We conclude our 2015-16 preseason FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com with an in-depth look at the nation’s top 15 teams. We began with teams No. 31-50 on Monday, continued with teams No. 16-30 on Tuesday and now have published an in-depth look at the nation’s 50 best teams. Oak Hill Academy of Virginia is the nation’s preseason No. 1 team as it seeks its eighth FAB 50 title since the 1992-1993 season.
All 50 teams are written up with explanations for why they were placed in these positions. Top-ranked Oak Hill Academy was the nation’s No. 1 team in 1993, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2012 and is seeking its eighth FAB 50 mythical national title. No. 2 Montverde Academy of Florida was the preseason No. 1 team for three consecutive seasons (2013-2015) and is looking to become the first team in high school basketball history to earn four consecutive mythical national titles. CLICK HERE to view the all-time list of preseason No. 1 ranked teams.
Montverde Academy or Oak Hill Academy: Who’s More Deserving To Begin The 2015-16 Season No. 1?
In recent seasons, two powerful programs have dominated the national rankings landscape and this season they will be the major influencers in determining the eventual 2015-16 mythical national champion.
Oak Hill Academy of Virginia earned its first national ranking in 1979-80 (No. 9 by Basketball Times) when it finished 36-0. The Warriors had talented teams in the early 1980s, but a renegade image. The program turned to Steve Smith for the 1985-86 season and he helped changed the famous board school’s image and the program has been a staple of credible national rankings since.
Oak Hill Academy has captured seven FAB 50 national titles, the latest in 2011-12 when it finished 44-0. That same season, Montverde Academy of Florida was in the running for the mythical national title until it lost in the ESPN NHSI (now Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament) to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), 86-83, in double overtime after the Eagles built a late 18-point lead. Montverde Academy used that as motivation going into the next season and is on a roll ever since.
Montverde Academy captured the Dick’s Tournament and earned the FAB 50 title at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season after opening as preseason No. 1. The Eagles also were preseason No. 1 in the subsequent two seasons and both seasons earned the final No. 1 ranking after winning the Dick’s Tournament in New York. Oak Hill Academy had Montverde Academy on the ropes in the opening round of the Dick’s tournament in 2013 before falling in overtime, 77-71, and the Warriors lost to Kevin Boyle’s Eagles in the last two championship games – 71-62 in 2014 and 70-61 last season.
Last season Montverde Academy joined the McClymonds (Oakland, Calif.) teams of 1958-60 as only the second program ever to capture three consecutive boys’ basketball mythical national titles. Boyle’s program is the only to do it since the advent of weekly national rankings and considering the talent level of national programs, the increased attention and scrutiny of national rankings and the schedules elite teams play to be in position to compete for a mythical national title compared to its counterparts from 40 and 50 years ago, Montverde Academy’s recent run is one of the most impressive team accomplishments in high school basketball history.
The Eagles’ recent success leads us to the question — does Montverde Academy deserve to be ranked No. 1 nationally, regardless of its personnel changes, until somebody defeats them in a win-or-go-home contest?
To answer that question we looked at previous FAB 50 national rankings we compiled. At one point during the national record 151-game winning streak put together by the De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) football program between 1992 and 2003, we came to the executive decision the Spartans would be No. 1 until somebody beat them on the field. De La Salle earned four consecutive wire-to-wire national No. 1 finishes between 2000-03. After the 2001 season, it was an easy call.
Braxton Key (formerly known as Braxton Blackwell) is one of the high-profile transfers at Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), which might have its deepest team in 12 years. Photo: Kelly Kline/adidas
The Montverde Academy question is not as easy a call. The Eagles have lost regular season games during their remarkable three-year run, only to bounce back and win Dick’s Nationals at the end of the season. In basketball (in comparison to football) one player can make a huge difference in a team’s fortunes and while history and prior success comes into play with regards to the FAB 50 formula, the current personnel matters the most.
With those three factors in mind, the decision is to begin Oak Hill Academy as the preseason No. 1 team in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com. It’s a close call, but we aren’t going to over penalize the Warriors for losing to Montverde Academy in the past two Dick’s Tournament title games — just as we didn’t over penalize Montverde Academy to open the 2012-13 season after losing the year before to Findlay Prep in heartbreaking fashion.
With 6-foot-10 power forward Harry Giles in the fold surrounded by a two-deep roster of future D1 players, Steve Smith has a club deserving of the No. 1 national ranking. The graduation of 2015 Mr. Basketball USA Ben Simmons (now at LSU) from Montverde Academy and the transfer of Giles, last season’s national junior player of the year at Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.), is enough to tip the scales in favor of the Warriors.
Make no mistake, Montverde Academy has a fine roster and when it’s all said and done, it will challenge for national No. 1 honors. The difference is the Warriors are more senior-oriented and Montverde doesn’t have an upperclassman the caliber of Oak Hill’s 2015-16 Mr. Basketball USA candidate originally from North Carolina.
“We’re excited for this year because this is the deepest team we had maybe ever,” said Smith, who enters the campaign with a 981-64 career mark. “Whether we have some injuries or get into serious foul trouble, we got good enough depth that it shouldn’t affect us much.”
This is the seventh time Oak Hill Academy has been the preseason No. 1. The 2006-07 team was the last one to do it and the Warriors ended up 40-1 behind the stellar backcourt of Brandon Jennings, Nolan Smith and Alex Legion to capture the mythical national title.
Preseason 2015-16 FAB 50
National Team Rankings
Compiled by Ronnie Flores
(Final 2014-15 ranking in parenthesis; *Forfeit wins-losses not included; Look for preseason Region-By-Region Top 20 Rankings on Tuesday, November 10 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Monday, November 23.)
1. (2) Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 46-2*
Key Players: PF Harry Giles 6-10 2016 (No. 1 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops National Junior Player of the Year), SF Mario Kegler 6-7 2016 (No. 18 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), SF Braxton Key 6-7 2016 (No. 33 Hoop Scoop), PG Matt Coleman 6-2 2017 (No. 23 Scout.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), SG Devontae Shuler 6-3 2017 (No. 22 247Sports.com), SF Montez Mathis 6-4 2018 (No. 49 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Warriors have the deepest team with a combination of size, experience and talent in the country and arguably the best player among ranked teams. Besides Giles, Smith has five other seniors on the roster including 6-foot-7, 275-pound Joe Hampton (Penn St.) and 7-foot, 250-pound Rodney Miller (Miami). Both are holdovers from last year’s club and give the Warriors the ability to go big to take some pressure off Giles’ defensive responsibilities or help wear smaller teams down. With Kegler and Key (previously known as Braxton Blackwell), Oak Hill has tremendous firepower on the wings and potentially three players that can take over high level games. Mathis is one of the leaders of the second unit and helps lift the play of Shuler, who Mathis has bonded with in his short time in the hills of Southwest Virginia. “I didn’t expect Devontae to be as good a player as he is,” Smith. “He’s a great defender who could start for us. It’s going to be hard to keep him off the floor.”
The Skinny: This is Oak Hill’s deepest team since its 2003-04 club and this Warriors’ edition could be their best team since Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith led that 38-0 club. Steve Smith could institute a two-platoon system (he may tinker with it but will eventually settle on a rotation) and practices will realistically be tougher than many of the games. Giles’ approach and the program’s motivation will be a hard combination for other teams to overcome. “Harry works as hard as anyone on the team,” Smith said. “Everyone on the team likes him and are not jealous of him. It makes it much easier for me to coach the team because they respect what a good player he is. Harry wants to win because he hasn’t won a high school championship on the national level.” Smith wants the team to improve defensively to be prepared for the meat of its schedule in December and January. Even if Oak Hill finishes the regular season unbeaten, success will be defined by how the Warriors close at a tournament they have a 8-6 all-time record at.
2. (1) Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 31-1
Key Players: PG Howard Washington 6-2 2016 (No. 120 Rivals.com, Butler commit), PF E.J. Montgomery 6-10 2018 (No. 3 ESPN.com), PF Silvio De Sousa 6-8 2018 (No. 2 Scout.com), C Micah Potter 6-10 2016 (No. 97 ESPN.com, Ohio State commit), PG Marcus Carr 6-2 2017 (No. 56 Scout.com), C Bruno Fernando 6-10 2016 (No. 100 Scout.com), PG Devonta Jordan 6-1 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Eagles are the three-time defending FAB 50 champions and despite graduation losses, have the talent, coaching and track record deserving of this spot. Coach Kevin Boyle has arguably the best collection of young talent in the country, but the path to success this season will be more of a collective team effort than the past three title-winning clubs. The 2013 and 2014 teams included a future No. 2 NBA Draft pick (D’Angelo Russell) and possibly the top pick in the 2016 draft in LSU freshman Ben Simmons. Last year’s team relied on Simmons heavily to facilitate and score and because this year’s team doesn’t have anyone capable of that production, Oak Hill Academy gets the nod. It doesn’t mean the Eagles can’t finish No. 1 four times in a row if a go-to frontcourt scorer emerges and the Eagles can improve their overall outside shooting. Washington, a regular last season, provides stability in the backcourt while Carr, a blur in the open court, is a capable defender and scorer. Fernando will man the middle and Potter gives the Eagles versatility defensively. “We can mix and match with any group in the country,” assistant coach Rae Miller said.
The Skinny: There might not be a longer team defensively in the country and if the offense catches up, this team could be every bit as good as last year. This team is more versatile and skilled than last year’s championship club and won’t be over reliant on a single player. Montgomery is a capable scorer from 15-feet in and De Sousa, a good shooter, gained valuable experience on Montverde’s prep team last year. The talent is there, but in order for the Eagles to be in position to seriously challenge for No. 1 Montgomery or De Sousa will have to step up in crutch time as so many of Boyle’s players have recently in the program’s big games. “We have a much younger look, but we have a veteran mentality, winning tradition and the chemistry has been there from day one,” Miller said.
3. (9) Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.) 29-2
Key Players: PG Tony Carr 6-4 2016 (No. 47 Rivals.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American, Penn St. commit), SG Nazeer Bostick 6-4 2016 (Penn St. commit), SF Lamar Stevens 6-7 2016 (No. 80 Rivals.com, Penn St. commit).
Why This Ranking: This storied parochial program has the talent, experience and size necessary to navigate through the tough Philadelphia Catholic League and compete with the nation’s best teams. Carr is a take-no-prisoners type and teams up with Bostick to form one of the nation’s finest backcourts. D’Andre Vilmar (6-4, 2016) gets it done on the wing and Paul Newman (6-8, 2016) is a hard-nosed big man with experience. The Cahillites ended the five-year reign of No. 9 Neumann Goretti as Catholic League champs and went on to make history by capturing the program’s first-ever state crown with a win over crosstown Martin Luther King in the PIAA Class AAAA title game. With four returning starters, coach Chris McNesby’s team was going to be terrific but the addition of Stevens should make Roman serious national title contenders.
The Skinny: We are going out on a limb a bit with the Cahillites in this spot, but they finished as a top 10 team last year and will be better in 2015-16. On the flip side, the expectations are also up with the addition of Stevens. It’s not as if the team will be thrown together, either, or a case of not enough basketballs to go around. Stevens has experience playing with Carr, Bostick and Newman on the Team Final club team and that should pay dividends for the team not slipping up against lesser foes. Roman Catholic cannot afford to lose any in-state contests as it did twice in league play last season in order to maintain its lofty ranking. If it holds court, Roman’s game versus No. 2 Montverde Academy at the Hoop Hall Classic on January 16 could be one of this season’s most important.
4. (5) Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 29-3
Key Players: PF P.J. Washington 6-8 2017 (No. 15 ESPN.com), SF O’Shae Brissett 6-8 2017 (No. 46 247Sports.com), SG Markus Howard 5-11 2017 (No. 10 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), PG Skylar Mays 6-1 2016 (No. 105 Rivals.com, LSU commit).
Why This Ranking: The Pilots have been a staple in the FAB 50 since first becoming eligible for the 2008-09 season and have finished no lower than No. 14 in any of the last seven seasons.
They once again have the talent necessary to compete for a Dick’s Nationals championship and a FAB 50 No. 1 ranking. Washington will be the leader upfront for a group that includes only two seniors. One of the seniors is Mays, a talented and crafty guard who can excel as a scorer or distributor. Joining Mays in the backcourt is Howard, who this summer proved to be one of the nation’s best scorers and clutch performers. If some of the underclassmen off the bench step up, there is no reason why the Pilots won’t have a good chance of winning the last game of the 2015-16 season.
The Skinny: UNLV commit Justin Jackson transferring out of the program to one in Canada likely cost the Pilots a spot in these rankings. His loss will be felt, but if Brissett and Baylor commit Tristan Clark (6-7, 2017) take their game to the next level, Findlay Prep won’t miss a beat. Another key off-season occurrence was, for the first time in four years, the program won’t begin the season with a new head coach. Andy Johnson returns for his second season and that is a plus. It’s not as if the Pilots had a bad season in 2014-15, losing in the Dick’s Nationals semifinals to eventual champion Montverde Academy by four points. Findlay, which will play No. 35 St. Benedict’s, No. 25 High Point Christian and No. 39 Bishop Gorman in consecutive games in January, is 12-4 all-time in Dick’s Nationals games.
5. (23) DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 33-4
Key Players: SG Markelle Fultz 6-4 2016 (No. 7 Scout.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American, Washington commit), SF D.J. Harvey 6-6 2017 (No. 5 247Sports.com), SG Nate Darling 6-4 2016 (UAB commit).
Why This Ranking: DeMatha has the firepower, winning tradition and plays the national schedule necessary to compete for the FAB 50 title. The Stags not only return nine lettermen, they return their top three scorers and five of their top six bucket-getters from a team that finished with the best regular season record in the ultra-competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (14-2) only to fall to No. 47 Gonzaga in the WCAC title game. Fultz went from the J.V. club as a tenth-grader to WCAC Player of the Year as a junior and is now considered one of the nation’s best players. Harvey will be a rare four-year DeMatha starter and is one of the best underclass small forwards in the country. Darling and wing Kellon Taylor (6-5, 2017) don’t get the national accolades, but their production will be key as DeMatha navigates through the toughest league in the country and some key showcase games.
The Skinny: The storied Stags program could end up having their best season since coach Mike Jones took over for the legendary Morgan Wootten for the 2002-03 season — if the chips fall into place. The last time DeMatha finished unbeaten (30-0 in 1990-91), Jones was a standout for the No. 5 team in the country. If DeMatha finishes unbeaten it will be in prime position to earn its fifth mythical national title (1962, 1965, 1978 and 1984). Even if the Stags drop a game, they won’t be as hurt as some of the other top-ranked FAB 50 teams because of the nature of the WCAC, but they’ll need to come out on top in games versus No. 7 Chaminade at the Hoop Hall Classic and No. 2 Montverde Academy at the Cancer Research Classic to have a realistic shot. If the Stags win the Les Schwab Invitational (which includes No. 1 Oak Hill Academy and No. 6 Garfield), the game versus Montverde Academy on January 2 could determine the top-ranked team going into the first rankings of 2016.
6. (32) Garfield (Seattle, Wash.) 27-2
Key Players: SG Jaylen Nowell 6-4 2017 (No. 38 247Sports.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), SF Alphonso Anderson 6-6 2016, PG Jayshaun Agosto 5-10 2016 (No. 49 Hoop Scoop), PG Terrell Brown Jr. 6-1 2016.
Why This Ranking: Just as Oak Hill Academy finished unbeaten in 1979-80, Garfield was undefeated that season (25-0) and this edition of the Bulldogs has a chance to go down as best in school history and as one of Washington’s best ever. There is that much blend of returning talent, newcomers and motivation. It begins with Nowell, who averaged 23 ppg and was named state tourney MVP after leading Garfield to the WIAA Class 3A state crown over cross-town Rainier Beach after winning the 4A crown in 2013-14. Anderson is a double-double machine and Agosto is one of the West Coast’s most underappreciated talents. Transfers Daejon Davis (6-4, 2017) and J’Raan Brooks (6-9, 2018) and newcomer PJ. Fuller (6-4, 2019) provide excellent depth. That trio and Curtis Walker (6-5, 2017) would star at nearly any other program in the country, but must make individual sacrifices for the greater team goal.
The Skinny: The goal for this team is to take one step at a time towards an unbeaten regular season, state crown and a berth in Dick’s Nationals. When Rainier Beach was invited to the prestigious end-of-season tournament in New York in 2014, it finished No. 6 as the highest-ranked team ever from the Apple State. That’s the spot Garfield opens up at and considering No. 5 DeMatha and No. 1 Oak Hill Academy will compete at the Les Schwab Invitational with the Bulldogs, they will have the opportunity to move up. “Rainier Beach playing in it motivates me a lot,” Nowell said. “If we go there, we can’t get exposed. We’re not just going for the state title, but the national one. Our defense is what will set us apart.” Coach Ed Haskins is cautiously optimistic, but he’s well aware of the opportunity this team has on a national scale. “If we compete, play together, work hard and have fun and don’t get satisfied we can be special.”
7. (NR) Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 25-4
Key Players: SF Jayson Tatum 6-8 2016 (No. 2 ESPN.com, Grassroots Hoops Second Team All-American, Duke commit), PF Tyler Cook 6-9 2016 (No. 51 ESPN.com, Iowa commit), PG Mike Lewis 6-1 2016 (Duquense commit), SG Reggie Crawford 6-3 2017, C Will Gladson 6-10 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Red Devils have one of the nation’s best players and the size necessary to compete at the highest level of high school basketball. Tatum is a legitimate Mr. Basketball USA candidate after averaging 26 ppg, 11 rpg and 3 apg as a junior and his supporting cast is strong. Cook does a great job protecting Tatum inside with his rebounding and screening ability and doesn’t need offensive plays ran for him to make an impact. The production of Lewis, who can play both guard sports, and Gladson will be key in Chaminade’s big out-of-state tests, while Crawford is a grid-hoop stud who provides athleticism and toughness.
The Skinny: Chaminade is the first of many talented teams in this year’s FAB 50 that has redemption on its mind. Normally a third place finish in Missouri’s Class 5A state tournament (Chaminade was stunned by Park Hill South of Riverside 53-50 in the semifinals) would knock a team back a few notches in the preseason rankings, but we’re deviating from the norm a bit because of the Red Devils’ talent level and their schedule. The presence of Tatum allows Chaminade to play in prestigious events and right away it will be tested versus No. 1 Oak Hill Academy in a nationally-televised game on December 3 at the Marshall County Hoopfest. The Red Devils will also be tested at the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla., which includes No. 2 Montverde Academy, No. 11 Chino Hills, No. 16 The Patrick School, plus six other FAB 50 ranked teams.
8. (NR) Advanced Prep International (Dallas, Texas) 0-0
Key Players: PG Trevon Duval 6-2 2017 (No. 1 247Sports.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), PF Billy Preston 6-10 2017 (No. 5 Hoop Scoop), SG Terrance Ferguson 6-6 2016 (No. 10 ESPN.com, Alabama commit), SF Mark Vital 6-6 2016 (No. 55 247Sports.com, Baylor commit).
Why This Ranking: A.P.I. opened its doors to approximately 50 students in September and four of them just happen to be some of the best high school basketball players in the country. A.P.I is not affiliated with Prime Prep, the charter school co-founded by ex-NFL player Deion Sanders that closed its doors in January, but that’s where A.P.I.’s coach Ray Forsett coached for three years before getting a fresh start at a new program with four of his old players, including Preston and Ferguson.
Preston is one of the more versatile talents in the country, while Ferguson is an athletic wing with a pretty shooting stroke. Preston is ranked as high as top five nationally in his class, but he’s only the second best junior on the team because of the presence of Duval, who is ranked by more than one recruiting network as the top player in the 2017 class. He’s definitely one of the best players in the country regardless of class and his arrival from St. Benedict’s in New Jersey sends expectations through the roof and raises A.P.I.’s profile among curious outsiders.
The Skinny: The program is a member of the Texas Christian Athletic League (A.P.I. is eligible for the FAB 50 because it’s part of a league/conference and is sanctioned to play UIL schools in regular season games) and while it will compete for the TCAL state title, the program obviously has national goals. Nysier Brooks (6-9, 2016) will man the middle as the fifth starter; unless Forsett goes “small” then he’ll turn to Robert Brown (6-7, 2017) with Preston sliding to the post. A.P.I. has plenty of options and firepower, but Forsett acknowledges team chemistry has to develop for the team to meet expectations. On paper this team could be a spot or two higher, but there is no previous track record to accurately gauge and predict success outside the fact its personnel is superior to most of its scheduled opponents.
9. (10) Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.) 29-2
Key Players: PG Quade Green 5-11 2017 (No. 32 247Sports.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), PF Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree 6-9 2017 (No. 78 247Sports.com), SG Zane Martin 6-3 2016 (Towson commit).
Why This Ranking: The Saints are one of four talented District 12 teams that won a PIAA state title (AAA) last season. Coach Carl Arrigale’s club is one of two that returns four starters this season with the difference being two losses to No. 3 Roman Catholic by a total of eights points. Neumann-Goretti will look to capture its third consecutive AAA title behind Green, a gutsy quarterback who can also put up big scoring numbers. Martin is an underrated talent who netted 26 points in the state title game. Power forward Emil Moody (6-5, 2017) came off the bench last season and the grid-hoop standout will have an expanded role. Arrigale employed a four-guard attack with devastating results and though the Saints will be without graduated Lamarr Kimble (St. Joseph’s), they shouldn’t miss a beat because of their 3-point shooting prowess, team speed, depth and young talent moving up.
The Skinny: The Saints were one basket away from a FAB 50 title in 2009-10 and this club has the potential to be better. Goretti will need to get by Roman Catholic in the Philly Catholic League and needs some key results to go its way in order to be in the position the 2009-10 team was. Neumann-Goretti doesn’t have overwhelming size, so the development and production of Cosby-Roundtree will be key and he most avoid foul trouble in big games. If Neumann Goretti can neutralize the advantages taller teams have on the boards, or at least keep those advantages to a minimum, it could be in serious contention for a mythical national title for the second time in seven seasons – provided it gets by archrival Roman Catholic.
10. (34) La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) 24-3
Key Players: PF Jeremiah Tilmon 6-11 2017 (No. 17 Scout.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), SF Brian Bowen 6-7 2017 (No. 20 ESPN.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), C James Banks 6-10 2016 (No. 58 ESPN.com, Texas commit).
Why This Ranking: When the Lakers added Tilmon it turned a very good team into a juggernaut capable of competing for a FAB 50 national title. The broad-shouldered post player is a powerful finisher and opens up La Lumiere second year coach Shane Heirman’s options in how he wants to attack teams.
The Lakers already had a lot of length and size with Banks (the second of three all-state players to transfer in along with Bowen) and returnee Kevin Zhang (6-8, 2018) before Tilmon transferred in. Newcomers Joey St. Pierre (6-8, 2017) and Algevon Elchelberger (6-8, 2016) give the Lakers a near embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt. The backcourt is talented, too, with returnees Brandon Cyrus (6-4, 2016) and Isaiah Coleman-Lands (6-0, 2017).
The Skinny: Heirman’s go-to scorer (second team Grassroots Hoops All-American Jalen Coleman) graduated, but Bowen has that type of scoring ability. With the added size and depth, this team should be better than last year’s club that was passed over for a Dick’s Nationals berth. Heirman knows his club has the potential to be special if the newcomers and veterans can quickly jell. La Lumiere plays a tough enough schedule where one loss shouldn’t hurt its post-season chances. It will play in the Iolani Classic, at the Slam Dunk To The Beach versus No. 35 St. Benedict’s and against No. 16 Patrick School at the Hoop Hall Classic. Playing an independent schedule, the keys for the Lakers’ rankings fortunes will be avoiding a loss to a lesser team that carries fifth-year players, having a stinker loss it cannot overcome and peaking at the end of the year (the program is 0-3 all-time at Dick’s Nationals).
11. (NR) Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) 24-8*
Key Players: PG Lonzo Ball 6-6 2016 (No. 4 247Sports.com, Grassroots Hoops First Team All-American, Cal-Hi Sports State Junior Player of the Year, UCLA commit), SF Li’Angelo Ball 6-4 2017 (No. 74 247Sports.com, UCLA commit), SG La’Melo Ball 5-9 2019 (UCLA commit).
Why This Ranking: Similar to Chaminade, the Huskies have plenty of incentive heading into this season. Last year, they were stung by forfeits and an upset loss to San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.) in the CIF Division I state final. Coach Steve Baik has plenty of newcomers on this team, but is optimistic as long as he has the Ball brothers in the lineup, particularly senior Lonzo Ball, the CIF’s best returning player. Lonzo Ball averaged 24.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 9.1 apg, 4.5 spg and 3.5 bpg as a junior and is as unique a talent as there is in the country with his ability to rebound like a power forward and pass the ball from various angles and spots even other good high school players can’t. Li’Angelo Ball can score in bunches and incoming freshman La’Melo Ball is as flamboyant and fearless as a freshman can be. This team has an abundance of firepower and better athleticism than last season.
The Skinny: There are two teams clearly a notch above the rest in California – the Huskies and No. 13 Sierra Canyon. We debated long and hard between the two and decided to give Chino Hills the nod as preseason No. 1 from California. It wasn’t so much Chino Hills had an excellent summer, including beating Sierra Canyon in the Ron Massey Memorial Fall Hoops Classic after trailing by 13 late. It’s the fact while Sierra Canyon has the better overall personnel, none of its individual players have proven it can carry a team like Lonzo Ball has the ability to do. That’s what makes the Huskies’ ranking so precarious – the team is clearly not among the nation’s elite when he’s not on the floor and while the Huskies look like world-beaters at times, other times they take bad shot attempts and look average. The difference could be last year’s experience and the emergence of Elijah Scott (6-4, 2017) as a big-time player.
12. (NR) Oldsmar Christian (Oldsmar, Fla.) 32-6*
Key Players: SF Troy Baxter 6-7 2016 (No. 70 247Sports.com, South Florida commit), PG Eric Hester 6-4 2016 (No. 87 Rivals.com, Florida commit), SF L.J. Figueroa 6-5 2017 (No. 62 247Sports.com), PF Dontay Bassett 6-9 2016 (No. 246 247Sports.com, Florida commit).
Why This Ranking: This is a program with a boatload of talent eager to show it has what it takes to be considered among the nation’s best. Coach Jordan Fair has strong feelings that overall strength of schedule and league/conference strength should play a bigger factor than overall won-loss record and with his collection of talent, we’d be surprised if the Eagles’ loss total is not half of last year’s. With Hester leading the way, Oldsmar Christian’s backcourt has a lot of the toughness and intangibles of Neumann-Goretti’s and there is plenty of length and firepower on the wing. Baxter came into his own this summer and if Bassett has a big year, this team will be hard to stop.
The Skinny: Last year, the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA) had two teams in the preseason Top 25, but they faltered so we are a bit hesitant to put Oldsmar Christian in the Top 10. This team has the talent to be that high and is the clear SIAA favorite with no consensus No. 2. The teams do tend to beat up one another, but regardless, Fair is looking for that signature win to catapult his club into the greater national conversation. With supporting talents such as combo guard Herman Williams (6-2, 2016) and Antwann Jones (6-6, 2018), the Eagles definitely have the ability to do just that. They will get their opportunity at events such as the Chick-Fil-A Classic (No. 1 Oak Hill Academy will participate), the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest and the UA Holiday Classic in San Diego, Calif.
13. (31) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) 26-4
Key Players: PF Cody Riley 6-7 2017 (No. 14 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American, Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year), PG Devearl Ramsey 5-10 2016 (No. 81 247Sports.com, Nevada commit), PF Ira Lee 6-8 2017 (No. 25 247Sports.com), PG Remy Martin 5-10 2017 (No. 96 Rivals.com).
Ronnie and Frank touch upon Sierra Canyon
Why This Ranking: As we were piecing together the FAB 50, we decided to begin the Trailblazers two slots behind California No. 1 Chino Hills. Ironically, as the list was finalized, we realized it was one spot higher than coach Ty Nichols’ club began last season. This club is big, fast in the open court and has tons of experience. Despite the fact Sierra Canyon rolled to the CIF Division V state title, the Trailblazers and Chino Hills both lost in the CIF Southern Section Open Division quarterfinals and still have plenty to prove locally. Riley is as productive as any forward in the country, Ramsey is a ball-hawk and a complete steal for Nevada, and Martin is as fast as any guard in California with the ball in his hands. The first eight players in the rotation are back and there isn’t a glaring weakness you can point to.
The Skinny: Lee is returning after missing last season with a shoulder injury and this is the season Nichols has been pointing to for two years. After all, the team went 3-1 at last year’s City of Palms Tournament and defeated No. 5 DeMatha with four sophomores in the starting lineup including Adam Sieko (6-3, 2017). If any team in the Top 15 is capable of moving up, it’s this club but it has to show overall improvement from last year. Nichols has to find out whom the go-to player is in crunch time at the Iolani Tournament, the Bass Pro TOC (whose field includes No. 1 Oak Hill Academy and No. 7 Chaminade) and against No. 2 Montverde Academy at the Hoop Hall Classic on national television.
14. (29) St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) 28-2
Key Players: SG Jagan Mosely 6-3 2016 (No. 76 Hoop Scoop, Georgetown commit), SF Kaleb Bishop 6-7 2016, SG Idris Joyner 6-4 2016.
Why This Ranking: As has been the case in recent seasons, the Garden State has fine teams and two or three of them figure to be FAB 50 ranked throughout the season. Although Roselle Catholic beat the Friars three consecutive years for the Non-Public Group B title, we give the nod to St. Anthony as Jersey’s top-ranked preseason team over the Lions and The Patrick School because the Friars have a host of returnees off a team that only lost two games by a total of seven points. Mosely, who had 17 points in the title game loss, is one of the better shooting guards in the East and Bishop is an emerging wing who Naismith Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley expects a big season from.
The Skinny: Had power forward Taurean Thompson decided not to transfer, St. Anthony would be pushing the Top 10. Coach Hurley does have some talented newcomers up front in Daniel Mading (6-9, 2017), Oscar Okeke (6-10, 2018), Savior Akuwovo (6-9, 2018) and Samson George (6-7, 2017), but they are going to need some time to develop and mesh with the veterans. The Friars will look to peak in February and will have to find a way to get past Roselle Catholic in order to maintain their lofty ranking. St. Anthony has won four FAB 50 titles under Hurley (1989, 1996, 2008, 2011), but must avoid any early letdowns for a shot at a fifth with this group.
15. (NR) Atascocita (Humble, Texas) 35-2
Key Players: PG Carsen Edwards 5-11 2016 (No. 127 247Sports.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American, Purdue commit), PG Greg Shead 5-11 2016 (Florida International commit), SG Brandon Loville 6-2 2016, SG Jerris Harris 6-1 2016, PF Matt Willrodt 6-4 2016.
Why This Ranking: You have to like a team that was nationally ranked a majority of last season which returns four starters and loses only three players off its roster. There are plenty of interchangeable parts on the perimeter, but the ringleader is Edwards, a clutch player with incredible shooting range. Loville is also capable of scoring in bunches and Shead brings a wealth of talent and experience. This is another one of those teams that is also extremely motivated by what happened in the past and the fact it’s senior-oriented is a plus, too.
The Skinny: The Eagles were eyeing the UIL Class 6A state title until they were shocked in the Region II title game by Irving MacArthur, 79-74. It was the second consecutive year Atascocita fell in a regional final. Coach David Martinez knows he has a fine club and it deserves to be ranked high as the Class 6A state title favorites. The grueling nature of the UIL state tournament, however, means it can’t afford a late slip-up. Because this team is heavily perimeter-oriented, it relies on good outside shooting and that is always a risk as the Eagles found out against MacArthur. The key for this team is to develop some dependable interior scoring and that’s where Willrodt and other returning reserves come into play.
Note: The FAB 50 powered by Ballislife.com is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota compiled them. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 16 years ago.