Preseason 2015-16 FAB 50: (31-50)
Flores, RonnieRonnie has scouted and evaluated high school basketball talent for 20 years (and counting) and has over 15 years of experience in publishing, editing and managing high school sports websites for companies such as Student Sports and ESPN. He also serves as a manager and consultant for grassroots high school events run by Ballislife, as well as other independent operators and major shoe companies. Ronnie also serves as an account manager and production supervisor for television and online streaming broadcasts while working with companies such as ESPN and Facebook. Ronnie has been quoted in numerous publications such as the Los Angeles Times and has appeared on radio sports talk shows to discuss high school and grassroots basketball, as well as serving as a color commentator on numerous high school broadcasts. The only scout/prep journalist to once serve on the prestigious Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Best of the West panel for both football and boys’ basketball, Ronnie has also served on the selection committees for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year program, the John Wooden Award for high school basketball players and as a player personnel director for the Ballislife All-American Game and Under Armour Elite 24.
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Today Ballislife.com kick offs its 2015-16 high school basketball coverage with our first installment of the preseason 2015-16 FAB 50 national team rankings. We begin with teams No. 31-50 and our second installment will be teams No. 16-30 on Tuesday, November 3. The complete FAB 50 rankings powered by Ballislife.com will be released by November 4.
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.
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.)
31. (NR) Westlake (Atlanta, Ga.) 13-15
Key Players: PF Chuma Okeke 6-7 2017 (No. 69 Rivals.com), SG Daniel Lewis 6-4 2017 (No. 123 247Sports.com), C Michael Durr 6-10 2017 (No. 131 Rivals.com), PG Jamie Lewis 6-2 2018 (No. 38 247Sports.com), SF Raquan Wilkins 6-5 2016.
Why This Ranking: It’s rare when a team with a losing record the previous season lands in the preseason FAB 50, but the Lions’ talent level is just too hard to ignore. Coach Darron Rogers has that nice blend of returning talent and talented newcomers to make the Lions serious Class AAAAAA title contenders. Daniel Lewis, Wilkins, and Durr are the returning starters and the newcomers are just as talented. Okeke, a transfer from Fairburn Langston Hughes, has point forward ability and Durr gives Westlake two legitimate Top 100 big men. The Lions also add Ronald Bell (6-6, 2016) from North Atlanta and he brings big-time scoring ability. Jamie Lewis sat out last season with a knee injury and his presence at the point could make everything click for this young team.
The Skinny: We will rank Jonesboro higher than Rogers’ club (after all they did beat them 64-43 last season), but it won’t be 21 points better than Westlake this season. If Rogers gets all the pieces to mesh together, Westlake could develop into a legitimate Top 25 club. We are going to take a wait-and-see approach, as the Lions are definitely ranked a few spots below their overall talent level.
32. (NR) Althoff Catholic (Belleville, Ill.) 32-4
Key Players: SG Jordan Goodwin 6-2 2017 (No. 94 Rivals.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), SF Tarkus Ferguson 6-4 2016 (Illinois-Chicago commit), SF Brendon Gooch 6-6 2016 (Southern Illinois-Carbondale commit), PG C.J. Coldon 6-0 2017.
Why This Ranking: There is a lot to like about the Crusaders – mainly the talent and motivation from losing to Westchester St. Joseph in the 2015 Class 3A state title game. It all starts with the tireless work ethic of Goodwin, who averaged 20.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.4 spg and was a first team all-state selection as a sophomore. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds in the title game loss to St. Joseph and vowed to come back stronger this season. Ferguson is a strong combo wing and knock down 3-point shooter who averaged 14 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 3.6 apg. Gooch averaged 13.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg and went for 20 points in the big state semifinal win over Morgan Park that served noticed this team was going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2015-16.
The Skinny: While No. 38 Simeon is the preseason No. 1 in Chicago, the Public School League clubs have to prove they can get by the top team downstate. Coach Greg Leib not only has talented D1 players, he has plenty of depth with the likes of Coldon, Keenen Young (6-0, 2016), a wide receiver on the Crusaders’ football team, Marvin Bateman (6-4, 2017), a long athlete who works hard on both ends, and Edwyn Brown (6-6, 2017), another talented football player. Althoff Catholic went 4-for-13 from the free throw line in the state title game, so that alone should keep Leib from having to worry about his team getting too complacent.
33. (NR) Norland (Miami, Fla.) 23-8
Key Players: PF Dewan Huell 6-9 2016 (No. 21 ESPN.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), PG David Jean-Baptiste 6-0 2016 (Chattanooga commit), PG Tyrik Waite 6-0 2016.
Why This Ranking: The four-time defending FHSAA Class 6A state champs lost only one senior letter winner off last year’s team. The Vikings not only have experience, they are talented, too, and it begins with Huell. Florida’s top senior big man came alive in the playoffs and finished off his run with a 18-point, 8-rebond, 6-block performance in the title game win over Gainesville. This senior-oriented group includes a veteran backcourt and Jonathan Andre (6-5, 2016) has plenty of experience playing against talented foes as part of the Nike EYBL South Beach travel team.
The Skinny: Another reason to like Norland is the presence of coach Lawton Williams, the first coach in FHSAA history to win six state titles at one school. Williams usually has close-knit teams and he got last year’s unit to buy in after a slow start. This year’s group can’t start slow and has to do well in-state (Norland lost to a majority of Florida’s elite teams last season) in order to maintain its lofty ranking. We’ll get an idea of where the Vikings stand at the City of Palms Classic as they open versus No. 44 West Linn.
34. (NR) Southport (Indianapolis, Ind.) 23-3
Key Players: SG Paul Scruggs 6-4 2017 (No. 19 247Sports.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), C Joey Brunk 6-10 2016 (No. 69 ESPN.com, Butler commit).
Why This Ranking: Southport has plenty of firepower returning from a sectional finalist — including one of the nation’s best juniors in Scruggs (17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 5.7 apg, 2.6 spg). Brunk (16.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.3 apg) is also a big-time high school player who gives Southport the legitimate size to compete with any team in the Midwest Region. Eli Walton (6-3, 2016) can play both forward spots and Luke Johnston (6-5, 2016) is another returnee who coach Kyle Simpson expects to take a big step up in production, as the Cardinals must replace the scoring ability of Malik Bennett. Southport was the state’s top-ranked Class 4A team for a majority of last season and has the potential to be better this winter.
The Skinny: The Cardinals are another FAB 50 ranked team highly motivated by what transpired last season. In fact, Southport has the last two seasons to motivate it, as Indianapolis Pike has been a major thorn in its side. Pike beat them in overtime in the 2014 Sectional final, beat them in four overtimes during the regular season last year and again by a single point in the 2015 sectional final. In order to win its first sectional championship in 16 years, Southport knows whom it must eventually get by, but from a national perspective Simpson must keep the team focused so there is no slip-up against lesser teams.
35. (NR) St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) 31-6
Key Players: C Bourama Sidebe 6-10 2017, PF Arnaldo Toro 6-9 2016, SG James Scott 6-3 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Gray Bees are an independent program and factor in the FAB 50 for yet another season. Coach Mark Taylor (120-19 at St. Benedict’s) has a strong international flavor on his roster and a plethora of future D1 recruits. Toro, from Puerto Rico, is one of the few players on the roster with big-game experience and should be one of the go-to scorers. Sidebe is a Mali native and has been the Gray Bees’ most impressive player in workouts and scrimmages, according to Taylor. Another aspect of his team Taylor loves is the size and versatility of his guards, including Scott and David Beatty (6-4, 2017).
The Skinny: After finishing No. 2 in the FAB 50 for the 2012-13 season, the Gray Bees have lost 14 games the last two seasons. Coach Taylor is confident this year’s club is a legitimate Dick’s Nationals contender because of its blend of unique talent and balance, but it will have to prove that before it makes major moves up in the rankings. St. Benedict’s plays a tough enough schedule to move up, including games at the Slam Dunk at the Beach, versus Findlay Prep at the Hoop Hall Classic, highly-regarded Huntington Prep and The Patrick School.
36. (NR) St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) 27-9
Key Players: PG Anthony Cowan Jr. 6-0 2016 (No. 46 Rivals.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American, Maryland commit), SG Jeffrey Dowtin Jr. 6-3 2016 (Rhode Island commit), SF Kylia Sykes 6-2 2016.
Why This Ranking: For the third time in four seasons, we will begin three Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) teams in the FAB 50. Storied DeMatha Catholic is a legit FAB 50 title contender and No. 48 Gonzaga and the Cadets are serious WCAC contenders with Paul VI of Fairfax, Va. not too far behind in the pecking order. While DeMatha had the best WCAC regular season mark, it was St. John’s that won the D.C. State Athletic Association title over Gonzaga behind the play of Cowan (20.0 ppg) and Dowtin (13.5 ppg). Cowan, a three-year standout for coach Sean McAloon, is a tireless worker who stepped up his game big-time as a junior after being part of one of the nation’s deepest backcourt as a sophomore. Dowtin came up big with 25 points in the DCSAA title game and Sykes (9.8 ppg) has D1 ability as a shooting guard, even though he’s counted on to do other things for the Cadets.
The Skinny: With only Cowan returning, last season was supposed to be a rebuilding one for McAloon, but his new guards, including DeJaun Clayton (6-1, 2016) stepped up and by the end of the season St. John’s was a forced to be reckoned with. WCAC teams normally beat up on each other, so we envision a scenario where two of its teams are ranked, one falls out, and a fourth enters the fray during the second round of league play. The teams are that balanced and close with regards to talent. The key will be which WCAC teams stay healthy and peaks heading into the post-season. With their veteran backcourt and the experience gained last year, we like the Cadets’ chances to peak at the correct time.
37. (NR) Word of God Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) 29-3
Key Players: SG Rawle Alkins 6-5 2016 (No. 9 Rivals.com, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American) PG Jalen Harris 6-2 2016 (Buffalo commit), SF Jaylen Fornes 6-3 2016 (No. 226 247Sports.com, UNC-Wilmington commit).
Why This Ranking: There was a FAB 50 spot reserved for Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) with Alkins in the lineup. Word of God was regionally ranked last season, but with Alkins now in the lineup, that spot goes to the Holy Rams. The Mr. Basketball USA candidate transferred to Word of God because the high risk of the appeal to the CHSAA to play his senior season at CTK not going in his favor after beginning his high school eligibility as an eighth grader in Florida.
Alkins is a huge difference maker, as he led his old school to three CHSAA titles and was arguably the most productive and best player on the 2015 summer circuit. It’s not as if the Holy Rams will be a one-man show, as new coach Brian Clifton inherits two D1 bound players, two returning starters, and three lettermen.
The Skinny: Word of God plays an independent schedule and doesn’t compete for a state title after being removed from the NCISAA following the 2013-14 season. The Holy Rams are sanctioned to play NCISAA schools and have the firepower to compete with the nation’s elite independent programs. Clifton is going to implement an up tempo offensive style and if big men Brandon Huffman (6-10, 2016) and Dequan Lockamy (6-8, 2017) compliment the ball-handlers, this team could be a force to be reckoned with. Clifton obviously has to make the pieces mesh and get the newcomers and veterans to commit to working on the defensive end.
38. (38) Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 28-4
Key Players: SG Zach Norvell 6-4 2016 (No. 38 Hoop Scoop), SF Ben Coupet 6-7 2016 (No. 213 247Sports.om), PF Terrell Phipps 6-8 2016, PG Kezo Brown 6-2 2018 (No. 5 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), PG Evan Gilyard 5-8 2017.
Why This Ranking: The Wolverines begin the season as the Windy City’s top-rated team because of their talent level and tradition. The top team from either the Chicago Public League or Catholic League is usually one of the best teams in the country, but it’s no secret the teams in Chicago are in a bit of a down cycle. There just isn’t a Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander around, but coach Robert Smith is confident his club can move up the ladder behind the abilities of Norvell and Coupet and the addition of Phipps. Over the summer, Norvell proved he’s one of the nation’s best scorers while Coupet is an athletic wing and capable defender. Phipps could give Simeon another dimension and be the difference-maker with regards to the national noise Simeon makes.
The Skinny: Yes, the Wolverines do return some key cogs off a unit that defeated eventual Class 4A state champ Lincolnshire Stevenson, but Simeon was soundly outplayed versus Normal in the 4A super sectionals. Simeon and other top CPL teams will have to prove Illinois’ best teams don’t reside downstate this year. If Brown takes the next step up and some of the plethora of talented underclassmen we evaluated at the Pangos All-Midwest Frosh/Soph Camp contribute regularly, Simeon will be the main threat to No. 32 Althoff Catholic in the race for the Class 4A crown.
39. (39) Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 27-6
Key Players: C Zach Collins 6-11 2016 (No. 32 Rivals.com, Gonzaga commit), SF Charles O’Bannon Jr. 6-5 2017 (No. 13 Hoop Scoop), SG Christian Popoola Jr. 6-4 2017 (No. 64 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Gaels did lose two McDonald’s All-Americans to graduation (UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman and Duke’s Chase Jeter) so how do they rate right where they left off last season? It’s a matter of this team having the ability to jell quickly and the backcourt’s potential to be stronger than last season. Last year’s team had a bad loss early to Jesuit (Carmichael, Calif.) and after a blowout loss to No. 38 Simeon, never really recovered from a rankings perspective. Popoola Jr. returns from Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) after playing at Gorman as a freshman and brings explosiveness and versatility to the backcourt. O’Bannon started coming into his own during the second half of last season and is primed for a breakout year. Collins brings a toughness inside the Gaels will need against national foes.
The Skinny: Gorman is a heavy favorite to capture a record fifth consecutive NIAA large school state championship. At this point, however, the program is no longer judged by results against NIAA competition. In games at the Tarkanian Classic, Bass Pro TOC and Maxpreps Holiday Classic, players who haven’t logged many crunch time minutes such as Byron Frohnen (6-5, 2016), Travis Rice (6-2, 2016), Chase Nomaaea (6-6, 2017) and talented newcomer Jamal Bey (6-6, 2018) will need to step up as O’Bannon did last year. Coach Grant Rice loves his role players, but someone will have to lead against the out-of-state competition that ultimately decides Gorman’s placement in the rankings.
40. (22) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) 31-2
Key Players: SG Ethan Thompson 6-4 2017 (No. 46 Rivals.com), SF Jordan Schakel 6-5 2017, SG David Singleton 6-4 2018.
Why This Ranking: The Knights played above expectations last season and won the coveted CIF Southern Section Open Division title before falling to Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the SoCal Open regional semifinals. In order for Bishop Montgomery to play above expectations once again, underclassmen will need to step up and somebody will need to emerge as the go-to player in crunch time. Thompson is a great place to start, as he’s grown physically in the last year and is one of the best scorers in his class nationally. Singleton is a throwback – tough as nails with the ability to interchange with Thompson as the primary ball-handler.
Schakel often doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but in more than one big game last season was coach Doug Mitchell’s best player with his combination of scoring, rebounding and play-making.
The Skinny: Stephen Thompson Jr. (a second team Grassroots Hoops All-American now at Oregon State) will be missed, but this team has the ability to replace his scoring. What Bishop Montgomery will miss just as much is the intangibles graduated forwards Blake Miles and Christian Oshita brought to the table. This team doesn’t have great size, but neither did last year’s and it rose into the Top 10 of the FAB 50 with versatile scoring, toughness and good teamwork. This year’s team has all those same ingredients and should be rolling by mid-season.
41. Starkville (Starkville, Miss.) 26-5
Key Players: PG Tyson Carter 6-4 2016 (No. 62 Rivals.com, Mississippi St. commit), C Jessie Little 6-8 2017.
Why This Ranking: The Yellowjackets return a whopping 10 lettermen and three starters off their MHSAA Class 6A title-winning club. We also considered defending Class 5A Jackson Callaway (which was more than just Malik Newman) and dark horse Columbus among Mississippi teams. Coach Greg Carter likes his team’s chance to repeat with his son Tyson Carter leading the way. The Columbus Dispatch Player of the Year averaged 17 ppg, 5 rpg and 3 apg for a balanced team which didn’t rely on one player to get the job done. Little came on as the season progressed and is primed for a big campaign, while Keith Harris (5-10, 2016) compliments Carter nicely and can run the team when the coach’s son is looked upon to score.
The Skinny: It’s hard not to like Starkville’s makeup and its chances to repeat. In order to move up in the FAB 50, however, it will need to keep the loss count low and defeat some out-of-state foes in the process (it lost to teams from Texas and Memphis last season). The Yellowjackets will need to get by Columbus in District 3 play as well. Columbus is in similar position to Starkville last season with regards to the expectation level, while Starkville is well aware it has the bulls-eye on its chest.
42. (NR) Stevens Point (Stevens Point, Wis.) 26-1
Key Players: SF Sam Hauser 6-6 2016 (No. 82 ESPN.com, Marquette commit), PG Trevor Anderson 6-1 PG (No. 247 247Sports.com, Wisconsin-Green Bay commit), PF Joey Hauser 6-6 2018 (No. 22 Scout.com).
Why This Ranking: Last season the Panthers ended the three-year reign of Germantown as WIAA Division I kingpins and their big guns are back. Hauser (17.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.3 apg) is a skilled combo forward who shot 52 percent from 3-point range during the regular season and was first-team all-state. Anderson is already Stevens Point’s all-time scoring leader and is coming off a junior campaign in which he averaged 23 ppg and 5.4 apg. That duo saved its best for last, as Hauser scored all 16 of the Panthers’ points in the first quarter in the title game versus Germantown and finished with 25 points, while Anderson scored a combined 45 points in the semifinal and title game.
The Skinny: Coach Scott Anderson has the luxury of two of Wisconsin’s best players in his lineup and with Joey Hauser making strides, this team has a chance to pull off what Germantown just missed last year – an undefeated championship season. Stevens Point’s lone loss last season was to Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.), so any games with out-of-state foes this season will be a big factor in how quickly Stevens Point can climb in the rankings. Obviously it takes an element of luck to go unbeaten, so coach Anderson has to guard against complacency.
43. (NR) Centennial (Corona, Calif.) 25-6
Key Players: SF Jordan Griffin 6-3 2016 (Long Beach St. commit), PF Ike Anigbogu 6-8 2016 (No. 37 Rivals.com, UCLA commit), C Jalen Hill 6-10 2017 (No. 26 247Sports.com, UCLA commit).
Why This Ranking: The Huskies were highly-regarded in the preseason last year and had ambitions of winning a CIF state title, but it came crashing down in a loss to Chino Hills in the SoCal D1 regional final. This year the expectations are not quite as high and that could be an advantage for Centennial because the talent level is once again there. Griffin is one of the best jump shooters on the West Coast and will be the Huskies’ go-to player on the perimeter. Anigbogu is a big-time shot blocker and should have a great season because of a greater emphasis to get him the ball inside. He and Hill didn’t play much together last season, but coach Josh Giles has a lot of options to utilize the talented duo.
The Skinny: Centennial was streaky last season and always seemed to rely on guard Sedrick Barefield (SMU) to ignite a big run or take the big shot. The Huskies won’t have that luxury this season, but it could lead to more of an inside-outside attack and that could spell trouble for Centennial’s foes. Newcomer Isom Butler (6-0, 2017) is an excellent defender and Gio Nelson (6-2, 2017) brings athleticism to the backcourt. If that duo can keep defenders honest by knocking down perimeter shots, this excellent defensive unit will have a chance to slowly move up.
44. (NR) West Linn (West Linn, Ore.) 24-5
Key Players: PG Payton Pritchard 6-1 2016 (No. 23 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American, Oregon commit), PF Will Matthiessen 6-7 2016, PG Braden Olsen 5-10 2017, Colin Shearmire 6-6 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Lions are heavy favorites to capture a fourth consecutive class Class 6A state title and for good reason. They not only have four returning starters, coach Eric Viuhkola has quality returnees. Pritchard is already a two-time 6A state player of the year and is coming off a junior campaign in which he averaged 22.1 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.8 rpg, and 2.4 spg. Olsen is a crafty guard who can run the team if Pritchard’s scoring abilities need to be utilized against certain teams. West Linn doesn’t have great size, but Matthiessen and Shearmire are more than just space-eaters – they are skilled and their production can take this team to the next level.
The Skinny: West Linn put itself on the national map last season with a victory over No. 45 Wheeler at the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland and only lost to eventual FAB 50 champion Montverde Academy by 12 points in the tournament title game. That turned heads, but a week earlier the Cougars didn’t fare as well at the Tarkanian Classic, going 2-2 including a loss to No. 43 Centennial. So just how good is West Linn? It’s difficult to gauge based on last year’s results against national competition, but we know the Lions have a chance to be better than last year and know their veteran players have the ability to step up in big games.
45. (NR) Westfield (Chantilly, Va.) 27-2
Key Players: SF Tyler Scanlon (Boston University commit) 6-6 2016, PG Blake Francis 5-10 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Bulldogs finished last season as the No. 3 ranked team by the Washington Post behind top-ranked DeMatha Catholic and this season will begin as our No. 3 club from that region. There is a lot to like about Westfield, beginning with Scanlon (17.6 ppg). The talented wing earned third team All-Met honors and can hurt teams both inside and outside. Francis (16.8 ppg) was part of a team with a losing record as a sophomore, but his toughness, defense and big-shot ability helped propel Westfield to a 25-game winning steak last season. Cole Huling (5-10, 2016), who like Scanlon also plays football, Joe Katchmark (5-10, 2016) and Hank Johnson (6-3, 2016) are going to have to step up because Westfield won’t be sneaking up on anyone.
The Skinny: Similar to No. 34 Southport, this team has plenty of incentive heading into the season. Westfield had a four-point lead in the final minute of the Virginia Group 6A state title game and eventually fell, 47-46, on a put back shot in the final seconds. Coach Doug Ewell does have three graduated starters to replace and that dings his team a bit in these rankings. You have to like a team, however, that returns 35 points per game from its top two, is highly motivated and believes in the system. On the flip side, Westfield was looked at as a dark horse in 2014-15, but that certainly won’t be the case this season.
46. (12) Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) 30-3
Key Players: PG Darius Perry 6-3 2017 (No. 58 ESPN.com), PF Romello White 6-9 2016 (No. 62 247Sports.com, Georgia Tech commit), SF Cameron Jordan 6-5 2016 (North Florida commit).
Why This Ranking: The Wildcats are coming off a historic season in which they won the Class AAAAAA title and earned a berth in Dick’s Nationals after the GHSA granted them a waiver. Coach Doug Lipscomb loses the services of first five all-american Jaylen Brown (CAL), but has a nice blend of returnees and newcomers and plays a tough enough national schedule to warrant a FAB 50 spot. Perry is a talented lead guard who gets things done on both ends of the floor. Jordan is a talented, yet underrated ring and a good candidate to have a breakout year. Wheeler probably lacked the size to be FAB 50 ranked until White transferred in from IMG Academy in Florida. He’s an athletic power forward who fits perfectly into Wheeler’s up tempo style. Another Florida transplant, Al-Wajid Aminu (6-6, 2016), gives the Wildcats even more firepower on the wing.
The Skinny: Even with one of the best players in the country on the team last season, Wheeler didn’t clinch the state title until Brown converted two free throws with less than one second remaining. The road to the Class AAAAAA title won’t be easy and if Lipscomb can’t find the right chemistry early, there will be other Georgia teams in the mix for its spot in the FAB 50. The veteran coach has a nice blend of quickness and size and loves the attitudes on this unit, so chemistry might not be a problem. Wheeler opens the City of Palms Tournament with talented Wesleyan Christian Academy of North Carolina and also tussles with highly-regarded La Lumiere of Indiana at the Cancer Research Classic.
47. (NR) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 25-12
Key Players: PG Chris Lykes 5-7 2017, SG Prentus Hubb 6-3 2018 (No. 70 247Sports.com), SF Myles Dread 6-4 2018.
Why This Ranking: The defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) champions return enough firepower to crack the FAB 50 as the third team from the nation’s most powerful conference/league. Gonzaga’s young players stepped up big-time in the post-season and are skilled enough and now experienced enough to challenge like likes of DeMatha, No. 36 St. John’s and No. 45 Westfield as the DMV’s top-ranked team. Lykes (13.9 ppg) was an all-WCAC pick as a sophomore and continues to makes strides as a dynamic scorer and team quarterback. He grew up a lot in the second half of last season and played a big part in the Eagles’ championship run. Gonzaga would not of had a turnaround season without the emergence of Hubb, one of the nation’s top sophomore recruits and a potential high major combo guard prospect. Dread is a top-notch defender and can score in a variety of ways around the basket and will continue to make Gonzaga a more dangerous team as he develops on the perimeter.
The Skinny: Gonzaga was a bubble team in last year’s preseason rankings after starting at No. 48 in 2013-14 when it was decimated by injuries and finished 12-17. Injuries last season actually might have been a silver lining as it allowed Hubb, who scored nine consecutive points late in the WCAC title game, and Eddie Scott (6-5, 2017) to develop. Coach Steve Turner loves his guard play and his teams usually excel when he has veteran backcourt players. How good Gonzaga will be ultimately depends on how well it can rebound the basketball.
48. (NR) Lima Senior (Lima, Ohio) 22-5
Key Players: SG Xavier Simpson 6-1 2016 (No. 42 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American, Michigan commit), SG Jarius Ward 6-1 2017, SF Ruben Flowers III 6-4 2016 (Pittsburgh commit for football), PF Rico Stafford 6-6 2016, PF Marquevious Wilson 6-5 PF 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Spartans crack the FAB 50 as the No. 2 team from the Buckeye State. Garfield Heights was also considered as the third FAB 50 team from Ohio, but University of Detroit Jesuit would be the next team in from the Midwest region. There is a lot to like about coach Shawn Allen’s club, beginning with Simpson, the nephew of two-time Ohio Mr. Basketball Greg Simpson whose father Quincy Simpson is a Lima Senior coach. Xavier Simpson is a physical guard who averaged 24.0 ppg, 6 rpg and 6 apg as a junior and proved to be one of the top players at the prestigious Nike Peach Jam, where he averaged 19.2 ppg, 7 apg and 5 rpg. Ward should have a breakout season after battling injuries last season while Flowers, Stafford and Wilson bring intensity, physicality and a scoring punch inside.
The Skinny: With Simpson in the lineup and others with a load of experience, Lima Senior is one of the major contenders for the Ohio Division I state title along with Garfield Heights and Westerville South. Last season Lima Senior lost its first two games and the team could get off to a slow start again since Flowers and Stafford have duties for a football team currently 9-1. It wouldn’t surprise us if Lima Senior drops from the rankings, then re-appears when it hits its stride in January and February.
49. (6) Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 33-3
Key Players: SF J.P. Moorman 6-5 2017, SF John Newman 6-5 2017, SG Will Dillard 6-1 2018 (No. 58 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Bengals earned a berth in Dick’s Nationals by defeating Harry Giles and Wesleyan Christian Academy for the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A state title and will field another solid team. Giles is now at FAB 50 title contender Oak Hill Academy, but WCA and High Point Christian Academy will battle it out with the Bengals for supremacy in the NCISAA’s Piedmont Conference. Dillard came up big in last season’s title run and Moorman and Newman bring talent and athleticism on the wings.
The Skinny: Greensboro Day plays great team defense and has big-game experience, a combination that warrants them a spot in the FAB 50. Greensboro Day doesn’t have overwhelming talent, but it has enough returning players and a system that veteran coach Fred Johnson implements that always makes the Bengals a tough out. The only team it didn’t beat on its schedule last season was FAB 50 champion Montverde Academy. If Moorman and Newman step up into leading roles and Walker Miller (6-8, 2016) and Adam Calhoun (6-8, 2018) give them enough production inside, the Bengals will have the firepower necessary to capture another state title.
50. (NR) Westtown School (West Chester, Pa.) 24-8
Key Players: PF Mohamed Bamba 6-10 2017 (No. 4 Hoop Scoop), SG Cameron Reddish 6-5 2018 (No. 3 Hoop Scoop, Grassroots Hoops Underclass All-American), PG Jair Bolden 6-4 2016.
Why This Ranking: The final spot in the FAB 50 came down to Westtown or Wing’s Academy of New York from the East Region, Norcross of Georgia or Memphis East from the Southeast Region and University of Detroit Jesuit from the Midwest. We decided to go with the Moose, a member of the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association. Westtown School fell in the state final last season, but will be the favorites this time around. With the addition of Reddish, coach Seth Berger now has not one, but two, of the best players nationally in his respective class. The other player, if course, is Bamba, who displayed remarkable defensive ability and improved offense over the summer and is now considered one of the best players in the nation regardless of class.
The Skinny: We decided to take a bit of a gamble on a team that has plenty of offensive talent and the best player among the final teams considered, but lost eight games last year and is still young. Bolden is a D1 guard who gives Westtown School a veteran presence and should help the Moose in close games. He’ll need to have big games and provide leadership when the team plays at the City of Palms Classic, versus Advanced Prep International of Texas at the Cancer Research Classic and against Potter’s House Christian of Florida at the Hoop Hall Classic.