We continue our 2018-19 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 Tuesday evening and our final installment will be teams No. 1-15 on Thursday, 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 (31-50) | Preseason East Region Top 20 | Preseason Southeast Region Top 20 | Preseason Midwest Region Top 20 | Preseason Southwest Region Top 20 | Preseason West Region Top 20
16. (32) McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) 26-3
Key Players: SF Isaac Okoro 6-5 2019 (No. 31 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Auburn commit), PG Sharife Cooper 5-11 2020 (No. 3 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American), C Jared Coleman-Jones 6-9 2019 (No. 132 247Sports.com, Northwestern commit).
Why This Ranking: The Indians’ preseason ranking is a perfect example of why what happens in prior seasons and a program’s pattern of success is relevant for the current team. McEachern had FAB 50 national title aspirations last season, but lost by 20 points to Norcross in the GHSA Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals. McEachern was No. 4 in the FAB 50 at that time and was No. 9 when it fell to Tift County in the 2016-17 state semifinals. The Indians have the talent and experience to be serious FAB 50 title contenders, but must start the season ranked behind the Norcross team it lost to with defending state champ Meadowcreek and Wheeler of Marietta other serious AAAAAAA contenders. Okoro and Cooper were two of the best underclass players in the nation and are more focused on the big prize. It’s their jobs to keep everyone on the same page and ready for a championship run. Regardless, the coaching staff is confident there is something different about this year’s team.
The Skinny: Had McEachern won the state crown last year, it would likely be a preseason top three FAB 50 team this season. For now, we’ll take a cautious ranking scenario for McEachern and let the Indians work up. This team has to replace the toughness and grit of graduated Brandon Suggs and took a rankings hit when it was revealed 6-foot-8 Auburn commit Babatunde Akingbola would not return to the team, forward Charles Smith IV transferred to Wheeler, and talented forward Christian Brown (6-6, 2019) left for Oak Hill Academy in late October. Needed depth is provided by Quinton Kight-McElroy (6-1, 2020) and Ayln Breed (6-3, 2020), an unsung shooting guard receiving D1 interest. McEachern gets a nice early test when it faces Anthony Edwards and FAB 50 ranked Holy Spirit Prep on Nov. 10. The Indians will play highly-regarded Findlay Prep and FAB 50 title contender Imhotep of Philadelphia at the Cancer Research Classic in West Virginia (Jan. 4-5), take on No. 24 Rancho Christian at the Hoophall Classic (Jan. 21) and play at the prestigious City of Palms Classic (Dec. 17-22). We’re pretty sure a loss among one of those games won’t mean much provided the Indians win their last game of the season.
17. (NR) Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Air, Kan.) 23-2
Key Players: C N’Faly Dante 6-11 2020 (No. 7 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Grant Sherfield 6-2 2019 (No. 101 Rivals.com, UCLA commit), SF Jordan Turner 6-6 2019 (No. 240 247Sports.com, Baylor commit), PG Elijah Wood 6-5 2020 (No. 78 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Buffaloes have been on the FAB 50 radar for five years and last season broke through with the signature wins they needed to put the program on the national map. Coach Luke Barnwell’s program defeated FAB 50 powers La Lumiere of Indiana, Findlay Prep and Oak Hill Academy of Virginia, but was unable to participate in the end-of-season GEICO Nationals tournament. Coach Barnwell’s is confident his program can earn its first-ever nod by meeting the event’s eligibility guidelines and performing well on-court once again. It begins with Dante, one of the most talented players in the country, regardless of class. He’s blessed with great physical tools and mobility and played well in the big games last season, but was a bit inconsistent this summer. Not only does this team have five players over 6-foot-8 on the roster, coach Barnwell feels the strength of his team is actually its speed and skill level.
The Skinny: The Buffaloes come in as the No. 2 team from the Southwest Region, sandwiched in between the top two Texas teams: No. 27 South Garland and FAB 50 title contender Guyer of Denton. Sunrise actually plays Guyer at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas Nov. 23. It’s part of the most ambitious schedule the program has ever played and with talents such as Wood and Sherfield transferring in, Barnwell is confident this club can compete for a mythical FAB 50 national title. We’ll take a cautious approach since the team only returns one starter and must jell rather quickly in order to move up in the rankings. The Buffaloes take on highly-regarded Huntington Prep of West Virginia at the Chicago Elite Classic on Dec. 1 then comes two big tests at the ARS Hoopfest in Washington, D.C. (Dec. 7-8) versus FAB 50 ranked Holy Spirit Prep and defending FAB 50 champion Montverde Academy of Florida. Sunrise will play Findlay Prep of Nevada and FAB 50 title contender Imhotep Charter of Philadelphia at the Cancer Research Classic in addition to playing in the Chick-Fil-A Classic in South Carolina (Dec. 27-29), the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Missouri (Jan. 17-19) and the St. James Invitational in Maryland (Jan. 31-Feb. 2) before taking on highly-regarded Wasatch Academy of Utah on Feb. 9 at the Heartland Hoops Classic in Nebraska.
18. (11) Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.) 25-2
Key Players: PG Jovan Blacksher 5-11 2019 (No. 235 247Sports.com, Grand Canyon commit), SG Jaelen House 6-2 2019 (No. 80 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Arizona St. commit), SF Shemar Morrow 6-5 2020, SF Jalen Williams 6-4 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Matadors have a nice blend of returning talent, in-state dominance and national level games on their schedule to warrant a high ranking. Shadow Mountain has won four AIA titles in the past five seasons and last lost to an in-state opponent in the 2014-15 Division II state semifinals. Coach Mike Bibby’s program is gunning for its fourth consecutive Class 4A state crown and could prove its Arizona’s best team right away with a matchup versus defending Class 6A state champ and regionally-ranked Pinnacle of Phoenix. The Matadors are one of the best defensive teams in the country and when they turn teams over, they are also one of the nation’s fastest in transition. It begins on the ball with Blacksher (15.9 ppg), who averaged 5.6 apg but actually came up with more steals (153, 5.7 spg) than assists and doesn’t back down from any defensive challenge. House (18.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) can hit the big shot, his in-game speed can’t be measured unless you see it live, and he actually came up with more steals (178, 6.6 spg) than his backcourt running mate. Third-leading returning scorer Antonio Reeves (13.3 ppg) moved back to Chicago after spending one year in the program, but there is plenty of returning talent, depth and newcomers to offset the missing production.
The Skinny: Shadow Mountain has appeared in the last two GEICO Nationals in New York and gained a measure of national respect when it battled FAB 50 power Montverde Academy tough in 2017. In last season’s tournament versus University Academy of Florida, it was evident the Matadors’ lack of elite-level size was a problem against the top-tier FAB 50 teams, as National Junior of the Year Vernon Carey made 9-of-10 field goals in a 75-63 University victory. Shadow Mountain began last season No. 12 in the FAB 50 and has potentially its deepest team this year, but we’ll start them a bit lower this time around until it can prove it can beat teams with elite level size. Against the schedule it’s playing, the continued improvement and development of lefty wings Morrow (10.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Grid-Hoop standout Williams (6.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.0 spg) is key. Bibby’s club faces Simeon of Chicago (Reeves’ new team) on Dec. 8 at Hoophall West in Scottsdale, Ariz., play highly-regarded Paul VI of Virginia at the Hoophall Classic (Jan. 21) and could potentially face more than one team with major size at the Bass Pro TOC in Missouri (Jan. 17-19), as No. 16 McEachern, No. 17 Sunrise Christian Academy, No. 22 Belleville West, No. 25 Memphis East and No. 38 Rainier Beach will also play in the eight-team bracket.
19. (35) Olive Branch (Olive Branch, Miss.) 26-4
Key Players: SF D.J. Jeffries 6-7 2019 (No. 12 Hoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Memphis commit), PF Cameron Matthews 6-7 2020 (No. 100 Hoop Scoop), PG Joe Cooper 6-0 2019.
Why This Ranking: When a championship team returns 13 of 14 on its roster, including one of the top players in the country, a high ranking is warranted. The Conquistadors came on towards the end of the season and the defending MHSAA Class 5A made national headlines with a win over Memphis East, which finished No. 4 in the FAB 50. The ringleader is Jeffries (20.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg), a big-time scorer who can beat teams on the block, in the mid-range or with the jump shot. Graduated guard Kelvin Allen (17.2 ppg) will be missed, but Cooper (8.7 ppg) is ready to shoulder a larger load while backcourt depth is provided by Josh Stephenson (6-3, 2019), Wes Taylor (6-0, 2020) and C.J. Owens (5-11, 2019).
The Skinny: There is plenty to like about this team and its schedule gives it the opportunity to move up. On the other hand, it has to be firing on all cylinders because navigating the schedule won’t be easy, as teams will try to slow down the Conquistadores’ frenetic pace. Matthews (7.5 ppg) is a bit undersized on the next level, but with his work ethic and team-first attitude has a chance to be a force on the Mississippi high school scene. When Cooper and Matthews are on their game, this team can be special even though coach Eric Rombaugh is a bit concerned about the frontcourt size against national level teams. Olive Branch will have an opportunity to show just how special against a schedule that includes No. 25 Memphis East (Nov. 20), No. 28 Mountain Brook at the Lighthouse Classic in Corinth, Miss. (Nov. 24), highly-regarded Scott County at the Marshall County Hoopfest (Dec. 1) and face FAB 50 ranked Wilson of Washington, D.C., to open the City of Palms Classic. The winner is likely to face IMG Academy in the second round and Olive Branch will face FAB 50 title contender DeMatha Catholic at the Hoophall Classic (Jan. 19).
20. (23) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) 28-2
Key Players: PG Gianni Hunt 6-3 2019 (No. 148 Rivals.com, Oregon St. commit), PG Josh Vazquez 6-3 2019 (Montana commit), SF Isaiah Johnson 6-6 2020 (No. 98 Hoop Scoop), PF Bradley Ezewiro 6-7 2020 (No. 113 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: At first glance, it seems the Knights are too decimated by graduation to begin in the Top 25, but with their blend of returning talent, newcomers and knack for big-game preparation, this spot is warranted. Coach Doug Mitchell, whose club begins at No. 2 in California for the second consecutive season, is high on his backcourt and the balance this team possesses. Hunt has battled injuries, but he has big-game experience while Vazquez is one of the more underrated talents on the West Coast. Bishop Montgomery lost talented guard Oscar Lopez to an academy program, but he wasn’t always in the lineup last year and there is enough depth with the likes of all-leaguers Will Crawford (6-5, 2019) and Nick Schrader (6-5, 2019) to off set the loss. The 2016-2017 club surprised many when we started it No. 7 in the FAB 50 and finished No. 6 after winning CIF state and section open titles and this club has the ingredients to perhaps surprise local and national followers once again.
The Skinny: During their recent run of FAB 50 finishes, the Knights have been undersized but made up for it with incredible team defense and by peaking at the right time. Forward Fletcher Tynen (Boston University) and Davy Singleton (UCLA) and his 23.8 ppg will be missed, but the combination of Johnson and Ezewiro makes the guards even more dangerous and gives this team ingredients recent teams lacked. Johnson is an athletic wing capable of big plays on both ends and Ezewiro is a punishing forward who gives the Knights the inside matchup problem their opponents haven’t worried about in recent seasons. If Johnson buys in defensively and Ezewiro stays disciplined, this has the makings of a special unit. As we did last season, we’ll slow play the Knights in the rankings because their schedule is not overwhelming plus they have to figure out Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (the defending CIF state open champs), which has beaten them three times during post-season play the past three seasons.
21. (37) St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) 36-7
Key Players: PG Adrian “Ace” Baldwin 6-0 2020 (No. 102 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Jordan Toles 6-3 2020, SG Rajeir Jones 6-3 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Panthers return three starters from a Baltimore Catholic League title team that recorded some key out-of-state wins. Baldwin, who averaged 14 ppg, 7 apg, and 3 spg, was one of the best players in the City as a tenth-grader. Coach Nicholas Myles expects an uptick in production from Baldwin and hopes he learned some of the leadership qualities and intangibles that graduated captain Elijah Epps brought to the table. Toles, a big-time football recruit, is expected to take on an increased scoring role while bringing his usual toughness and intensity. Regardless of whom coach Myles puts out on the floor, if the shots are not falling on some nights, he knows the talent level and defensive intensity will be there every night. “We play hard, compete hard and play D1 prospects on the floor at all times,” Myles said.
The Skinny: St. Frances Academy is the team to beat in the Baltimore Catholic League, but Mt. St. Joseph (a team it beat three times in four outings last season) and St. Maria Goretti of Hagerstown, Md., present major challenges. Many top DMV teams end up playing each other multiple times so consistency will be key. The Panthers received a boost when Jamal West (6-5, 2020), a second team all-Metro choice as sophomore, transferred over from Baltimore Dunbar. With the talent on deck, St. Frances can’t have a letdown at an inopportune time in order to move up from this spot in the rankings. “We know what it takes to win, but we have to get up every night and got to be prepared to play to our expected level,” Myles said. The Panthers will take on highly-regarded Paul VI of Virginia in the BCL/WCAC Challenge (Dec. 1) and also take on traditional Chicago power Simeon at home in the Charm City vs. Windy City Showcase.
22. (22) Belleville West (Belleville, Ill.) 32-2
Key Players: PF E.J. Liddell 6-8 2019 (No. 18 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Ohio St. commit), PF Keith Randolph 6-6 2019, PG Lawrence Brazil 5-11 2019.
Why This Ranking: While Whitney Young is a consensus No. 1 in Chicago to begin the season, the Maroons are undoubtedly the preseason No. 1 in the Land of Lincoln. Belleville West defeated the Dolphins, 60-56, in come-from-behind fashion to claim the IHSA Class 4A state crown and returns four starters off its championship team. Leading the charge is Liddell (21 ppg, 8 rpg, 6 bpg), the returning Gatorade State Player of the Year and Illinois Mr. Basketball. His 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks led the comeback win and Brazil made the clutch backcourt steal and lay-in to seal it. Coach Joe Muniz was impressed with Brazil’s improvement and clutch play throughout the playoffs and hopes it carries over to this season.
The Skinny: Another reason the Maroons are a slam dunk No. 1 in Illinois is their unblemished mark versus in-state opposition last season. This year, Bellevue West faces increased out-of-state competition so Randolph, a prototypical defensive end-power forward Grid-Hoop standout who will play a full season on the hardwood, needs to play consistently to ease the pressure off of Liddell. If role players such as point guard Jaylin Mosby (6-2, 2019), transfer shooting guard William Shumpert (6-5, 2019) and athletic wing Tommie Williams (6-3, 2021), another transfer, find their roles and step up when called upon, it could be another memorable season for the Maroons. They’ll play highly regarded Callaway of Jackson, Miss., at the Marshall County Hoopfest and will participate in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions with the likes of No. 16 McEachern, No. 17 Sunrise Christian Academy, No. 18 Shadow Mountain, No. 25 Memphis East and No. 38 Rainier Beach.
23. (38) Carmel Christian (Matthews, N.C.) 24-4
Key Players: SG Donovan Gregory 6-5 2019 (No. 149 247Sports.com, Appalachian St. commit), SG Myles Pierre 6-2 2019 (Houston Baptist commit), PF Jake Boggs 6-7 2019 (UNC-Wilmington commit), SF DeAngelo Epps 6-5 2019 (College of Charleston commit), SF Martin Maide 6-4 2019 (Liberty commit), PG Ford Cooper 6-3 2020 (No. 182 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Cougars are coming off a historic season and are loaded for another championship run. Coach Joe Badgett has three returning starters and four rotation players back off a team that captured its first ever NCISAA crown in Class 2A. The team moves up to the Class 3A ranks and rates as the favorite. Carmel Christian could potentially put itself in position for a GEICO Nationals berth with a strong regular season and back-to-back state crowns. Gregory is a big-time scorer and his younger brother Jeremy Gregory (6-6, 2022) adds to the depth and talent. Pierre is a highly-regarded defensive player and came up big in the state championship overtime win with 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists and six steals while making the winning bucket. Cooper can distribute or knock down the outside shot and he also played well in the title game in place of an injured starter.
The Skinny: The Cougars defeated Greensboro Day and Independence (NCHSAA Class 4A champs) last season and are deeper in 2018-19. The program is going through a coaching change, as three-time state champ Byron Dinkins (165-20) is now at UNC-Charlotte. Badgett is going to run the same system and the veterans and talented newcomers such as transfer Myles Hunter (6-6, 2020) should help to smoothen the transition. Carmel Christian will participate in the Emerald Coast 16 Holiday Classic (Dec. 20-22) and the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn. (Dec. 26-29) before hitting the road to face Greensboro Day on Jan. 10. The Cougars host Independence at their own MLK Showcase on Jan. 19.
24. (NR) Rancho Christian (Temecula, Calif.) 29-5
Key Players: PF Isaiah Mobley 6-9 2019 (No. 13 Hoop Scoop, USC commit), C Evan Mobley 7-0 2020 (No. 1 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Luke Turner 6-6 2021, PG Dominick Harris 6-4 2020 (No. 47 Rivals.com, Gonzaga commit).
Why This Ranking: The presence of the Mobley brothers makes the Eagles California’s glamour team for fans around the country, but they still have plenty to prove at a local and section level. There is a ton to like about this club, as coach Ray Barfield has primed for this season over the past couple of years, and it will have plenty of opportunity to move up. It begins with Isaiah Mobley, last year’s Riverside Press-Enterprise Player of the Year who had a terrific summer and will play in next year’s McDonald’s All-American Game. Mobley (19.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg) has improved his overall approach, decision-making, and mobility, but it’s the production his younger brother Evan Mobley yields that ultimately will determine this team’s final ranking. His numbers last season were a bit more modest (14.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 3.2 apg), but with his size, coordination, and with his body finally catching up to his vast skill level, there is no telling what Evan Mobley is capable of this season. Many feel he’s the best long-term prospect in all of high school basketball and if Turner can knock down deep range shots with consistency, it should provide the Mobley brothers more operating room.
The Skinny: In order for this team to live up to expectations, the offense needs to consistently involve Evan Mobley and the point guards need to make winning plays in crunch time. Often times, Isaiah Mobley handles the ball and even though he’s a capable decision-maker, it takes away from the other things he does which affect the game’s outcome and leaves Rancho Christian vulnerable inside against other elite teams. Jordan Montgomery (5-11, 2020) has starting experience at the point, transfer Jayden Byers (5-11, 2021) will be called upon as well, but it’s Harris’ play that could really uplift this team. In order to move up towards the Top 15, Rancho Christian must prove it can win against familiar foes such as No. 32 St. John Bosco in the new pool play format of the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs and beat the top teams once again in the SoCal Open Regional. Barfield’s club has an ambitious schedule that includes must wins versus Simeon of Chicago and Pinnacle of Phoenix at Hoophall West, good tests at the Tarkanian Classic (Dec. 17-22) and the Montverde Academy Invitational (Jan. 24-26), plus prime time matchups with No. 25 Memphis East (Jan. 11), No. 16 McEachern (Jan. 21) and defending CIF open champ Sierra Canyon (Feb. 2).
25. (4) Memphis East (Memphis, Tenn.) 31-3
Key Players: PF James Wiseman 7-0 2019 (No. 1 247Sports.com, Ballislife First Team All-American), C Malcolm Dandridge 6-8 2019 (No. 114 Rivals.com, Memphis commit), PG Antonio Thomas 6-2 2019 (Bradley commit).
Why This Ranking: Last season it was a real close call between Montverde Academy and the Mustangs for preseason No. 1 honors. The Mustangs had the talent and experience to become Tennessee’s first ever FAB 50 champion, but we had a hunch the breaks wouldn’t go their way as they had the season prior when Penny Hardaway’s club twice downed Montverde Academy on buzzer-beaters. While many rankings pegged Memphis East No. 1, our hunch turned out to be right, as Montverde Academy went unbeaten, while the Mustangs lost three straight games during the middle of the season. This season, the expectations are a bit more tame, but Memphis East still has enough horses to win a fourth consecutive TSSAA Class AAA crown. It begins with Wiseman, a talented lefty who averaged a team-leading 18.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 2.8 bpg for the No. 4 team in the FAB 50. He’s only one of three returning players out of 20 to receive first team All-American acclaim and despite and up-and-down summer, he’s a leading Mr. Basketball USA candidate and some feel the best prospect in the country.
The Skinny: While Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway’s return to his alma mater has rejuvenated Memphis basketball, it has left the high school program he officially directed in flux. Not only do the Mustangs have a new coach in Jevonte Holmes, the program is dealing with the transfer losses of Ballislife Underclass All-American Chandler Lawson (6-9, 2019) and his younger brother Jonathan Lawson (6-6, 2021), not to mention the graduation of floor leader and catalyst Alex Lomax (Memphis). Thomas is a capable point guard and Dandridge is a force in his own right inside, but we’ll take a cautious approach with this club. Against a schedule that includes games with No. 19 Olive Branch (Nov. 20), Curie of Chicago at the Marshall County Hoopfest (Dec. 1), and FAB 50 ranked Holy Spirit Prep (Jan. 4 at the ARS National Hoopfest in Memphis), Wiseman has plenty of opportunity to show he’s the best player in the country while at the same time leading the Mustangs near the top of the FAB 50 once again.
26. (14) Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) 29-4
Key Players: SG Kahlil Whitney 6-6 2019 (No. 6 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Kentucky commit), PG Joshua Pierre-Louis 6-2 2019 (UNLV commit), SG Colby Rogers 6-5 2019.
Why This Ranking: The Lions were the preseason favorites to capture the coveted New Jersey Tournament of Champions crown in 2017-18 and lived up to expectations, winning their third TOC in six seasons. A fourth in seven in certainly not out of the question, but coach Dave Boff’s club must begin behind Ranney School of Tinton Falls in the Jersey pecking order because it lost tons of frontcourt firepower, while the Panthers return their team intact. Ballislife First Team All-American Naz Reid (LSU) is the big loss up front and his presence can’t be duplicated, but it’s the unsung work of Alanzo Frink (South Carolina) that this team could use in the big games. Whitney (13.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 53 % FGs) had modest numbers in a balanced lineup, but he’s primed for a big senior season and some feel he’s talented enough to be a Mr. Basketball USA candidate. If that transpires there is no reason why Roselle Catholic can’t win back-to-back TOC crowns.
The Skinny: The Lions were unbeaten in-state last year, but in order for that to happen in 2018-19, not only will Whitney need a monster season, Pierre-Louis and Rogers will have to step up in the backcourt. The duo is talented, but unproven playing starters’ minutes in the big games. Boff will have to find someone to step up on the boards because Cliff Omoruyi (6-11, 2020) transferred to No. 37 Immaculate Conception, which comes in at No. 3 in the New Jersey pecking order. The great thing about Garden State hoops is state rankings are often settled on the court, as the Lions will face Immaculate Conception on New Year’s Day 2019 and Ranney School Jan. 31 at the Jersey Shore Challenge. The Lions also face highly-regarded Norcross of Georgia at the Hoophall Classic (Jan. 19) and defending FAB 50 champ Montverde Academy on Feb. 8 at the Metro Classic.
27. (44) South Garland (Garland, Texas) 36-4
Key Players: PG Tyrese Maxey 6-3 2019 (No. 7 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Kentucky commit), SG Chris Harris Jr. 6-3 2019 (No. 58 Hoop Scoop, Texas A & M commit), PG Keyon Craddock 6-0 2019, SF Jayden McGrew 6-3 2019.
Why This Ranking: Have to like a team coming off a UIL Class 6A Final Four appearance that returns four players with starting experience. The Colonels are one of two clear 6A favorites along with Guyer of Denton. Guyer had the stronger 2017-18 regular season, but some Lone Star insiders peg South Garland as the team to beat because of its guard play. It begins with Maxey (22.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg), one of the best players in the country who could garner some Mr. Basketball USA consideration with a strong November and December. Harris Jr. (19.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) is a punishing scorer on all three levels who can also get in a stance and guard. Craddock is an above the rim performer and a true two-one combo who is invaluable come crunch time because he can carry the scoring load and make plays on the defensive end.
The Skinny: Not only is coach Dominique Parker’s club talented, it is highly-motivated after falling in the state semifinals to Tompkins of Katy by four points in overtime after beating the same club, 76-50, earlier in the season. South Garland has the guard play and good depth provided by the likes of McGrew, Khalil Davis (6-4, 2019) and Cruz Davis (5-11, 2022). When Dearon Tucker (6-8, 2019) left the Colonels’ program for a prep school, however, it left a void in the paint and probably cost the Colonels a Top 20 preseason placement. We’ll see how South Garland responds without Tucker, particularly since it has some key games early. The Colonels battle major Class 6A contender Duncanville at the Cowtown Tipoff (Nov. 10) and face defending Class 4A champ and FAB 50 bubble club Silsbee and No. 34 Vashon at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest (No. 23-24). South Garland then faces Class 5A contender Little Elm on Dec. 14 and No. 17 Sunrise Christian Academy of Kansas the following day.
28. (BB) Mountain Brook (Mountain Brook, Ala.) 34-5
Key Players: PF Trendon Watford 6-9 2019 (No. 9 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Paulie Stramaglia 6-1 2020, SG Colby Jones 6-4 2020 (No. 148 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The two-time defending AHSAA Class 7A state champs have three starters back, a talented newcomer and the prime-time performer necessary to warrant this spot. Watford (23.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.2 bpg) is primed for a All-American season and the Spartans have enough talent where other ranked teams will have to play them fairly honest and not totally collapse on Alabama’s reigning Mr. Basketball. Coach Bucky McMillan expects increased production from Stramaglia (3.8 ppg, 5.8 apg) while guard Alex Washington (6-1, 2019) and forward Lior Berman (6-4, 2019) are both talented and experienced.
The Skinny: The Spartans were No. 50 in the preseason FAB 50 last season and played at that level, finishing just outside the national rankings. With a strong senior core and a rugged schedule, there is no reason why this club can’t inch towards the Top 25. The graduation loss of shooting guard Sean Elmore (10.1 ppg) hurts, but Jones is just what the doctor ordered for McMillan, as the all-state candidate is a big-time scorer and can help Watford on the boards. The Spartans will need to crash the boards and play disciplined basketball when they face the likes of Bearden of Knoxville, Tenn., and No. 19 Olive Branch at the Lighthouse Classic in Corinth, Miss. (Nov. 23-24). They also play FAB 50 power Memphis East on Jan. 26 at the Hot Bread Classic in Albany, Miss., and will once again participate in the City of Palms Classic, where they are likely to face FAB 50 title contender Oak Hill Academy in the second round.
29. (NR) Wilson (Washington, D.C.) 33-9
Key Players: PF Makhi Mitchell 6-10 2019 (No. 37 Hoop Scoop, Maryland commit), C Makhel Mitchell 6-9 2019 (No. 107 Rivals.com, Maryland commit), SG Jay Heath Jr. 6-3 2019 (No. 148 247Sports.com, Boston College commit), SG Domingus Stevens 6-5 2020 (No. 57 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: It was a historic run last season for the Tigers, who have enough returning firepower and talented newcomers to receive Top 25 consideration this year. Coach Angelo Hernandez’s club went unbeaten in D.C. Public League play and captured the DCSAA state crown. Last season, Heath received some all-Met acclaim and could turn out to be the City’s best guard this season. Stevens is an athletic shooting guard and makes a living in transition. “We have good size inside, will make a lot of shots and play fast,” Hernandez said. “My only concern is we might not be able to slow down and play a half court game.”
The Skinny: Even though the Tigers weren’t ranked in the final East Region Top 20 last season and Hernandez does have some reservations, they deserve to be in front of No. 30 Gonzaga after beating them in the DCSAA semifinals and beating another WCAC club (St. John’s of Washington, D.C.) in the title game. Wilson will miss Ayinde Hikim (who scored 21 points in championship game victory) and wing Ricardo Lindo, but the addition of Makhi Mitchell and his twin Makhel Mitchell (6-9, 2019) gives this team a whole other dimension. Makhi had a terrific summer in leading DC Premier to both the Under Armour Association and FAB 48 championships and is a load to handle with his size, strength and power around the basket. Makhel is not quite as highly-regarded, but he’s tough to handle at this level and it’s not often a talented program gets two transfers like the Mitchell twins, who played at Montverde Academy in Florida as juniors. Wilson will get to test it wares against national competition all season long, including at the St. James Invitational and City of Palms Tournament, where it opens with No. 19 Olive Branch with IMG Academy likely awaiting the winner.
30. (BB) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 28-9
Key Players: PF Terrance Williams 6-7 2020 (No. 33 Hoop Scoop, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Myles Stute 6-5 2020 (No. 108 247Sports.com), SG Josh Watts 6-4 2019 (Brown commit), PG Chuck Harris 6-1 2020 (No. 84 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Eagles are in the running for the powerful Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title, as we’ll have at least three WCAC teams in the preseason FAB 50 for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. Paul VI and DeMatha Catholic rate as the early favorites, but veteran coach Stephen Turner is confident his team can capture their second WCAC crown in three years. After all, his battle-tested club returns four starters and nine lettermen. It starts with Williams (16.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg), who will be a four-year standout and should earn All-American acclaim as a senior. Stute (5.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg) hit double figure scoring in five games last season and it wouldn’t surprise us if that number tripled this season. Harris (8.0 ppg, 2.9 apg) had explosive outings last season replacing Prentiss Hubb (Notre Dame) while Watts (5.7 ppg, 1.8 apg) provides senior leadership and is a versatile performer.
The Skinny: We’ve been pretty good in our Eagles’ preseason forecasts in recent seasons, but the Purple Hoops’ faithful is hoping we’re off-target this time around. Three years ago, we had Gonzaga as the third WCAC in the FAB 50 and it finished in third place. Two years ago, we had the Eagles as the front-runner and they went on to win the conference title. Last season, we ranked them a close No. 2 behind Paul VI, and they finished one game behind FAB 50 title contender DeMatha Catholic in the WCAC standings. Our rankings came out before Hubb was lost for the season early with a torn ACL and that forced players such as Harris and Anwar Gill (6-3, 2019) to step up. That experience should pay off this year as Gonzaga looks to close the season strong. Gonzaga will host its own classic, play at the Slam Dunk To The Beach in Delaware after Christmas, take on highly-regarded Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas at the Cancer Research Classic (Jan. 5) and face Wheeler of Georgia at the Peachtree Corners Invitational (Jan. 26).
RELATED: Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 (31-50) | Preseason East Region Top 20 | Preseason Southeast Region Top 20 | Preseason Midwest Region Top 20 | Preseason Southwest Region Top 20 | Preseason West Region Top 20