Today Ballislife.com tips off its 2019-20 high school basketball coverage with our first installment of the preseason 2019-20 FAB 50 National Team Rankings. We begin with teams No. 31-50 and our second installment will be teams No. 16-30 on Monday, October 28. The complete FAB 50 rankings powered by Ballislife.com will be released by October 29. Teams No. 31-50 are those looking to move into the Top 25 and can’t afford to get off to a slow start to the season.
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 20 years ago.
Preseason 2019-20 FAB 50
National Team Rankings
Powered by Ballislife.com
By Ronnie Flores
(Final 2018-19 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 Tuesday, November 5 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Monday, November 18.)
RELATED: Preseason 2019-20 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2019-20 FAB 50 (16-30) | Preseason Top 20 Regional Rankings |
31. (NR) Lawrence Central (Indianapolis, Ind.) 22-4
Key Players: PG Nigel Pack 5-10 2020 (No. 80 ESPN.com, Kansas St. commit), SF D’Andre Davis 6-5 2020 (No. 96 ESPN.com, Louisville commit).
Why This Ranking: The Bears rate as the IHSAA Class 4A favorites with seven lettermen returning from a team that advanced to the regional semifinals, where it fell to eventual state runner-up Ben Davis of Indianapolis, 75-65. It’s not just the quantity returning for coach Albert Gooden, it’s the quality as his two big guns are back in the fold. Pack (16.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.0 spg) is a terrific two-way point guard and can score in crunch time or dish with equal effectiveness. Davis (16.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.3 bpg) carries the load inside offensively and he too impacts the game on both ends. Davis protects the paint and is a good interior passer. The two big guns can take this team far, but the role players must develop because it’s always a difficult path for the preseason Class 4A favorites.
The Skinny: The core of this team showed what it was capable of by knocking off Warren Central, last year’s title favorites, before losing to Ben Davis in its next playoff game. Warren Central’s preseason 2018-19 FAB 50 ranking was much higher (No. 12) because it was the defending champions, undefeated in 2017-18, and three teams were FAB 50 ranked that season at the state final four. We’ll take a more cautious approach with the Bears because only the 2018-19 Class 4A state champ (Carmel) finished FAB 50 ranked and only had one, two-point loss. In order for Lawrence Central to move up in the rankings, veterans such as Phillip Edwards (6-4, 2020) and D’Ante Davis (6-4, 2022) will need to step up the production level.
32. (NR) O’Dea (Seattle, Wash.) 19-8
Key Players: PF Paolo Banchero 6-10 2021 (No. 2 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG John Christofilis 6-4 2021 (No. 84 Rivals.com), PG Jermaine Davis 6-3 2021.
Why This Ranking: This is the team to beat in the Pacific Northwest, as four starters and a whopping 11 lettermen return for the defending WIAA Class 3A state champs. The quality tops the quantity, as Banchero (18.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg) is one of the most talented frontcourt players in the country and with a big season could be in the running for Mr. Basketball USA honors. Cristofilis is a talented guard who is crafty with the ball, can shoot it from deep and finish with authority around the rim. Davis has made tremendous strides and got plenty of reps last season when Cristofilis missed a handful of Metro League games with injury. Coach Jason Kerr (352-124) used many lineups because of injury and the experience will pay dividends this season.
The Skinny: There is plenty to like about this team and it’s not just the two national level standouts. Paul Johnson (6-0, 2020) is another guard who can put the ball in the hole, as he scored 19 points in a state title game rout. Quick Calvin Thomas III (5-8, 2020) has starting experience and Max Debiec (6-8, 2021) will be counted on to take some of the pressure off Banchero inside. Last season, the Irish ventured to San Diego for the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic and came away with a 2-2 mark. This season, the stakes are a bit higher with regards to national level foes, so they’ll need to remain healthy and get quality bench minutes to beat that .500 tourney mark. The Fighting Irish can move rapidly towards the Top 25 with a good showing at the City of Palms Tournament (December 18-23), as they open with Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) with the winner taking on FAB 50 title contender Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.). They’ll also have to dominate in-state because, according to Kerr, WIAA rules only allow for four non-conference games and all of those will be used in Ft. Myers, Fla.
33. (NR) Yates (Houston, Texas) 23-4**
Key Players: SG Rubin Jones 6-4 2020 (North Texas commit), PG Antwon Norman 6-0 2020, PG Gerald Doakes 6-2 2020 (No. 141 247Sports.com), PF Allen Udemadu 6-9 2020 (No. 188 247Sports.com), C Chuks Isitua 6-10 2021 (No. 68 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Lions are loaded for a run at University Interscholastic League (UIL state title No. 5, with a host of returnees and talented newcomers that has veteran coach Greg Wise excited about his team’s potential. Yates also has plenty of motivation after losing to upstart Oak Hill Faith Family Academy in last year’s UIL Class 4A semifinals, 80-74. Wise’s backcourt returns, as Jones can fill it up from the outside while Norman is an ultra-athletic guard who can score and run a team. Jones was nursing an ankle injury in the game against Faith Family Academy, Norman is eager to prove he’s a sure-fire D1 guard and Grid-Hoop stud Daryl Brown (5-9, 2020, Texas Southern football commit) is experienced in Wise’s system and a terror on defense. Wise can go deep into his bench with little drop off and is stressing teamwork to build the chemistry necessary for this team to meet its goals.
The Skinny: One UIL Class 6A team will be ranked ahead of Yates in the preseason, as whichever team emerges from the gauntlet that is the Class 6A state tourney will be FAB 50 ranked. The Lions are our Class 4A preseason favorites despite losing to No. 46 Faith Family Academy in the state playoffs because of the depth and the host of talented transfers led by Doakes, Udemadu and Isitua. Elijah Elliott (6-0, 2020) and Latrell Moore (6-2, 2021) add to the backcourt depth while Udemadu’s and Isitua’s ability to protect the back line allows Yates’ trademark full court press to be extra aggressive. “This is the most talented and deepest team I have had,” Wise said. “We want to pressure the whole game and this team is perfect for the way we play. The national championship team’s advantage was playing together in our system four years, so the key for this team is getting on the same page.” Wise is referring to his 2009-10 club, which finished 32-0 and No. 1 in the FAB 50. That team began at No. 9 in the preseason, but we’ll take a more cautious approach with this team to see how the talent meshes. Yates will be tested right away at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas versus FAB 50 power Montverde Academy of Florida and contender Sunrise Christian Academy of Kansas.
34. (NR) Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.) 25-8
Key Players: PG D.J. Steward 6-2 2020 (No. 26 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Duke commit), PG Tyler Beard 6-1 2020 (No. 184 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: For the second consecutive season, the Dolphins rate as the team to beat in the competitive Chicago Public League. Last season, Whitney Young began ranked behind No. 37 Vashon, but this time around the CPL teams may be a bit stronger than the teams down state and across the river in the St. Louis Metro. The Dolphins has a nice combination of experience (11 returning lettermen) and a potent 1-2 punch to get them through the big non-league games and the always-tough CPL playoffs. Steward (24.3 ppg, 3 apg) is a talented scorer and comes into the season with a ton of confidence after some terrific summer performances. Beard is another top-notch playmaker that can lock up on the defensive end.
The Skinny: There is plenty to like about this club, but the Dolphins must improve their recent showing in the major tournaments and showcases and cut down the overall loss count to move up in the rankings. While coach Tyrone Slaughter’s club has plenty of talent and experience, it doesn’t have big-time size so the production of Grant Newell (6-6, 2021) will be key. Slaughter will also have to replace the intangibles brought to the table by graduated Swiss army knife Keenan Jones. With the schedule in place, Whitney Young can move up in the rankings provided there is consistent rebounding and role players step up where necessary. The Dolphins have an early test November 25 against CPL rival and No. 40 Morgan Park and face defending Texas Class 6A champ Duncanville at the Chicago Elite Classic (December 7). On January 25, the Dolphins travel to face Vashon and have late regular season dates with FAB 50 power Mater Dei of California and FAB 50 title contender Patrick School of New Jersey. As if that wasn’t enough, the Dolphins also travel to the City of Palms Tournament and could face Montverde Academy of Florida in the quarterfinals.
35. (NR) Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) 20-9
Key Players: PG Rashool Diggins 6-1 2021 (No. 62 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Daeshon Shepard 6-6 2021, SF Marcus Randolph 6-5 2021.
Why This Ranking: The Vikings have the necessary ingredients to capture the PIAA Class 5A state crown after losing in last year’s title game to Moon Area. Coach John Moscoe has one of the most balanced teams in the East Region, with five potential D1 players in his lineup that each brings something different to the table. Diggins is a complete floor general who can shoot the deep ball or get in the key and distribute. Sheppard is the best athlete on the team and nicely compliments Randolph. The transfer from Willingboro, N.J. is a terrific wing capable of slashing or scoring on the outside. There is talent at each position and plenty of motivation to erase the memory of last year’s finals disappointment.
The Skinny: The motivation exists because Wood held a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter of the state title game against Moon Area and fell, 74-64. Three sophomores in the lineup off last year’s club joining Randolph give this team great optimism to end the season as the Keystone State’s best. Wood, however, will have to show it can win the big games without a true center and prove it’s the best club in the competitive Philadelphia Catholic League. It will have that opportunity to on January 24 when it travels to face FAB 50 ranked Nueman-Goretti. The Vikings also face FAB 50 national title contender Paul VI of Virginia on December 14. Helping Wood navigate through the Catholic League is Jaylen Stinson (5-11, 2021), the team’s best defender, Mainer Newton (6-5, 2021), an undersized power forward, and Rob Jackson (6-5, 2021), a Grid-Hooper who will be counted on to help Newton and doesn’t mind banging inside.
36. (NR) Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.) 14-16
Key Players: PG R.J. Davis 6-1 2020 (No. 40 ESPN.com, North Carolina commit), SG Adrian Griffin Jr. 6-6 2021 (No. 5 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PF Malcolm Chimezie 6-8 2021.
Why This Ranking: The Crusaders rate as NYC Catholic High School Athletic Association favorites and should challenge Long Island Lutheran for the state Federation Class AA crown. Coach Patrick Massaroni’s club will look to re-capture the TOC crown it won in 2018 behind the strength of one of the best 1-2 backcourt combos in the country. Griffin (20.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg) is one of the nation’s best talents and the Crusaders struggled without him in the lineup last season. With him, Stepinac nearly won the CHSAA City crown for the second consecutive season. Davis (25.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.9 apg) proved this summer to be one of the best combo guards in the country and he’ll be even more potent with Griffin at 100 percent. This Stepinac team wants to get out and run in transition, and what could take it to the next level is the perimeter shooting.
The Skinny: Last year’s sub .500 record was not reflective of this team’s ability, and with five players returning with starting experience, and nine lettermen returning, this team has the potential to be much better. Chemezie (4.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.4 rpg) anchors the frontline, which is physical but having one player 6-foot-8 or taller is concerning to Massaroni against a national schedule. The Crusaders participate in the City of Palms Classic and open with No. 49 Briarcrest Christian and will likely play defending FAB 50 champ IMG Academy if they win that game. They also play FAB 50 title contender Paul VI of Virginia at the Slam Dunk To The Beach in Delaware on December 29.
37. (26) Vashon (St. Louis, Mo.) 25-5
Key Players: SF Cam’Ron Fletcher 6-7 2020 (No. 40 Rivals.com, Kentucky commit), PG Phillip Russell 5-11 2020 (Southeast Missouri St. commit), SG Kobe Clark 6-7 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Wolverines are primed for another run at a MSHSAA Class 3A state title, which would be their fourth in five years, if they can play up to expectations. Coach Tony Irons (215-74) likes his team’s chances with three starters and eight lettermen returning and terrific young incoming talent. We’ll begin Vashon a shade lower than last season (No. 34) as it lost a key post player and the show-stopping Mario McKinney (Missouri) to graduation. Fletcher (16.8 ppg, 4 rpg) will carry the scoring load in the key matchups and could be in line for All-American honors with a big season. Russell will be heavily counted on to run the offense and score when needed. “Our strength is our athleticism, versatility and quickness, but we need to develop a post presence,” Irons said.
The Skinny: Similar to many teams in this range of the FAB 50, Vashon’s coaching staff has a concern about its interior scoring and defense but it’s not something it hasn’t dealt with during previous state title runs. That’s where the ability of Nicholas Kern (6-7, 2021) and versatility of Clark come into play. Last year the Wolverines got their season off to a good start with a victory over No. 40 Morgan Park at the Chicago Elite Classic and they once again play Chicago Public League power and No. 34 Whitney Young during the regular season (January 25). Vashon will get its ranking severely tested at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Missouri (January 16-18) and at the City of Palms Classic in Florida. The Wolverines open at the latter on December 18 against FAB 50 ranked Scotlandville of Louisiana and could face FAB 50 title contender McEachern of Georgia in the second round.
38. (BB) Norcross (Norcross, Ga.) 28-4
Key Players: SF J.T. Thor 6-9 2020 (No. 38 ESPN.com), SG Kok Yat 6-7 2022, SF Josh Taylor 6-7 2020 (Georgia commit).
Why This Ranking: Last season the Blue Devils were not only seeking their first GHSA state title since 2012-13, they had FAB 50 title aspirations. In the end, McEachern had the dream season and ended Norcross’ in the state final four. This season Norcross’ expectations will be a bit tempered because of a strong graduating class and the transfer of Brandon Boston to FAB 50 title contender Sierra Canyon of California. This team still rates as a major GHSA Class AAAAAAA title contender along with the defending champs and Grayson of Loganville because its talent level and defensive capabilities. Thor is a big-time talent, Yat has tons of potential and Taylor is the type of player that holds things together when a team hits the wall. Taylor’s travel ball coach calls him the ultimate glue player and veteran coach Jesse McMillian (275-68) raves about his competitiveness.
The Skinny: Norcross has come up just short in its quest for a state crown in recent seasons and has its work cut out for it in 2019-20. The GHSA Class AAAAAAA competition is cut-throat and McMillian will need to fill the on-court leadership void filled by Kyle Sturdivant (USC). He feels combo guard Jaden Harris (6-3, 2021) is poised for a break-out campaign and some of the newcomers will have to step up offensively. From a rankings perspective, it’s a sink or swim schedule as the Blue Devils have to get past Berkmar of Lilburn in Region 7, take on FAB 50 title contender Roselle Catholic of New Jersey at the Cancer Research Classic in West Virginia the first weekend of 2020 and participate in the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland, Ore., after Christmas against the likes of California power Mater Dei of Santa Ana and Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas.
39. (46) Dorman (Roebuck, S.C.) 28-3
Key Players: PF P.J. Hall 6-9 2020 (No. 60 ESPN.com, Clemson commit), PG Myles Tate 6-0 2020 (No. 117 247Sports.com, Butler commit), SF Justin Amadi 6-6 2020.
Why This Ranking: Similar to No. 37 Vashon, the Cavaliers have dominated in-state competition and have the returning talent to win the SCHSL Class 5A title. If coach Thomas Ryan’s club lives up to expectations, it will be a fourth consecutive Class 5A crown for his program. Last year’s team returns its big guns in Hall and Tate. Hall (14.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg) is a throwback type player who can score around the basket, take bigger defenders outside or finish with a highlight dunk or nifty pass. Tate (17 ppg, 5.4 apg) is an up-tempo point guard who can hit the big 3-pointer and gives Ryan arguably the two best senior prospects in the Palmetto State. Dorman stresses lights out team defense and that should help them in the big games on its schedule.
The Skinny: The Cavs are 72-4 vs. in-state competition during their run of state championships, but it will be results against out-of-state foes that determine if this team moves up or stays in the range of last year’s FAB 50 ranked club. Dorman does lose two key cogs in guard Ta’Lon Cooper (Morehead State) and Kamal Desor (Wingate), but Tate could be even more dominant this season and Amadi should compliment Hall in the frontcourt. Last year in two of the three losses, versus FAB 50 title contender Oak Hill Academy of Virginia and Charlotte Christian (ranked No. 33 at the time), Hall did not play and Tate missed 10 games with injury. If Hall and Tate remain healthy this could be a special club.
40. (BB) Morgan Park (Chicago, Ill.) 29-5
Key Players: SG Adam Miller 6-4 2020 (No. 27 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Marcus Watson Jr. 6-1 2020 (No. 148 247Sports.com, Wake Forest commit), SF Isaiah Burrell 6-5 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Mustangs seek their second IHSA Class 3A state title in three years and have the horses to sweep to both Chicago Public League and state crowns. Similar to CPL rival and No. 34 Whitney Young, coach Nick Irvin has a potential Illinois Mr. Basketball candidate in Miller, one of the most potent scorers and best outside shooters in the country. As a junior, he averaged 26.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 5.4 apg and could even be more dangerous even if the numbers aren’t better because there is a strong supporting backcourt. Watson is a crafty lefty who parlayed a strong summer (led the Nike EYBL in assists at 8.9 playing for The Mac Irvin Fire) into Power Five scholarship offers while Brandon Weston (6-5, 2021) gives the Mustangs the athletic wing necessary to keep defenses on their heels because of Miller’s scoring talents.
The Skinny: We rate Whitney Young as the team to beat in Illinois because we feel No. 37 Vashon (beat Morgan Park last year) deserves to begin the season ranked ahead of Irvin’s club, which lacks depth up front. The great thing is loyal Chicago hoops fans won’t have to wait long to settle the rankings debate because the Mustangs take on Whitney Young on November 25. Last year’s losses to Curie in the CPL final and to Bogan of Chicago in the sectional finals adds extra motivation, as does playing in the memory of Irvin’s late mother Louise, as she struggled with her health last season before passing five days prior to the Bogan loss.
41. (NR) Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) 17-8
Key Players: PG Jaden Hardy 6-5 2021 (No. 5 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PF Tyrelle “Fat Daddy” Hunt 6-5 2020, SF Felix Reeves 6-5 2020, PF Jaxon Kohler 6-7 2022.
Why This Ranking: The Cougars look to make a splash in the rankings, as they have the necessary blend of elite talent, returning lettermen and newcomers to challenge for the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association (NIAA) Class 4A title. Hardy (25 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 7.4 apg) is the elite talent, as he rates as one of the nation’s best juniors. He’s already been named all-state twice and could be in line for national honors with a big season. Hunt plays to win and has steadily increased his offensive repertoire enough where defenses can’t totally collapse on Hardy despite the transfer loss of guard Richard Isaacs Jr. to Wasatch Academy in Utah. Reeves is a terrific defender and has worked hard to improve offensively. Simply put, there is plenty to like about this team should the veterans mesh with the newcomers.
The Skinny: FAB 50 title contender Bishop Gorman knocked the Cougars out of the NIAA playoffs and are the eight-time defending state champs, so Coronado has plenty to prove, and plenty motivation. Talented Clark of Las Vegas teams have challenged Gorman’s 4A supremacy in recent years only to come up short and the one local team that had the Gaels’ number (perennial FAB 50 entrant Findlay Prep) no longer fields a team. Coach Jeff Kaufman loves his team’s shooting ability on the wing, but feels something else may be a key to its season. “We have the ability to play big guards which affords us to pressure all over the floor,” Kaufman said. Kohler and transfer Calvin Schmeling (6-5, 2021) give the Cougars even a better chance to make noise at the Tarkanian Classic before Christmas and at the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina after it. A nationally televised Gorman showdown takes place on January 24.
42. (42) Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.) 26-5
Key Players: PG Lynn Greer III 6-2 2020 (No. 212 247Sports.com), C Jalen Duren 6-9 2022 (No. 2 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Justice Williams 6-3 2022 (No. 18 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Cahillites return three starters and six lettermen off a Philadelphia Catholic League title-winning team. Coach Matt Griffin’s club begins in the exact same preseason FAB 50 spot it did in 2018-19 despite losing Hakim Hart (St. Joseph’s) and Seth Lundy (Penn St.) to graduation. In 2018-19, Roman Catholic entered the season as the defending PIAA Class 6A champs and with more depth than this club, but had to find its chemistry and change lineups for the state tournament. The Cahillites were able to defend their Catholic League title, but fell short in the state playoffs. This time around, Griffin will have Greer III (14.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.3 apg) from the pre-season all the way through the PIAA tournament. He’s complimented nicely inside by Duren (12.8 ppg, 9.rpg), a physical specimen who rates only behind Emoni Bates of No. 44 Lincoln as a 2022 prospect.
The Skinny: This team may lack depth, but it is certainly talented and the players will have more certainty about their roles from the onset. Greer also has plenty of motivation for a monster senior season and if Duren can continue to improve on offense, this team will compete with No. 35 Archbishop Wood and FAB 50 entrant Neumann-Goretti for Catholic League supremacy. The schedule is loaded, with games versus FAB 50 title contenders Wasatch Academy of Utah and La Lumiere of Indiana at the Cancer Research Classic in West Virginia (January 3-4) plus a December trip to the City of Palms Classic in Florida, where the Cahillites open up with defending Georgia state champ McEachern. In order to survive that schedule and remained ranked, Williams (7.0 ppg) will need to double his production and Roman’s talented freshman class, particularly Will Norman (6-5, 2023), will need to make timely contributions.
43. (NR) Gray Collegiate Academy (West Columbia, S.C.) 21-10
Key Players: SF Latavian Lawrence 6-6 2020, SF Zaire Rogers 6-6 2020, PG Tauris Watson 6-2 2020, Chase McDuffie 6-5 2021.
Why This Ranking: The War Eagles seek their third consecutive SCHSL Class 2A state crown and have an infusion of talent to make it a distinct possibility. Coach Dion Bethea welcomes in three talented seniors, led by Lawrence, last season’s Augusta Chronicle South Carolina State Player of the Year as a junior after averaging 15.7 ppg and 8.4 rpg while shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. Rogers, a Patterson, N.J. native, is an excellent rebounder and has plenty of experience battling D1 type players. Watson comes from White Knoll of Lexington, S.C. and knows how to run a team. McDuffie (6.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg) is a holdover from last year’s team and a big-time talent who showed this summer he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.
The Skinny: Last season, GCA lost Juwan Gary (Alabama) right on the eve of the season, but managed to regroup and dominate the Class 2A state playoffs for the second consecutive season. Obviously, the War Eagles’ FAB 50 ranking won’t be determined by AA Region III competition, but rather some of the national foes it faces at tournaments such as the Chick-Fil-A Classic (December 19-23) where squads such as La Lumiere of Indiana, Greensboro Day of North Carolina, Legacy Early of South Carolina, Huntington Prep of West Virginia and No. 39 Dorman await. In those matchups is where the play of Jalen Deloach (6-8, 2020) will be key and he’s more than capable of consistent 12 and 10 performances. Ninth-graders Brandon Gardner (6-6, 2023) and Montraivis White (5-9, 2023) add to the talent and depth.
44. (NR) Lincoln (Ypsilanti, Mich.) 23-4
Key Players: SF Emoni Bates 6-8 2022 (No. 1 247Sports.com, Ballislife Second Team All-American, Ballislife National Freshman Player of the Year), PG Simon Wheeler III 5-9 2021.
Why This Ranking: The Railsplitters captured the MHSAA Division I state title and return its best player in Bates. Last season the first-year phenom stepped up when his team needed it, hitting two post-season game-winning shots, going for 31 points and 14 rebounds in the state semifinals and coming up big in the second half in the two-point win over University of Detroit Jesuit in the state final. For the season, Bates averaged 28.7 ppg and 10.2 rpg and was named A.P. D1 state player of the year and Gatorade State Player of the Year. With big numbers this year, he could be in the running for Mr. Basketball USA honors as a tenth-grader, which is quite rare in the annals of high school basketball.
The Skinny: Lincoln has one of the best players in the country, but it also lost four senior starters and has work to do to remain FAB 50 ranked. We also strongly considered MSHAA D2 state title contender Benton Harbor, led by Carlos “Scooby” Johnson, for the FAB 50 and Flint Beecher also looks strong in Michigan. Bates is a dominant player, but it was actually senior guard Jalen Fisher that hit the shot at the buzzer in the state title game. Lincoln lost its experienced backcourt of Fisher and Trevon Davis, so the improvement of Davion Harlin (5-11, 2020) and the contributions of Wheeler, a tremendous natural talent, will be paramount. If Bates plays up to tremendous expectations, the Railsplitters will be a good team, but the “super soph” will have to play through gimmick defenses, and the team find a reliable second scorer and hope the bounces go its way once again in the post-season.
45. (NR) Millennium (Goodyear, Ariz.) 22-7
Key Players: PF DaRon Holmes 6-8 2021 (No. 27 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Justus Jackson 6-1 2021, SG Robby Devries 6-4 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Tigers have all the ingredients to move up in the FAB 50 and be the best Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) team. Coach Ty Amundsen’s club has an elite talent among five returning starters and 12 lettermen, plus plenty of motivation. The extra spark is provided by the gut-wrenching 38-37 loss to Gilbert in the 2019 AIA Class 5A state title game. The drive to state begins with Holmes (20 ppg, 11 rpg), one of the top interior talents in the West Region, and Jackson (15 ppg, 6 apg), an excellent pull up shooter with deep range and the ability to score in the lane. “Our chemistry and team play is our strength,” Amundsen said. “We are deep and can score in bunches.”
The Skinny: The Tigers have chemistry from last season and if that’s not enough, they also gained confidence from a terrific summer playing talented non-Arizona teams. Devries and Justice Marmara (6-4, 2020) are transfers from Texas and according to Amundsen, Devries with join Holmes and Jackson as D1 recruits. Even though Millennium returns five starters, Devries and Marmara will be difficult to keep out of the starting lineup. The Tigers’ talent level and chemistry will be tested when it faces FAB 50 title contender Sierra Canyon of Southern California on December 7 at Hoophall West. Even if Millennium doesn’t win that game, it will let the Tigers know exactly where they stand and what adjustments needed to be made in preparation for the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina after the holidays.
46. (NR) Oak Cliff Faith Family Academy (Dallas, Texas) 36-6
Key Players: SF Jordan Walsh 6-6 2022 (No. 41 Rivals.com), SG Trae Clayton 6-5 2022, PG Isaiah LeBlanc 6-2 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Eagles are one of our hunch teams near the bottom of the FAB 50 that we think has big potential, despite some personnel losses. For now, we begin coach Brandon Thomas’ team behind No. 33 Yates in the race for the UIL Class 4A state crown, as that team has plenty returning plus some transfers coming in. Faith Family Academy lost three regulars off its Class 4A state title team, but returns two terrific sophomores in Walsh and Clayton. A talented wing guard, Clayton had a game-high 15 points in the Eagles’ 53-51 state title game victory over Liberty Hill. Incredibly, Walsh delivered the state crown on a two-hand tomahawk dunk just before the buzzer sounded. Walsh is a bit underrated nationally by most scouting services, but Thomas expects him to have a breakout season after a terrific summer and fall. Some of the sting of losing three veterans is erased by LeBlanc, a talented lead guard transfer from Houston Ridge Point.
The Skinny: Thomas loves his team’s athleticism and length, and it also has solid size to defend the paint and rebound. Darrius Miles (6-10, 2020) is a wide body than fancies himself as a stretch four who can knock down the perimeter shot when necessary, while Jayveon Coleman (6-8, 2020) gives the Eagles even more athleticism at the forward spots. The shooting is bolstered by Dallas Hobbs (6-1, 2022). There is plenty to like about this team, and it did beat Yates last year in the state semifinals, but we’ll take a wait-and-see approach because of the inexperience as a unit. Thomas hopes the chemistry blends relatively early because the team has tough matchups at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas, the Desert Challenge in Arizona and the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in San Diego after Christmas.
47. (NR) Callaway (Jackson, Miss.) 21-9
Key Players: PG Daeshun Ruffin 5-9 2021 (No. 26 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Keiveon Hunt 5-9 2022, PF John Crumbley 6-8 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Chargers get the second-to-final rankings spot among Southeast Region teams, as they return a majority of their key players off a team that lost to MHSAA Class 5A runner-up Olive Branch in the state quarterfinals. We also seriously considered defending Class 6A champ Starkville (which finished No. 37 in last year’s FAB 50), but the Yellowjackets graduated its backcourt and that happens to be Callaway’s strength. It begins with Ruffin (26.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.3 apg), a dynamic scoring guard and one of the most talented underclass players in the country. Hunt (10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.6 apg) was a starter, and according to our Mississippi correspondent Lavel Johnson, should be vastly improved with a year of varsity experience under his belt. Crumbley (5.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) gives Callaway a strong post presence and with a big year would make the Chargers’ backcourt even more potent.
The Skinny: It was a close call between Callaway and Starkville and in order for the Chargers to remain FAB 50 ranked, they must keep the overall loss count lower than last season. Coach David Sanders has a balanced team to help navigate a tough schedule and key role players that could help take this team to the next level. Cowandrick Samuels (6-3, 2020) is the ultimate glue guy most championship-level teams have on its roster. Similar to Samuels, Kendarius Buckley (6.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg) can play multiple positions and the latter is arguably the second most talented player on the roster.
48. (NR) La Crosse Central (La Crosse, Wis.) 24-3
Key Players: PF Terrance Thompson 6-8 2020, SG Jonathan Davis 6-4 2020 (No. 116 Rivals.com, Wisconsin commit).
Why This Ranking: The Red Raiders have the talent and motivation to emerge as Wisconsin’s best team in 2019-20. Last season, Nicolet of Glendale had the strongest in-state team, winning the WIAA D2 state title in dominant fashion and finishing No. 24 in the FAB 50. That team was underclass-oriented, but broke up, so it puts La Crosse Central in the pole-position. Last year’s team fell in a state semifinal contest to Washington of Milwaukee in heart-breaking fashion, 72-71 in overtime, after leading by 14 points in the second half. The hero for Washington in that game (highly-regarded junior Michael Foster Jr.) left for a prep school in Phoenix so the Red Raiders want to make the most of their opportunity.
The Skinny: It’s not just what other teams lost, but what coach Todd Fergot has back in the fold that makes his team FAB 50 worthy. Thompson (7.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) made strides last season and is a true D1 prospect. His focus has been defensively, but if he continues to improve offensively that will only make the backcourt more dangerous. Davis, who already owns a state crown playing for Central, was a first team all-state choice in 2018-19, averaging 23.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and 2.4 apg. His backcourt mate is actually his twin brother Jordan Davis (6-3, 2020), who is a terrific high school player in his own right and averaged 12.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 2.2 apg for a team that dropped a game early by double digits but only lost one more regular season game, by four points to FAB 50 title contender Minnehaha Academy of Minnesota. The Red Raiders may not reach the level of Nicolet last season, but if Thompson and Jordan Davis increase their production, there is no reason why this unit can’t slow climb in the rankings.
49. (NR) Briarcrest Christian (Eads, Tenn.) 28-2
Key Players: PG Kennedy Chandler 6-1 2021 (No. 12 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Marcellus Brigham Jr. 6-6 2020, SG Michael Malone 6-2 2020.
Why This Ranking: The Saints are able to secure the final spot among Southeast Region teams on the strength of five returning starters and 10 lettermen off a TSSAA Division II-AA championship team. The Southeast Region has been the strongest overall in recent teams and we also strongly considered Starkville (Miss.), Oak Ridge of Orlando, North Mecklenburg (N.C.) and Tampa Catholic (Fla.), among others. We went with the Saints because of their depth and the presence of Chandler (20 ppg, 5 apg), who became a national name this past summer by leading Mokan Elite to the Nike EYBL title. In reality, Chandler was already big-time, as he was Tennessee’s D2 Mr. Basketball and scored 20 points to lead the Saints to their first state title since 2008. Brigham Jr., a returning all-state wing, is a versatile scorer and Omari “Big O” Thomas (6-5, 2020) does the dirty work.
The Skinny: The Saints played a tough schedule last year, but really have loaded up this season. They’ll have plenty of opportunity to move up…or drop out of the FAB 50. Coach John Harrington (389-159) has some Grid-Hoopers that provide depth, and they will be eased into the rotation for the Lighthouse Classic (Corinth, Miss.) November 29-30 and the Marshall County Hoopfest in Kentucky, but will need to be full bore for the City of Palms Classic starting December 18, where Briarcrest Christian opens with No. 36 Archbishop Stepinac. A win and the Saints likely play IMG Academy of Florida.
50. (BB) Marion (Marion, Ark.) 25-3
Key Players: SG Detrick Reeves Jr. 6-3 2020, PG Makyi Boyce 6-0 2020, SG Jayden Forrest 6-1 2023.
Why This Ranking: With so many fine teams to consider for the FAB 50, we obviously could have went in a number of different directions for the final spot. In the final analysis, we like the sixth team from the Southwest Region. We seriously considered Wildwood Catholic of New Jersey (East), a plethora of Southeast teams and Midwest clubs Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) and St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio), among others. Marion welcomes back two all-state performers off its Class 5A state title team in Reeves and Boyce, and those stellar backcourt performers should carry this team far. The Patriots did not lose to an Arkansas team last season and will need to continue that in-state dominance to move up in the rankings.
The Skinny: The Patriots did lose three starters, but we like their blend of talented veterans and newcomers. “We are a young team, but are talented,” coach David Clark said. “We return the top two guards in the state who play with confidence.” Transfer Xavier Joubert (6-5, 2020) averaged 16.2 ppg at Central of Memphis and incoming freshman Forrest is a big-time talent that gives Clark versatility in his lineup. Marion will test its ranking early at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas and the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas against the likes of FAB 50 title contenders Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas and Mater Dei of California, plus No. 41 Coronado.
RELATED: Preseason 2019-20 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2019-20 FAB 50 (16-30) | Preseason Top 20 Regional Rankings |
Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores