Today Ballislife.com kick offs its 2017-18 high school basketball coverage with our first installment of the preseason 2017-18 FAB 50 national team rankings. We begin with teams No. 31-50 and our second installment will be teams No. 16-30 on Monday, November 6. The complete FAB 50 rankings powered by Ballislife.com will be released by 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.)
31. (NR) Westlake (Austin, Texas) 29-7
Key Players: SF Matthew Mayer 6-7 2018 (No. 57 ESPN.com, Baylor commit), SF Brock Cunningham 6-6 2018, C Will Baker 6-10 2019 (No. 13 ESPN.com).
Why This Ranking: Last season the Chaparrals got the nod as the UIL Class 6A favorites and the Texas Basketball Association of Coaches (TABC) has them penciled in as the preseason top-ranked team in state over No. 44 Guyer. Westlake is more talented than last season, but in our rankings system if a defending champion has nearly all its team returning, as Cypress Falls does, there’s no reason to start another team ahead of it. Still, with four returning starters and Baker ready to step into a bigger role, the Chaps will be hard to beat come playoff time. It starts with Cunningham (14.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg), a throwback who rebounds and gets on the floor like a Jayvee fighting for time off the bench and was the All-Central Texas Player of the Year. Mayer is a talented wing prospect who can fill it up in a hurry, while Xavier commit Keonte Kennedy (6-4, 2018) can slash and get opponents in foul trouble.
The Skinny: Coach Robert Lucero’s club is not only talented; it’s extremely motivated after blowing a nine-point lead in a regional final loss to San Antonio Wagner. It was the second consecutive Final Eight loss for a program that opened last season No. 27 in the FAB 50 and has never reached the UIL Final Four. The loss to Humble Atascocita in 2016 was to a highly-ranked FAB 50 team, while Westlake feels it was clearly the better team against Wagner. Cunningham has to remain healthy and out of foul trouble (he fouled out against Wagner) and the guard play, led by Luke Pluymen (6-0, 2018), has to be on top of its game if Westlake is going to win six games in a row to capture make its first trip to state and capture the coveted state crown. We’ll find out more about the Texas pecking order right away when the Chaps take on No. 44 Guyer at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas November 25.
32. (NR) New Albany (New Albany, Ind.) 25-4
Key Players: SG Romeo Langford 6-4 2018 (No. 5 247Sports.com, Ballislife Second Team All-American), PG Sean East 6-0 2018.
Why This Ranking: The Bulldogs begin the season a spot lower than last season when they were coming off a 2015-16 season that saw the program win its first state title since 1973. New Albany is once again the favorites to win the Class 4A state crown, but it will need consistency and role players to step up in order to maintain its FAB 50 ranking. East (12.0 ppg, 4.2 apg) had a solid summer and could take on a bigger offensive role if necessary. He’s a good leader and could earn some D1 looks with a big start to the season.
The Skinny: Langford, of course, is why New Albany is so highly-regarded and the favorite to win the state title over the likes of Zionsville, North Side of Ft. Wayne and cross-town Lawrence North. After earning Ballislife National Sophomore of the Year Honors, last season he averaged 28.7 ppg and 8.9 rpg, but there wasn’t a huge uptick in his overall game. With a big season, Langford has a chance to break the Indiana career scoring mark of 1990 Mr. Basketball USA Damon Bailey of Bedford North Lawrence (3,134). The scoring race, however, won’t be the key to the season as much of the development of talents such as 6-foot-4 sophomore Julien Hunter (5.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and 6-foot-5 senior Blake Murphy (4.3 ppg) will be. The Bulldogs ranking will be tested right away when it meets North Side, a 4A state finalist last season, on December 10 at the Forum Tip-Off at Southport Fieldhouse.
33. (6) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) 31-2
Key Players: SG David Singleton 6-4 2018 (No. 39 247Sports.com, UCLA commit), PG Gianni Hunt 6-3 2019 (No. 86 Rivals.com), SF Fletcher Tynen 6-6 2018 (Boston University commit).
Why This Ranking: Last season some long-time writers and followers of the SoCal basketball scene thought we were flat out nuts to place Bishop Montgomery in front of a Sierra Canyon team that had five d1 recruits, two Pac-12 players and future NBA lottery pick Marvin Bagley. In the end, our hunch was spot on, as coach Doug Mitchell’s team went on to win CIF-Southern Section and CIF State Open crowns to finish ranked one spot ahead of where it began in the preseason (No. 7). Without the graduated Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball Ethan Thompson (Oregon St.) and Jordan Schakel (San Diego St.), the team may take a small step back, but don’t be surprised if the Knights are in the section and regional final once again.
The Skinny: The reason the Knights have an opportunity to win back-to-back CIF State Open crowns is their defense is always top notch. Singleton is a Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball candidate, Hunt is one of the best underclass point guards in the state and Tynen impacts both ends of the floor. In fall leagues, Montgomery has been in mid-season form defensively and when you combine that with the three returning starters, 10 lettermen and newcomers Lazar Nekic (6-11, 2019) and Oscar Lopez (6-4, 2019) it’s easy to see why Montgomery has a good chance to move up in the rankings. Similar to the 2015-16 team that began No. 36 in the FAB 50, we’ll slow play the Knights because they don’t play in a big-time out-of-state tournament or showcase.
34. (NR) Pickerington North (Pickerington, Ohio) 22-7
Key Players: SF Jerome Hunter 6-7 2018 (No. 50 Rivals.com, Indiana commit), PF Elijah McNamera 6-8 2018 (Miami-Ohio commit), SG Dondre Palmer 6-5 2018.
Why This Ranking: This team has a nice blend of returning talent, newcomers and experience to make a serious run at the Ohio Division I state title. The team, and in particular Hunter, caught fire at the end of the regular season and advanced to the Columbus Regional Final, where it fell to highly-regarded Pickerington Central. Hunter (19.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg) is a legit Ohio Mr. Basketball candidate while McNamera (9.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who is a versatile inside player, had a breakout season after playing little as a sophomore. Palmer (10.0 ppg) is also a capable scorer and a good defensive player.
The Skinny: It’s going to be a battle of attrition for the D1 state crown between early favorite Moeller of Cincinnati, the Panthers, Pick Central, Garfield Heights and Princeton of Cincinnati, all of which were considered for the FAB 50. Coach Jason Bates’ club had good size, a go-to player and quality depth. The Panthers also took a step closer to Moeller from a rankings perspective with the additions of Ross Ryan (6-9, 2018) and Corey Baker (6-0, 2018).
35. (NR) Clark (Las Vegas, Nev.) 27-5
Key Players: SG Trey Woodbury 6-4 2018 (No. 129 Rivals.com, UNLV commit), PG Greg Foster Jr. 6-5 2018 (No. 188 247Sports.com), SF Jalen Hill 6-7 2019, PF James Brides 6-5 2018.
Why This Ranking: Sin City is buzzing about this Chargers team and the possibility of a NIAA public school being the best team in Nevada and highly-ranked. The last time a Vegas public school won the largest classification (4A) state title was in 2011 (Canyon Springs) and this team could be the first Vegas public school since Cheyenne in 2002-03 (No. 17) to finish FAB 50 ranked. The ingredients are there as the Chargers return five starters and add at least two newcomers who will play a valuable role. Woodbury (14.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.4 apg) is a returning first team all-state selection while Hill, who is improving rapidly, the physical Bridges and versatile Ian Alexander (6-6, 2018) all gained all-state recognition.
The Skinny: The Chargers did beat No. 48 Bishop Gorman last season to ends the Gaels’ 79-game winning streak versus NIAA foes, but they also changed coaches and lost a eight-point lead in the closing minute and a half in a state title game loss to Gorman. Coach Chad Beeten is back after a one-year coaching stint in California and Clark has been more impressive in fall leagues than the Gaels. Throwing Foster Jr. in the mix not only makes Clark the clear NIAA Class 4A favorites, it makes the team a national player as the Chargers travel to the Beach Ball Classic and stay home in attempt to capture the Tarkanian Classic title. In spite of all the experience and firepower, Clark still has to prove it can live up to expectations when it matters.
36. (BB) Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) 23-4
Key Players: PF Donatas Kupsas 6-8 2018, PG Tyson Etienne 6-2 2019, SF Frankie Policelli 6-8 2018 (No. 140 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: After losing to Lincoln of Brooklyn in the New York Federation Class AA title game, the Crusaders are once again talented enough to compete for the federation crown and national acclaim. With a roster with up to seven D1 players, coach John Buck’s team is a big favorite to win New York’s Independent Schools title (NYSAIS) and play the schedule to make a push towards the Top 25. Even with the loss of three starters and forward Harrison Warnock, there is an abundance of returning talent including Kupsas, a talented stretch-four from Lithuania who gained confidence playing in the FIBA 19U World Championships in Egypt last summer. LuHi’s depth, length and versatility will make it a tough out.
The Skinny: New York teams seem to be on the upswing after a short down period where they didn’t make a huge dent in the FAB 50. Archbishop Malloy of Queens could be a FAB 50 title contender and No. 46 Christ the King in the CHSAA and Lincoln and South Shore in the PSAL could be in the FAB 50 mix with the Crusaders. Veterans such as power forward Esam Mostafa (6-8, 2019) will need to step up in big games at events such as the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina, the Hoophall Classic, the SNY Invitational and the Big Apple Invitational where the Crusaders play Providence Day of North Carolina. It’s chemistry with the newcomers, however, that will be key to surviving the schedule. Etienne is a future D1 point guard and Policelli is motivated to use LuHi’s platform to prove he’s a legitimate Top 100 player in the national senior class.
37. (21) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) 27-3
Key Players: SG Duane Washington 6-4 2018 (Ohio St. commit), PG Scottie Pippen Jr. 6-0 2019, PF K.J. Martin 6-7 2019, SG Cassius Stanley 6-5 2019 (No. 10 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: This team graduated as much raw talent as any in the country and has a new coach, but there is just too much new blood for the Trailblazers not to be in the rankings. It begins with Washington, who proved in fall leagues he’s vastly underrated nationally. The combo guard from Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian is an excellent shooter and should average upwards of 18 ppg on this team. Pippen Jr. is a crafty lead guard who averaged 11.8 ppg at Pine Crest (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and now has more weapons around him. Martin, who like Pippen is the son of a former NBA standout, is coming over from nearby Chaminade and is an active rebounder and strong finisher.
The Skinny: Andre Chevalier, a former assistant, is actually not a new head coach, as he had previous stints at Oaks Christian and Cleveland of Reseda and was the acting head coach in the playoffs last year when Ty Nichols stepped aside. Not surprisingly to us, that strategy didn’t work as Sierra Canyon lost to state preseason No. 1 Bishop Montgomery in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals and lost in the regional opener for the second year in a row. This team isn’t as talented, but is a major threat to Mater Dei of Santa Ana, No. 33 Bishop Montgomery and Oak Park to win the CIFSS Open crown because of the blue collar approach. Chevalier wants this team to peak at playoff time, so the development of Terren Frank (6-8, 2020) and the incorporation of Stanley after the 30-day sit out period will be critical.
38. (NR) DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 25-10
Key Players: SG Justin Moore 6-3 2019 (No. 60 Rivals.com), C Hunter Dickinson 7-1 2020 (No. 7 ESPN.com), SG Carsten Kogelnik 6-5 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Stags have enough talent, tradition and play enough FAB 50 ranked foes to offset their relative youth. Last season, DeMatha came in fourth place in the ultra-competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) and this year there are three teams from the conference in the FAB 50 so coach Mike Jones (404-107) knows there is work to be done. DeMatha lost three D1 seniors to graduation, but 10 lettermen gained valuable playing time, especially after Moore (14 ppg) went down to injury during conference play. In addition to his return, Dickinson (4.8 ppg) has made huge strides and expect his numbers to more than double this season. Ditto for Kogelnik (4.2 ppg). “This group gained a ton of experience last season and added some nice pieces; we will have very competitive practices which should translate well to our games,” Jones said.
The Skinny: The Stags have been a staple in the FAB 50 since its beginning and have arguably been the program to appear most consistently in national rankings since they began in a weekly format in 1975-76. They have the talent to move up, but if the underclass returnees don’t step up the production, the schedule could be more overwhelming than a confidence-builder. With that in mind, it will be important for newcomers such as Earl Timberlake Jr. (6-4, 2020), Josh Wallace (6-1, 2019) and Jamir Young (5-8, 2019) to be ready when called upon. In addition to weekly WCAC wars, the Stags play in the Beach Ball Classic with the likes of No. 48 Bishop Gorman, No. 36 Clark, No. 35 Long Island Lutheran and FAB 50 title contender Montverde Academy, at the Cancer Research Classic versus highly-regarded McEachern of Georgia and versus Archbishop Malloy of New York at the Hoophall Classic.
39. (NR) Ranney School (Tinton Falls, N.J.) 22-6
Key Players: SF Scottie Lewis 6-6 2019 (No. 5 247Sports.com), SG Bryan Antoine 6-3 2019 (No. 3 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: The Panthers are a talent-laden team and have a big window in terms of opportunity to move up in the rankings, but they also have many local landmines that could prevent a higher ranking. Coach Taj Holden started five sophomores last season that advanced to the South Jersey, Non-Public B semifinals, where Ranney School lost to FAB 50 power Patrick School. Lewis (16.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.4 apg) is one of the most talented and exciting players in the nation regardless of class, but it is Antoine who is consistently the most productive player. He averaged 20.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.5 apg and 3.4 spg and was third five all-state by NJ.com. This team is young, but gained valuable experience playing together against tough competition, while Antoine and Lewis are long-time teammates on the Team Rio travel club.
The Skinny: Although this team has loads of potential and plays a national schedule, it’s still fourth in the New Jersey rankings pecking order behind the Celtics, Hudson Catholic and Roselle Catholic. The Panthers’ ranking going into 2018 will be dependent on how they fare at the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla., where they open versus highly-regarded McEachern of Georgia. They also play Roselle Catholic on January 31 and must get by the Celtics when it counts in the post-season. With that in mind, the consistency of point guard Ahmadu Sarnor (6-2, 2019) and the production of power forward Chris Autino (6-6-, 2019) cannot be underestimated.
40. (NR) Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) 22-10
Key Players: SF Kevin Porter Jr. 6-6 2018 (No. 36 Rivals.com), SG Fred Roberson 6-2 2018, PG Trevante Anderson 6-1 2018.
Why This Ranking: The basketball-crazed city of Seattle produced its first FAB 50 national champion last season when Nathan Hale rose all the way from No. 38 to No. 1, and veteran coach Mike Bethea hopes that Emerald City magic can rub off on his program. Last season, there were three Metro League teams in the FAB 50 mix, but with Michael Porter Jr. now in college and Hale coach Brandon Roy now at Garfield, it’s again a two-horse race for the league crown and Bethea likes his team’s chances. He feels his Porter Jr. will do what Roy’s did last season. “Kevin is going to be the dominant player in this league,” Bethea said. “He’s a matchup nightmare because he can do so many things.” Roberson is a returning all-city talent who is even better as a running back, and there is a nice blend of newcomers and returning role players.
The Skinny: The Vikings were quite talented last season when they opened up No. 23 in the FAB 50. It may have been a tad high, but the team never came together like Bethea (530-130) expects this one to do. In fact, he likens this unit to his 2001-02 club led by Nate Robinson and the Stewart twins that finished No. 8 in the FAB 50 (28-1). The chemistry is good, the players have similar goals and Anderson, a transfer from Tacoma Lincoln, is a first rate lead guard as the graduated Kahlil Shabazz (Central Washington). Mike Monroe (6-2, 2019), utility man Darrious Ballou (6-6, 2018), sharpshooter Kenny Curtis (5-8, 2019) and Nate Murray (6-4, 2019) provide depth. Beach is schedule to play Garfield during the regular season right before MLK weekend and will find out what improvements need to be made when they travel to the Iolani Classic before Christmas.
41. (26) Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) 26-6
Key Players: PG Kyle Sturdivant 6-2 2019 (No. 113 Rivals.com), SF JoJo Toppin 6-6 2018 (No. 102 247Sports.com), SG B.J. Boston 6-4 2020 (No. 11 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Blue Devils begin in the same rankings position it did last season when they advanced all the way to the GHSA Class AAAAAAA state title game before falling to upstart Tift County, 55-52. Despite losing their big guns up front in Rayshaun Hammonds (Georgia) and Lance Thomas (Louisville), veteran coach Jesse McMillan has a quick and talented team. He loves his guard play led by four-year starter and floor general Dalvin White (5-11, 2018), an excellent 3-point shooter, and combo guard Sturdivant. Boston is a big-time talent and McMillan plans to have multiple lead guards on the floor at the same time. That means Toppin and newcomer Issa Muhammad (6-9, 2019) need to score and play big on the boards against the better teams.
The Skinny: Even though Norcross has to replace a lot, there are potentially fewer land minds in the Class AAAAAAA ranks this year than last when there was four FAB 50 ranked teams. Wheeler and Buford are also in the FAB 50 mix, but the only team surely in front of Norcross will be McEachern. McMillan is a bit worried about the lack of depth and experience, but the Blue Devils will grow up quick playing Miller Grove of Lithonia to open the season, Gainesville at the On The Radar Showcase then No. 50 Mountain Brook Academy and highly-regarded Wesleyan Christian Academy of North Carolina at the Holiday Hoopsgiving.
42. (BB) Morgan Park (Chicago, Ill.) 26-6
Key Players: PG Ayo Dosunmu 6-4 2018 (No. 20 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Illinois commit), Tamell Pearson 6-9 2018 (Alabama-Birmingham commit), SG Adam Miller 6-3 2020 (No. 23 ESPN.com).
Why This Ranking: It was a close call, but we go with the defending IHSA Class 3A state champions over defending Class 4A state champ Whitney Young in the FAB 50 because the Mustangs have more returning firepower. It starts with Dosunmu, the state’s best player and leading Mr. Basketball candidate. Don’t be surprised if he turns in some triple-double performances after averaging 22 ppg, 7 rpg, and 9 apg as a junior. He can score at a high-clip or run the team as a traditional one. Coach Nick Irvin also has a go-to player inside in Pearson and a budding star in Miller, a physically strong wing guard who can score in a variety of ways. With its talent and never-say-die defensive approach, there is plenty of potential for this team to move up.
The Skinny: The Mustangs were in the mix for a FAB 50 spot with Whitney Young and we took a look at Curie and Fenwick, too. In order for Irvin’s boys to remain in, they can’t afford a slow start to the season, as the Mustangs take on Champaign Central at the Chicago Elite Classic and Simeon, Curie and Kenwood all before December 15. Morgan Park lost some scoring punch with the transfer of Nimari Burnett and L.J. Johnson, so will look to combo guard and Tennessee-State bound Kenyon Duling (6-2, 2018) and high motor forward Cameron Burrell (6-7, 2018) to take on bigger roles.
43. (BB) Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) 24-5
Key Players: SF Matt Bradley 6-4 2018 (No. 56 Rivals.com, CAL commit), C Bryan Penn-Johnson 7-0 2018 (No. 38 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Tigers have been ranked in the middle of the FAB 50 pack for the past three seasons and again have a solid team that can make some noise by closing strong and earning a third Dick’s Nationals berth. There is a lot to like about this team, as coach Curtis Condie welcomes back point guard Damion Squire (6-0, 2018) to be his coach on the floor and mesh the newcomers. The most productive of those players is Bradley, last year’s Cal-Hi Sports Division IV State Player of the Year at San Bernardino is capable of playing multiple positions and is as physical as any scoring wing in the country.
The Skinny: This team has some talent and some big players in their lineup, but is looking to take the next step up to be a true national power. Two years ago the Tigers were overwhelmed by Oak Hill Academy (81-64) and last year were more respectable against eventual champ La Lumiere. They are looking to take that next step this season and record their first Dick’s National’s win. Condie is hoping Bernardo Da Silva (6-7, 2019) ups his production and Penn-Johnson has a breakout year. The latter has turned into a tremendous prospect, but hasn’t accomplished anything in a meaningful, big-time high school environment yet. “Our length, athleticism and physical strength is exceptional and this is the most unselfish team I have ever coached,” Condie said. “Our new players will have to pick up our defense concepts.”
44. (NR) Guyer (Denton, Texas) 25-6
Key Players: PG De’Vion Harmon 6-0 2019 (No. 42 Rivals.com, Oklahoma commit), SF Jalen Wilson 6-6 2019 (No. 47 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Wildcats are right there with No. 31 Westlake, Mansfield Timberview, South Garland and DeSoto as the best bet of contenders to knock off defending champ Cy Falls and take the UIL Class 6A state crown. Similar to Westlake, whom it squares off against November 25 at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest, Guyer has a plethora of returning talent. We rank Westlake higher to begin the season, however, since it had a much better showing in the UIL playoffs. Guyer was stung in their Bi-District playoff opener in overtime by Euless Trinity, 92-91, after giving up 52 points to Jhivvan Jackson (Texas-San Antonio). That motivation and the returning talent make Guyer a major state title threat.
The Skinny: Guyer returns seven lettermen and four double-digit scorers from last season, including Harmon (18.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.8 apg) and Wilson (16.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg). There’s also small forward Le’tre Darthhard (6-4, 2018) back and pivot Grayson Carter (6-9, 2018). Darthhard averaged 10.8 ppg and 5.6 rpg, while Carter averaged 11.8 ppg and 7.8 rpg. Coach Grant Long has a balanced and motivated team, but also one that is long on guard play. Stellar backcourt play has been key in the Class 6A playoffs in recent seasons, so Wildcats’ fans have got to like their team’s chance to crack the Final Four.
45. (NR) Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) 29-4
Key Players: SG David Johnson 6-5 2019 (No. 80 Rivals.com), SG Jay Scrubb 6-5 2018, PG Justin Powell 6-5 2020.
Why This Ranking: At first glance, it seems The Shamrocks are too decimated by graduation to be ranked this high, but they are the consensus preseason No. 1 in Kentucky and have the talent, tradition and coaching to warrant this spot. Covington Catholic and Scott County were also considered from Kentucky, while Whitney Young of Chicago, Belleville, Mich., and Pickerington Central (Ohio) were other Midwest Region programs also considered. Veteran coach Mike Szabo (496-195) has good size across the board and the KHSAA’s best prospect and overall player in Johnson.
The Skinny: Trinity still only has two seniors on its roster, so it may be a year away from being a threat to other highly ranked FAB 50 teams. Coach Szabo needs the young players to step up in order to remain in and they are more than capable. Scrubb is an undersized combo forward who is athletic and quite productive at this level. Powell is an outstanding passer and oozing with potential. Even with its youth and bench players needing to develop, Trinity must avoid in-state hiccups to have a chance to move up in the rankings.
46. (NR) Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 18-9
Key Players: C Kofi Cockburn 6-11 2019 (No. 27 247Sports.com), PG Tyson Walker 5-10 2018, SG Ryan Meyers 6-1 2020.
Why This Ranking: Similar to No. 45 Trinity, the Royals are a relatively young team (one senior contributor), but they are even bigger and have a senior leader at the point in Walker, whose fielding offers from St. Louis and Rutgers. CTK has even more potential to move up in the rankings than Trinity because of their strength of New York’s Catholic League and its overall schedule, but it starts behind that club because the Royals are not nearly a consensus No. 1 in their state and have more land mines to cross. Coach Joe Arbitello is confident his team can hold off teams such as Archbishop Malloy and Cardinal Hayes for the CHSAA Class AA title because of the presence of the improved Cockburn in the middle and his good shooters around him.
The Skinny: The Royals are talented and go at least 10 deep in their rotation, but they are still relatively young and if they don’t start off well in the big games, tournaments and showcases, they could lose confidence going into the meat of the CHSAA schedule. CTK plays Cardinal Hayes on December 1 and from a national perspective, we’ll see what this team is made of when it travels to the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Missouri to battle the likes of Oak Hill Academy, Webster Groves (Mo.), defending Dick’s Nationals champ La Lumiere, No. 43 Wasatch Academy and Brentwood Academy (Tenn.). Its CHSAA Brooklyn-Queens D1 showdowns with Malloy take place a week apart in February, then it’s a Jersey road date with FAB 50 No. 1 contender Montverde Academy on February 11.
47. (NR) Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.) 24-10
Key Players: C Daniel Oturu 6-10 2018 (No. 44 ESPN.com, Minnesota commit), PF Sy Chatman 6-7 2018, PG Ryan Larson 6-1 2018.
Why This Ranking: This is one of the most balanced teams in the bottom half of the FAB 50 with dominant size, good perimeter play and a experienced point guard. Oturu is one of the best interior players in the Midwest Region and is motivated after his club was knocked off by eventual Class 4A state champ Apple Valley in the state quarterfinals after leading by 12 points early in the second half. Oturu was named to the all-tournament team and Larson played excellent, but it was little solace for a team that felt it should have won the state crown.
The Skinny: Coach Jerry Kline Jr. has a club that is solid top-to-bottom, but it doesn’t have that one player who can absolutely take over a game on the perimeter the way Apple Valley’s Tre Jones can. The Raiders start behind Apple Valley in the FAB 50, but they have an excellent shot to get past that club and Minnesota’s other top teams this time around. If Chatman has a big year underneath and Jake Prince (6-4, 2018) is consistent from the outside, this team will move up in the rankings.
48. (BB) Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 22-9
Key Players: SF Jamal Bey 6-6 2018 (No. 154 247Sports.com, Washington commit), SG Noah Taitz (6-3, 2020), PG Zaon Collins (5-11, 2021).
Why This Ranking: The Gaels have a deep club with interchangeable parts and have dominated NIAA competition as of late. Under coach Grant Rice (417-90), Gorman has won six consecutive NIAA titles and eight of nine heading into this season. Bey is an athletic wing with tons of experience who feasts on opponents in the open court. Taitz is an excellent spot up shooter and fearless driving the ball and taking the big shot. D.J. Howe (5-9, 2018) starts at the point, but Collins could develop into one of the best guards in school history and gives the team a shot in the arm when inserted into the lineup.
The Skinny: The Gaels won last year’s state crown over No. 36 Clark in dramatic fashion; rallying from eight down with under two minutes remaining. The Chargers have more upperclass talent and has been more impressive this fall. Another reason why Gorman starts behind Clark is the Gaels started No. 26 last year, but haven’t finished the season in the final FAB 50 the last two years. Gorman will need to build up and is more than capable with a great defensive club. The key will be the development and utilization of a sparkplug bench that includes Collins, shot blocker Isaiah Cottrell (6-9, 2020) and wing Will McClendon (6-4, 2021).
49. (NR) Cox Mill (Concord, N.C.) 27-6
Key Players: SF Rechon “Leaky” Black 6-8 2018 (No. 48 ESPN.com, North Carolina commit), SF Wendell Moore Jr. 6-6 2019 (No. 21 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: The NCISA Class 3A will have its top two preseason ranked teams in the FAB 50, but this year top teams in North Carolina’s public school ranks deserved a serious look. We decided to go with the 3A favorites over the 4A favorites (Butler of Matthews) for this FAB 50 spot. We like coach Jody Barbee’s team because of the addition of Black, who played last season at FAB 50 power Montverde Academy and is one of the most talented wings in the country. We also like the aggressive schedule the Chargers play, as they participate in both the Chick-Fil-A Classic (which includes Oak Hill Academy, Findlay Prep, IMG Academy, Prolific Prep, and Huntington Prep, among others) and the Beach Ball Classic (which includes No. 48 Bishop Gorman, No. 36 Clark and Montverde Academy, among others).
The Skinny: Cox Mill is the defending NCHSAA Class 3A state champ and will have the opportunity to prove it’s a much better team this season. Black raises the national profile, but in reality it’s Moore whose been the most productive player, as he went for 29 points and 12 rebounds in the 70-66 win over Eastern Guilford in the state title game. Moore upped his outstanding freshman production when Cox Mill won a sectional crown, to average 25.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.9 apg and 2.3 spg as a sophomore. We almost went with Providence Day of Charlotte in this spot, but that rankings dilemma will take care of itself when those two meet at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge on November 25.
50. (NR) Mountain Brook (Mountain Brook, Ala.) 31-5
Key Players: SF Trendon Watford 6-8 2019 (No. 10 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Sean Elmore (6-2, 2018).
Why This Ranking: We were in line to go with Chaminade of Missouri in this spot, but highly-regarded wing Karrington Davis took his 18.7 ppg to FAB 50 power Montverde Academy in attempt to crack the Eagles’ high-powered lineup. We wanted to get our next team from the Southeast Region (which has been the best in recent years) and the defending AHSAA Class 7A state champs is the choice. Coach Bucky McMillan’s club has a nice blend of star power and plays a strong schedule by Alabama standards.
The Skinny: Watford is the star of this club, and when he’s on his game (23.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.0 apg) the Spartans can play and potentially defeat FAB 50 ranked clubs. They are not a one-man show, however, as Elmore (12.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is an excellent outside shooter and has plenty of experience. Mountain Brook gets to show it rankings worth by participating in the City of Palms Classic in Florida, where it could face FAB 50 national title contender Mater Dei of California if its wins the play-in game. Other clubs considered for this spot were Archbishop Wood of Pennsylvania, Wheeler of Georgia, and two teams who will meet right away at the NorCal Tip Off-Classic in California: Fairfax of Los Angeles and Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland. Whoever wins that season-opener November 25 has a nice springboard to be included in the first set of regular season rankings December 4.