Today Ballislife.com kicks off its 2016-17 high school basketball coverage with our first installment of the preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 National Team Rankings. We begin with teams No. 31-50 and our second installment will be teams No. 16-30 on Monday, October 31. The complete FAB 50 rankings powered by Ballislife.com will be released by November 1.
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 17 years ago.
Preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 National
Team Rankings Powered by Ballislife.com
By Ronnie Flores
(Final 2015-16 ranking in parentheses; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included; Look for preseason Region-By-Region Top 20 Rankings on Thursday, November 10 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Tuesday, November 22.)
RELATED: Preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 (16-30) | Preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 (31-50) | Preseason East Region Top 20 | Preseason Southeast Region Top 20 | Preseason Midwest Region Top 20 | Preseason Southwest Region Top 20 | Preseason West Region Top 20
31. (31) New Albany (New Albany, Ind.) 27-1
Key Players: SG Romeo Langford 6-4 2018 (No. 2 ESPN.com, Ballislife National Sophomore Player of the Year), SG Isaac Hibbard (6-1, 2017), Sean East (6-0, 2018).
Why This Ranking: The Bulldogs had a magical 2015-16 season, capturing their first state title since 1973 behind the play of Langford, who averaged 30 ppg and emerged as one of the best players in the country. He’s back with veterans Hibbard and East, plus six other lettermen, for another run at the Class 4A state crown. Hibbard (16 ppg) went for 17 points and made four 3-pointers in the state title contest and East was the third player to hit double figures in that game.
The Skinny: The Bulldogs ended their season on a 24-game winning streak and begin 2016-17 in the same FAB 50 spot they left on last year. Their only loss was to last year’s preseason No. 1 team in Indiana (Indianapolis Pike), so if coach Jim Shannon’s club doesn’t lose in-state, it will have the opportunity to move up in the rankings. The Bulldogs’ big early test will come against La Lumiere of Indiana on national television on December 15.
32. (BB) Westlake (Atlanta, Ga.) 27-4
Key Players: PF Chuma Okeke 6-7 2017 (No. 41 Scout.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Auburn commit), SG Daniel Lewis 6-4 2017 (No. 166 247Sports.com, Central Florida commit), PG Jamie Lewis 6-2 2018 (No. 44 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: The Lions had a sub-.500 record in 2014-15, but started out in this range last season and went on to capture the GHSA Class AAAAAA state title. There’s plenty to like again, as coach Darron Rogers (488-153) welcomes back his three best players and adds enough pieces to make the Lions formidable in a new classification (AAAAAAA). Okeke is versatile and still getting better, while Jaime Lewis had a breakout year at the point after missing his freshman season with injury. In the state title game win over No. 39 Pebblebrook, Lewis led a second half comeback and finished with 21 points.
The Skinny: The coaching staff loves the team chemistry; Kelvin Simeon (6-9, 2018) brings toughness while Chase Hunter (6-4, 2019) is athletic and oozing with potential. The Lions could be better than last season, but similar to No. 31 New Albany, we will take a wait-and-see approach because they have to get by Region 2 foes Pebblebrook and Wheeler of Marietta before they can make a big jump. The national schedule includes a trip to the Beach Ball Classic, a date with Memphis East, plus IMG Academy and Gonzaga of Washington, D.C. at the Cancer Research Classic.
33. (NR) Clarkston (Clarkston, Mich.) 19-3
Key Players: PG Foster Loyer 5-11 2018 (No. 119 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Dylan Alderson 6-4 2017 (UW-Milwaukee commit), PF Taylor Currie 6-9 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Wolves have the talent and motivation to win the MHSAA Class A state title. It begins with Loyer, a clutch point guard who can score in bunches when necessary. He averaged 17 ppg and 5 apg while shooting 90 percent from the free throw line during his sophomore season. Alderson is a versatile and athletic talent with good court vision. If coach Dane Fife can get major production from Currie, this team could make a slow play up in the rankings because it has all the ingredients of a championship team.
The Skinny: Teams from Michigan don’t have much leeway in the FAB 50 since they traditionally don’t get to travel much. There is no reason, however, why Clarkson can’t make a similar run to the ones FAB 50 ranked University of Detroit Jesuit and Macomb Dakota did last season. The motivation comes from losing to Macomb Dakota, 68-66, in double OT in the Class A regional semifinals after Loyer led a valiant comeback that just fell short. Macomb Dakota is still the biggest threat to the Wolves’ championship and was seriously considered for the FAB 50. We just have a hunch Clarkston will get over the hump and love the wining pedigree of Loyer, who also helped All-Ohio Red capture the 16U Nike EYBL title.
34. (NR) Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 20-14
Key Players: PG Aaron Thompson 6-3 2017 (No. 170 247Sports.com, Pittsburgh commit), SG Anthony Harris Jr. 6-2 2019 (No. 60 247Sports.com), SF Brandon Slater 6-7 2018 (No. 31 Scout.com).
Why This Ranking: We are going with three Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) programs in the preseason FAB 50 and the No. 3 team came down to the Panthers and Bishop O’Connell of Arlington, Virginia. Both teams have three returning starters and some depth, but we decided to with Paul VI because it beat the Knights three times last season. The Panthers also defeated No. 35 Roselle Catholic. Paul VI has the ingredients to challenge for the WCAC title, mainly experience in the backcourt led by Thompson and Harris. Depth up front is bolstered by North Carolina transfer Jeremy Robinson (6-6, 2018), Myles Douglas (6-6, 2017) and James Dunlop (6-10, 2017).
The Skinny: We can envision Paul VI and Bishop O’Connell moving around and jumping in the FAB 50 because of the competitive nature of the WCAC. Paul VI has work to do in order to improve upon last year’s record after losing V.J. King (Louisville) and Corey Mannigault (Pitt), and we feel Thompson, a great leader and defender, will help them do just that while increasing his individual production (9.3 ppg). Paul VI is headed for the Slam Dunk To The Beach to face highly-regarded Neumann-Goretti of Philadelphia (a team it defeated last season), the Burger King Classic, the NJ/WCAC challenge and faces No. 39 Pebblebrook at the National High School Hoops Festival.
35. (32) Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) 22-8
Key Players: PF Naz Reid 6-10 2018 (No. 10 ESPN.com), SG Nate Pierre-Louis 6-3 2017 (No. 141 247Sports.com, Temple commit), SG Kahlil Whitney 6-6 2019 (No. 52 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Lions have a nice blend of returning talent and newcomers to compete for the coveted NJSIAA Non-Public Group B state title. Reid is one of the nation’s best junior centers and he and transfers Alanzo Frink (6-9, 2018) and Dion Harris (6-7, 2017) give coach Dave Boff’s program the necessary size to compete with St. Patrick of Elizabeth in the Union County Tournament and South Jersey gauntlet. Pierre-Louis is a returning all-stater who can play a variety of positions and will be the go-to scorer after averaging 19.2 ppg on the Under Armour Association circuit. He’s highly-motivated to help Roselle re-capture the NJSIAA TOC crown it won in 2015 and fired up to play alongside younger brother Joshua Pierre-Louis (6-1, 2019).
The Skinny: We were going to place Roselle a few notches higher, but talented forward Andre Rafus transferred out and returned to Baltimore while point guard Leondre Washington left back to Teaneck late in the summer. There is plenty of experience and talent to offset those losses, but the rotation players must find their roles and mesh rather quickly against a national schedule. The Lions will head to the Slam Dunk To The Beach in Delaware and play highly-regarded Greenforest of Georgia and DeMatha Catholic at the Cancer Research Classic.
36. (NR) Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) 19-10
Key Players: PF Kamaka Hepa 6-9 2018 (No. 32 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Geno West 6-3 2017, PG Marcus Tsohonis 6-4 2019 (No. 119 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Democrats get the nod as Oregon’s preseason Class 6A favorite after finishing in third place last season. The Demos were a relatively young state semifinalist that returns key pieces, but the addition of Hepa puts them in the FAB 50 picture. He moved in from remote Barrow, Alaska and has already been a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year selection, averaging 19.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, and 3.2 bpg as a sophomore. Coach Pat Strickland already had the luxury of a strong senior class coming back, including West, Amari Stafford (6-3, 2017) and Thomas Miles (6-1, 2017), and that combination of experience and talent should make Jeff tough to beat in-state.
The Skinny: Jefferson could have its best season since 2009-10 when Terrence Jones (New Orleans Pelicans) led the Demos to a third straight state title and No. 34 FAB 50 ranking. Jefferson will be tested on a national level at the Les Schwab Invitational, where it could potentially face the likes of No. 38 Hale, Garfield of Seattle, Sierra Canyon of California and Gonzaga of Washington, D.C. While Jefferson can lose or game or two at that tourney and retain its FAB 50 ranking, it will have to cut down on the in-state losses in order to move up.
37. (25) Lancaster (Lancaster, Texas) 36-2
Key Players: PG T.J. Starks 6-2 2017 (No. 95 Hoop Scoop, Texas A & M commit), PG LaQuan Butler 5-10 2018, PF Zaire Toombs 6-8 2017.
Why This Ranking: The Tigers are the two-time defending UIL Class 5A state champions and have a nice blend of experience, talent and coaching to make three-peating a reality. It starts with Starks, one of Texas’ best players. He’s a great ball-handler and passer who plays defense and took his game to another level during his junior campaign. Butler is lightning fast and a big shot maker, while Toombs takes over in the middle for graduated Nate Morris (Ole Miss). Defense is what gets Lancaster over the hump, so Toombs needs to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble while veterans such as Cameron Bluitt (6-2, 2017) play an expanded role.
The Skinny: Coach Ferrin Douglas loses a big-time senior class, including state tourney MVP Darius Anderson and two other D1 recruits, but there is still plenty to like, plus a system with a proven track record. The Tigers enter the season with a 32-game winning streak and until a Class 5A team can knock them off when it counts, they are the team to beat. Lancaster has good depth, but will need newcomers such as Zach Thomas (6-2, 2018) and Darius Miles (6-10, 2020) to step up and understand their defensive roles to replicate last year’s state run and remain in the FAB 50.
38. (NR) Nathan Hale (Seattle, Wash.) 3-18
Key Players: SF Michael Porter Jr. 6-9 2017 (No. 1 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Second Team All-American, Washington commit), PF Jontay Porter 6-10 2018 (No. 25 247Sports.com, Washington commit), SG P.J. Fuller 6-4 2019 (No. 23 ESPN.com).
Why This Ranking: When a program adds arguably the nation’s best player to its lineup, it’s bound to get some national attention and that’s the scenario at Hale this season. Michael Porter is a Mr. Basketball USA front-runner (along with Hillcrest Academy’s DeAndre Ayton) after averaging 28.6 ppg on 66 percent shooting along with 11.8 rpg, 3.3 apg and 2.0 spg while leading Father Tolton of Columbia to a Missouri Class 3 state title. He added to his resume by averaging 26.4 ppg and 11.4 rpg per game at the EYBL Finals in leading Mokan Elite to the Peach Jam title and enters his senior season with 2,449 career points. There’s work to do in order for Hale to win the Metro League title, but younger brother Jontay Porter (11.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.9 bpg) will help in that quest as he brings an immediate presence down low. Fuller transfers over from cross-town Garfield and could blossom in a more wide-open offense.
The Skinny: Former NBA standout Brandon Roy (a Garfield alum) is in his first year as coach, the talent must mesh and the national attention is new for the program, so we’ll advance cautiously before we go bonkers over the Raiders’ ranking. The transfer of Keegan Crosby (6-6, 2017) shouldn’t be overlooked because he’s capable of 20 ppg in the Metro League and takes pressure off the Porters. Roy’s team can quickly move up with its talent level, but because Father Tolton wasn’t FAB 50 ranked and Hale lost to Rainier Beach, 111-30, and to Garfield, 96-46 last season, results take precedence over hype.
39. (NR) Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.) 23-10
Key Players: PG Collin Sexton 6-2 2017 (No. 7 Hoop Scoop), SG Elias Harden 6-4 2017 (No. 136 Rivals.com, Xavier commit), PG Dru Drinnon 6-0 2018 (No. 77 247Sports.com), PF Jared Jones 6-9 2019 (No. 63 247Sports.com, Auburn commit).
Why This Ranking: Similar to Hale, Pebblebrook is a preseason glamour team because of the presence of a Mr. Basketball USA candidate. No individual player has improved his national profile more over the past year more than Sexton, as he set the all-time Nike EYBL regular season scoring mark (31.7 ppg) and was MVP of the 17U FIBA World Championships for Team USA after averaging 29 ppg, 7 rpg and 4 apg as a junior. Coach George Washington returns five other lettermen, but it’s the newcomers such as Harden, who brings good outside shooting and the ability to defend to the team, and the talented Drinnon who could take this team to the next level.
The Skinny: The Falcons, who have lost in the state title game two years in a row, are ranked behind Region 2 rival and No. 32 Westlake because that team beat them in overtime for the Class AAAAAA state title and return plenty of talent, too. In order to get over the hump in Class AAAAAAA and to compete nationally, Jones is just what the doctor ordered for the Falcons, as Washington is a bit concerned about frontcourt depth against a national schedule. On the flip side, he loves his team’s IQ and more than one Georgia scout we spoke to said they just wouldn’t bet against Sexton and Pebblebrook this season.
40. (BB) Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) 22-4
Key Players: PG Brandon Jacobs 6-0 2017, SF Harrison Warnock 6-6 2018, PF Esam Mostafa 6-8 2019, SF Chris Coalmon 6-7 2017, PF Donatas Kupsas 6-8 2018.
Why This Ranking: There isn’t a plethora of FAB 50 caliber teams in and around New York City as there was a generation ago, although a couple likely will emerge during the course of the season. If Sidney Wilson hadn’t transferred to a New England prep program, St. Raymond’s of the Bronx probably is in the FAB 50. A good FAB 50 bet is coach John Buck’s program, as it has some talented newcomers plus seven lettermen back off a team that made it to the New York Federation Class AA semifinals. Jacobs is an experienced guard who can run the team and score in bunches while Coalmon is long on both talent and experience. Warnock was a role player last season for LuHi, but got better defensively practicing alongside the likes of Devonte Green and Charles Manning, gained great confidence offensively this summer and will have a much bigger role.
The Skinny: The Crusaders fell to eventual Federation champ and FAB 50 ranked Jefferson of Brooklyn and will be a major load for CHSAA and PSAL teams to handle at the end of the season. They also take on FAB 50 power St. Anthony of Jersey City on February 7. Mostafa is the X-Factor, as he competed in the 2016 FIBA 17U World Championship for Egypt and is a major talent with good rebounding skill. If he has a breakout campaign, LuHi’s size and talent may just be too much for any New York team to handle.
41. (BB) Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) 26-4
Key Players: SF Rayshaun Hammonds 6-8 2017 (No. 38 ESPN.com), PF Lance Thomas 6-10 2017 (No. 75 247Sports.com), PG Kyle Sturdivant 6-2 2019 (No. 95 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: It’s hard to imagine a team with the personnel and experience possessed by the Blue Devils is only ranked No. 5 in Georgia. That’s the scenario for a team with five returning starters plus a standout transfer in Joseph Toppin (6-6, 2018). Hammonds (19 ppg, 10 rpg) and Thomas make up one of the nation’s best 1-2 frontcourt punches and Sturdivant is an experienced point guard. If Norcross develops dependable outside shooting, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it move up into the FAB 50 Top 25.
The Skinny: It was a close call for the higher rankings spot between No. 39 Pebblebrook and the Blue Devils. Both were going to begin behind Westlake, as that team defeated Norcross 61-50 in the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs. All three of those clubs play tough schedules and a loss or two shouldn’t knock them from the FAB 50. Coach Jessie McMillan built a schedule to put his team in Dick’s Nationals contention, as it joins Pebblebrook at the City of Palms Tournament along with six other FAB 50 ranked teams.
42. (NR) Gray Collegiate Academy (West Columbia, S.C.) 19-3*
Key Players: SG Jalek Felton 6-3 2017 (No. 24 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, North Carolina commit), SF Juwan Gary 6-5 2019 (No. 12 ESPN.com), PG Khalil Robinson 5-10 2019, SG Tommy Bruner 6-0 2019 (No. 113 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The War Eagles begin the season as South Carolina’s No. 1 team over A.C. Flora of Columbia and West Florence. A.C. Flora captured the Class 3A state title, while GCA looks to take top billing in Class 2A this season after playing an independent schedule last year. Felton was an standout since eighth-grade at Mullins High School, which was FAB 50-ranked for much of last season when he averaged 24.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 5.4 apg. With emerging talents such as Gary (who averaged over 16 ppg), Felton becomes more dangerous because he’s less susceptible to double teams and gimmick defenses.
The Skinny: Coach Dion Bethea has plenty of talent on hand, but we’re cautiously optimistic about placing GCA too high because a majority of the minutes will go to underclass players. When Felton gets a hot hand, however, and when his new teammates mesh their talents with his, the War Eagles will be tough to beat. Felton also raises their national profile, as GCA will compete in major showcases and the Chick-Fil-A Classic alongside No. 48 Providence Day, No. 32 Westlake and the likes of highly-regarded Wheeler of Georgia, Oldsmar Christian of Florida, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy of Tennessee, Greensboro Day and La Lumiere of Indiana.
43. (NR) Jackson (Massillon, Ohio) 21-5
Key Players: PF Kyle Young 6-7 2017 (No. 84 Scout.com, Butler commit), SF Logan Hill 6-5 2017 (Toledo Commit).
Why This Ranking: The Polar Bears get the nod as the team to beat in Ohio with Trotwood-Madison and Wayne right on their heels. Jackson is the favorite in the state’s competitive Division I state title race over Wayne because of its stellar font court led by Young. A returning all-state choice, Young averaged 19.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg and was named Federal League Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Young can play inside and out, as evidenced by his 41 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Hill averaged 13.6 ppg and could be in line for all-state honors, too, with a big senior campaign.
The Skinny: Coach Tim Debevec is blessed with two horses up front, but he also has great role players at his disposal and the team has plenty of motivation, too. Kyle Nicholas (6-2, 2017), a good athlete headed to Ball State to play baseball, is a terrific shooter off the catch or dribble. If Jaret Pallotta (6-6, 2018) can double his point and rebound numbers from last season, Jackson will be awfully tough to beat. It wants to erase the memory of last year’s 51-47 loss to McKinley of Canton (the Federal League co-champions) in the district title game. Ohio usually had a senior-oriented team make a FAB 50 run and Jackson is its best bet this season.
44. (NR) Mae Jemison (Huntsville, Ala.) 0-0
Key Players: SF John Petty 6-6 2017 (No. 12 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Second Team All-American), SG Justin Hopkins 6-3 2017.
Why This Ranking: You’re probably wondering how a program that didn’t exist last season earns a FAB 50 ranking. It’s an easy call, however, when you realize the talent at hand and who the veteran, title-winning coach coming off back-to-back state titles leading the program is. Coach Jack Doss has won state titles at three different Alabama programs, the last two at J.O. Johnson, which was 29-5 and ranked No. 19 in the final Southeast Regional rankings and closed its doors later in the spring. All eight of that team’s underclassmen are at Jemison, most notably Petty. He went for 32 points in last year’s Class 5A state title game win and averaged 19.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 4.1 apg.
The Skinny: There is more to like than the talents of Petty and the coaching of Doss, as Hopkins (6-3, 2017) is a versatile wing capable of big scoring outputs. Jemison will miss the spark graduated Jarius Grayson provided, but if J.J. Jackson (6-1, 2017) returns to form after siting out last season, this team might not miss a beat. Petty is coming off a luke-warm summer, so he’ll be highly-motivated to lead the Jaguars to a good showing at the City of Palms Tournament and could catapult himself into the Mr. Basketball USA conversation if he does.
45. (NR) Webster Groves (Webster Groves, Mo.) 26-3
Key Players: PG Courtney Ramey 6-2 2018 (No. 5 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PF Carte’Are Gordon 6-8 2018 (No. 9 ESPN.com).
Why This Ranking: The Statesman have two of the best underclass players in the country to go alongside five other returning lettermen. Ramey is the catalyst and can take over games with his scoring or play-making. He averaged 17.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, and 2.6 spg and was named the Suburban XII South Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore. Gordon has the potential to be Missouri’s most dominant frontcourt player, as he tallied 20 ppg and 12 rpg at nearby St. John Vianney before leaving the program last January.
The Skinny: Webster Groves gets the early nod as the Missouri Class 5A title favorite by a whisker over Kickapoo of Springfield, last year’s runner-up. Gordon may be ineligible until January (pending appeal) and if that’s the case Kickapoo (which has two outstanding seniors in Jared Ridder and Cameron Davis) might leapfrog the Statesman into the FAB 50 if it starts off strong. Coach Jay Blossom’s unit at Webster Groves will have Gordon back by January and could hit its stride later in the season. It is also a motivated bunch after losing to St. Louis University in last year’s district title game.
46. (NR) St. Anthony (San Antonio, Texas) 32-6
Key Players: C Charles Bassey 6-10 2019 (No. 1 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife National Freshman Player of the Year), PG Isiah Saenz 5-9 2017.
Why This Ranking: The Yellowjackets should be the best among private and parochial programs in Texas (TAPPS) because of the presence of Bassey and improved talent surrounding him. The nation’s best sophomore was named TAPPS Class 5A all-state after averaging 20.2 ppg, 17.1 rpg and 5.9 bpg in his first year of high school ball. Saenz (15.1 ppg, 6.7 apg, 2.3 spg) is an ultra-quick point guard who will play at the next level. First-year coach Jeff Merritt has two other returning starters, but the newcomers are ultimately going to take this team to the next level in its quest for a Class 5A state title and national recognition.
The Skinny: This team would have been a notch or two higher had power forward Franklin Agunanne played a role on it. Still, newcomers Ousmane Ndim (6-11, 2018) and Obi Prosper (6-7, 2019) have made tremendous strides, according to Merritt. There is still work to do after losing big to Prestonwood Christian of Plano in last year’s state title game, but there’s still plenty to like about a team that will get its shot on the national stage with showcase games at the City of Palms, Mike Miler and Hoophall Classics. “We’re still 6-11, 6-10, and 6-8 up front and got plenty to win our district and state,” Merritt said.
47. (BB) Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission, Kan.) 22-3
Key Players: C Bol Bol 6-11 2018 (No. 3 247Sports.com), PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 6-8 2019 (No. 18 Rivals.com), SG Semaj Ray (6-2, 2017).
Why This Ranking: The Stags are the defending KSHSAA Class 4A-Division 1 state champions and have one of the nation’s most unique talents in the fold, not to mention one of the its fastest-rising prospects, and their most productive player back. Bol, who scored 14 points in the state title game victory and is the son of the late Manute Bol, is oozing with potential and with his improved skill set, should blossom into a dominant player. Robinson-Earl (11.8 ppg), the son of former Kansas forward and high school All-American Lester Earl, went for 16 points in the state title game and was named second team all-state by the Wichita Eagle. Ray (13.1 ppg) had 10 points and was named first team all-state.
The Skinny: Every single point in Bishop Miege’s 69-59 win over McPherson in the state title game was scored by an underclassmen, so there is plenty to like about this club. Ray is a D1 talent and seniors Francesco Badocchi (6-7, 2017) and Joseph Gleason (6-5, 2017) bring strength and maturity up front. The Stags lost two early in-state games last year and will have to avoid a slow start this time around to remain in the FAB 50.
48. (NR) Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) 29-7
Key Players: PG Jacob King 5-10 2017, SG David Johnson 6-4 2019, SF David Burton 6-3 2017.
Why This Ranking: The Shamrocks get the nod as the Bluegrass State’s top-ranked team over Bowling Green and Covington Catholic of Parks Hills, as they have a nice blend of returning talent, newcomers and excellent coaching. King, a tough point guard with a clutch gene, was last year’s leading scorer while his twin brother Brendan is another guard with skill and experience. Burton can play both forward positions and Johnson is oozing with potential as a big guard. Juan Harris (6-2, 2017) provides toughness and Lucas Burkman (6-0, 2017), who is coming off a broken foot, provides even more depth.
The Skinny: The Rocks have been to the Kentucky Sweet 16 three of the past five years, so with the talent on hand anything other than a trip to the KSHAA Sweet 16 championship game will be a disappointment. Mike Szabo gets respect as one of Kentucky’s best coaches and his team will have the opportunity to prove its rankings worth at the King of the Bluegrass Tournament and the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn. If Johnson, who is a big-time athlete and one of Kentucky’s best prospects regardless of class, lives up to his vast potential and if D1 prospect Jayden Scrubb (6-3, 2018) finds his role, this could be a special team.
49. (27) Providence Day (Charlotte, N.C.) 30-4
Key Players: PG Devon Dotson 6-2 2018 (No. 28 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Trey Wertz 6-5 2018, SG Isaac Suffren 6-3 2018.
Why This Ranking: The defending NCISA Class 3A champions have just enough returning talent to nab a FAB 50 spot and to defend its crown valiantly against the likes of Greensboro Day and High Point Christian Academy. It begins with Dotson, one of the nation’s finest junior guards, who averaged 16.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.6 apg and 1.8 spg while earning all-state honors last season. He teams up with Wertz, who netted 25 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in the state title game win over High Point Christian Academy, to form one of the South’s finest backcourts.
The Skinny: As if coach Brian Field needed more backcourt firepower, transfer Isaac Suffren (6-2, 2018) is one of North Carolina’s top junior guards. Ultimately, however, the success of this team will depend on how the new frontcourt starters develop. Last year’s championship team had balance with five double-digit scorers, so if consistent frontcourt scoring isn’t developed, Dotson and Wertz will have to shoulder the offensive load. That scenario could limit the success against national caliber teams the Chargers will face at events such as the Chick-Fil-A Classic and Montverde Academy Invitational, not to mention five other showcases.
50. (NR) Meridian (Meridian, Miss.) 27-5
Key Players: SF Ladarius Brewer 6-5 2017 (UTEP commit), PG Jay Malone 5-10 2017, SF Tyron Brewer 6-7 2018, SG Miles Miller 6-2 2018.
Why This Ranking: The Wildcats get the nod as the final FAB 50 team over the likes of Bishop O’Connell of Virginia, Hudson Catholic of New Jersey and Desert Vista of Arizona, among others, because of their returning personnel and depth. Ladarius Brewer is a four-year regular and this wing forward showed what he could do against national competition when he hit for double figures on the adidas Gauntlet. Tyron Brewer, a good 3-pointer shooter and an athletic finisher who is a double-double threat, also gained valuable experience playing for MBA Hoops. Malone is quick and tough on the defense end.
The Skinny: Meridian gets the nod in-state over Clinton, but has work to do to remain in the FAB 50 as one of the Southeast Region’s top teams. It has as much talent as any team in the state and a strong sophomore group, but also a new coach so chemistry will be key. Randy Bolden left for a Mississippi JUCO, but luckily for Wildcats fans, new coach Ron Norman from Pascagoula is considered one of the state’s best. Meridian has been a MHSAA Class 6 state title contender the past five years and Norman will continue that tradition.
RELATED: Preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 (16-30) | Preseason 2016-17 FAB 50 (31-50) | Preseason East Region Top 20 | Preseason Southeast Region Top 20 | Preseason Midwest Region Top 20 | Preseason Southwest Region Top 20 | Preseason West Region Top 20
Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores