Today Ballislife.com tips off its 2018-19 high school basketball coverage with our first installment of the preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 national team rankings. We begin with ...(Read more)

Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50: Teams No. 31-50!

Today Ballislife.com tips off its 2018-19 high school basketball coverage with our first installment of the preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 national team rankings. We begin with teams No. 31-50 and our second installment will be teams No. 16-30 on Wednesday, 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 19 years ago.

Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 National
Team Rankings Powered by Ballislife.com

By Ronnie Flores

(Final 2017-18 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 Wednesday, November 7 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Monday, November 19.)

RELATED: Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 (16-30) |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. (NR) Federal Way (Federal Way, Wash.) 27-2
Key Players: SF Jaden McDaniels 6-10 2019 (No. 4 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Jalen Womack 6-0 2019, PG Pierre Crockwell 5-11 2019, PF Tari Eason 6-7 2020 (No. 104 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Eagles have a shot to be this season’s Nathan Hale of Seattle, a team with a potentially great player, and a strong supporting cast that wins the key games and moves up the ranking charts, In 2016-17, Hale began at No. 38, and Michael Porter Jr. (now in the NBA) posted a social media comment on how that ranking was too low, and he turned out to be correct as Hale went undefeated and claimed the FAB 50 crown. We’re not predicting a mythical national title for the Eagles, but McDaniels (21.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.6 apg, 3.3 bpg) is that game-changing, elite talent that could lead Federal Way to a memorable season. Big performances by McDaniels in key games and this team could rise and he could garner Mr. Basketball USA support. Womack is a returning all-leaguer and D1 prospect. “We are an athletic and cohesive bunch,” coach Jerome Collins said.
The Skinny: Not only does this team have the horses to move up in the rankings, it has plenty of motivation after losing in heart-breaking fashion to No. 42 Gonzaga Prep in the WIAA Class 4A state title game. Gonzaga Prep has plenty of talent returning, too, but we give Federal Way the nod this season because transfers Crockwell, Eason, and Graham could take this team to another level and the schedule will dictate if this team quickly moves up or falls behind the defending state champs. Both of Federal Way’s losses last season were in-state, so in order to move up it’ll have to fare well back East against Woodmere Academy at the Battle in the Big Apple (Dec. 9), versus FAB 50 tile contender Ranney School of New Jersey at the Hoophall Classic (Jan. 21) and make noise at the Tarkanian Classic (Dec. 18-22).

32. (NR) St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) 25-8
Key Players: SF Jonathan Salazar 6-6 2019 (No. 95 Hoop Scoop, Pacific commit), SG Josh Adoh 6-4 2019, SG Christian James 6-3 2019.
Why This Ranking: With their big-game experience and five returning starters, the Braves rate are one of the major contenders to capture the coveted CIF Open Division state title along with No. 48 and Trinity League rival Mater Dei, No. 41 Sheldon, talented Rancho Christian of Temecula and defending champion Sierra Canyon. Salazar (14 ppg, 10 rpg) gives traditional big men complete fits and is one of the most underrated players in the state. Adoh (14 ppg, 5 rpg) was named all-CIF Southern Section while James (10 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg) is much improved. Fernando Gomez (6-1, 2019) is one of the best outside shooters in SoCal and players such as Jalen Manson (6-6, 2019), Josh Camper (5-11, 2020) and Scotty Washington (6-4, 2021) provide excellent depth.
The Skinny: National high school hoops followers don’t know how good this team can potentially be, but local SoCal fans and coaches certainly do. An argument can be made the Braves deserve to be ranked higher than Rancho Christian (beat them three times last season) and they likely would be if not for losing a nine-point lead and being outscored 27-2 in the final period versus Chino Hills in the SoCal D1 regional final. This team relies on outside shooting (it went cold versus Chino Hills at the wrong time) and is going to have to not only prove it can overcome bigger teams in the playoffs once again, it must show it has what it takes to capture the rugged Trinity League title. The last time Mater Dei didn’t win a league crown was the same season the National Prep Poll (FAB 50 precursor) was created: 1987-88.

33. (26) Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) 22-3
Key Players: C Esam Mostafa 6-9 2019, PG Andre Curbelo 6-0 2020 (No. 124 247Sports.com), SF Zed Key 6-8 2020 (No. 123 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: Simply put, it’s talent and motivation as the Crusaders have fallen in the New York Federation Class AA title game for two consecutive seasons. Last year’s loss came in hard-to-believe circumstances, as the Crusaders were assessed a technical foul for calling a timeout the scorer’s table and game officials believe they didn’t have (but later proved they did) in a tie ball game and with possession of the ball. The controversy is not why LuHi gets the nod over No. 39 Archbishop Stepinac (its championship foe); it’s because the team was only sounded defeated once (by FAB 50 champ Montverde Academy) all season long and has similar talent in 2018-19.
The Skinny: Coach John Buck, his staff and his players held a silent protest over the result of the semifinal game on the eve of the Feds title game, but the clerical error was not overturned. It’s a likely rallying cry for a team returning starters Curbelo, a standout on Puerto Rico’s 17U team, and Mostafa, the most experienced player on the team. Key impresses with his post scoring work and ability to stretch defenses, while transfer Jalen Celestine (6-5, 2020) is a big-time talent. There are at least four additional D1-bound players on the roster for LuHi, which plays No. 35 Holy Spirit Prep at the Hoophall Classic (Jan. 20) and also competes at the Apparel Challenge, Metro Classic, Hoodie’s House Hoops Classic and Montverde Academy Invitational.

34. (NR) Vashon (St. Louis, Mo.) 21-6
Key Players: PG Mario McKinney 6-2 2019 (No. 125 Rivals.com, Missouri commit), SF Cam’Ron Fletcher 6-6 2020 (No. 34 ESPN.com), SG Kobe Clark 6-6 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Wolverines are talented with depth and would be ranked higher had they won their third consecutive MSHSAA Class 4A state crown last season. Coach Tony Irons has an excellent shot at his third in four seasons with talents such as McKinney (18 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg) and Fletcher (12 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg) back in the fold. Clark (8 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg) can play both inside and at guard, while Phillip Russell (5-11, 2020) mans the controls and is capable of double-digit scoring (9 ppg, 5 apg). Donyae McCaskill (6-2, 2019) provides senior leadership and rounds out a balanced (11 ppg, 6 rpg) starting lineup while newcomer Akok Yor (6-9, 2019) provides a much-needed interior presence.
The Skinny: Vashon is quick, athletic and even though it doesn’t have overwhelming size, the Wolverines are tough on the boards. Coach Irons is a bit concerned about the outside shooting and the team will have to learn to effectively attack zone defenses. With the team back en masse, the schedule is a sink or swim affair, as Vashon will compete it six showcases or tournaments involving FAB 50 ranked teams, including the City of Palms Classic, where it opens against FAB 50 title contender University School of Florida, and the Montverde Academy Invitational, which includes highly-regarded Rancho Christian of California, and No. 33 Long Island Lutheran.

35. (NR) Holy Spirit Prep (Atlanta, Ga.) 24-5
Key Players: SG Anthony Edwards 6-5 2020 (No. 2 Hoop Scoop), PF Ahmir Langlais 6-8 2019, PG Deandre Brown-Perry 6-2 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Cougars are two-time defending Georgia Independent School Association (GSHA) Class AAA champs, have a game-changer in their lineup and enough size and talent to make a FAB 50 impact. With Edwards, it’s quite possible coach Keith Evans has the country’s best player in his lineup. The returning all-state selection was MVP of the Under Armour Association this past summer and with his physicality, athleticism and sweet shooting touch he can absolutely dominate a high school game. Transfers Langlais and Brown-Perry will be difference-makers in the big game. Brown-Perry can nail the outside shot and play quality defense.
The Skinny: This team will get plenty of attention this winter, and plays a rugged national schedule. The supporting cast, including players such as Buka Peikrishvili (6-5, 2020), Miles Wallace (5-11, 2019) and Michaiah Jeremiah (6-1, 2019), will have to step up to take pressure off Edwards. The fact some of Edwards’ teammates, old and new, played travel ball together on Atlanta Express should help cohesiveness. That’s important because the Cougars open the season Nov. 10 with FAB 50 title contender McEachern and play GHSA power Wheeler on Nov. 23. They’ll also play in the Chick-Fil-A Classic, where six other FAB 50 ranked teams await, and have matchups with Memphis East, Long Island Lutheran of New York and IMG Academy of Florida after the New Year’s.

36. (BB) Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) 28-8
Key Players: PG D.J. Steward 6-1 2020 (No. 60 247Sports.com), PG Tyler Beard 6-0 2020 (No. 57 Rivals.com), SG Myles Baker 6-3 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Dolphins played their best basketball at the right time, knocking off FAB 50 ranked Simeon in the IHSA Class 4A state quarterfinals after losing to the Wolverines in the Chicago Public League semifinals. Whitney Young rates as the preseason team to beat in the CPL, but must begin the season ranked behind No. 34 Vashon (lost to that club in 2017-18) and Bellevue West, the club it fell to in the Class 4A state title game. Steward transfers over from Fenwick and the continuity he developed playing travel ball with Beard should pay dividends against a tough schedule. Baker can contribute up front or in the backcourt and coach Tyrone Slaughter has good depth at his disposal for another championship run.
The Skinny: It’s not an overwhelming year for teams in the CPL, so Whitney Young must keep the loss count lower than last year to move up in the rankings. With the newcomers and role players it shouldn’t be an issue. Grant Newell (6-6, 2021) is already attracting D1 college interest and has plenty of skill and mobility to help the Dolphins in the frontcourt. He knows his job is to crash the boards and be relentless on defense. Keenan Jones (6-4, 2019) is a good spot up shooter and can do a bit of everything for this club. According to Scott Burgess of PrepHoops.com, he could be Whitney Young’s X-factor as the Dolphins navigate a schedule that includes No. 48 Mater Dei at the Chicago Elite Classic and a trip out west to the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas, where the Dolphins could potentially face No. 31 Federal Way, highly-regarded Rancho Christian of California and host Bishop Gorman.

37. (NR) Immaculate Conception (Montclair, N.J.) 20-9
Key Players: C Elijah Hutchins-Everett 6-10 2020 (No. 53 ESPN.com), C Clifford Omoruyi 6-11 2020 (No. 53 Hoop Scoop), SG Raejon Figures 6-2 2020 (No. 140 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: Similar to No. 36 Whitney Young, the Lions were unranked in the 2017-18 final FAB 50 behind the team it knocked out of the playoffs (in Immaculate Conceptions’ case Hudson Catholic), but deserve to be ranked in front of that team to begin 2018-19. Coach Jimmy Salmon’s club lost big to eventual New Jersey TOC champ Roselle Catholic in the NJISAA Non Public B semifinals and the Lions have enough returning that Immaculate Conception must begin the season behind that club and FAB 50 title contender Ranney School. Salmon returns a whopping ten lettermen and adds transfer Omoruyi from Roselle Catholic to give this club a towering presence underneath. “Immaculate Conception is big and talented,” said long-time New Jersey prep guru Jay Gomes of NJHoops.com.
The Skinny: The Lions are a deserving FAB 50 ranked club, but must prove they can get over the hump in the post-season. The team is fairly young and could take some lumps early, but as a talented backcourt that includes Figures and Zion Bethea (6-3, 2020) matures this club will be a tough out come February. The team will have to grow up and jell in a hurry in order to maintain a lofty ranking, as it opens the City of Palms Classic in Florida on Dec. 18 versus FAB 50 title contender Paul VI of Virginia. If Salmon’s club wins that game, it’s likely McEachern of Georgia in the second round.

38. (NR) Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) 22-7
Key Players: PG Kenny Curtis 5-9 2019, SF Jamon Kemp 6-6 2019 (No. 141 247Sports.com), SF Marjon Beauchamp 6-6 2020 (No. 16 247Sports.com), SF Javion Garrett 6-6 2019.
Why This Ranking: With Jaden McDaniels in its lineup, No. 31 Federal Way will get plenty of national attention, but the Vikings may be top-to-bottom Washington’s most talented team. Some peg Rainier Beach as preseason No. 1 in the state, but we’ll see how the newcomers jell and how this club fares in some key matchups before rating it any higher. The Vikings lost in overtime to cross-town Garfield in an emotionally-charged Class 3A state title game, but added two of Garfield’s best players while Federal Way added two talented Garfield players of its own. “We are athletic, shoot it well and play good defense, but how quickly we come together will be key to our success,” veteran head coach Mike Bethea (552-137) said.
The Skinny: Whenever Rainier Beach has a nationally-ranked outfit, it usually has a plethora of 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-7 athletes that can run like deer and score in transition. This season is no different, as Beauchamp (who was on Nathan Hale’s 2017 FAB 50 No. 1 team) and Kemp bring big-game experience. As if that wasn’t enough, Garrett comes over from cross-town Franklin and fits the same mold. The key to Beach’s success, however, may be returning guard Curtis, who can keep defenses honest with his outside shooting and will be in charge of putting the ball in the correct spots as Trevante Anderson did last season and Kahlil Shabazz the year before. Bethea’s club travels to NorCal to take on No. 41 Sheldon and will participate in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo. (Jan. 17-19) with the likes of FAB 50 ranked Shadow Mountain of Phoenix, Memphis East, McEachern of Georgia, Belleville West of Illinois and Sunrise Christian Academy of Kansas.

39. (24) Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.) 27-5
Key Players: SG Adrian Griffin Jr. 6-6 2021 (No. 9 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG R.J. Davis 5-11 2020, C Joel Soriano 6-10 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Crusaders return three starters and nine lettermen off a team that captured the state Federation Class AA TOC. Griffin (12.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg) was one of the nation’s best first-year players and could develop into a two-time All-American for coach Patrick Massaroni. Davis (20.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.7 spg) is a terrific all-around talent and can effectively play both guard spots. Eduard Minaya (5-11, 2020) averaged 9.7 ppg and is a perfect compliment to Davis in the backcourt, while Soriano (5.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg) does the dirty work inside.
The Skinny: This balanced team defeated No. 44 South Shore in the Feds title game and deserves to ranked ahead of that club. We didn’t put the Crusaders behind No. 33 LuHi because of the controversy surrounding their TOC semifinal game, but rather because the teams split games and that team has plenty of returning talent, too. We’ll never know how the final 8.3 seconds of that tied game would have played out without the unfortunate technical foul situation, but we do know the CHSAA champs control its own rankings destiny this year. The Crusaders participate in the Slam Dunk Tournament (Dec. 21-23) the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina (Dec. 26-31) with the likes of No. 43 Scott County and No. 47 St. Edward, and play highly-regarded Roselle Catholic on Jan. 13 at the Empire Invitational.

40. (BB) Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 27-7
Key Players: SG Carson McCorkle 6-3 2021 (No. 33 Hoop Scoop), PF Mike Fowler 6-9 2019, PF Josh Taylor 6-8 2020 (No. 127 247Sports.com), PG Cam Hayes 6-2 2021 (No. 20 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: With their blend of returning veterans and talented newcomers, the Bengals deserve to be preseason FAB 50 ranked for the fourth consecutive season. In that time span Greensboro Day hasn’t had that singular superstar talent; it wins with depth, discipline and coaching continuity and this year should be more of the same. McCorkle (10.7 ppg, 4 rpg) was an all-conference selection as a freshman and could develop into one of the nation’s best players in the 2021 class. In addition to three returning starters, the defending NCISAA Class 3A champs added three talented newcomers, including Hayes (11.4 ppg, 6.7 apg) and Taylor (12 ppg, 13 rpg). While the Bengals graduated two perimeter starters, they are strong inside with Mike Fowler (6-9, 2019) and Nicholas Evtimov (6-7, 2019).
The Skinny: After an up-and-down 2017-18 regular season, Greensboro Day defeated a talented Wesleyan Christian Academy team it lost to twice during the regular season in the NCISAA Class 3A title game. The program has won back-to-back state crowns (and three in four years) and this team has the ingredients to become the first in program history to win three consecutively. The Bengals are now in Class 4A and on paper it looks like Carmel Christian (which defeated the Bengals last season) is the team to beat in 3A. Veteran coach Freddy Johnson (1,019-290), now in his 42nd season at Greensboro Day, is confident this group could bring the program NCISAA title No. 11. The Bengals will participate at the Phenom Hoops Showcase (Nov. 16-17), will play at the HAECO Invitational after Christmas and meet Carmel Christian on Jan. 10.

41. (BB) Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) 29-6
Key Players: PG Xavion Brown 6-1 2020 (No. 143 247Sports.com), SG Kaito Williams 6-2 2019, SF Marcus Bagley 6-6 2020, C Josh Morgan 6-10 2019 (Long Beach St. commit).
Why This Ranking: The Huskies are the defending NorCal open division champions and could be better this year with added depth and plenty of big-game experience. The toughness and big-play ability of graduated Dale Currie will be missed, but Sheldon is not only deeper and bigger, it has better outside shooting than a year ago. Brown, who shined in the state title game versus FAB 50 title contender Sierra Canyon, is one of the most explosive guards nationally in his class and is primed for a breakout season. Justin Nguyen (5-10, 2019) always seems to spark Sheldon by making the right play at the right time. Williams (6-2, 2019) is another backcourt veteran that can get it done on both ends.
The Skinny: A bad fourth quarter (outscored 19-6) was the difference in the CIF state open title game versus Sierra Canyon; had Sheldon won that game it would likely be in the Top 20. Speaking to NorCal coaches, it’s a two-horse race in the region between the Huskies and Modesto Christian and a big drop-off after that. The Crusaders defeated Sheldon in the Sac Joaquin Section D1 title game, and in order to move up in the national rankings the Huskies can’t afford in-region losses. With Bagley, a terrific shooter and the brother of Sacramento Kings rookie Marcus Bagley III, and Morgan, a shot-blocker and rapidly improving player, joining the fold, this team looks to peak in the second half of the season. Sheldon will play in the Tarkanian Classic, Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, face No. 38 Rainier Beach at home Jan. 3 and take on highly-regarded Bishop Gorman at the Coronado MLK Showcase (Jan. 21).

42. (36) Gonzaga Prep (Spokane, Wash.) 27-0
Key Players: SF Anton Watson 6-10 2019 (No. 32 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Gonzaga commit), SG Liam Lloyd 6-4 2020, SG Sheadon Byrd 6-2 2019.
Why This Ranking: Plenty of talent and experience returning off a WIAA Class 4A championship team secures this club a FAB 50 spot. With Watson and Lloyd back, coach Matty McIntyre loves his team’s repeat chances. All Watson did last season was earn league MVP honors for the second consecutive season, earn state tourney MVP honors after scoring 22 points in the title game versus No. 31 Federal Way and average 21.9 ppg and 8.2 rebounds. Lloyd is getting D1 attention and he too had a big state title game (15 points). The return of Byrd (who missed all of last season with an ACL injury) only adds to the athleticism and toughness required to once again keep Federal Way at bay in the state title chase.
The Skinny: The reason the Bullpups are ranked six spots lower than last season’s FAB 50 finish is because that spot was secured by virtue of an undefeated record and it won’t be easy to repeat that feat with the loaded schedule on tap. Should the Bullpups go unbeaten, they’ll finish plenty higher than No. 36. Their ranking will be put to the test when they face highly-regarded Modesto Christian and Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas at Hoophall West (Dec. 7-8). Gonzaga also participates in the Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon after Christmas against the likes of Sierra Canyon of California and University School of Florida. We also have a feeling this team and Federal Way will cross paths once again in the post-season.

43. (43) Scott County (Georgetown, Ky.) 37-2
Key Players: PF Michael Moreno 6-6 2019 (No. 227 247Sports.com), SG Bryce Long 6-2 2019, PG Diablo Stewart 5-10 2019, SG Glenn Covington 6-1 2019.
Why This Ranking: Returns four starters and 10 lettermen off a KHSAA Sweet 16 runner-up team. Moreno, the ringleader on last year’s team, has a great chance to be named all-state for the third time after averaging 20.2 ppg and 10.8 rpg as a junior. According to the Courier-Journal, Moreno enters 2018-19 with 2,073 career points and 1,122 rebounds. This team rallys around its star player and even though it doesn’t have multiple D1 recruits on the roster, the team is unselfish and the players have competed together over a long period of time. Simply put, the Cardinals will be tough to beat.
The Skinny: Scott County would love to move its record to 3-4 in Sweet 16 championship games and has the personnel to do it. The team will miss lone departed starter Cooper Robb (Charlotte), who hit many big post-season shots, but Stewart is ready to step into a bigger leadership role and Long is a deadly 3-pointer shooter. Covington is one of Kentucky’s best Grid-Hoopers and he brings great defensive instincts and toughness to this unit. Scott County’s ranking will be tested when it takes on highly-regarded Olive Branch of Mississippi at the Marshall County Hoopfest (Dec. 1).

44. (NR) South Shore (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 21-9
Key Players: SG Femi Odukale 6-4 2020, SF Kadary Richmond 6-5 2020, C Isaiah Richards 6-9 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Vikings return a host of talent off a team that advanced to the New York Federation Class AA final, where it fell to No. 39 Archbishop Stepinac, 88-76. Coach Shawn Marc only lost three seniors off last year’s roster and returns point guard Dwight Davis Jr. (6-1, 2019), who scored 17 points in the state title game. Odukale is a returning all-City performer and was named MVP of the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) AA title game with 18 points and six rebounds. “We have lots of talent, but cannot beat ourselves,” Marc said.
The Skinny: The defending PSAL champions are still a young unit, but extremely talented, and have an excellent chance to make a rankings splash this season. As Marc stated, this South Shore club must jell and find the right chemistry between the returnees and newcomers. Richards is a double-double waiting to happen, Richmond is another guard with excellent size and Marc is excited about newcomer Philipi Joseph (6-6, 2019), a transfer from CHSAA power Christ the King. The Royals also received FAB 50 consideration, and Jefferson of Brooklyn looks like the main threat to South Shore’s repeat title hopes in the PSAL.

45. (NR) Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.) 24-6
Key Players: SF Seth Lundy 6-6 2019 (No. 100 Hoop Scoop, Penn St. commit), SG Hakim Hart 6-5 2019 (St. Joseph’s commit), PG Lynn Greer III 6-2 2020 (No. 43 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: The Cahillites are defending PIAA Class 6A champs and are a more talented and experienced team this season. Third-year coach Matt Griffin welcomes back Lundy, who attacks the rim with a vengeance and brings versatility to the lineup, and Hart, who spends plenty of time inside but can also knock down the outside shot. Hart has tons of upside as a major college guard, but he can rebound and the presence of Jalen Duren (6-9, 2022) should free him up to become even more of a perimeter threat. In the recent USA Basketball Mini-camp is any indication, Duran could develop into the most productive freshman big man in the country.
The Skinny: The talent is in place to move up in the rankings, but we’ll take a cautious approach with the Cahillites because of recent roster changes and last season’s overall loss total. Greer, who averaged 15.3 ppg and scored 20 points in the state title game, left in the off-season for Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. This summer and fall, Roman was preparing and establishing a rotation without him. On October 18, Greer announced he was returning to Griffin’s program, which according to our most trusted Philadelphia insiders, has caused some uncertainty about returnees’ roles. There already is a player defection and it’s something we’ll monitor as the season gets underway. Roman Catholic will eventually settle its rotation and gain some continuity, but it cannot afford any dissention early, as it faces FAB 50 national title contender and defending Class AAAA state champ Imhotep Charter on Dec. 16.

46. (NR) Nicolet (Glendale, Wis.) 16-10
Key Players: PF Jamari Sibley 6-8 2020 (No. 108 Rivals.com), SF Jalen Johnson 6-8 2020 (No. 4 ESPN, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Kobe Johnson 6-1 2021.
Why This Ranking: Similar to No. 45 Roman Catholic, there is an abundance of talent on deck, but some uncertainty of just how the lineup will look during the meat of the schedule. The Knights were a WIAA D2 sectional finalist last season, but could take a big leap forward in 2018-19 if all the pieces come together. Sibley averaged 16.8 ppg and 10.1 rpg and could be even more dominant this year even with no uptick in statistical output. That’s because Jalen Johnson is one of the best juniors in the country and he’s moving over from Sun Prairie, which he led to its first ever WIAA state tourney appearance after averaging 18.6 ppg and 9.8 rpg. His younger brother Kobe Johnson is a talented lead guard and also made the move over to Nicolet, as did Jarrett Henderson (6-8, 2019) from Sheboygan South.
The Skinny: It looked like the Knights were also going to add talented junior guard Desmond Polk from New Berlin West, but he since decided to enroll at FAB 50 power La Lumiere in Indiana, where there isn’t any of the type of transfer eligibility issues that exist within WIAA member programs. The Johnsons can potentially take this team to the next level, but the coaching staff will rely on returnees Sonny Phinisee (5-10, 2019) and David Rosengarden (5-10, 2019) to provide leadership and execution from the backcourt positions. We’ll see how the roster has meshed when the Knights face WCAC powers St. John’s of Washington, D.C. and Paul VI of Virginia on back-to-back nights (Dec. 8-9) at the ARS Hoopfest in our nation’s capital.

47. (NR) St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) 26-4
Key Players: SG Grant Huffman 6-3 2020 (No. 166 247Sports.com), PG Montorie Foster 6-1 2020, PF Devontae Blanton 6-5 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Eagles are the final team from the Midwest Region in our rankings right after Nicolet. Veteran coach Eric Flannery (421-117), now in his 23rd season, has a great opportunity to capture state title No. 3 (1998, 2014) with this unit. Pickerington Central might have something to say about that and we also considered La Crosse Central of Wisconsin for this spot. Wingman Huffman should have a standout campaign after missing time with a broken ankle in 2017-18. Foster is the other guard who saw significant minutes as a freshman for Flannery two seasons ago and he’s capable of scoring 20 points or more any given night. Blanton is the important cog inside, but he’s skilled like a 3-man and can also handle the ball when called upon.
The Skinny: Whatever team emerges as Ohio D1 state champ is likely to be ranked higher than this spot in the FAB 50. Pick Central went further in the playoffs last season, but we have a hunch the Eagles can get over the hump this season. Two years ago, the core of this unit reached the OHSAA D1 semifinals with three freshmen and a sophomore in its lineup before falling in the regional semifinals last year. This team showed its potential when it knocked off FAB 50 ranked Solon during the 2017-18 regular season and there is great motivation because of the early playoff loss. The schedule is also a plus with stops at the Lima Tournament, the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina and the Erie’s Burger King Classic over MLK weekend.

48. (BB) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 23-7
Key Players: PG Devin Askew 6-4 2021 (No. 12 Hoop Scoop), C Wilhelm Breidenbach 6-9 2021 (No. 18 ESPN.com), PG Ryan Evans 6-1 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Monarchs are the depending CIF Southern Section Open Division champs and have enough talent, chemistry and veteran coaching to make another serious push at a section crown. This team is young and lost plenty of firepower, including CIFSS open POY Spencer Freedman (Harvard), but Askew is developing into a terrific guard is his own right and is one of the most dominant guards (so far) in the 2021 national class. Breidenbach was all-Trinity League as a freshman and his numbers will double this season as more of a focal point of the offense. “We play well together and have good overall size,” said coach Gary McKnight.
The Skinny: This will be one of the greatest challenges of McKnight’s career to get this team to play at a level good enough to win the Trinity League title, remain FAB 50 ranked and challenge for another section crown. McKnight had teams in the past not expected to win section or CIF state titles that ended up doing so, which makes the program’s track record of success another reason for this rankings spot. St. John Bosco of Bellflower is the early Trinity League favorite, and Orange Lutheran is much improved, but the transfer of Evans and Nick Davidson (6-9, 2020) weaken league member Santa Margarita. Since McKnight took over in 1982-83, his program has won a league crown every season since but one (1987-88), so it will be interesting to see how the league race affects the FAB 50.

49. (6) Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 32-5
Key Players: SG P.J. Fuller 6-4 2019 (No. 35 Hoop Scoop, TCU commit), SF Zach Clemence 6-9 2021 (No. 32 Hoop Scoop), SG Sherif Kenney 6-5 2019.
Why This Ranking: Similar to the Pilots’ preseason ranking in 2016-17 when Paul Washington took over the program (No. 29), this team will begin the season lower than normally accustomed to. Findlay Prep is on its sixth coach in eight seasons, but it’s more the talent level than the coaching turnover that causes a low preseason ranking for this program’s standards. There is plenty of pressure on Fuller, who has tons of big-game experience, to score and have a big season offensively. Kenney could develop into the leader new coach Rodney Haddix (a former Findlay player) needs on the court during crunch time. The X-factor could be Clemence, a combo forward who is among the most skilled 2021 players we’ve evaluated around the country. If Raymond Hawkins (6-9, 2019) shows more than flashes and Canadian import Taryn Todd (6-2, 2019) can contribute, this team could quickly move up.
The Skinny: The Pilots have been ranked in the FAB 50 every season since their eligibility began in 2008-09, but this is the least talented roster in program history. Past rosters have often had multiple future NBA players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this team will end up with its lowest FAB 50 ranking in program history. It means the Pilots will have their work cut out for them and Haddix actually relishes the challenge as he looks to build the program into one that resembles the one he played for under Mike Peck. “I think we’re going to surprise some people,” Haddix said. “We got to be the most collective Findlay team ever and be there for each other to be successful.”

50. (BB) Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) 31-1
Key Players: SF Matt Smith 6-6 2019 (Murray St. commit), PG A.J. McKee 6-3 2019 (Queens College commit).
Why This Ranking: The defending NCHSAA Class 4A state champs nab the final preseason spot as it returns four players with starting experience. Similar to other teams towards the bottom of the FAB 50, the Patriots don’t have overwhelming size or talent, but a group of good high school players who will play somewhere at the next level. Coach Preston Davis, who last season led his program to its first state crown since he was on the playing roster (1996-97), employs a deadly zone defense that suffocates opponents. This season that zone will be even better with the added maturity and experience. McKee had 20 points and two steals in the state title game and Raja Milton (5-11, 2019) is also known for his defense. Miles Pauldin (6-4, 2019) gets it done inside and is as dependable as he is versatile.
The Skinny: We could have went in a number of different directions for the final spot, but we like the Patriots’ blend of talent and gaudy record from a state that has produced quality basketball in recent seasons. We seriously considered Maria Goretti of Hagerstown, Md. (East), a plethora of Southeast teams including Bearden of Knoxville, Tenn., Chicago public league power Simeon (Midwest), Hall of Little Rock, Ark., (Southwest) and Olympus of Salt Lake City, Utah (West). Independence’s ranking will be tested against the loaded field at the Chick-Fil-A Holiday Tournament (Dec. 27-29) and will play FAB 50 ranked Carmel Christian, the only team it lost to last season, on Jan. 19.

RELATED: Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 (16-30)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 ronlocc1977@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores



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