Preseason 2021-22 FAB 50: Teams No. 16-30!

We continue our 2021-22 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 Sunday evening and our final installment will be teams No. 1-15 on Tuesday, October 26.

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 22 years ago.

Preseason 2021-22 FAB 50 National
Team Rankings Powered by Ballislife.com

By Ronnie Flores

(Final 2020-21 ranking in parentheses; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included; ***Does not include results vs. out-of-season opponents; Look for preseason Region-By-Region Top 20 Rankings on Thursday, November 4 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Monday, November 22.)

RELATED: Preseason 2021-22 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2021-22 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

GO TO: No. 16 / No. 17 / No. 18 / No. 19 / No. 20 / No. 21 / No. 22 / No. 23 / No. 24 / No. 25 / No. 26 / No. 27 / No. 28 / No. 29 / No. 30

16. (9) Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.) 3-0 
Key Players: PG Jayden Pierre 6-2 2022 (No. 105 247Sports.com, Providence commit), PG Jayden Reid 5-11 2023 (No. 130 Rivals.com), PF Finley Sheridan 6-9 2023, C Jaxon Koroll 6-11 2022, SF James Johns 6-6 2023 (No. 105 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: LuHi is a major FAB 50 player and rates as New York’s No. 1 ranked team based on its talent level and recent tradition. Still this team, and other talented clubs in the Empire State, have plenty to prove as it has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. The Crusaders were able to play three official games in 2020-21, including two wins over No. 34 Archbishop Stepinac, before they had to shut down for the winter. Coach John Buck has four returnees from last year and three talented newcomers to make a serious run at its second New York Federation Class AA title in four years, which could be considered back-to-back crowns considering the circumstances. Pierre, who excels on both ends of the court, had a terrific summer and will be one of the go-to players in crunch time. Reid is a quick ball-hawk who can blow by defenders, knock down the perimeter shot and make good plays in transition. The front court is in good hands with Koroll, a lengthy pivot who is a good rebounder with nice touch from the charity stripe. Sheridan is a talented stretch-four who could have a breakout year.
The Skinny: LuHi has good guards, quality size, and balanced scoring, and the program carries with it high expectations each season. The lost season creates a level of motivation to prove the program is still at a high FAB 50 level, but on the flip side, Buck and his staff have to mesh plenty of new pieces into a cohesive unit against a challenging schedule. It’s also nice to have terrific talent to mesh and with newcomers such as Johns, this team will be a force provided it can play its normal schedule. Depth is present as well with IMG Academy transfer Lou Hutchinson (6-7, 2022), a big addition at both the off-guard and small forward, and Senegal transplant Amdy Moustapha (6-9, 2023). Until an in-state foe beats the Crusaders in a meaningful playoff game, they deserve to be the Empire State’s top-ranked club. That status will be challenged at the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn. (Dec. 27-31) by the likes of No. 30 Berkmar and highly-regarded Dr. Phillips of Florida. At the Spalding Hoophall Classic, LuHi will face highly-regarded Chaminade of Missouri (Jan. 16). The Crusaders will also participate in the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament (Jan. 27-29) and at the Metro Classic in Tom’s River, N.J. (Feb. 3-5). Dr. Phillips will also be at the MAIT, along with No. 21 Calvary Christian Academy and No. 42 Kimball.

17. (13) Combine Academy (Lincolnton, N.C.) 26-3 
Key Players: PG Jayden Epps 6-2 2022 (No. 60 247Sports.com, Illinois commit), C Patrick Wessler 7-0 2022 (Virginia Tech commit), C Maya Bote 6-11 2024, PF Matai Baptiste 6-7 2023.
Why This Ranking: The Goats had high expectations going into 2020-21 and steadily rose in the rankings before capping off the season by winning the Phenom Hoops state championship. Third-year coach Jeff McInnis once again has a club he expects to be one of the nation’s best. From a rankings perspective, the expectations are a bit higher this season as Combine begins ten spots higher. This is a talent-laden roster that can play defense at the high level McInnis demands. The frontline is anchored by veteran Wessler, a natural rim protector and a much improved offensive threat. Mote will get better everyday in practice against Wessler and his contributions will be key against national level foes. Power forward Mekhi Grant (6-9, 2023) and A.J. Smith (6-4, 2022) should be much improved and give McInnis plenty of lineup options. Although there are plenty of new faces on the roster, there is also plenty of talent and in his short time with the program McInnis has proven he can create a cohesive unit.
The Skinny:
The Goats likely would have cracked the Top 15 had highly-regarded junior guard Robert Dillingham and Old Dominion commit Bryce Alfino not bolted for a startup academy in California in late September. Regardless, the backcourt is in good hands with Epps. Epps comes in highly-regarded and highly motivated and should make the sting of losing Dillingham wear off sooner rather than later. He is eager to prove he’s one of the nation’s best point guards after his junior season at King’s Fork (Suffolk, Va.) was wiped out by COVID-19. He averaged 26 ppg, 6 rpg, 6 apg, and 4 apg as a sophomore. Antonio Hamilton (6-2, 2022) is another veteran that makes the coaching staff really high on this team’s shooting and scoring abilities. The main concern is the lack of starting experience, but the presence of Epps and the depth on hand should alleviate some of it. After taking on two highly-regarded foes at the Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta (Nov. 26-27), Combine Academy has a big test versus No. 40 Link Academy on Dec. 6. The Goats will appear in the Signature Series at the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla., where they could face defending Sunshine Independent Athletic Association (SIAA) champion Victory Rock Prep or highly-regarded AZ Compass Prep of Arizona in the title game. After Christmas, the team will participate in the John Wall Invitational in Broughton, N.C. (Dec. 27-30). FAB 50 title contender Sunrise Christian Academy is the foe on Jan. 15 at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

18. (19) Reading (Reading, Pa.) 26-2 
Key Players: PG Ruben Rodriguez 6-1 2023 (Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Daniel Alcantara 6-4 2022, PG Myles Grey 5-10 2023.
Why This Ranking: This team wasn’t on the preseason radar in 2020-21; in fact, the Reading school board nearly canceled the 2020-21 season. The Red Knights definitely made the most of their opportunity, as they went on to capture the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class 6A state title with a one-point win over an Archbishop Wood team that came into the game No. 6 in the FAB 50. Reading holds down a Top 20 spot on the strength of three returning starters in addition to returning every rotation player off the bench who logged minutes in the state title game. Rodriguez is a good 3-point shooter and clutch performer. He had a terrific sophomore season, earning first team all-state laurels while averaging a team-leading 14.6 ppg. Head coach Rick Perez has another all-stater returning in third-teamer Alcantara, who made some big shots in the post-season. Grey, who is terrific breaking down defenders off the dribble and can shoot the deep ball, was more of a role player last season but he’ll be counted on more offensively in 2021-22.
The Skinny: This group gained valuable experience last year, but this time around Reading will be more the hunted than the hunter. Reading only lost to one team last year (Wilson West Lawn) that the Red Knights actually split four games with. The team will need the breaks to go their way to replicate that season resume. Losing Moro Osumanu (West Chester), the star of last season’s state title game, to graduation hurts, but Alcantara is one to watch that will step up his role and production. A terrific all-around talent, he matched his career-high of 27 points in the state semifinals and had a 10-point, 11-rebound, 3-assist and 3-block performance vs. Archbishop Wood. Perez also has excellent depth in his backcourt with Grid-Hooper Amier Burdine (6-0, 2023), Joey Chapman (6-1, 2022) and Xavier Davis (6-0, 2022), the latter who in many ways is literally and figuratively the team’s X-factor and spark plug. Reading can’t drop more than a game or two if it has a chance to finish in the preseason range of Imhotep, the highest ranked team in Pennsylvania.

19. (28) Beaumont United (Beaumont, Texas) 31-0 
Key Players: SF Terrance Arceneaux 6-7 2022 (No. 29 247Sports.com, Houston commit, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Wesley Yates III 6-4 2023 (No. 35 247Sports.com), SF Trealyn Porchia 6-5 2023, PG Kayde Dotson 6-2 2024.
Why This Ranking: One of the best Cinderella stories of 2020-21 was the plight the Timberwolves and just when it looked like the glass slipper was about to come off, Arceneaux came through with a story-book ending. His pull-up, buzzer beating jumpshot in overtime propelled Beaumont United to a 71-70 victory over Kimball of Dallas in the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) Class 5A state title game. Arceneaux is one of the best two-way players in the country and a true All-American performer who means so much to his high school unit. Three other starters return alongside Arceneaux (20.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.5 spg, 4.0 bpg), including Yates (14.5 ppg, 2.4 apg, 3.5 spg) and Grid-Hoop standout forward Porchia (14.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.1 spg). Yates can really heat up from the outside and is an above-the-rim athlete. Porchia is a wide receiver with big-time football offers and is an instinctual defender with length on the hardwood. Dotson (8.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.8 spg) is the floor general and should be much improved with a year of experience under his belt.
The Skinny: In recent seasons, Duncanville has dominated the UIL Class 6A ranks and that club has deservedly been the state’s top-ranked FAB 50 team, followed by the Class 6A runner-up or another state final four entrant in the final rankings. The Class 5A champ has played second fiddle, but that is not the case this preseason. The Timberwolves and 5A runner-up Kimball crack the rankings with some of the better 6A clubs looking to hop those two clubs in the FAB 50 as they eye Duncanville. Schools such as Amarillo, Lancaster and Mansfield Timerbview will also be ones to watch in 5A should Beaumont United or Kimball falter. With Arceneaux and the depth around him, it’s hard to envision that happening to the Timberwolves. “We do a great job of sharing the basketball for a better shot, but we must do a better job of blocking out and getting on the boards,” coach David Green Jr. said. The depth is provided by Chandler Rivers (5-11, 2022), Paul Anderson (6-3, 2023), Mark Roach (5-10, 2023), Jacori Smith-Jackson (6-2, 2023), and Cameron Mickles (5-10, 2023), while talents such as Clarence Payia (6-4, 2024) and David Johnson (6-4, 2025) ensure the Timberwolves will be a team to be reckoned with in the foreseeable future. That depth will be tested by out-of-state foes at the King Cotton Tournament in Pine Bluff, Ark. (Dec. 27-30) and the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans (Jan. 6-9).

20. (BB) Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) 12-3 
Key Players: PG Simeon Wilcher 6-3 2023 (No. 12 ESPN.com, North Carolina commit), SG Jamarques Lawrence 6-4 2022, PF Rich Brisco 6-8 2024, SF Akil Watson 6-8 2023 (No. 20 ESPN.com).
Why This Ranking: The Lions, under veteran coach Dave Boff, have simply re-loaded in recent years and this club deserves a high ranking for its nice blend of experience, size and athleticism. After an impressive freshman campaign, Wilcher (12.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.9 spg) put up some terrific all-around numbers in Roselle’s condensed 2020-21 season and rates as one of the five best junior point guards in the country. Lawrence (13.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.7 apg) was unsung as a sophomore, but in his first season in the program his game blossomed and he’ll commit to either Wake Forest or Nebraska. The third returning starter is Brisco, who only played in six games last season but is oozing with talent and will be a high major prospect when it’s time to sign. Roselle went unbeaten in Union County Conference play and has a strong case to be the No. 1 rated NJSIAA Non-Public B school in the mix with No. 38 Bergen Catholic and Gill St. Bernard. We decided to slow play the Lions a bit, but with the quality of teams in Non-Public B and on their national schedule, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to prove they deserve to crack the Top 10.
The Skinny: With just the returning talent alone, the Lions deserve a spot in the FAB 50. After all, Roselle Catholic has been a preseason FAB 50 club every year since 2013-14, and only twice in that time frame did they not place in the final rankings and that includes last season without any NJSIAA post-season. What can really help deliver this club its first New Jersey Tournament of Champions crown since 2017-18 are the newcomers. Watson, who averaged 19.1 ppg at Don Bosco Prep in a shortened season, is one of the best players in his class nationally and can excel on the wing or as a big guard. His younger brother Tarik Watson (6-8, 2024) is not too far behind older brother as a prospect and adds to the depth, as does fellow guards Jaidon Glover (6-5, 2024) and Braxton Jones (6-0, 2022). Roselle Catholic plays its usual loaded schedule and like the rest of Jersey’s elite teams, is looking forward to just getting through a full slate of games. The Lions will play in the Fox Sports Battle, Kyrie Irving Invitational and take on No. 44 St. John’s at the Hoophall Classic on Jan. 16. Before the playoffs tip-off on Feb. 5, they’ll face FAB 50 title contender Oak Hill Academy of Virginia.

21. (BB) Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 17-7 
Key Players: PG Marvel Allen 6-4 2023 (No. 13 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PF Greg Glenn III 6-7 2022 (No. 77 Rivals.com, Michigan commit), PF Taylor Hendricks 6-8 2022 (No. 54 ESPN.com, UCF commit), SG Carl Cherenfant 6-4 2023 (No. 82 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Eagles were on the preseason FAB 50 bubble last season at No. 17 in the Southeast Region and played at that level en route to a FHSAA Class 3A state crown. This year they kick the perennial FAB 50 door in with a plethora of returning talent and newcomers. Coach Cilk McSweeney has six legitimate D1 prospects on his roster led by Allen, Glenn and Hendricks. Allen (13.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.0 apg) is a relentless offensive player and can take over a game with his skill and will power. Glenn (13.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg) can dominate in the high post and around the rim and is an unselfish offensive player. Hendricks (14.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg) is not as highly acclaimed nationally, but he’s the team’s returning leading scorer and rebounder and is a versatile talent. Cherenfant (10.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.5 apg) teams with Allen in the backcourt and is primed for a big season after landing on the radar of D1 coaches last season.
The Skinny: There simply is plenty to like about this team and it gained valuable experience taking on a national schedule. Five of their losses were to National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) clubs, including two to defending FAB 50 champ Montverde Academy, with one stinker loss to Westminster Christian of Miami. The Eagles will have to significantly cut the overall loss count to show they are the best defending FHSAA champion and to move up in the rankings. The experience and added depth should allow them to do that, as transfer Brenen Lorient (6-8, 2022) would be a 18 ppg scorer at most quality Florida programs. Additional depth is added by UCF-bound Tyler Hendricks (6-5, 2022), Taylor’s brother, Sami Elkamel (6-8. 2023) and touted eighth-grader Randy Livingston Jr. (6-1, 2026). The Eagles will look to make noise in the bracket of the City of Palms Tournament in Ft. Myers, where not only defending Class 2A champ Orlando Christian Prep and Class 7A champ Dr. Phillips await, but also independent Florida powers IMG Academy and Montverde Academy along with eight other preseason FAB 50 ranked teams from outside Florida.

22. (47) North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) 21-2 
Key Players: C Kel’el Ware 7-0 2022 (No. 15 247Sports.com, Oregon commit), SG Nick Smith Jr. 6-5 2022 (No. 6 ESPN.com, Arkansas commit, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Corey Washington 6-6 2022.
Why This Ranking: The Charging Wildcats were just outside of last season’s preseason FAB 50, but this time around as Arkansas’ top-ranked team they crack the Top 25. North Little Rock will attempt to win its second consecutive Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) Class 6A state crown and is the prohibitive favorite with the return of Ware and three talented newcomers. Ware (16.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.6 bpg), who had 19 points and eight rebounds in last year’s title game victory over Little Rock Central, showed over the summer that he’s arguably the nation’s best shot-blocker. Coach Johnny Rice doesn’t just have newcomers to fill graduation losses, he now has one of the most decorated players in state history in the fold as Smith made the state rejoice when he chose to play college for the Razorbacks. He averaged 25 ppg last season and is one of the nation’s best playmakers. Also coming over from Sylvan Hills is Washington (13 ppg, 7 rpg), a physical specimen who excels around the basket and punishes teams with high percentage shots. Simply put, there is plenty to like about this team.
The Skinny: Last year was a special team for Rice, who has now won five state crowns as he enters his tenth season at the helm. It was capped off by outscoring Central, 19-8, in the final period to win 65-55 after losing to that club twice in Central Conference play. This season, however, the expectations are much higher and the pressure much greater because of the additions. As if Smith and Washington weren’t enough, Tyler Frederick (6-4, 2023) is an all-conference caliber guard who is a good shooter and a student of the game. It’s not all about the newcomers, however, as Charles Maris (5-10, 2022) and Felix Wade (6-0, 2022) are experienced guards who will step up their production. North Little Rock will head to Ft. Myers, Fla., on Dec. 17 to participate in the prestigious City of Palms Classic. That tournament will give the Charging Wildcats a good indication of where they stand nationally. Coach Rice’s club will also participate in the Red River Hoopfest in Texarkana (Dec. 3-4) and the Battle in the Bluff at Bartlett in Tennessee (Dec. 9-10). If the Charging Wildcats perform well at all these events they could enter into the Arkansas’ all-time best discussion. The highest rated team ever from the state in the FAB 50/National Prep Poll era is a deep and balanced club from Little Rock Parkview that finished No. 4 in 1991-92.

23. (11) Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.) 28-0 
Key Players: SG A.J. Brown 6-4 2022 (Ohio commit, Ballislife Underclass All-American), PF Jayden Hastings 6-9 2023 (No. 40 Rivals.com), SF Ven Allan Lubin 6-8 2022 (No. 63 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: It was a gut-check decision on the 1-2-3 pecking order that had to be determined between the Warriors, Calvary Christian Academy and Dr. Phillips, all three FHSAA state champs in 2020-21. After all, one had to come in third. We give the slight edge to Calvary Christian over the Warriors mainly because of the experience its returning players gained against a national schedule last year. It could be argued OCP beat the Oak Ridge team Dr. Phillips split with, but there is also the factor of OCP having to replace more backcourt firepower. Unlike last season, this rankings debate will play out on the court because of the upgraded schedules, including an appearance by all three in the City of Palms Tournament before Christmas. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if OCP emerges as the best with the return of Brown, Allan Lubin and Hastings. Brown (14.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.1 apg) leads the way offensively and is coming off a fantastic junior campaign, while Allen Lubin (12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is a versatile talent who gives coach Treig Burke the ability to hand him virtually any defensive assignment. He also has great feel offensively and his play could help springboard Hastings (4.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) this season. Hastings has a vast amount of potential and could help take this team to new heights if his production increases tenfold as expected.
The Skinny: The decision was tantalizing close, but OCP has to prove how it measures up against some of the nation’s best competition. After all, last season the Warriors had a winning margin over 25 ppg and Brown nearly outscored the opponent by himself (29 points) in the 71-32 Class 2A state title game victory. A big reason why OCP enters the season with a 47-game winning streak was the play of graduated senior guards Omar Figueroa (North Alabama) and Josh Blazquez (Southeastern). Burke, who has coached the program to four state titles in five seasons, will rely on the leadership of his seniors and juniors, but the play of Isaiah Brown (6-2, 2024) and Mike Brown (5-9, 2025) will come into focus against the tough foes. Mike Brown started some games this summer and got plenty of experience against good teams in fall competition. The winning streak will be severely tested at the Bojangles Bash in Columbia, S.C. (Dec. 9-11) in addition to the City of Palms.

24. (49) Centerville (Centerville, Ohio) 26-3 
Key Players: PG Gabe Cupps 6-2 2023 (No. 88 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Tom House 6-5 2022 (Florida St. commit), PF Rich Rolf 6-7 2022 (Drexel commit).
Why This Ranking: The Elks get the nod as the No. 1 Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) team over No. 37 St. Vincent-St. Mary. Both are defending state champs and one of Centerville’s losses last year was to St. V’s, but we love the Elks’ blend of experience and returning talent, while the Fightin’ Irish graduated the state’s Mr. Basketball. The Elks’ four starters and seven lettermen are led by Cupps (15 ppg, 2 rpg, 5 apg), a returning first team all-state selection who can run a team and knock down the outside shot. Cupps has plenty of big game experience and that moxie for the game that coach’s sons usually have. Coach Brook Cupps also welcomes back Rolf (14 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3 apg), a second team all-stater who keeps expanding his game after missing his freshman season with injury. He is a terrific board man but can also step out and shoot with range. House (17 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2 apg), an honorable mention all-state pick in 2020-21, is a terrific scorer who can shoot and attack the basket. He had a memorable game in the state quarterfinals with 21 points and 10 rebounds and the big bucket down the stretch in an avenging win over state power Moeller before the Elks knocked off previously unbeaten Mentor in the semis. All the returning standouts and role players are unselfish and play their roles.
The Skinny: Not only do the Elks have talent and experience, they are motivated even as the defending OHSAA D1 state champions. They gained valuable experience during the June NCAA June live scholastic period and various fall leagues competing against the likes of FAB 50 title contenders Camden, N.J., Imhotep of Philadelphia, and Georgia powerhouses Milton, Grayson and Berkmar and are eager to prove they are one of the nation’s best teams. “Not only are the guys unselfish with a high I.Q. and tough, they play with an edge and believe they can compete with anyone, and have proven to do so throughout the summer and fall,” Brook Cupps said. Repeating as Ohio D1 state champ is no easy task and if Centerville were to do that it will finish ranked in this range, even with a few losses. They’ll have an opportunity to move up playing a talented foe in the Centerville Classic (Dec. 13) and in a showcase game with No. 46 Huntington Prep. The Elks also take on talented SoCal Academy of California at the Flyin’ To The Hoop Showcase Jan. 16, as OHSAA members are able to play non-members from other states.

25. (NR) Mt. St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.) 11-2
Key Players: PF Amani Hansberry 6-8 2023 (No. 132 Rivals.com), SG Bryson Tucker 6-6 2024, PF Aidan Mess 6-8 2022.
Why This Ranking: The Gaels are deep and loaded with talent and rate as the early Baltimore Catholic League (BCL) favorites over St. Frances Academy. Veteran coach Pat Clatchey (722-122) has eight lettermen and a talented newcomer that gives his team a chance to be one of the nation’s best provided it plays a full slate of games. Last season in Baltimore, St. Frances Academy was vying for the FAB 50 national title while Poly in the public league came in at No. 33 in the preseason rankings. The public league season was canceled and the BCL played a condensed schedule. In the first round of the 50th BCL tournament, No. 6 seed John Carroll upset No. 3 seed Mt. St. Joseph, 67-65, and went on to win the tourney title over top seed St. Frances Academy in overtime when that club was No. 15 in the FAB 50. While both Poly and St. Frances lost their best returnee to FAB 50 power Montverde Academy of Florida, Mt. St. Joseph has it best underclassmen back in Tucker and added one from WCAC contender St. John’s of Washington, D.C. in Hansberry. That makes them the team to beat in Baltimore with the ability to move up because of the loaded schedule.
The Skinny: Clatchey has two national acclaimed players and a skilled roster with seven potential D1 players. Tucker (17 ppg, 7 rpg) had some monster games as a freshman and was a starter for the USA Basketball 16U gold medal team this past summer. Hansberry (17 ppg, 6 rpg) can help inside or on the perimeter and is fundamentally sound. Mess is Clatchey’s blue-collar performer and will be a key to get Hansberry loose. Two veterans, Ace Valentine (6-3, 2023), a floor general who also defends well, and Austin Abrams (6-3, 2023), who can stroke the outside shot, will be counted on to make plays in crunch time. Mt. St. Joseph will not only try to capture the BCL tournament, for the first time since 2017, and the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) A Conference title, it has games lined up with FAB 50 title contenders DeMatha Catholic of Maryland, Imhotep Charter of Philadelphia and Oak Hill Academy of Virginia, among others.

26. (NR) Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 0-0 
Key Players: SF Darrion Williams 6-6 2022, SG Jase Richardson 6-2 2024, PG John “Juni” Mobley 6-0 2024, SG Ryan Abelman 6-3 2022.
Why This Ranking: At first glance, it would appear the Gaels are too decimated by graduation to rate this high in the preseason, but a more detailed look reveals something quite different. Gorman is fast, skilled, can shoot and just may have the deepest team in the tenure of Grant Rice (503-102), who lights up about the fresh, eager faces on this team. Last season with three Top 150 type seniors, the Gaels were expected to break the reported national state title winning streak record of nine held by now defunct and four-time FAB 50 champion St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) between 1983-1991 and began at No. 25, one spot higher than this year’s club. It never happened, as the core veterans didn’t get a senior season in after Clark County didn’t allow indoor winter sports. Players such as James Freeman (6-6, 2022), Williams and Abelman are eager to show they are ready to be the senior leaders and earn a scholarship. Abelman is a terrific spot up shooter and his understudy, Ryder Elisaldez (6-3, 2024), is a terrific athlete and play-maker. Williams can punish defenders inside, has good touch and is a silky passer. Richardson, the son of former NBA Slam Dunk champ Jason Richardson, is oozing with talent and can play on the ball or stroke the three. When Mobley is on, the Gaels are extremely tough to beat because few young players can stroke the deep three-pointer with the confidence he does.
The Skinny: The Gaels were a slight favorite to win their tenth consecutive NIAA state title in 2020-21, but the competition was going to be fierce with a terrific senior class in the Las Vegas Valley. Last season, three NIAA clubs cracked the preseason FAB 50, but this season only the Gaels are in so it may give Rice a small cushion to get his young players accustomed to their roles. That will be key for talents such as Eli Bradley (6-4, 2023) and elite defender Keenan Bey (6-7, 2023). Big things are also expected down the line from Chris Nwuli (6-9, 2025). After the Tarkanian Classic was cancelled last season, the pre-Christmas event is back on and the three other major contenders for the NIAA Class 4A crown (Durango of Las Vegas, Coronado and Liberty of Henderson) will be in the main bracket along with FAB 50 contenders Bishop O’Connell of Virginia, Pebblebrook of Georgia and Oak Ridge of Florida, among others. After Christmas, Rice’s club will play in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in San Diego, where it could meet FAB 50 title contender DeMatha Catholic of Maryland in the title game. The Gaels face highly-regarded St. Mary’s of Pheonix at Hoophall West in Phoenix (Dec. 11) and have a test right before the playoffs vs. No. 32 Whitney Young at the Nike Extravaganza in Southern California (Jan. 29).

27. (NR) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 0-2*** 
Key Players: PG Devin Dinkins 5-11 2022 (George Mason commit), SG Jared Turner 6-8 2022 (Northeastern commit), SF Quinn Clark 6-6 2022, SF Thomas Batties 6-6 2023.
Why This Ranking: The Purple Eagles begin in the same preseason spot as they did in last year’s FAB 50 for a multitude of reasons. One, of course, is the returning talent, but also the motivation to get back on the court and play sanctioned games. Coach Stephen Turner’s club got to participate in only two sanctioned games (losses to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference rivals DeMatha Catholic of Maryland and Paul IV of Virginia) before COVID-19 ordinances shut the delayed season down for good. The only bright spot out of it was Turner and his staff could prepare workouts and build experience for this upcoming season and the Purple Eagles had a terrific summer. Dinkins is a physically strong lead guard who can shoot it or operate at a high level off ball screens. Turner and Clark were slated to play more complimentary roles last season, but both have grown physically and matured and should be impact WCAC players in 2021-22. Batties is primed for a breakout season and there are plenty of interchangeable parts on the roster with talents such as Daniel Holmes (6-6, 2024), Eddie Paquette (6-2, 2022) and Thomas Maloney (6-2, 2022).
The Skinny: Ironically, No. 27 is not only the spot Gonzaga began in last season’s FAB 50, it’s also the spot it finished in the final 2019-20 rankings. It’s unfortunate Malcolm Dread (Richmond) wasn’t able to play his senior season and talented Judah Mintz did move on to Oak Hill Academy, but since the season never happened Turner feels as if he’s returning five starters, the fifth being Nick Evans (6-9, 2023), since this unit has been preparing together for 2021-22 since February. “The team is coming off a great summer where they won 26 plus games and only lost five, all by single digits and four by three or less,” Turner said. In 2019-20, St. John’s came in third place in the WCAC as we predicted, but this year’s forecast is a bit more wide open since a vast majority of the WCAC teams did not get a full season and there was more player movement in the off-season than there normally is in the powerful conference. The Purple Eagles control their own destiny with their usual loaded schedule. Last season they were scheduled to appear in the Les Schwab Tournament in Oregon (Dec. 27-30) and will return to that event. Gonzaga is also scheduled to complete in the Chicago Elite Classic (Dec. 3-4), will host its own Gonzaga Classic (Dec. 10-12) and are slated to play FAB 50 title contender Oak Hill Academy of Virginia at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Massachusetts on Jan. 16.

28. (BB) La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) 10-10 

Key Players: PG J. J. Starling 6-3 2022 (No. 53 247Sports.com, Notre Dame commit), PF Chisom Okpara 6-7 2022 (No. 133 247Sports.com, Harvard commit), PF Kebba Njie 6-9 2022 (No. 79 ESPN.com, Penn St. commit), SF Taj Manning 6-6 2022 (Kansas St. commit), PG Jeremy Fears 6-1 2023 (No. 26 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Lakers have the talent and experience to land in this spot and play the schedule to move up if the expected improvement from last year yields on-court results. There is plenty to like with three returning starters and five lettermen off a club that competed admirably against a tough schedule and qualified for GEICO Nationals at the end of the season. Starling (14.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg) led the team in scoring and was part of a young backcourt along with Fears (6.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.6 spg) that got a good taste of what to expect in the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) this year. Okpara (11.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.7 apg) is a powerful athlete who finishes well and plays with a motor, while Njie (2.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg) is the fourth player with experience who will play a major role in La Lu’s success. Manning will have a big role on this team and Ryan Mabrey (6-4, 2022), Aden Holloway (6-0, 2023) and Christian Humphrey-Rembert (6-7, 2024) provide depth.
The Skinny: La Lu started last season at No. 8, but that was a bit too high for a club that never really found its groove, partly because of games canceled because of COVID-19, and because it didn’t shoot it well enough from the field against the caliber of foes it faced. Coach Patrick Holmes’ club will be improved and is eager to put the memory of last year behind it as it strives to finish in the upper echelon of the NIBC standings and qualify for GEICO Nationals for the ninth time in program history. “We have good and versatile perimeter players who can attack the basket and stretch the floor with our shooters,” Holmes said. “Njie is the only true post player expected to play major minutes, so our whole team will have to rebound on a nightly basis.” After winning GEICO Nationals in 2017 and finishing No. 2 in the FAB 50, the program began at No. 10, No. 6, No. 9 and No. 8 in the seasons succeeding that championship year. There is no doubt La Lu can move up into the Top 25, and it does have better raw talent than some of the teams in this range, but this roster must prove it’s the one to get the program back to being serious GEICO Nationals contenders. The Lakers will play in the Mac Jenks Invitational on New Year’s Day and faces NIBC member Oak Hill Academy and highly-regarded AZ Compass Prep of Arizona on back-to-back nights at the Spalding Hoophall Classic (Jan. 15-16). They’ll also play at the NIBC stops scheduled for Bishop Walsh (Cumberland, Md.) Dec. 2-4, in La Porte, Ind., Jan. 6-8, and the Metro Classic in Tom’ River, N.J., Feb. 3-5.

29. (NR) Glenbard West (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) 13-1 
Key Players: SF Braden Huff 6-9 2022 (No. 88 247Sports.com, Gonzaga commit), SF Caden Pierce 6-6 2022 (Princeton commit), SG Bobby Durkin 6-5 2022 (Army commit), C Ryan Renfro 6-8 2022, SG Paxton Warden 6-4 2022.
Why This Ranking: Illinois is one of those states whose 2021 class was hard hit by the pandemic. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) didn’t host playoffs and the Chicago Public League made a last-second decision to allow its teams to play a condensed season. Luckily for the Hilltoppers, their core was juniors and the team and community have high expectations for 2021-22. It begins with Huff, who put up gaudy numbers (17.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.8 apg) in roughly 22 minutes per game. He’s one of those talented team-first players who wanted to get his college commitment out of the way to focus on the team’s lofty goals for the season. Pierce is a skilled wing and can play various positions depending on the lineup and opponent. Renfro punishes defenders with his post game and relentless motor and is a terrific offensive rebounder. Warden is the fourth returning senior starter and he can play in both the front court and back court and defend multiple positions. This team’s talent, experience and results from last season make it the early favorite to capture the coveted IHSA Class 4A state crown.
The Skinny: Looking at the talented pieces, a detractor or supporter for another top Class 4A team may say Glenbard West lacks an experienced point guard. Pierce, however, can play the lead guard role and every player in the line-up has a pass first, find-the-cutter mentality. Another reason to like this club as Illinois’ preseason No. 1 is its acclimation to coach Tim Hoder’s 1-3-1 zone defense. As if that isn’t enough, Durkin is a D1 talent who comes over from Hinsdale South and is an elite shot maker at the high school level. The keys for this team, which only lost one game last season to Downers Grove North, will be to avoid injury and peak at the right time. Obviously everyone in the Land of Lincoln just hopes the sectional, super sectional and state tournament go off without a COVID-19 related hitch.

30. (37) Berkmar (Lilburn, Ga.) 26-6 
Key Players: C Malique Ewin 6-9 2022 (No. 74 Rivals.com, Ole Miss commit), SG Jermahri Hill 6-4 2022, PG Jameel Rideout 6-2 2022.
Why This Ranking: The battle for the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class AAAAAAA title is fierce and the eventual winner has finished high in the final FAB 50 in recent seasons. With defending champ Milton leading the way, this season should be no different with many viable contenders. Last season, Milton downed the Patriots in the title game, 52-47, after Berkmar missed crucial free throws down the stretch. Not only is this team motived, it’s talented, as coach Greg Phillips welcomes back four starters and seven lettermen, including leading player Ewin (17.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg). Ewin is a bonafide All-American candidate while Rideout was a second-team All-County choice last season. Rideout netted 33 points in the Patriots’ first two state playoff victories and Hill had 16 points in a one-point state semifinal win over McEachern of Powder Springs. Ahmed Soumahoro (6-2, 2022) is an impressive athlete who allows this team to employ various lineups to maximize its potential. Berkmar’s lineup is bolstered by the addition of Brycen Blaine (6-3, 2022), an all-state performer at L.C. Bird (Chesterfield, Va.), and Antoine “Bo” Burns (6-7, 2022), who brings size and experience over from Central Christian (Indianapolis, Ind.).
The Skinny: While No. 43 Wheeler is the prohibitive favorite in Class AAAAAA, the teams that can challenge Milton for AAAAAAA supremacy is a bit more wide open. Both Newton and Norcross lost a key piece in recent months, and that affected the pecking order even though Berkmar is the logical choice at No. 2 based on its talent level and how far it made it in last year’s playoffs. It also begins ranked higher than Wheeler because it recorded a 66-47 regular season victory over the Wildcats last season. Phillips knows he can count on his team’s defense and execution, but is a bit concerned with its depth against the schedule he has line up. Berkmar, which is seeking its first state crown since 2000-01, will play at the Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta, at the loaded City of Palms Tournament if Ft. Myers, Fla., at the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn., and the Quincy Shootout in Illinois.

RELATED: Preseason 2021-22 FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason 2021-22 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

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 22 years ago.

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at ronnie@ballislife.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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