Preseason 2017-18 FAB 50: Teams No. 16-30!
National Grassroots Editor
Ronnie has evaluated basketball talent for 20 years and has over 15 years of experience in publishing, editing and managing high school sports websites for companies such as Student Sports, ESPN and Ballislife. Ronnie compiles the FAB 50 National Team Rankings while serving as an account manager and consultant for grassroots event run by Ballislife and other companies, in addition to serving as a color commentator on high school broadcasts.
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We continue our 2017-18 preseason FAB 50 national team rankings powered by Ballislife.com countdown with an in-depth look at teams No. 16-30. We began with teams No. 31-50 on Sunday evening and our final installment will be teams No. 1-15 on Tuesday, November 7.
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 18 years ago.
Preseason 2017-18 FAB 50 National
Team Rankings Powered by Ballislife.com
By Ronnie Flores
(Final 2016-17 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 Friday, November 10 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Tuesday, November 21.)
16. (BB) Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 30-4
Key Players: SF Talen Horton-Tucker 6-5 2018 (No. 54 Rivals.com), SF Messiah Jones 6-5 2018 (Drake commit), PG Xavier Pinson 6-3 2018, SG Zion Young 6-4 2018.
Why This Ranking: The Wolverines have the firepower to capture their seventh state title under coach Robert Smith and if they do, he’ll be averaging one every two seasons. Simeon is the IHSA Class 4A favorites because of talents such as Horton-Tucker and tons of depth at each position. Jones had some big playoff games plus he’s not scared to do the dirty work the team needs. There are many interchangeable parts up front that can all defend and rebound. Pinson (a transfer from St. Patrick of Chicago) will be the lead guard and Young (from Merrillville, Ind.) is a natural scorer. Kejuan Clements (6-2, 2019) also has plenty of experience at the one and big things are expected down the line from Ahmad Bynum (6-1, 2021). The Wolverines will look to play at a quick pace and force turnovers to gain an advantage.
The Skinny: With respect to Fenwick, it looks like the Chicago Public League is where a majority of Illinois’ top teams reside, as No. 42 Morgan Park, Whitney Young and Curie will challenge the Wolverines for City supremacy. Simeon downed rival Morgan Park to claim the city title, and they’ll battle once again on December 9. A week earlier, Simeon takes on Chaminade of Missouri (which just missed the FAB 50) at the Chicago Elite Classic. Smith’s club also takes on highly-regarded Memphis East at the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest January 6. In fact, it could meet East twice with the first meeting potentially taking place at the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla. Simeon isn’t terribly big, so it will need to neutralize bigger teams. That means the play of up-and-comer Jeremiah Stamps (6-7, 2019) will be key in order to maintain its ranking. Kezo Brown (6-2, 2018) has had a tumultuous career at Simeon so far, but if he can contribute anywhere near the level he did in the city title game (26 points) and the newcomers mesh, there is no telling how good this team could be come February.
17. (BB) Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) 18-11
Key Players: PF Naz Reid 6-10 2018 (No. 18 ESPN.com, LSU commit), SG Kahlil Whitney 6-6 2019 (No. 38 ESPN.com), PG Joshua Pierre-Louis 6-1 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Lions have the necessary talent, and plenty of motivation, to capture their third New Jersey TOC in six seasons (2013, 2015). The anchor is Reid, a big-time presence inside who averaged double figures in points and rebounds while blocking over two shots per game. When he’s motivated, he’s a load to deal and if Roselle lives up to expectations, he could be a dark horse Mr. Basketball USA candidate. Coach Dave Boff expects a big jump in production for Whitney and Pierre-Louis, the younger brother of graduated star guard Nate Pierre-Louis (Temple). Boff also welcomes Delaware commit Ithiel Horton (6-3, 2018), who averaged double figures in scoring at St. Anthony of Jersey City before the school closed in the spring. Before the TOC, of course, the Lions know they must take care of business in the South Jersey, Non-Public B region where nemesis Patrick School and No. 39 Ranney School await.
The Skinny: The Lions spent the majority of last season in the FAB 50 despite a mixed bag of results versus top tier teams and will likely need to cut the overall loss count in half to remain in the Top 25. Roselle Catholic fell four times to No. 25 Patrick School, including in the South Jersey, Non-Public A title game after having put an end to the Celtics’ season in three of the four prior years. Patrick School could easily be New Jersey’s preseason No. 2, but we like Boff’s club with eight lettermen returning and because of the size and depth provided by the likes of third returning starter Alanzo Frink (6-9, 2018) and newcomer Cliff Omoruyi (6-11, 2020). The Jersey rankings debate will likely get decided on the court, regardless, and Roselle Catholic has a key stretch of games in late January. The Lions take on Ranney School on January 31, face Patrick School on February 3 and face top-ranked Montverde Academy on February 9.
18. (14) Brentwood Academy (Nashville, Tenn.) 30-2
Key Players: PG Darius Garland 6-0 2018 (No. 10 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Second Team All-American), SG Cam Johnson 6-2 2018 (Vanderbilt commit – football).
Why This Ranking: There’s a lot to like from a program that has captured three consecutive TSSAA Division II-AA state titles: mainly a returning All-American, three starters and eight lettermen. It begins with Garland, a Mr. Basketball USA candidate who had 30 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the state title game and averaged 23 ppg as a junior. The other stalwart in the backcourt is Johnson, who is an excellent defender. In fact, coach Hubie Smith feels his backcourt duo are the best defenders he’s ever had and with Garland on the floor the unselfishness is contagious. Many of the lettermen play football, including Vanderbilt commit Gavin Schoenwald (6-6, 2018), so young talents such as Cory Reynolds (6-5, 2020) will need to grow up in a hurry. That valuable experience creates depth and makes Brentwood the odds-on favorites to win a fourth consecutive state crown.
The Skinny: The Eagles closed out last season wining 19 consecutive games, but in order to maintain a lofty FAB 50 ranking it must avoid a slow start while the Grid-Hoopers make the transition to the hardwood. Smith, whose program has great alumni support, seems to be confident even though he graduated six seniors. “We may have less knowledge, but we are deeper and have more size and athleticism; we have a chance to be really good by the end of the season,” Smith said. Brentwood hopes to be rolling by the time its hosts the Brandon Wright Holiday Classic before Christmas. It will then face Olive Branch (Miss.) at the Penny Haradway Hoopfest on January 6 before heading to the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions, where the Eagles will test their wits against the likes of Oak Hill Academy, La Lumiere, Webster Groves, No. 43 Wasatch Academy and No. 46 Christ the King.
19. (15) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 32-5
Key Players: SG Prentiss Hubb 6-3 2018 (No. 46 Hoop Scoop, Notre Dame commit), SF Myles Dread 6-5 2018 (No. 164 247Sports.com, Penn St. commit), SF Terrance Williams 6-7 2020 (No. 26 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: We almost give the nod to Gonzaga over Brentwood Academy at No. 18, but then we recalled why we put the Eagles in the preseason Top 10 last season. Darius Garland is the type of point guard Gonzaga had last season, so the WCAC’s preseason No. 2 starts one slot below. Don’t feel sorry for coach Steve Turner as life for his program begins with point guard Chris Lykes. The two-time Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) player of the year is now at Miami, but the Eagles may still have the best guard in the league in Hubb. He averaged 13.9 ppg while playing off the ball and will slide over to the lead guard while still providing his excellent defensive, passing, and rebounding ability. Wing guard Dread (10.4 ppg) and the talented Williams (7.2 ppg) both received all-WCAC acclaim and are primed to increase their statistical production.
The Skinny: Two years ago, we had Gonzaga as the third WCAC in the FAB 50 and it finished in third place. Last season we the Eagles as the front-runner and they went on to win the conference title. This season, we rate the Eagles a whisker behind Paul VI as solid No. 2 in front of No. 38 DeMatha Catholic. The key will be which team can steal a key road game or two to take control of the conference standings. Turner thinks highly of this club and the bodies moving up from JayVee and freshman teams that went a combined 39-4 will push the nine returning lettermen in practice. “Our team’s biggest strengths are depth, the ability to score the ball and turn people over,” Turner said. Gonzaga will host its own classic December 8-10 that includes Roman Catholic of Philadelphia and regionally-ranked Cardinal Hayes of New York, play at the Slam Dunk To The Beach in Delaware and the Hoophall Classic.
20. (20) Clarkston (Clarkston, Mich.) 27-1
Key Players: PG Foster Loyer 6-0 2018 (No. 63 ESPN.com, Ballislife Second Team All-American, Michigan St. commit), PF Thomas Kithier 6-8 2018 (No. 95 Rivals.com, Michigan St. commit), PF Taylor Currie 6-9 2018 (No. 247 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Wolves begin in the same FAB 50 spot they finished last year after capturing the MHSAA Class A state title, the first for veteran coach Dane Fife. Clarkston, which began at No. 33 last year, could be even better this year with most of the cast returning and the addition of Kithier. He comes over from Dakota McComb after twice earning all-state honors and averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds as a junior. Clarkston also adds Hank Schemmel (6-7, 2018), who moved in from Archbishop Spalding in Maryland. With Currie back in the mix, the Wolves have one of the most talented frontlines in the Midwest. He originally was committed to Michigan, but re-opened his recruitment after re-classing to the 2018 class.
The Skinny: Kithier will now team up with his running mate on All-Ohio Red: Foster. With all the glowing credentials of the big men, it’s Loyer who gives this team a national profile as one of the most accomplished players in the country and his backcourt mate C.J. Robinson (5-11, 2018) isn’t shabby, either. Loyer earned All-American acclaim after scoring 29 points in the state title game and averaged 25.4 ppg, four rpg, six apg, and three spg while making 199 consecutive free throws. Belleville comes in as our No. 2 team from Michigan and we gave that team some FAB 50 consideration, but the gap between them and Clarkston is considerable. There was some talk of setting up a showdown with a highly-regarded FAB 50 team, but Michigan’s travel restrictions hurts Clarkston’s ability to test itself outside the Midwest Region. So once again, Clarkston will have to make a slow play up in the rankings. If there is no complacency and the newcomers mesh, there is no reason this team can’t climb into the Top 10.
21. (NR) University School (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) 20-7
Key Players: PF Vernon Carey Jr. 6-10 2019 (No. 1 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Scottie Barnes 6-7 2020 (No. 5 247Sports.com), SG Trey Doomes 6-3 2018 (No. 223 247Sports.com, West Virginia commit), PG Drue Drinnon 6-0 2018 (No. 182 247Sports.com, New Mexico commit).
Why This Ranking: This is a team we reward for the personnel on its roster and the loaded schedule it will play and don’t factor in much on the results of the previous season. The Sharks fell in the FHSAA Class 5A Region 4 semifinals, but rate as the state title favorites this year with a big-time returner, some excellent athletes and key transfers. Coach Adrian Sosa welcomes back Carey (22 ppg, 8 rpg) and with big outings in the big games, the powerful and skilled pivot could earn All-American acclaim. Backcourt returnees Xavien Flowers (5-10, 2019) and Joshua Sanguinetti (6-2, 2019) are big-time football players (Flowers a receiver and Sanguinetti a safety) and their transition from the gridiron will be eased by three big-time transfers. Doomes has plenty of scoring ability while Drinnon gets in the lane with ease and is known for his clutch play. Barnes is one of the best players in his class nationally with his combination of length and passing ability.
The Skinny: There is plenty to like about this team, although it hasn’t proven it on a national scale yet. Sosa coached Carey, Flowers, Doomes, Logan Alters (6-0, 2019) and Levy Renaud (6-2, 2018) on the Nike Team Florida EYBL team while Carey played with Barnes on the USA Basketball 16U team. That means the chemistry will be, provided the transfers are eligible. Sosa is concerned about his team’s depth and he’ll need to develop some against a schedule that includes a game against FAB 50 No. 1 contender Oak Hill Academy (Hoophall Classic). University opens the City of Palms Classic against highly-regarded Archbishop Malloy of New York.
22. (36) Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.) 30-2
Key Players: PG Tre Jones 6-2 2018 (No. 4 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Second Team All-American, Duke commit), SF Luke Martens 6-3 2018, C Spencer Rolland 6-7 2018 (Harvard commit – football).
Why This Ranking: Having one of the nation’s best guards and a strong senior class is always an ingredient for success and that’s exactly what coach Zach Goring has at his disposal. For the second time in three seasons, the Eagles spoiled an unbeaten championship season of Champlin Park to capture the MHSSL Class 4A title. If this program is going to win a state crown for the third time in four years, Jones will have plenty to do with it. He willed Apple Valley to avenging victories in the state semifinals and championship game, going for 24 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. He averaged 23 ppg, 10 rpg and 7 apg while lifting his teammates’ play to another level. The maturity level of the role players has grown, as Martens (10.6 ppg) was in double figures in half of Apple Valley’s games and with his football background he’s not scared to play whatever role necessary for his team to win. He’s getting recruited in both sports and excels on both ends of the hardwood with his timely scoring and rebounding. Rolland also is a Grid-Hooper and gives this perimeter-oriented team muscle inside.
The Skinny: The Eagles are physically strong and with 11 total lettermen returning, they’ll be awfully tough to beat in-state. Not only are they physically strong, Goring really likes their shooting prowess and ability to play for one another. Apple Valley can move up provided it remains unbeaten, and a December 30 game vs. No. 47 Cretin-Derham Hall in a state No. 1 vs. No. 2 affair at the Granite City Classic will show this team where it stands and what it needs work on over the second half of the season to meet its championship goals.
23. (13) Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 34-4
Key Players: SF John Newman III 6-5 2018 (No. 120 247Sports.com, Clemson commit), SG Will Dillard 6-3 2018 (No. 179 247Sports.com), PF Mike Fowler 6-9 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Bengals begin the preseason one spot lower than they did in 2016-17 when they lived up to expectations by winning the NCISA Class 3A title. They moved up in the final rankings by defeating a IMG Academy team that was No. 6 at the time to give the NCISA its first win at Dick’s Nationals. Greensboro Day has two starters back and four of its five seniors have played in two Dick’s Nationals, so the combination of talent, experience and tradition make this ranking warranted. Newman was the PACIS co-Player of the Year with graduated teammate J.P. Moorman (Temple) and both he and Dillard are excellent defenders. The third senior the Bengals will rely on is Alex Michael (6-5, 2018), a defensive-oriented, team-first guy and improved shooter.
The Skinny: Veteran coach Freddy Johnson (992-283), now beginning his 41st season at Greensboro Day, has won a record nine NCISAA state titles. The 2016-17 Ballislife National Coach of the Year will win his 1,000th game early in the season, but getting state title No. 10 won’t be an easy task. Piedmont rival Wesleyan Christian Academy rates as the slight title favorites with a bit more overall firepower, but Johnson’s staff likes its chances with a 10-deep squad that includes newcomers Tripp Greene (6-1, 2018), a 18 ppg scorer at Forsyth Country Day, and Nicholas Evtimov (6-7, 2019). The Bengals’ showdowns with WCA will take place a week apart in late January, but their FAB 50 ranking will center around how they fare at the Iolani Classic, where No. 1 contender Montverde Academy, No. 30 Jefferson, No. 40 Rainier Beach and regionally ranked clubs L.A. Fairfax and Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland fill out the bracket.
24. (8) IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) 26-2
Key Players: PF Silvio De Sousa 6-9 2018 (No. 15 Hoop Scoop, Kansas commit), SF Josh Green 6-6 2019 (No. 24 247Sports.com), C Chol Marial 7-1 2019 (No. 4 ESPN.com), SF Darius Days 6-7 2018 (No. 58 247Sports.com, LSU commit), SG Jahmius Ramsey 6-4 2019.
Why This Ranking: The personnel on hand may be indicative of a higher spot, but we’ll take a wait-and-see approach with regards to how the talent meshes with a coaching change. Vince Walden (Arkansas St.) led one of the nation’s most talented teams that earned the No. 2 seed at Dick’s Nationals before being upset by Greensboro Day. New coach Sean McAloon comes over after six years at St. John’s College Prep of Washington, D.C. in the WCAC and seven seasons prior at Benedictine of Richmond, Va. Having that experience coaching in high level, high intensity games will help him manage this talented roster. De Sousa is the lone returning starter among four lettermen and there is talent at each position. Noah Farrakhan (6-0, 2020) has big-game experience at the point and Arkansas-bound Keshawn Embery (6-3, 2018) can also run the point or slide over to the two.
The Skinny: It wouldn’t surprise us to see this FHSAA independent program hop over some teams ranked ahead of it that doesn’t play the same type of schedule. We’re just waiting to see how the pieces all jell. Marial has a chance to be special and Green could have a breakout year while Days provides depth and athleticism. “We should be very fast and quick with our versatility giving us different ways to attack,” McAloon said. IMG will play regionally-ranked Wheeler of Georgia and McAloon’s old St. John’s team at the National High School Hoops Festival, will participate in both the Chick-Fil-A Classic and John Wall Invitational, while playing FAB 50 title contender Findlay Prep at the Cancer Research Classic.
25. (9) Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) 29-4
Key Players: PF Valdir Manuel 6-9 2018 (No. 108 247Sports.com), PG Al Amir-Dawes 6-1 2019 (No. 72 247Sports.com), PG Markquis Nowell 5-8 2018 (No. 230 247Sports.com), PG Atiba Taylor 6-3 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Celts are similar to IMG in that they have more raw talent than a handful of teams ranked ahead of them, but a bunch of new faces. Patrick School started five seniors in their NJSIAA Tournament of Champions run, but it has the talent to win back-to-back TOC crowns if the breaks go its way. Manuel actually has starting experience and coach Chris Chavannes is quite high on Australian import Giorgi Bezhanishvilli (6-10, 2018). Taylor comes over from Hackensack (N.J.) and can score or facilitate at a high level. Chavannes expects a big jump in production from Amir-Dawes to help off-set the loss of a fantastic senior class.
The Skinny: This team has a lot of what last year’s team that began the season No. 3 in the FAB 50 did: big-time size and depth on the frontline. Still it’s never easy replacing six D1 players and the Celtics will have plenty of opportunity to move up. Another factor in their positioning is local rankings, where they fall behind Hudson Catholic and battle No. 17 Roselle Catholic for state preseason No. 2. The local schedule to capture the South Jersey and overall Non-Public A title won’t be easy and there is enough national games on the schedule where a loss won’t knock the Celtics all the way out before the post-season begins. Last year Chavannes felt anything other than a TOC crown would be a disappointment and he’s ultra-confident in his group once again. “This team is as deep as any we’ve ever had,” Chavannes said. “We have a very big frontline again, and this team will be as good if not better than last year’s team, but we still have to get it done.”
26. (4) Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.) 31-1*
Key Players: SF Donta Scott 6-7 2019 (No. 76 247Sports.com), SG Dahmir Bishop 6-4 2019, PG Bernard Lightsey 6-0 2018, SF Jamil Riggins 6-6 2019 (No. 146 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Panthers were our hunch team last season, opening up at No. 20 in the FAB 50. They played above expectations, but graduated a strong senior class that included three D1 players, so they’ll likely take a step back in 2017-18. Coach Andre Noble (312-75) does have enough returning pieces and talent to be just outside the Top 25. It starts with Scott, last year’s second leading scorer behind star guard Daron Russell (Rhode Island) and Noble expects him to take the next step up this season. He is a bit concerned about his depth at point guard, so the play of Lightsey will be key.
The Skinny: Last year’s team had good balance but some questions marks up front and this year it’s the opposite. There is balance and experience, but the play of the guards will determine how far this team goes. A strong group of juniors means this team is still the Philly Public League favorites and will likely be much better come playoff time, but it cannot afford to drop too many showcase games in order to stay in the rankings. If Bishop, Elijah Taylor (6-8, 2020) and “Reefy” Knox (6-6, 2019) make good progression, this team will fare well against a schedule that includes a trip to the Beach Ball Classic where the likes of Montverde Academy, No. 35 Long Island Lutheran, No. 36 Clark, No. 38 DeMatha, and No. 48 Bishop Gorman await. The Panthers take on highly-regarded La Lumiere at the Cancer Research Classic and also participate at the Hoophall Classic.
27. (BB) Garfield (Seattle, Wash.) 21-6
Key Players: PF J’Raan Brooks 6-9 2018 (No. 29 Hoop Scoop), PG Pierre Crockwell 6-0 2019 (No. 156 247Sports.com), SF Jamon Kemp 6-6 2019, SG MarJon Beauchamp 6-5 2020 (No. 15 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Bulldogs were right in this range to open last season (No. 30) and only lost to three teams: No. 40 Rainier Beach, No. 19 Gonzaga and four times to FAB 50 National Champ Nathan Hale. The coach of the defending champions (Brandon Roy) is now back at his alma mater and with Hale’s core of players moving on, the Bulldogs are the favorites in the Metro League. Brooks is a big-time talent who will be the go-to scorer underneath. Ed Chang (6-8, 2018), a Washington commit from Papillion-La Vista in Nebraska who averaged 18.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 4.0 bpg, will shift more to the wing on this team and be even more dangerous. Crockwell comes in from Prolific Prep (Calif.) and will be spelled by Eddie Turner (6-1, 2018). Beauchamp may start or lead a bench that Roy will confidently use with little drop off when he goes to it.
The Skinny: Last season at Hale, Roy had the nation’s best player (Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr.) and many times he let him improvise on offense. He does a good job of adjusting to his personnel and this year Garfield plans to run more sets instead of free-lancing. If everyone is on the same page, Garfield will be a tough out because there is an abundance of talent. The surprise in practice so far is Kemp (the son of former NBA standout Shawn Kemp), as the coaching staff expects a more defined role and bigger impact than what they faced at Hale last year. Garfield’s key stretch from a rankings standpoint will be when it travels to the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational after Christmas and takes on No. 40 Rainier Beach and No. 30 Jefferson over MLK weekend.
28. (BB) Mt. St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.) 35-4
Key Players: PF Jalen Smith 6-9 2018 (No. 15 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Maryland commit), PG James Bishop 6-2 2019 (No. 111 Rivals.com), PG Tyree Meyers 6-0 2018.
Why This Ranking: The Gaels have the necessary ingredients to be a Top 25 team this winter: mainly talent, depth and experience. Coach Pat Clatchey’s club won three league and tournament championships last season and return three starters and seven of the first nine in the rotation. It starts with Smith, who could be in store for an All-American season after averaging 17 ppg, 9 rpg, and 3 bpg while earning Baltimore Catholic League, Gatorade State and Baltimore Sun All-Metro co-Player of the Year honors. Bishop (17 ppg) had a huge sophomore season and can play both guard sports, while Meyers (8 ppg) is a true lead guard and coach on the floor.
The Skinny: Mt. St. Joseph is the favorites in the tough Baltimore Catholic League and it’ll find out right away how it stacks up against the field when it travels to play highly-regarded John Carroll and its five returning starters on November 27. In order to move up, Mt. St. Joe’s must hold serve in league play and in the MIAA ranks and not have a letdown should it participate in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational. There is depth to avoid any letdowns with the likes of Kendall McMillan (6-2, 2018), last year’s sixth man, returning after averaging 9 ppg and 6 rpg. Clatchey had a 31-2 JayVee team last year and touts Jason Edokapyi (6-6, 2020) and Tyler Brelsford (6-2, 2020) as future D1 players.
29. (25) Trinity Episcopal (Richmond, Va.) 35-1
Key Players: PF Armando Bacot 6-10 2019 (No. 13 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Jason Wade 6-5 2018 (Old Dominion commit), SF Henry Coleman 6-7 2020.
Why This Ranking: Arguably the nation’s most underappreciated team during the 2016-17 regular season, the Titans made noise nationally when they downed Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and FAB 50 regular Paul VI 95-78 in the VISAA D1 championship game. This season they won’t sneak up on anyone, but coach Rick Hamlin’s crew has enough talent with a winning pedigree to warrant a spot in the FAB 50 after flying under the radar in the preseason last year. Ten lettermen return and Hamlin has three future high major players to do battle with so he likes his team’s chances at a repeat state crown.
The Skinny: The Titans do lose Virginia Prep League MVP Zach Jacobs (James Madison) but Bacot, who averaged 20 ppg and 12 rpg last season as a sophomore, is in position for a dominant season after an excellent summer playing for Team Loaded Virginia; he can choose nearly any college in the country to attend. Wade (16 ppg) is a returning all-stater and transfer Coleman already has major scholarship offers. We also like the Titans because they’ll be tested right away, playing FAB 50 title contender Montverde Academy at the Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta. “We’re going to find some things out in a hurry; we should be good as long as we stay healthy, humble and hungry,” Hamlin said.
30. (23) Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) 27-1
Key Players: PF Kamaka Hepa 6-9 2018 (No. 46 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Texas commit), PG Marcus Tsohonis 6-4 2019 (No. 154 247Sports.com), PF Khalil Chatman 6-8 2018.
Why This Ranking: The Democrats won their first Class 6A state title last season after opening the season as the prohibitive favorites and find themselves in the same position again in 2017-18. It all starts with Hepa, the most heralded of the three returning starters, as he averaged 20 ppg, 12 rpg and 5 apg while earning first team all-state accolades. Tsohonis (16 ppg, 7 rpg, 5 apg) is a budding talent who could needs to play big in the big games while Robert Ford (6-0, 2018) could turn recruiters’ heads with big performances in the big games. Transfers Chatman, who averaged 21 ppg and 11 rpg at Franklin of Portland, and Andrew Graves (6-10, 2019) give this team an opportunity to do something special on a national scale.
The Skinny: Despite losing two starters, including all-stater Geno West (Idaho), Jefferson begins the season six spots higher than last preseason and has the ability to climb closer to the Top 15 based on its upgraded schedule. The Demos head to the Iolani Classic where highly-regarded Montverde Academy, No. 23 Greensboro Day and No. 40 Rainier Beach fill out the bracket. The Demos will also play in the Les Schwab Invitational where Oak Hill Academy and Mater Dei of California visit Oregon and face Garfield of Seattle over MLK weekend.