Today Ballislife.com tips off its 2020-21 high school basketball coverage with our first installment of the preseason 2020-21 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 26. The complete FAB 50 rankings powered by Ballislife.com will be released by October 27.
Preseason 2020-21 FAB 50 National
Team Rankings Powered by Ballislife.com
By Ronnie Flores
(Final 2019-20 ranking in parentheses; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included; ***Indicates season cut short due to COVID-19 Pandemic; Look for preseason Region-By-Region Top 20 Rankings on Thursday, November 5 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Monday, November 23.)
31. (27) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 25-10***
Key Players: SG Malcolm Dread 6-4 2021 (Richmond commit), SG Judah Mintz 6-4 2022 (No. 68 Rivals.com), PG Devin Dinkins 5-10 2022.
Why This Ranking: The Purple Eagles are once again heavy in the mix for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) title with fellow FAB 50 powers DeMatha Catholic of Maryland and Paul VI of Virginia. Those two clubs will start ranked ahead of them, just as they did last season, but Gonzaga will be a notch below this time around after starting at No. 11 in last year’s preseason FAB 50 as the No. 3 WCAC team. Three seniors are off to college, including Terrence Williams (Michigan), one of the program’s most accomplished players ever, but seven lettermen are back, led by Dread. Turner describes him as a Swiss Army Knife who always puts the program first. He took a back seat in scoring as an underclassman, but he’ll be counted offensively in key moments this season. Mintz is another with all-conference ability, as he attacks the rim with a vengeance. Dinkins is a consummate lead guard and could have a breakout campaign if all the talent meshes together.
The Skinny: The Purple Eagles do have the talent to move up, but another reason they fall a notch below their WCAC rivals, besides the personnel losses, was last year’s overall loss count. It’s tough for three teams from the talent-laden conference to be ranked high because they beat up on each other so much. We’ve been right on target with Turner’s club in recent seasons – we predicted a third place finish last season and that’s where Gonzaga finished in the standings – but to its credit they only lost to one club who was never in last season’s FAB 50. For the eighth time in the past nine seasons we rank at least three WCAC teams in the preseason, but the difference this time around is COVID-19 may have an impact on the amount of ranked foes Gonzaga can play. It was scheduled to appear in the now cancelled Les Schwab Tournament in Oregon and the Cancer Research Classic in West Virginia, so Turner is hoping the games at the Gonzaga Classic, the DC National Hoopfest and Hoophall Classic are completed. The nightly WCAC wars will create plenty of opportunity for role players such as Jared Turner (6-6, 2022), Will Scherer (6-9, 2021) and Quinn Clark (6-5, 2022) to step up and be battle tested for another run at the WCAC crown and second straight DCSAA state crown.
32. (BB) Millard North (Omaha, Neb.) 24-5
Key Players: PG Hunter Sallis 6-4 2021 (No. 6 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Jadin Johnson 6-3 2021 (Old Dominion commit), SF Saint Thomas 6-6 2021, PF Jasen Green 6-7 2022 (No. 124 Rivals.com).
6'3" - CG - 2021
Why This Ranking: The Mustangs finished No. 19 in last season’s Southwest Region Top 20, but have nearly their entire squad back. It’s not just the amount of returnees, but whom they are, as Millard North has one of the most talent-laden rosters we’ve seen from a Nebraska team in the FAB 50 era. It begins with Sallis, a big scoring lead guard who pumped in averages of 22.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 3.8 apg to earn underclass All-American honors. Thomas (15.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 spg) had a terrific all-around season and has plenty of D1 options. Johnson (4.7 ppg, 4.6 apg, 1.6 spg) is a pass-first point guard, while Green (11.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg) will be counted on to step up for the production loss and interior presence of graduated 6-foot-9 post Max Murrell (Stanford).
The Skinny: The Mustangs might be a few notches higher in the preseason rankings had they not lost in the Class A state title game to Bellevue West, which finished one spot higher in the final regional rankings. The fashion in which they lost that game gives this team plenty of motivation to get the job done and move up in the rankings, as Bellevue West scored the final 16 points in an epic 64-62 comeback victory. The Mustangs will have to dominate and do well in big out-of-state games in order to move into the Top 25. They are scheduled to play Patrick Baldwin-led Hamilton (Sussex, Wis.) at the Highland Shootout on January 9. The highest FAB 50 ranked Nebraska team ever was Bellevue West at No. 17 in 2004-05.
33. (14) Poly (Baltimore, Md.) 24-2***
Key Players: SF Kwame Evans Jr. 6-7 2023 (No. 5 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Bryce Lindsay 6-3 2022, PG Raymond English 5-10 2021, PF Adam Walden 6-9 2022.
Why This Ranking: The Engineers have enough returning firepower (two starters, four lettermen) to rate as Charm City’s No. 2 team behind perennial Baltimore Catholic League power St. Frances Academy. Among MPSSAA clubs, Poly has no peer, as it was two games away from a fourth consecutive Class 3A state crown before COVID-19 ended the season. Evans is a terrific building block and coach Sam Brand is looking for him to develop into the type of impact player Justin Lewis (Marquette) was for three seasons. Lindsey is a Top 100 type talent in the 2022 class, while English brings that typical Baltimore toughness on defense. He’s also quite experienced and can knock down the big perimeter shot. There’s plenty of ingredients to like on this team, mainly unselfishness, defense and chemistry.
The Skinny: The Engineers should have been a preseason FAB 50 ranked team last season and they proved that with quality wins and a No. 14 finish. Besides Lewis, they did lose City Player of the Year Brandon Murray and four-year lead guard Rahim Ali, so we won’t go overboard with their preseason positioning, but we also won’t make the mistake again of leaving them out. Brand is concerned about his team’s depth, but Walden is a prime candidate to step up. Some of the depth questions were answered when Barry Evans (6-7, 2021) transferred over from Oakland Mills. “Our starting five is as good a group as any we’ve had,” Brand said. “All will be D1 players and I really like how they fit.” The other concern for Poly this preseason is being able to play a national schedule behind the backdrop of COVID-19. The team will play under the name “Our family” as a high school “club” team against high level high school teams until February when Poly’s league in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association is set to begin playing.
34. (48) North Mecklenburg (Huntersville, N.C.) 30-1
Key Players: SF Chris Ford 6-5 2021 (Davidson commit), PF Jeremy Gregory 6-8 2022, PG Davion Cunningham 6-2 2022.
Why This Ranking: The Vikings just missed the preseason FAB 50 last season, coming in at No. 15 in the Southeast Region, and lived up to expectations. North Meck loses three D1 guards, including Tristan Maxwell (Georgia Tech), but it does have an experienced front court and an abundance of talent ready to step in. Ford and Gregory were all-conference performers as juniors and give the Vikings’ frontline steady offensive production. Cunningham is ready to take a step up in production and is another future D1 player, while Jaylyn Campbell McClurkin (6-7, 2021) adds depth. Tony Waters (5-11, 2021) returns and is another steady ball handler. Coach Duane Lewis (438-149) expects his newcomers, namely Jordan Crawford (6-2, 2022) and Michael Myrie (6-2, 2021), to adapt quickly to his system. Both guards are receiving D1 interest.
The Skinny: North Meck has the talent to move up towards the Top 25, but we are taking a cautious approach because of NCHSAA’s stance with COVID-19. Lewis’ club was invited to the Beach Ball Classic and the Bonjangles Bash, but as of press time, it is only allowed to play 14 regular season games. “We are in a conference with seven teams, so our schedule is set,” Lewis said. “The conference tournament, if permissible, is three games max and the state tourney five max.” North Meck lost only in the finals of the Arby’s Classic last season to another FAB 50 ranked team, but obviously those types of opportunities to move up this season won’t be there during the regular season.
35. (38) Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.) 18-9***
Key Players: SF AJ Griffin 6-7 2021 (No. 7 247Sports.com, Duke commit), PF Malcolm Chimezie 6-8 2021 (Boston University commit), PG Samuel Gibbs 6-2 2022.
6'7" - SF - 2021
Why This Ranking: The Crusaders were our NYC Catholic High School Athletic Association favorites last season and rate right there with St. Raymond (Bronx) and Christ The King (Middle Village) as the best bets this season. Last season’s preseason forecast was on point, as Stepinac won the CHSAA Archdiocesan crown before COVID-19 cancelled the City playoffs. Coach Patrick Massaroni’s club lost R.J. Davis (North Carolina), the best scorer ever from Westchester County, but returns three starters and seven lettermen. Griffin (17.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg) leads the way, and if he has a big season he could develop into a serious Mr. Basketball USA candidate. Chimezie (10.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 bpg) controls the paint and is underrated nationally. Gibbs (3.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 apg) has plenty of experience and is a quality guard with size who’ll also play D1 ball. There is plenty to like, but two things must happen for this club to make a steady climb in the rankings.
The Skinny: The Crusaders began at No. 36 last season and are right in that range once again. The two things that must happen in order for Stepinac to move up is quality lead guard play and Griffin staying healthy. “Lead guard play will be a weakness until someone steps up to fill Davis’ shoes,” Massaroni said. Combo guard Keith Mency Jr. (6-2, 2021) will have an opportunity to show his play-making skill and shooting guard Joel Baez (6-4, 2022) will have an expanded role. Griffin played in 16 games as a sophomore and last season only appeared in 12 and his mere presence opens up the floor for other players. Stepinac is scheduled to take on No. 37 Coronado (Las Vegas, Nev.) at Hoophall Classic and hopes its other showcase games go off without a hitch. Stepinac’s future also looks bright with incoming freshmen Jacob Hogarth (6-8, 2024), Johnuel “Boogie” Fland (6-2, 2024), and Carlos Rodriguez (6-3, 2024).
36. (NR) Shadow Creek (Pearland, Texas) 29-4
Key Players: SF Ramon Walker Jr. 6-5 2021 (No. 122 247Sports.com, Houston commit), SF Shawn Jones 6-5 2022 (No. 140 Rivals.com), PG Cam Amboree 6-1 2022, PG Brian Gordon 6-1 2021.
Why This Ranking: The Sharks rate along with Duncanville, Waxahachie and San Antonio Wagner as one of the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Class 6A favorites, Last year they were in Class 5A, where perennial power Lancaster and old District 24 rival Hightower of Fort Bend rate among this season’s top contenders. It begins with Walker, an all-state pick last season who averaged 24 ppg, on 54 percent shooting, while adding 6.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, and 2.9 spg. He’s a go-to player in the clutch and is rated by RCS Sports as Texas’ top 2021 prospect. Jones (15 ppg) is a physical specimen who brings toughness and is just scratching the surface of his potential after earning 2019-20 Newcomer of the Year honors in District 24-5A. Guard play, and how the veterans mesh with the newcomers, will take this team to the next level. There is plenty to like about this team and its experience last year should pay dividends this time around.
The Skinny: While Shadow Creek has most of its team back plus talented newcomers, it still has plenty to prove locally before it can move up in the FAB 50. The Sharks advanced past the second round for the first time in school history, but fell two times in three games to Hightower, including a 71-62 loss in the Region 3 final. Coach David President is highly regarded and it’s his guards that ultimately have the ability to take this program to its first UIL Final Four, provided COVID-19 doesn’t get in the way. Young was All-District last season and a big-time scorer. Gordon is a highly regarded transfer who can run the point and is rated one of the top 25 seniors in the Lone Star State. Amboree makes the seniors even more dangerous and Randy “BoBo” Masters (6-1, 2022), a Grid-Hoop standout, brings versatility and big-game experience. The Sharks (and the rest of the UIL) won’t play in tournaments this season, so they’ll look to peak down the stretch in anticipation of a deep state tourney run.
37. (NR) Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) 20-8
Key Players: PG Jaden Hardy 6-5 2021 (No. 4 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PG Frankie Collins 6-1 2021 (No. 42 ESPN.com, Michigan commit), PF Legend Geeter 6-7 2021 (Providence commit).
Why This Ranking: The Cougars have a bonafide Mr. Basketball USA candidate and a solid supporting cast that knows its role. That player is Hardy, who showed he can carry this team with his array of scoring skills at the recent Border League. He led Coronado to the championship game of the event’s Top Flight Division with wins over FAB 50 contender Minnehaha Academy of Minnesota and talented Prolific Prep of California. As a junior, Hardy was the state player of the year in Nevada while averaging 30.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, and 8.4 apg. Hardy can demoralize teams with his scoring outbursts, but coach Jeff Kaufman can’t expect him to score huge in every big game so the talented Collins will be expected to keep defenses honest. Collins is more of a play-maker than shooter, and can impact games with big defensive plays or highlight reel buckets around the basket. The Cougars did lose unsung contributors to graduation, but they can be a dangerous team in the rankings if the newcomers mesh with Hardy and the team displays consistency on the offensive end.
The Skinny: This program began at No. 41 in last season’s FAB 50 but did not close strong, so Kaufman will look to develop the right chemistry to have this team peaking during the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association (NIAA) Class 4A playoffs. Locally, some media scribes feel No. 48 Desert Pines could be the major challenger to the state reign of FAB 50 national title contender Bishop Gorman, but having a true Mr. Basketball USA candidate like Hardy gives this team the ability to play with anybody when he’s on his game, so we’ll place them as Nevada’s No. 2 team and let the results play out. The Cougars were also recently bolstered by the addition of Geeter, who averaged 16 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 apg and 2 bpg at River Rouge, Mich., last season. He was a first team all-state choice for a team good enough to be a preseason FAB 50 contender with him, so if he’s ready to go when the regular season starts in January, Coronado will be in good position to make a play up in the rankings. The Cougars’ depth is also bolstered by transfers Darnell Fizer (6-4, 2023), Osiris Grady (6-7, 2023) and Chris Page (6-4, 2021), who will have to find consistent roles even if that doesn’t involve many shot attempts. Hardy makes this team a real threat to win a state crown, but the Cougars have to prove they can get by Bishop Gorman when it counts.
38. (BB) Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) 20-7
Key Players: SG Zion Cruz 6-4 2022 (No. 16 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), C Samson Johnson 6-10 2020, PG Dionte Johnson 6-0 2022, C Mouhamed Sow 6-10 2021.
Why This Ranking: For the second consecutive season, expectations for the Celtics are sky high, and they do have the personnel to make a run at the New Jersey Tournament of Champions crown. But before that happens, plenty of things have to fall in place for this Garden State power. Last season, Patrick School began at No. 15 in the FAB 50, but it never was able to jell because its best players were hardly ever on the floor together. The Celts did beat Union County League rival Roselle Catholic three times, but the Lions beat them when it counted in the North Jersey, Non-Public B semifinals, so naturally that team will begin higher in this year’s preseason FAB 50. Still there is plenty to like about this team, especially if Cruz, who averaged 20.5 ppg last season at Hudson Catholic, meshes with the three returnees and a plethora of other newcomers.
The Skinny: Last year’s team hardly had its best five on the court and that’s a problem veteran coach Chris Chavannes looks to alleviate. Chavannes isn’t yet sure what tournaments his program will participate in, but there will be plenty of tests to prove their rankings worth. “I like our size, speed, length and defense, but we must develop chemistry,” said Chavannes. Johnson (9.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg) will play a bigger role and is aided up front by Sow. Johnson has experience in the backcourt, but will be fighting for time, as will many of the newcomers. Those talented newcomers include power forward Rayner Torres (6-8 2023), small forward Kareem Ewell (6-6, 2021), small forward Scotty Middleton (6-6, 2023) and guard Lorenzo Washington (6-0 2021), the latter who returns to Patrick School after averaging 24.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, and 4.0 spg at Sacred Heart (Waterbury, Conn.). The talent and depth should make for competitive practices, which is a good omen if this team is to move up in the rankings. After last season’s disappointing loss to Roselle Catholic, the Celts finished No. 17 in the Final East Region Rankings. If they don’t quickly jell, East Region teams such as Christ The King (Middle Village, N.Y.), Our Savior Lutheran (Bronx, N.Y.) and King’s Fork (Suffolk, Va.) are good bets to move up.
39. (36) St. Mary Prep (Orchard Lake, Mich.) 21-1***
Key Players: SG Julian Roper II 6-3 2021 (No. 142 Rivals.com, Northwestern commit), PG Jason Drake II 6-2 2022, PF Peter Nwoke 6-8 2021, Harrison Ogochukwu 6-8 2021.
Why This Ranking: The Eaglets had a terrific 2019-2020 campaign and have enough returning firepower to begin the season as the top-ranked team from the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). St. Mary Prep’s success begins with Roper, a terrific all-around guard who earned second team D1 all-state laurels after pumping in 18.3 ppg along with 7.6 rpg and 2.6 spg as a junior. Drake can run the show and can put up points in a hurry, as was evidenced by his 31-point performance to lift the Eaglets to a District 1 semifinal victory before COVID-19 cancelled the remainder of the season. With Roper and Drake, St. Mary Prep can dictate the tempo of games and won’t be at a disadvantage in crunch time in its big games.
The Skinny: Losing Lorne Bowman II (Wisconsin) is a big loss for coach Todd Covert’s club; after all he was a three-time all-stater. The backcourt is this team’s strength, however, so we’ll start the Eaglets in the same range in the rankings they finished last season. There is depth in the backcourt with the likes of Jack Crighton (6-2, 2022), a stud baseball player, and spark plug Kareem Rozier (5-7, 2022). The key to St. Mary Prep defending its Catholic League title and taking another shot at the MHSAA state crown will be the development of post players Nwoke and Ogochukwu. A native of Nigeria, Nwoke started playing only three years ago and has rapidly developed into a legitimate D1 prospect. He excels on the defensive end, while Ogochukwu is more of a face-up forward with some perimeter skill. He’s still a bit raw, but if he has a big season, that will open things up for Nwoke and the more experienced perimeter players. St. Mary Prep can’t venture too far from home because of MHSAA rules, so cracking the Top 25 could be difficult. The Eaglets could make a slow move up if they peak at the right time and have an opportunity to finish what they feel was denied from them last season.
40. (NR) Notre Dame College Prep (Niles, Ill.) 29-5***
Key Players: SG Louis Lesmond 6-5 2021 (No. 110 247Sports.com, Harvard commit), SF Troy D’Amico 6-6 2021 (Southern Illinois commit), PG Anthony Sales 6-2 2021.
Why This Ranking: We like the Dons as the No. 2 team from Illinois behind Chicago Public League power Simeon, with plenty of other contenders ready to move up in the Midwest Region rankings should they falter. Whitney Young should be the major threat to Simeon in the CPL, with Evanston also a major class Class 4A contender. Fenwick is a strong Class 3A contender, but we rate the Dons the favorites in that division because of the presence of three of the top dozen seniors in the state. Lesmond is a big wing with size and was Notre Dame’s leading scorer last season. The French import with good academics and a great jump shot averaged 16.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 2.2 spg while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. D’Amico is another all-state talent, who averaged 15.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 3.0 apg. He’s a matchup problem because he can play guard or do damage in the interior. Sales is a Grid-Hoop stud, and like many highly regarded quarterbacks, he’s a good decision-maker and clutch point guard.
The Skinny: Coach Kevin Clancy’s club is like many in the preseason FAB 50 in that COVID-19 cut its 2019-20 season short. The Dons were No. 1 rated in the state Class 3A AP poll and defeated Deerfield in a 3A sectional semifinal contest before the season was halted. Clancy has a terrific nucleus, but there is no feel which other teams have improved or created chemistry because there hasn’t been any summer ball in Illinois since Coronavirus broke out. Many of this season’s holiday tournaments have been cancelled and teams are just hoping to play a complete schedule. Niles Notre Dame did well in showcase games last season, but did lose to Simeon, 67-53, so there is work to be done in order to move up.
41. (NR) Waukee Senior (Waukee, Iowa) 23-3
Key Players: SF Tucker Devries 6-6 2021 (No. 101 Rivals.com, Drake commit), PF Payton Sandfort 6-8 2021 (No. 138 247Sports.com, Iowa commit) SF Pryce Sandfort 6-6 2023 (No. 48 247Sports.com), PF Omaha Biliew 6-7 2023 (No. 4 247Sports.com).
6'7" - SF - 2023
Why This Ranking: With a terrific talent level from a state that doesn’t traditionally place many teams in the FAB 50, the Warriors stand out as one of the top teams in the Midwest Region. Coach Justin Ohl returns four starters led by DeVries, the son of Drake coach Darian DeVries. Last season, he was the only underclass player to earn all-Iowa honors after averaging 21.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 4.7 apg while shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. Sandfort was an honorable mention all-stater after averaging 19.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 4.0 apg. He’s a terrific all-around talent and both he and Devries can handle the ball as lead guards. Pryce, Payton’s younger brother, averaged 9 ppg and is another sharp shooter (45 percent 3-point) while the fourth starter back in the fold is Wyatt Heston (6-7, 2021). Not only can this team shoot the lights out, there is size at each position.
The Skinny: Not only are the Warriors a talent-laden club, they have plenty of motivation heading into 2020-21. Waukee fell to Akeny in the IAHSAA Class 4A state title game, 78-70, with the returning starters scoring 63 of the Warriors’ points. Center Lincoln Swanson is the only graduating starter, but Biliew gives this team another dimension with his athleticism and play-making ability around the basket. He didn’t have a particularly stellar freshman season at Dowling Catholic, but he’s one of the best prospects in his class nationally and the talent around him at Waukee should help him take his game to the next level. From a rankings perspective, the Warriors main roadblock is doing better in-state than it did last season and complacency setting in against lesser teams. The highest ranked Iowa team ever in the FAB 50 is Harrison Barnes-led Ames, which finished No. 10 in 2009-10.
42. (NR) Fern Creek (Louisville, Ky.) 28-6***
Key Players: PG Jaden Rogers 6-0 2021, C Darrius Washington 6-8 2021, SG Zek Montgomery 6-5 2021.
Why This Ranking: When reviewing teams in Bluegrass Country, there were solid FAB 50 contenders such as Ballard and Male of Louisville, plus Ashland Paul Blazer, but the Tigers stand out like a sore thumb. Coach James Schooler returns all but one player on a 15-man roster and they are quality players as well. Every player who scored a point in Fern Creek’s 48-43 victory over Jeffersontown in the 6th Region title game is back, led by Rogers. The scoring point guard averaged 16.5 ppg and was named all-state as a junior. Washington is a terrific shot blocker and when he provides double-digit scoring and rebounding this team is tough to beat. Montgomery can create mismatches with his size and shooting ability and can play on the perimeter or interior.
The Skinny: Coach Schooler felt his team was in good position to go to Rupp Arena and capture the 2019-20 KHSAA Sweet 16 title before the popular one-class state tournament was canceled because of COVID-19. Last year’s team was motivated after the 2019 group lost in the first round of the playoffs, so there is extra incentive in 2020-21. Fern Creek lost in the Sweet 16 semis in 2017 and in the quarters in 2018. A fourth trip in five years is expected, and in order for this veteran group to move up in the FAB 50, there can be no in-state letdowns.
43. (41) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 25-8
Key Players: C Wilhelm Breidenbach 6-9 2021 (No. 53 ESPN.com, Nebraska commit), SF Harrison Hornery 6-10 2021 (No. 143 247Sports.com, USC commit), PF Nick Davidson 6-9 2021 (Nevada commit).
Why This Ranking: The Monarchs opened last season at No. 18, and even though they didn’t play to that level, they got hot in CIF Southern Section pool play and advanced to the section open title game for the third time in four years. In 2018-19, Mater Dei opened up No. 48 and advanced all the way to the SoCal Open final before falling to FAB 50 title contender Sierra Canyon, which has been California’s best team three straight seasons running. With three talented front court players returning, Mater Dei should be right in the thick of the CIFSS open playoff race and has done well over the years under veteran coach Gary McKnight (1,161-118) when expectations are not sky high. Breidenbach (11.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is a four-year contributor and a true post threat who can be counted on to make the right play. Hornery (11.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) can stretch the floor and his numbers have been remarkably consistent the past two years. If Davidson (8.0, 5.0 rpg) continues to improve, it will make his teammates better and Mater Dei won’t be an easy out.
The Skinny: Mater Dei is a safe FAB 50 pick and a No. 2 team behind three-time state team of the year Sierra Canyon in a year that isn’t overwhelming with regard to depth of CIF teams. “It should be a good year considering we have three solid players from a CIFSS finalist team,” said McKnight, the nation’s active winningest coach. If point guard Devin Askew (Kentucky) had not re-classed up, the expectations would be much higher. Even though the Monarchs need to develop a lead guard, there is no discounting a program that has won 11 CIF crowns and is usually prepared for the big game. It will be a slow climb for all CIF teams this season because its season begins March 12, which means it won’t get to play other ranked out-of-state teams. Mater Dei has scheduled its Nike Extravaganza for May 14-15, but it won’t include the usual Midwest or East Region power.
44. (26) Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) 30-2
Key Players: PF Ian Schieffelin 6-8 2021 (Clemson commit), SG Robert Cowherd 6-5 2022 (No. 76 Rivals.com), PF Chauncey Wiggins 6-9 2022 (No. 60 247Sports.com), PF Taje Kelly 6-8 2021 (Charleston Southern commit), PG Tyrese Elliott 6-1 2022.
Why This Ranking: The Rams started at No. 17 in the FAB 50 last season and even though they were a bit unknown nationally, they showed the country it was warranted with a terrific run to the GHSA Class AAAAAAA title game. Grayson was sitting at No. 4 in the FAB 50 before it came crashing down in a loss to a Wheeler of Marietta team it already beat. Don’t feel sorry for coach Geoffrey Pierce even though he loses four starters; he still has a talented team capable of another deep playoff run. FAB 50 contender Milton, Norcross, Pebblebrook of Mableton, Berkmar and Wheeler are teams the Rams will challenge for AAAAAAA supremacy. Schieffelin (10.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.7 bpg) is a double-double machine and is primed for a big senior season. As the lone returning starter, Schieffelin will get plenty of help inside from Wiggins, one of the best prospects at his position nationally, and more production will be expected of Kelly (4.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg), who starred in a sixth man role last season. Wiggins comes over from Eastside of Covington and Cowherd from Denmark of Alpharetta. Both are capable of 20-point outings and were first team all-region choices as sophomores.
The Skinny: We mulled over which four GHSA teams we would place in the preseason FAB 50, as the Peach State has fared excellently in recent seasons from a national scope. In reality, five or six Georgia teams may be FAB 50 worthy. Even though the Rams lost plenty of firepower, so did plenty other elite in-state teams. All-American Deivon Smith (Mississippi Smith) will be missed, but Elliott (a transfer from Alabama) is just what the doctor ordered. “We have a veteran team with many years of varsity and high level AAU experience,” Pierce said. “Our size and length at every position will be a great asset to us.” Grayson also plays the schedule that will allow it to move up (or down) in the rankings, as it faces FAB 50 contender Tri-Cities of East Point at the On The Radar Tip-Off Classic and play at the Holiday Hoopsgiving (November 27-28) in Atlanta versus Greenforest Christian Academy of Decatur, and plays in both the Jared Cook Classic and the Kevin Durant MLK Classic.
45. (NR) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) 23-7***
Key Players: SG Marsalis Roberson 6-5 2021 (No. 98 247Sports.com, Cal commit), PF Jalen Lewis 6-9 2023 (No. 2 ESPN.com), PG Taj Phillips 5-10 2021.
Why This Ranking: The Dragons rate as a solid No. 3 team from California and as the NorCal open title favorites as they have three standouts back from last year’s team that closed strong. O’Dowd was set to play two-time defending CIF NorCal open champ Sheldon of Sacramento in last year’s NorCal open final (FAB 50 power Sierra Canyon had already advanced as the SoCal champion to the CIF final) when COIVD-19 put a halt to O’Dowd’s 18-game winning streak. Roberson (16.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) led the team in scoring, is the go-to player and most importantly, leads by example with a terrific work ethic. He was named the Bay Area Player of the Year, while Lewis (9.8 rpg, 6.3 rpg) was NorCal’s top freshman. Lewis came on down the stretch last season and will be counted on to punish teams with his versatile post play. Phillips is a terrific on-ball defender and experienced ball-handler in crunch time.
The Skinny: Coach Lou Richie (191-61) is looking forward to this season and not only because the opportunity to win a second CIF open title in four years was taken away by the ingoing pandemic. The former O’Dowd and Clemson guard likes his team’s chemistry and the Dragons always perform best when the team has a core group of seniors that move into more prominent roles after coming off the bench as underclassmen. That’s exactly what O’Dowd has with the likes of Jarin Edwards (6-4, 2021), the most experienced bench player moving up, plus six more seniors. Cahal Connolly (6-7, 2022) should ease some of the pressure off Lewis inside and Richie is high on Cameron Brown (5-11, 2022), a bit of a late bloomer who was a standout lead guard on last year’s JayVee club. With the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) pushing its start date to March 12, O’Dowd may not get the time together in fall and winter leagues that some top SoCal teams will, but it’ll be extremely motivated to get on the court and finish what they were unable to last season. For now, with no other state having as late as start as the CIF, we’ll do one set of weekly FAB 50 rankings until the season is complete June 19, instead of having separate winter and spring versions.
46. (NR) Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) 25-5
Key Players: PF Jabari Smith 6-9 2021 (No. 4 Rivals.com, Auburn commit, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PF Deshon Proctor 6-5 2021, PG Myles Rice 6-2 2021.
6'9" - PF - 2021
Why This Ranking: The Patriots are one of four Georgia High School Association (GHSA) teams in the FAB 50 and could surprise many with their talent level. Most of the country knows about Smith, who averaged 24.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.8 bpg and could be a prime Mr. Basketball USA candidate with a big senior season. But coach Jon-Michael Nickerson (117-30) has plenty of other talent at his disposal and a motivated unit. Proctor (11.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is a productive high school player who does plenty of the dirty work to free up Smith, while Nickerson is quite high on Jordan Brewer (6-7, 2022), who did not play last season. Rice, who averaged 19 ppg, 9 rpg, and 4 apg at Covington Eastside, could be the key to the Patriots’ success.
The Skinny: There is plenty to like about this team and having one of the best players in the country definitely was a boost to its ranking. Regardless, Nickerson is straightforward about the keys to success. “We have size, interior scoring and versatile scoring, but we must have additional perimeter playmaking besides (Myles) Rice,” Nickerson said. Victor Newsome (5-9, 2023) will have the opportunity and waiting in the wings is Micah Smith (6-6, 2024), one of the best first-year players in the Southeast Region. The Patriots were looking forward to testing their wares nationally at the City of Palms Classic before it was canceled, but they’ll still have a tough schedule that includes Holiday Hoopsgiving, Hawks/Naismith Tip-Off Classic and a game at Hoophall Classic vs. No. 35 Archbishop Stepinac.
47. (NR) Marion (Marion, Ind.) 14-11***
Key Players: PG Jalen Blackmon 6-2 2021, SF Rasheed Jones 6-4 2022, PF Jermaine Woods 6-5 2021, PF Matthew Goolsby 6-4 2021.
Why This Ranking: There isn’t a clear-cut preseason No. 1 team in Indiana, but we like what the eight-time IHSAA state champs bring back and the way it finished last season. Coach James Blackmon Sr. (a McDonald’s All-American at the school in 1983) has his team back en masse after it got hot in the post-season, winning its sectional championship, the storied program’s 70th, before the playoffs were cancelled because of COVID-19. Jones (15. 5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.0 spg) stepped up down the stretch and learned how to play with Blackmon out with an ACL tear after early January. Woods (4.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is an underrated wing who should have a breakout season, while Goolsby (8.4 ppg) creates plenty of second shot opportunities with his strength and physical nature. Josh Balfour (6-1, 2021) and Rodney Gibson (6-1, 2021) can play multiple positions and give Marion multiple looks it can employ to keep defenses off-balance.
The Skinny: There are other quality IHSAA teams we looked at, namely South Bend Adams and Crispus Attucks and Cathedral in Indianapolis, but from a rankings standpoint, we felt the Giants were the safest preseason No. 1. “I feel really good about the season,” Blackmon Sr. said. “We have a chance to be really good if we carry over our success of last season.” After coming in third in its conference, Marion jelled and got hot at the right time. At the time of his injury, Blackmon was averaging 29.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.1 apg, so the key will be to get his talents to mesh with the other returnees who gained valuable experience in his absence. If they do, state title No. 9 (the most recent coming in 2016) could be within reach.
48. (NR) Desert Pines (Las Vegas, Nev.) 23-8
Key Players: PG Milos Uzan 6-4 2022 (No. 98 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PF Anthony Swift 6-7 2021, SF Dayshawn Wiley 6-3 2021, PF Kamron Robinson 6-9 2021.
Why This Ranking: As the nine-time defending NIAA champs, FAB 50 power Bishop Gorman is clearly the preseason No. 1 team in Nevada. This season, however, there are more quality teams than usual to challenge the Gaels. No. 37 Coronado has its big gun back in Jaden Hardy and solid players around him, while Liberty has a host of talented players. It was the Jaguars, however, who advanced to the NIAA Class 4A title game. Coach Mike Uzan (278-108) counts four starters and eight lettermen returning, led by his son Milos. “Los” averaged 16.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.0 apg, and 1.7 spg and has steadily grown and improved over the course of the past year. He’s joined by Swift (12.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg) a talented forward who is no easy check because of his size and rim attacking. The athletic Wiley (12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is a menace on defense and should improve his offense because of the presence of Robinson, a transfer from Jefferson of Portland. Cimarron Conriquez (6-1, 2021) is another dependable shooter (7.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg) who has plenty of experience.
The Skinny: D.P., Coronado, and Liberty are all very close, but Coronado underachieved last season and Liberty lost a bit more than the Jaguars. There isn’t room for all four Nevada teams in the FAB 50, but we wouldn’t be surprised if three of them stay ranked during the season. Robinson can really take this team to the next level with his combination of athleticism and size because Bishop Gorman doesn’t have a player like that in its lineup. Uzan’s club does have its work cut out for it, after all the Gales beat them 65-37 in last year’s state title game, but that experience should pay dividends when the NIAA season gets rolling in early January.
49. (NR) St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) 21-4
Key Players: SF Malaki Branham 6-5 2021 (No. 28 247Sports.com, Ohio St. commit), SG Sencire Harris 6-3 2022 (No. 49 Rivals.com), PG Darrian Lewis 5-10 2021 (Akron football commit), SG Ramar Pryor 6-2 2022.
6'4" - SF - 2021
Why This Ranking: The Fightin’ Irish are looking to get back in the national spotlight for the first time since NBA superstar LeBron James roamed the campus in the early 2000s. Locally, St. V’s has performed terrific, as it appeared in four consecutive OHSAA Final Fours and was seemingly headed for a fifth before COVID-19 wiped out its 2019-20 season. Veteran coach Dru Joyce (393-113) has a majority of his team back, led by Branham. He averaged 21 ppg, 7 rpg and 3 apg and is a legit McDonald’s All-American candidate. Harris (13 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5 apg) is a big-time talent in the junior class who can score from three levels and distribute equally well. Lewis, a Grid-Hoop standout, brings fine perimeter defense and Pryor is an explosive scoring threat. Simply put, Drew has a well-rounded team.
The Skinny: The Fightin’ Irish are capable of moving up in the FAB 50 and are looking to prove on a national stage they are one of the Midwest Region’s best teams. Some of that opportunity was taken away by the cancellation of the City of Palms Tournament in Florida, but St. V’s will still get plenty of opportunities closer to home as Joyce filled his schedule to make up for those COP games. After all, St. V’s is the program that ended Ohio preseason No. 1 Moeller’s 50-game winning streak last season. James led the program to the FAB 50 national title in 2002-2003 after beginning No. 7 in the FAB 50 (as opposed to No. 4) because of an upset loss in the state playoffs a year earlier. This team has the same coach (Joyce is now in his 20th season) and plenty of that motivation (albeit for different reasons) and with Branham a chance to re-capture some of that glory.
50. (BB) Brookfield Central (Brookfield, Wis.) 24-1***
Key Players: PF David Joplin 6-7 2021 (No. 59 247Sports.com, Texas commit), PG Bean Nau 6-1 2021 (St. Thomas commit).
Why This Ranking: The Lancers were Wisconsin’s No. 1 team last season before COVID-19 ended their season following a double overtime victory over Brookfield East. Brookfield Central was one win away from a trip to the WIAA D1 Final Four. It stung at the time and gives this talented group plenty of motivation. It begins with Joplin, who had several 30-point performances late in the season and averaged over 23 ppg, 10 rpg, and 3 apg for the Greater Metro Conference Champs. Nau averaged 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 5.7 apg and is another big-game performer. In addition to its two D1 all-state performers, the Lancers return eight other lettermen.
The Skinny: This is the final team from the Midwest Region to crack the rankings, as Hamilton (Sussex, Wis.) was also considered along with Ballard of Louisville, Ky., Grand Blanc, Mich., South Bend Adams and talented Crispus Attucks in Indiana. We also strongly considered Ribet Academy and Windward, both of Los Angeles, in the West Region. It makes sense to give the Lancers the nod as they defeated Hamilton twice last season and should be better in 2020-21. Brookfield Central won the state championship in 2018-19 and were confident it would be going for a third straight if not for the sudden end to the season. Joplin, who scored 31 points in the win over Brookfield East, and Nau played big roles on the state championship team as sophomores.
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 21 years ago.