (USC, Minnesota offers), G David Crisp 6-1 2014 (Boise State, Washington St. offers), G Dejounte Murry 6-5 2015 (Gonzaga, Arizona, Washington offers).
Why This Ranking: You have to like a team with four returning starters as talented as those the Vikings have. Coach Mike Bethea especially likes how his team can defend with its length. After avenging a loss to Lakeside of Seattle for the Sea-King 3A District title in the Class 3A state championship game, the Vikings put themselves in position to challenge for the state of Washington’s highest ranking (No. 7) ever this season should they live up to expectations. On paper, this team can play with anyone, but the one factor that may cause it to underachieve is jelling early enough to handle a loaded schedule.
The Skinny: Last year the Vikings got off to a slow at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, but they can’t afford that at this year’s Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon with No. 3 Whitney Young and No. 9 Bishop Gorman in the bracket. With consistency, Aaron can be a special talent and he now has the opportunity to shine on a national stage as his former freshman teammate — Stanley Johnson — has been doing at No. 6 Mater Dei.
13. (NR) Prime Prep Academy (Fort Worth, Texas) 37-2
Key Players: PG Emmanuel Mudiay 6-5 2014 (No. 2 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American, SMU commit), SF Terrance Ferguson 6-6 2016 (Oklahoma State, SMU, Baylor offers), SG Micah Seaborn 6-4 2014.
Why This Ranking: This charter school founded by NFL great Deion Sanders burst onto the scene last year by advancing to the NHSI semifinals after recording a one-point victory over Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) in the quarterfinals. Prime Prep began its season 36-0 before losing to a Sunrise Christian Academy team it routed earlier in the season. With Mudiay back, Prime Prep will be a major factor because he’s arguably the toughest player to guard in high school basketball. Coach Ray Forsett really loves his backcourt and his team’s ability to defend on the perimeter. With elite junior forward Elijah Thomas transferring to Lancaster (Lancaster, Texas), Forsett has some concerns about his team’s ability to defend the interior.
The Skinny: This new charter school has been embroiled in some controversy regarding its policies, Sanders’ involvement and its overall mission, but there is no questioning two things: Prime Prep can compete against UIL schools and the school has some talented players, especially Mudiay. The nation’s most dominant point guard will keep Prime Prep competitive, so it will be the development of players such as Ferguson and freshman P.J. Washington (6-6) up front that will determine how good this club becomes.
14. (16) Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) 25-0
Key Players: PG Clay Custer 6-1 2014 (Student Sports Underclass All-American, State Player of the Year, Iowa State commit), G Vince Fritz 6-3 2014 (All-State, Sacred Heart commit), G Ben Richardson (All-State, Massachusetts, Indiana State, Loyola-Chicago, Manhattan offers).
Why This Ranking: Kansas had four unbeaten state champs, but the Huskies were the consensus top team and have everyone back in the fold. Cluster, the state’s top player, leads five returning starters and eight lettermen. Fritz and Richardson will also play at the next level and the team is full of excellent, unselfish shooters.
The Skinny: Last season the Huskies finished as the No.1 team in our Southwest Regional Rankings and recorded a win over preseason No. 19 De La Salle (Minneapolis), but it was hard to place them any closer to the top 10 without another significant regional win. Blue Valley Northwest is better this year, but it potentially could be hopped by other teams that play stronger schedules and should it lose, it will be harder to jump back up.
15. (49) St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) 24-7
Key Players: F Daniel Hamilton 6-7 2014 (No. 19 Hoop Scoop Top 100, UConn commit), G Tyler Dorsey 6-5 2015 (No. 1 Hoop Scoop Top 100, Student Sports Underclass All-American), F Vance Jackson 6-8 2016 (CalHiSports.com Freshman All-state).
Why This Ranking: With Hamilton, Dorsey and Jackson, St. John Bosco will be able to score with any team in the country. Coach Derrick Taylor and his staff has also been pleased with the progression of junior transfer point guard Lorne Currie Jr. (6-2) while incoming freshman Billy Preston (6-8) is a huge addition in the interior. Bosco has the talent to move up with a good showing in its first visit to the City of Palms Classic in Florida. A lack of depth, however, especially inside, prevents a higher ranking.
The Skinny: The Braves will take on some of the nation’s best teams at the City of Palms, but their season will be judged on how they perform in two Trinity League games against No. 6 Mater Dei. As talented as Bosco is, Taylor knows exactly what it takes to defeat national level teams and he’s cautiously optimistic. Dorsey had a huge summer, and if his play transfers over to Bosco’s season, the Braves will be a serious threat to Mater Dei and Etiwanda in the race for the first CIF Southern Section Open Division title.