We conclude our 2019-20 preseason FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com with an in-depth look at the nation’s top 15 teams. These are the teams with the best chance to win the mythical FAB 50 national title! We began with teams No. 31-50 on October 27, continued with teams No. 16-30 on October 28 and now have published an in-depth look at the nation’s 50 best teams. IMG Academy of Florida is the nation’s preseason No. 1 team for the first time as it seeks its second consecutive FAB 50 title.
All 50 teams are written up with explanations for why they were placed in these positions. For the first time ever, IMG Academy is in the pole position to begin the season, as the Ascenders look to capture a second straight mythical national title. IMG Academy is only the third program to earn preseason No. 1 acclaim in the past eight seasons, joining Oak Hill Academy (No. 1 in 2016 and 2017) and Montverde Academy (No. 1 five other seasons). The last time a public school was preseason FAB 50 No. 1 was in 2011-12 when Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) and it finished 33-1 at No. 6. In both 2016 and 2017, public schools finished at No. 1. Can another public school or parochial school belonging to a state association challenge the top ranked teams this season?
IMG Academy and Montverde Academy: 120 Miles Apart But Separated From Everyone Else To Begin The 2019-20 Season
There is no denying the dominance independent academy-type programs (that don’t pay for state titles) have on the high school basketball landscape. Every off-season is littered with star players who leave their hometown team (and sometimes very good programs) to play at one of the ten or so established academy-type programs that regularly appear in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com.
This past off-season was no different and when the dust settled, it was clear two independent clubs were going to begin at the top of the preseason FAB 50 rankings. It was just a matter of which order.
Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) was the most dominant high school program of the 2010s, as the Eagles won four mythical FAB 50 national titles, including three in a row between 2013-2015. In 2017-18, Montverde Academy recorded its first unbeaten season at 36-0, the first wire-to-wire No. 1 team since 2005-06 when future NBA players Greg Oden and Mike Conley led Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.) to a 29-0 season. In all those four championship seasons, Montverde Academy opened up No. 1 in the FAB 50 and in 2018-19 earned the preseason No. 1 nod for the fifth time in program history.
During the season, the Eagles twice lost to a powerful La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) club, but eyed a rematch with the Lakers in the championship game of GEICO Nationals, the end of season tournament in New York that annually features eight highly-ranked FAB 50 clubs. Montverde Academy had a 16-point lead entering the fourth quarter of its semifinal game with IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), but was outscored, 27-10, in the final eight minutes and lost the game, 74-73, on a transition dunk by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova) with five seconds remaining.
IMG Academy went on to defeat La Lumiere, 66-55, in the GEICO Nationals title game. By virtue of handing then No. 1 La Lumiere its only loss of the season and defeating six teams ranked in the top 12, IMG Academy captured its first FAB 50 national crown as junior guard Jaden Springer averaged 21.3 ppg in three GEICO Nationals victories.
Although IMG Academy graduated three starters, and lost point guard Noah Farrakhan to transfer (Patrick School, Elizabeth, N.J.), and Montverde Academy graduated a strong senior class, it’s clear these two Florida powerhouse programs have the strongest personnel in the country heading into 2019-20. Combine that with coaching experience and national schedules and it’s not hard to figure out why these two clubs are relatively easy choices to open up 1-2 in this year’s FAB 50.
So who is No. 1?
We open the season with IMG Academy as the preseason No. 1 team in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com. The Ascenders have re-loaded their roster and yes, beating Montverde Academy when it counted most and finishing No. 1 last season is a big factor. We don’t know what would have transpired if Montverde and La Lumiere played for the third time last season. However, there isn’t a good reason not to give the defending champs the benefit of the doubt in this situation.
“We can be better defensively and are extremely fast once again this year,” said IMG Academy coach Sean McAloon. “We can get up and down if we need to and it’s going to hard for people to score on us.”
In many respects, the preseason rankings begin at No. 3 because those two clubs clearly hold the pole position in the mythical national championship race. The good thing for fans is, the preseason debate between the two will be settled on the court. IMG and MVA play on national television January 19 at the Spaulding Hoophall Classic in Massachusetts. In fact, the two programs could meet up three times during the regular season, including a championship blockbuster at the City of Palms Classic in December.
“In our mind we play them (MVA) once,” McAloon said. “We will not disrespect any of our opponents. We want to focus day-to-day and crush each day. We want to keep things as simple as possible.”
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.)
1. (1) IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) 31-1
Key Players: SG Jaden Springer 6-4 2020 (No. 15 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Tennessee commit), PF Jalen Johnson 6-8 2020 (No. 4 ESPN.com, Ballislife First Team All-American, Duke commit), C Mark Williams 7-0 2020 (No. 29 247Sports.com), SF Jarace Walker 6-6 2022 (No. 5 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Matthew Murrell 6-4 2020 (No. 43 247Sports.com), C Moussa Diabate 6-10 2021 (No. 9 ESPN.com), PF Brandon Huntley-Hatfield 6-9 2022 (No. 6 247Sport.com).
Why This Ranking: The 2018-19 Ascenders were the first team ever in 40 years to have three McDonald’s All-Americans on a single roster, and they conceivably could be better in 2019-20. Losing Armando Bacot (North Carolina), Josh Green (Arizona) and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova) hurts any program, but IMG Academy has completely re-loaded its roster and the length makes its defensively ability potentially incredible. The blow of losing Noah Farrakhan is eased by the presence of Springer (18.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.5 apg) and Chikara Tanaka (6-2, 2020). Although Farrakhan provided a much-needed spark at times last season, Springer had the ball in his hands in crunch time during IMG Academy’s big wins at GEICO Nationals and can score or distribute where necessary. According to McAloon, Tanaka is significantly improved and will make an impact, while Murrell can effectively play on or off the ball. Walker had a big hand is the Ascenders’ national title run and the frontcourt competition has the ability to make this team downright scary, if the personnel meshes. “I’m not sure we’re as good on offense right now, but we’re deeper, and top to bottom, have significantly more length. Our bigs are extremely fast…we can get up and down or we can slow it down if we need to,” McAloon said. “Defensively, we are much better than last year and Moussa (Diabate) is unbelievably defensively…it’s just hard to understand until you see it or face it.” In addition to Diabate, Williams is a tremendous rebounder and scorer and McAloon can go extremely fast or big with the likes of Zach Edey (7-3, 2020).
The Skinny: IMG Academy got over the hump last season, so to speak, after three years on the national No. 1 radar. In McAloon’s first season (2017-18), the Ascenders were one of the country’s best teams until Silvio De Sousa left for Kansas at the semester break and last season IMG Academy started out No. 4 in the rankings. “I don’t think it changes anything, this is a new group, but some of our guys know what it takes to get there,” McAloon said about going from the hunter to the hunted in terms of competing with and beating the nation’s best teams. “The target has been there and our focus is day-to-day.” The focus on daily improvement, and not on any particular opponent, is possible because of the competition available in practice. Even Johnson, a legitimate Mr. Basketball USA candidate who averaged 20 ppg at another FAB 50 ranked program last season, is not being handed a starting job. When practice opened up the first week of October, only Springer exactly new his lineup status. According to McAloon, he’s lost players because of this strategy but it leads to significant progress and keeps the players focused. As was the case with Walker last season, who starts won’t always match who is on the floor during crunch time. IMG has plenty of options and that focus will be necessary to navigate though a difficult schedule. Even before the monster matchup with No. 2 Montverde Academy on January 19, the Ascenders have a made-for-TV matchup with highly-regarded Huntington Prep of West Virginia on January 10. IMG Academy could play Montverde Academy in the City of Palms title game on December 23, but would likely have to get by two FAB 50 ranked foes, including No. 11 Gonzaga, just to make the championship game. This year’s high school heavyweights are both scheduled to participate in the 2020 St. James Invitational in Maryland, January 30-Febuary 1, so it’s conceivable IMG and Montverde could meet three times before GEICO Nationals to end the season. Don’t expect too much of a FAB 50 drop for whichever team falters in these potential games since they’ll be on opposite sides of the bracket.
2. (4) Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 22-3
Key Players: SF Cade Cunningham 6-5 2020 (No. 2 247Sports.com, Ballislife Second Team All-American), SF Scottie Barnes 6-7 2020 (No. 9 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Florida St. commit), PF Day’Ron Sharpe 6-9 2020 (No. 13 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, North Carolina commit), SG Moses Moody 6-5 2020 (No. 29 ESPN.com), PG Ryan Nembhard 6-1 2021 (No. 57 Rivals.com), SG Langston Love 6-4 2021 (No. 16 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Dariq Whitehead 6-4 2022 (No. 5 Rivals.com), SF Caleb Houstan 6-6 2022 (No. 4 ESPN.com).
Why This Ranking: The No. 1 vs. No. 2 debate basically came down to last season’s GEICO Nationals results with both IMG Academy and the Eagles able to re-load their rosters to the point where every other team in the country is clearly chasing those two. Sure, last year doesn’t considerably factor into 2019-20, but we’ve always factored in rankings history into our decisions and more often than not that strategy has played out in our favor. History is one silver lining for Montverde Academy because following the first time it lost a huge lead in a big GEICO Nationals game (in this case the 2012 championship game to now defunct Findlay Prep), the Eagles rebounded to win their first FAB 50 national title the following year. Since then, Montverde Academy has won three additional national championships and began as preseason No. 1 five times. Coach Kevin Boyle’s club was nearly preseason No. 1 for the sixth time in eight seasons, but we like the versatility IMG’s powerful frontline gives it and will see how the Eagles counter with its plethora of backcourt talent. This summer Cunningham challenged for the nation’s No. 1 ranking with his production and skill level and easily rates as the best big guard in the country. Barnes could very well be a Mr. Basketball USA candidate in his own right, and brings a special set of skills and competitiveness to Boyle’s lineup that every coach in the country would love to possess. According to associate head coach Rae Miller, Moody has improved his confidence and understanding of where teammates need the ball in order to excel. Miller said that comfortableness will play off for Moody and he expects him to play a key leadership role. The coaching staff loves what Love brings on both ends of the court and Houstan is a break out candidate due to his ability to shoot the basketball.
The Skinny: On paper, this team doesn’t have the depth of IMG Academy, or some of the recent Montverde Academy teams, but that could end up playing into the Eagles’ favor. “I thought it was difficult (last season) to get a handle on the chemistry we needed to continue to build up our program,” Miller said. “We have to have kids buy into it whole-heartedly. There is not as many people a part of it this season, but this group of guys is special. Less depth is not going to impact our bottom line, it’s going to be a part of what makes us special.” Since some of that lack of depth is in the frontcourt, the production of Sharpe will be key and the coaching staff thinks the surrounding perimeter talent will allow him to blossom. He must remain on the court in MVA’s big games and his matchup versus Mark Williams will be key in the big game versus No. 1 IMG Academy. The Ascenders will have to figure out how to match up with Cunningham, as will every other team on the Eagles’ schedule, and MVA is confident it has the advantage in every situation. Nembhard and Whitehead will make teams pay should they focus too much on MVA’s Mr. Basketball USA candidate. Cunningham (11.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.5 apg as a junior) is extremely motivated to join star players such as Ben Simmons and R.J. Barrett in leading MVA to a FAB 50 title and the stinging loss to IMG only adds fuel to the fire. “He (Cunningham) carries the feeling of not getting the recognition he deserves as the top player in the country,” Miller said. “He has a chance to compete with these guys to see where he stands.” Although a fifth mythical national title is the goal, the Eagles’ coaching staff is stressing a focus on the task at hand. Montverde Academy will open its season at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas November 29 against No. 28 Duncanville, take on No. 33 Yates the following day and faces highly-regarded Tampa Catholic at home two days before hosting No. 4 DeMatha Catholic on national TV December 12. Montverde Academy will know exactly where it stands heading into the City of Palms Classic a week later and is a group extremely motivated to take what it felt slipped from its grasp last season.
3. (8) DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 33-5
Key Players: SF Earl Timberlake Jr. 6-6 2020 (No. 26 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), C Hunter Dickinson 7-2 2020 (No. 36 247Sports.com), SG Tyrell Ward 6-5 2022, SG Jordan Hawkins 6-5 2021 (No. 68 247Sports.com), PF Paul Smith 6-8 2020 (East Tennessee St. commit).
Why This Ranking: There was a gut-wrenching decision to make between top-ranked IMG Academy and No. 2 Montverde Academy and the next rankings gut-wrencher to unravel was deciding the preseason No. 1 team from the powerful Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), which has three of its programs preseason FAB 50 ranked for the seventh time in the past eight seasons. Similar to the IMG-MVA decision, we really can’t go wrong either way because the WCAC crown is decided on the court and not the polls. We decided to go with the Stags over rival Paul VI because they have more experience and scoring muscle inside and beat the Panthers three times last season. Coach Mike Jones (470-117) should record his 500th career win and third consecutive 30-win season with this group, but it’s all about winning the key games at the right time, as DeMatha has one WCAC tournament title since 2011-12. The player who led the Stags to that title two seasons ago is now at Villanova (Justin Moore), but Dickinson and Timberlake are the type of players who could carry DeMatha to a WCAC crown, and more. Dickinson (16 ppg, 11 rpg) is a powerful post presence that does his work from inside-out, can set up teammates with timely passes and has plenty of big-game experience. Timberlake had a terrific summer and is a major matchup problem because of his unique blend of physicality and skill on the wing. There is a nice blend of returning veterans and talented newcomers to help DeMatha ready itself for a national schedule.
The Skinny: DeMatha is one of the few teams in the country with the combination of experience, size and scheduling to compete with and potentially defeat the top two ranked teams. The Stags, however, don’t have a huge margin for error against those teams and must close the season strong to maintain a top five FAB 50 ranking. Jones is confident his crew has what it takes and DeMatha certainly plays the necessary schedule to remain in FAB 50 title contention throughout the season. Tyrell Ward (6-5, 2022) will have to step up his production and the Stags are expecting a huge contribution from transfer guard Jordan Hawkins (6-6, 2021). “We have an experienced team with good young players and playoff success, so our guys have been in the spotlight to handle our extremely though schedule,” Jones said. The spotlight will be on the Stags right away as they take on No. 7 St. Frances Academy at the DC National Hoopfest Dec. 7 and travel to Florida on December 12 to face No. 2 Montverde Academy on national television. Coach Jones club also has a couple of conference games before facing MVA and faces No. 18 Mater Dei at the Cancer Research Classic on January 4 and No. 21 Rancho Christian at the Hoophall Classic on MLK Monday (January 20). In order to survive those games, and the WCAC versus No. 4 Paul VI and No. 11 Gonzaga, DeMatha will need solid contributions from Will Reynolds (6-3, 2021) and Bobby Hill (6-6, 2021), the standouts on last season’s 21-1 JayVee club.
4. (19) Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 27-9
Key Players: PG Jeremy Roach 6-2 2020 (No. 15 ESPN.com, Duke Commit), SF Trevor Keels 6-4 2021 (No. 32 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Josiah Freeman 6-5 2020, PG Knasir “Dug” McDaniel 5-10 2022 (No. 24 Rivals.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: Fellow WCAC program DeMatha Catholic edged the Panthers in the rankings, but it certainly wasn’t an easy decision because Paul VI has the personnel to challenge for the No. 1 ranking. Despite four returning starters and nine lettermen, we just couldn’t place coach Glenn Farello’s club in front of its WCAC rival because it failed to defeat the Stags in three tries last year, including a 78-57 loss in the first round of conference play. Those results hurt more than Paul VI not returning any real national-level size, although size (or lack thereof) certainly hasn’t stopped the Panthers from being successful against FAB 50 ranked foes. Two seasons ago, Brandon Slater (Villanova) missed part of the regular season and WCAC playoffs to injury and in 2018-19 the Panthers could have been de-clawed when Anthony Harris (Virginia Tech) and Roach were both lost for the season to ACL injuries in a short period of time. The exact opposite occurred, as Keels and McDaniel stepped up big-time to lead Paul VI to a 18-2 WCAC mark before falling to No. 11 Gonzaga in the WCAC semifinals, 63-57. As a sophomore, Keels emerged as a conference player of the year and McDaniel was a fearless point guard who displayed maturity beyond his years in big games. In fact, Paul VI only lost to Montverde Academy by seven points (57-50) in its fourth game of the season at the DC National Hoopfest. If Roach returns to the form he displayed as a sophomore and in the summer of 2018 for Team Takeover, Farello (453-186) will have multiple lineups he can throw at teams with equally devastating results.
The Skinny: It wasn’t easy placing DeMatha at preseason No. 3 for the second consecutive season after Paul VI opened up 2018-19 at No. 9 and over-achieved, from a rankings standpoint, for the second consecutive season. True post play is becoming less prevalent on all levels of basketball and if any team has the guard play to navigate through a national schedule, it’s the Panthers. More than size, rebounding is the key to Paul VI’s success so Keels and Freeman will have to do their fair share along with the newcomers. In order for Paul VI to win the national level games, whoever emerges among transfer forwards Jack Jensen (6-5, 2021), Luke Triggs (6-7, 2021) and Andrew Gillman (6-8, 2021) will need to make an impact on the interior in crunch time, regardless of which perimeter players are on the floor. Paul VI will again participate at the DC National Hoopfest, the Slam Dunk To The Beach (December 27-29) and face No. 23 Wasatch Academy at the Cancer Research Classic January 4. Prior to facing No. 6 Sierra Canyon on MLK Monday at the Hoophall Classic, the Panthers make the Springfield-to-Springfield Sunday trek from Missouri to Massachusetts, as they play in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions with the likes of No. 8 Oak Hill Academy, No. 24 Booker T. Washington, No. 26 Greensboro Day and No. 37 Vashon.
5. (23) Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) 28-5
Key Players: SG Noah Taitz 6-4 2020 (No. 92 ESPN.com, Stanford commit), PG Zaon Collins 6-0 2021 (No. 38 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SG Will McClendon 6-4 2021 (No. 42 Rivals.com), SF Mwani Wilkinson 6-5 2020 (No. 126 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Gaels are gunning for their ninth consecutive NIAA state title and if the rotation players remain healthy, they likely will field the finest team in school history. When the nucleus of this club was sophomores and freshmen in 2017-18, the Gaels opened up No. 48 in the FAB 50 but exceeded preseason expectations. Last season, Gorman started at No. 14 and played right to that level, playing then No. 1 La Lumiere close until middle of the fourth quarter of their regular season game before falling to the same top-ranked team in two overtimes, 74-69, in the opening round of GEICO Nationals. Although some of the momentum for this season was lost when center Isaiah Cottrell transferred to Huntington Prep after committing to West Virginia, few teams have the Gaels combination of talent and continuity. In fact, this is mainly a “homegrown” team that has played together on travel ball teams since the middle school ranks and reminds us a bit of the Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) club in 2012-13 that had terrific chemistry and finished No. 4 in the FAB 50. Taitz (15.6 ppg) returns as the leading scorer from the past two seasons and is designated big shot maker for head coach Grant Rice (474-99). The Gaels are best when McClendon (13 ppg, 5 rbg, 2 spg) is on from the outside and if he can continue to improve his consistency, it will be hard for teams to keep up with this club offensively.
The Skinny: This is not the Gaels’ most highly-regarded unit in the preseason under Rice, as that honor belongs to his 2014-15 club that opened up No. 4 in the FAB 50. The makeup of that unit was completely different (three future McDonald’s All-American big men) and its main weakness was this club’s main strength: point guard. Collins (9.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.8 apg, 2.7 spg) is the indispensible cog who knows how to control a game on both ends of the floor and make teammates (and opponents) feel as if he’s the biggest player on the floor. He was terrific in leading Gorman to championships at the Section 7 Team Camp during the June Live period and to the Ron Massey Memorial Fall Classic. Cottrell’s absence will be felt at times, but his absence could bring a tight-knit unit even closer and Gorman does have a talented pivot in Max Allen (6-8, 2022). Allen pushed Cottrell in practice and the key to his success is remaining out of foul trouble in big road games. Wilkinson is quickly emerging as an impact player and with his athleticism can change the complexion of games in offensive transition or with a key block as well any player on the West Coast. The Gaels will look to capture the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas for the third consecutive season versus the likes of No. 18 Mater Dei, No. 16 Nuemann-Goretti and No. 41 Coronado. Gorman also has two big tests at the HoopHall Classic versus No. 13 Roselle Catholic (January 18) and No. 8 Oak Hill Academy (MLK Monday). Former FAB 50 power Findlay Prep isn’t fielding a team, which makes Coronado the Gaels’ main threat to Sin City Supremacy and the two schools will meet January 24 on national television and if it captures another state title, Gorman should get another crack at GEICO Nationals in New York.
6. (9) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) 32-3
Key Players: SF Ziaire Williams 6-8 2020 (No. 5 ESPN.com), SG Brandon Boston 6-7 2020 (No. 9 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Kentucky commit), SF Terren Frank 6-8 2020 (No. 78 ESPN.com, TCU commit), SG Amari Bailey 6-3 2022 (No. 6 ESPN.com), PG Zaire Wade 6-2 2020.
Why This Ranking: The two-time defending California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Open Division champion has the personnel to become the first ever program to win three consecutive despite some heavy graduation losses. Sierra Canyon is every bit as talented as teams No. 3-No. 5, but must build chemistry and establish its rotation to establish itself as surefire FAB 50 No. 1 contender. Bailey and Frank return with starting experience and both are versatile talents that give coach Andre Chevalier flexibility with his lineup. Frank has developing face-up skill and improved shooting ability that allows him to play either forward slot. That helps maximize the abilities of Boston and Williams, both of whom are dynamic scorers and play-makers rated among the best forwards in the country. In fact before they transferred in, Williams and Boston were considered solid Mr. Baskertball USA candidates at their old programs. At Sierra Canyon, there might not be enough scoring and stats for any one particular player to reach those heights, but Chevalier’s goal is to once again make the sum of the parts greater than the individual totals, which worked the past two seasons. Bailey, an explosive point guard who shined in last season’s state title game win over Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.), can also play off the ball when Wade or LeBron James Jr. (6-0, 2023) are in the lineup. Wade is the son of former NBA star Dwayne Wade and James, of course, is the son of the Los Angeles Lakers’ megastar. James has an excellent feel for the game and loves to get others involved and despite the media frenzy surrounding him and the team, he won’t have enormous pressure to produce as he would on a team with lesser talent.
The Skinny: This team will be closely watched and highly scrutinized with more local televised games this season that perhaps any Southern California team since the Tyson Chandler-led Dominguez (Compton, Calif.) teams 20 years ago that captured the 1999-2000 FAB 50 crown. Coach Andre Chevalier has done a terrific job of managing egos and getting his talented players to buy into a team concept since taking over the program in the 2017 playoffs. That team had similar talent to this one, but didn’t win the CIF state open crown. When Chevalier had a full season to work with two rosters, he’s won the last game of the season both times. Someone on this year’s roster will have to make a big-time individual sacrifice if the team has a shot at the FAB 50 title and, in that respect, Shy Odom (6-5, 2022) is just what the doctor ordered. He’s likely too talented to keep out of the lineup and his no-nonsense approach and demeanor is exactly what this club needs. He won’t need plays run for him to impact the game for the Trailblazers. Other than breaking in an infusion of players, another big factor in Sierra Canyon’s preseason ranking behind No. 5 Bishop Gorman is a new CIF rule that doesn’t allow its member programs to play against programs that don’t play for a state title. For a program that opened as California’s top ranked team for the first time ever last season at No. 8, it means no more games against the likes of Montverde Academy (a program it lost to twice last season), IMG Academy, La Lumiere Academy, etc., and slightly less opportunity to move up in the FAB 50. In addition to the local televised games, Sierra Canyon will play on ESPN + against LeBron James’ old high school (2003 FAB 50 champ St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio) on December 14 one week after playing No. 45 Millennium on the network. The Trailblazers also take on No. 15 Patrick School on national television on January 3 in Minnesota and the next day face No. 14 Minnehaha Academy. Sierra Canyon faces teams from eight states and has big late season tests versus No. 4 Paul VI on MLK Monday and versus No. 20 Long Island Lutheran at the Metro Classic in New Jersey on February 8.
7. (21) St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) 37-7
Key Players: PG Adrian “Ace” Baldwin 6-0 2020 (No. 173 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, VCU commit), SF Jordan Toles 6-3 2020 (LSU football commit), PF Jamal West 6-5 2020 (South Alabama commit), PF Julian Reese 6-9 2021 (No. 107 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: After going 13-17 in the 2016-17 season, the Panthers have won two consecutive Baltimore Catholic League titles and a third straight is expected. We had coach Nicholas Myles’ team ranked No. 21 in the preseason last year and, from a national perspective, we’re ahead of the curve. The rest of the country has learned about the prowess of a unit returning three starters and six lettermen that could jump into the mythical national title conversation with a strong showing at the City of Palms Classic (December 18-23) in Ft. Myers, Fla. Baldwin (14.1 ppg, 5.6 apg) gives the Panthers a chance against any foe, is a big play-maker and a legit All-American candidate. His running mate West (12.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) can score on the wing and is not afraid to mix it up inside. West is capable of scoring outburst on a balanced team that returns three double-digit scorers. Toles (11.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg) in that third player and like West brings a physical presence as one of the nation’s top Grid-Hoop athletes. This team is plenty deep, experienced enough, and plays a demanding enough schedule that fans outside the DMV will pay plenty of attention once the wins start racking up.
The Skinny: This is a perfect starting spot for the Panthers as they begin ranked behind the two WCAC clubs they fell to last season (No. 3 DeMatha Catholic and No. 4 Paul VI) and in front of the one they beat (No. 11 Gonzaga). The bread and butter for Myles’ unit is its team defense and quickness at multiple positions and those are a positive each game. The ingredient that could take the Panthers to the next level is added size and depth, as Myles welcomes Reese to the rotation while Isaac James (6-7, 2020) takes on an expanded role. Depth is added by the likes of transfers Jahmal Banks (6-3, 2020) and Byron Ireland (6-1, 2021) and their talents will only make Baldwin more dangerous as teams won’t be able to focus on his scoring ability. The Panthers will play city power Simeon at the Chicago Elite Classic and take on No. 3 DeMatha Catholic at the DC Hoops Festival before embarking on Ft. Myers, Fla., for City of Palms. There they will participate in the Signature Series and play No. 12 Sunrise Christian Academy with the winner taking on the No. 19 Hamilton Heights Christian Academy-No. 27 West Oaks winner. Should St. Frances (an Alhambra Catholic Invitational participant in recent seasons) win another Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association “A” and BCL crown, it will be in perfect position to earn a GEICO Nationals invitation and prove its rankings worth, even if it drops a game or two along the way.
8. (10) Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 33-5
Key Players: SG Cam Thomas 6-3 2020 (No. 18 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), SF Darrick Jones Jr. 6-5 2020 (Towson commit), PG Evan Johnson 6-1 2020, SF Jamari Sibley 6-8 2020 (No. 85 ESPN.com).
Why This Ranking: The Warriors are in a precarious rankings position, but also one in which they can take complete advantage of to move up. On paper, this could Oak Hill’s least talented team of the last ten years. In fact, in the past 10 years only its 2012-13 team started in this range (No. 5) and since we gave the Warriors the benefit of the doubt because of their sustained success, they actually finished No. 23. That final ranking was their lowest since the advent of the National Prep Poll in 1987-88, a season that the Warriors finished unranked in the final Top 20 after opening up at No. 12 in our first ever preseason poll. This year’s preseason ranking is the Warriors’ lowest since 1988-89, when they started unranked but finished No. 12 at 22-2. Starting in 1989-90 coach Steve Smith’s program has never started lower than No. 7 until this preseason. Although Oak Hill doesn’t have that one-and-done type talent it did last year with Cole Anthony (North Carolina), there is a serious All-American candidate on the roster in Thomas (26.4 ppg, 2.1 spg), one of the nation’s best outside shooters. Smith has a lot of perimeter versatility and he’s going to use it now that Dylan Cardwell (6-10, 2020) is at No. 10 McEachern. Johnson is also a terrific shooter who Smith can play off the ball. K.K. Robinson (6-1, 2020) allows Smith to utilize a four-guard lineup. The play of Emmanuel Okpomo (6-9, 2020) will be key to how the various guard lineups work because Smith doesn’t have the physical rebounder he’s used to having at his disposal when the Warriors play those handful of teams where elite rebounding is necessary.
The Skinny: With no preseason position lower than No. 3 in the 2000s and only one lower than No. 4 in the 2010s, it’s easy to judge Oak Hill against its own history – and not against the opponents on this particular schedule. Smith relishes his team’s current situation because there is little reliance on a single player and the competition in practice has bought out the best in many players. “With K.K. playing so well, it may be hard for Darrick Jones to start. Jamari Sibley, a Top 100 player, is not better than Darrick right now,” Smith said in early October. The veteran coach, who has won seven FAB 50 national crowns, has been really impressed so far with Jalen Reed (6-7, 2022), who he fashions as a Kyle Anderson-type player who doesn’t have to have the ball to excel. If Bradley Ezewiro (6-8, 2020) stays disciplined on the boards, this team could quickly re-gain its position as a certified FAB 50 title contender. “This group has worked really hard and all get along…they have good chemistry,” Smith said. “Last season, it took us a while to get on the same page. This is the best I’ve felt about a team in the preseason since 2016. They can really shoot it.” Thomas will be highly-motivated after going 0-of-7 from 3-point range, and the team 4-of-23, in a one-point loss to then No. 1 La Lumiere in last year’s GIECO Nationals semifinals. Before the Warriors can focus on that end-of-season tournament this season, they have to navigate through games against No. 39 Dorman and No. 27 West Oak Academy, and compete at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii and Bojangles Bash in South Carolina. Oak Hill is also making the trek from the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions to the Spaulding Hoophall Classic, where it faces No. 5 Bishop Gorman on MLK Monday.
9. (3) La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) 30-1
Key Players: PG Wendell Green Jr. 5-11 2020 (No. 233 247Sports.com), SG Jaden Ivey 6-4 2020 (No. 79 247Sports.com, Purdue commit), PG Denham Wojcik 6-1 2021, PF Treyton Thompson 6-10 2021 (No. 78 247Sports.com), SF Kamari Lands 6-7 2022 (No. 47 Rivals.com), SF Jeremy Sochan 6-8 2021 (No. 62 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Lakers are in a similar boat to No. 8 Oak Hill. They had a lot of firepower to replace and did so with a talented, perimeter-oriented bunch. The difference is LaLu’s DNA in recent seasons has been a grind-it-out style with a physical front line, which is exactly what it lost, whereas Oak Hill has experience thriving with perimeter-oriented players. LaLu graduated five of six seniors, including Mr. Basketball USA Isaiah Stewart (Washington) off a team that was No. 1 for a majority of the season and beat the Warriors in GEICO Nationals semifinals before coming up short against IMG Academy in the championship game. Coach Patrick Holmes is not going to change his approach and is excited to see what transpires with his younger, more perimeter-oriented team. “People know what LaLu means and our players know what to expect,” Holmes said. “We’re going to work and our games are not going to be the sexiest.” Green is Holmes’ Cindy Crawford in the backcourt, as he is the lone returning starter with excellent ball-handling, shooting and defending capabilities. Wojcik can play off or on the ball and that benefits newcomer Jaden Ivey (6-4, 2020), a good shooter who gives the Lakers an uptick of backcourt athleticism. “Three of our five perimeter players were contributors last season and all can shoot from the perimeter or take their defender off the bounce,” Holmes said.
The Skinny: If the frontcourt players develop as Holmes thinks, there is consistent perimeter shooting and Green stays healthy, this team could once again challenge for a GEICO Nationals berth and mythical national title. It just doesn’t have the wiggle room to shoot a poor percentage or have defensive lapses compared to recent teams because the Lakers won’t be able to overpower teams for offensive rebounds or protect the rim as effectively without Stewart manning the middle. Sochan is a versatile small forward with good size (220 lbs.) who will be counted on to rebound and score, while Thompson is a high major modern stretch four despite his relatively thin frame. In the games versus FAB 50 ranked foes, Holmes is excited to see the production Rocco Muratori (7-1, 2021) provides because at some point his physicality will be necessary. He’s coming off an injury but is a prototypical back-to-the basket big that excels best when he pins defenders. The schedule includes a trip to the loaded Chick-Fil-A Classic (December 19-23) in South Carolina, matchups versus No. 12 Sunrise Christian Academy and No. 42 Roman Catholic at the Cancer Research Classic, and games versus No. 11 Gonzaga and highly-regarded Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) at the Spaulding Hoophall Classic. The Lakers also face No. 15 Patrick School and two other highly-regarded foes at the Bob Kirk Invitational in Maryland after Hoophall. The Lakers have reached the title game of GEICO Nationals three of the past four seasons and reaching the goal of four out of five would be a resounding success.
10. (2) McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) 32-0
Key Players: PG Sharife Cooper 5-11 2020 (No. 16 Rivals.com, Ballislife First Team All-American, Ballislife National Junior Player of the Year, Auburn commit), C Dylan Cardwell 6-11 2020 (No. 115 Rivals.com), SG Camron McDowell 6-5 2021, SF Bobby Moore 6-5 2021.
Why This Ranking: The Indians’ preseason ranking last year (No. 16) was a direct result of a program’s pattern of success and it ended up being too low, as McEachern had a dream season by beating teams from ten states, eight FAB 50 ranked foes along with tournament titles at the City of Palms Classic and Bass Pro TOC. This season the defending GHSA Class AAAAAAA champion gets the benefit of the doubt and cracks the top 10 as an unbeaten state champ returning its best player. And Cooper is not just any “best player”; he was the most consistently productive guard in the country and the only underclass player seriously considered for Mr. Basketball USA honors. More than just stats (28.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 8.2 apg, 4.0 spg), Cooper controls the outcome of big games more than any player in the country with his combination of ball-handling, competitiveness and big shot-making and is the reason McEachern has another chance to make national noise. Cardwell is a big addition and gives the Indians some much needed muscle and experience going up against other elite bigs. Cardwell played at No. 8 Oak Hill Academy as a junior and has experience playing with Cooper on the travel ball circuit. There is plenty to like about this team, but the complimentary players will have to step up as they did last year and the breaks have to go the Indians’ way to reach anywhere near the heights last year’s team did.
The Skinny: Last year’s team would have been top three in the preseason FAB 50 had it won the 2018 GHSA state crown, but like last year’s club there is no reason why this team can’t make the climb once again. They rate as the AAAAAAA favorites along with No. 17 Grayson, No. 38 Norcross and highly-regarded Berkmar (Lilburn, Ga.) and Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.). Isreal Palmer (6-2, 2020) and Braden Sparks (6-0, 2022) are two lettermen coach Mike Thompson (336-72) will count on to provide the required toughness and play-making. With so many new faces, Thompson is concerned about improving the team defense and Moore is just the what doctor ordered in that department. He can stay in front of smaller ball-handlers, guard wings or battle for rebounds inside and do some of the dirty-work All-American Isaac Okoro (Auburn) signed up for last season. McEachern’s national ranking by the turn of the year will be determined by its showing at the City of Palms Classic. The Indians, which are on the same side of the bracket as No. 2 Montverde Academy, open with No. 42 Roman Catholic with the winner getting the No. 22 Scotlandville-No. 37 Vashon victor in the quarterfinals.
11. (22) Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 28-9
Key Players: PF Terrance Williams 6-7 2020 (No. 76 ESPN.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American, Georgetown commit), PG Chuck Harris 6-3 2020 (No. 125 Rivals.com, Butler commit), SF Myles Stute 6-6 2020 (No. 137 Rivals.com, Vanderbilt commit).
Why This Ranking: With three starters and 10 lettermen back, the Purple Eagles deserve to crack the top dozen and have the personnel to move up. More importantly, they’ll have the opportunity to bump heads with the two Washington Catholic Athletic Conference teams ranked ahead of them, in addition to playing their usual national schedule. Gonzaga started No. 30 last season, but got plenty of rankings credit for defeating No. 5 Bishop Gorman and winning the WCAC title. Williams, the main catalyst in Gonzaga’s title run, is back with 17.9 ppg and 8 rpg norms. He’s one of the most underappreciated talents in the country, while Stute (9 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg) is a versatile talent who will be counted on to improve his daily production. Harris is the third player returning for veteran coach Steve Turner (341-123) who received some all-WCAC acclaim in 2018-19 and brings steadiness and leadership to the point guard position. Simply put, there is plenty to like about this team despite starting as the No. 3 WCAC entrant for the second consecutive season.
The Skinny: Turner takes national rankings in stride; he doesn’t get too excited or too down about his team’s placement. He does vouch for his players and teams, but for now it makes sense to begin the Purple Eagles behind No. 7 St. Frances Academy and the DeMatha Catholic team it split with and the Paul VI team it lost to three times in four games in 2018-19. Of course, the silver lining is Gonzaga beat Paul VI when it mattered in the WCAC playoffs and has captured the conference title three times in the past five seasons. Turner knows how to get his team prepared for the post-season, but in order to maintain this ranking and move up, the overall loss count can’t be as high as last season (the WCAC is more top-heavy than usual) and there can be no letdown in the DCSAA playoffs or Alhambra Invitational. Turner not only has the makeup to sweep through all three post-season events, but the necessary depth. Malcolm Dread (6-4, 2021) is talented and experienced, as is Devin Dinkins (5-9, 2022). A trio of sophomores, Jared Turner (6-5, 2022), Judah Mintz (6-3, 2022) and Quinn Clark (6-5, 2022), are expected to step up when called upon. In addition to key conference games, the Purple Eagles host Gonzaga Prep of Washington in their own Gonzaga Classic, participate in the Charm City Challenge, play No. 9 La Lumiere at the Hoophall Classic and sit on the same side of the bracket as top-ranked IMG Academy at the City of Palms Tournament, where they’ll likely face No. 32 O’Dea in the quarterfinals. We’ve been on target with the Purple Eagles’ preseason forecast in recent seasons and if we’re on target again, they’ll finish quite high in the final FAB 50 despite being our No. 3 WCAC entrant.
12. (11) Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Air, Kan.) 23-6
Key Players: SF Kendall Brown 6-7 2021 (No. 18 Rivals.com), SF Zach Clemence 6-9 2021 (No. 40 Rivals.com), SG Jayden Stone 6-3 2020 (No. 74 ESPN.com), PG Ty Berry 6-2 2020 (No. 118 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Buffaloes have been on the FAB 50 radar for over five years and broke through with their first GEICO appearance last season with the talent and pedigree necessary to make a return trip to New York City in 2020. Coach Luke Barnwell’s club is in similar position to No. 9 La Lumiere: it lost a strong senior class, not to mention 2020 Mr. Basketball USA candidate N’Faly Dante in the middle when the big man re-classed and announced for Oregon in August. The coaching staff, however, knew Dante’s re-class was imminent and helped facilitate it, so it wasn’t a shock towards 2019-20 roster building. “It’s not like we’ll flip the script,” Barnwell said. “What we do doesn’t change drastically. Against certain teams, we couldn’t take him (Dante) off the floor. This year we’ll play faster and were really deep.” Brown, Clemence and Berry have established themselves in early practices and will make an impact in the starting lineup. Stone will also have an impact and allows for versatility if Barnwell wants to go with a big or small lineup. The rotation will go eight or nine deep with little drop off.
The Skinny: The Buffaloes come in as the No. 1 team from the Southwest Region, in front of Oklahoma Class 6A favorite Tulsa Booker T. Washington and defending Texas UIL champ Duncanville. Sunrise Christian Academy lost to eventual tourney champ IMG Academy by 15 points (65-50) in the opening round at 2019 GEICO Nationals, so the coaching staff understands there is work to be done and will use that experience to prepare for this season. Point guard Willie Lightfoot (5-11, 2022) averaged 17.9 ppg and 5.3 apg and made big post-season plays for his team at Niagara Falls, N.Y, but he’ll make a smooth transition to more of a facilitator on this team, as Stone, Clemence and Brown have big-time scoring ability. Barnwell is stressing rebounding as a group to his players, but he likes the fact this year’s team is longer and bigger at the one through four than last season’s group that finished one spot higher than this year’s begins. The Buffaloes will once against compete at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas and have two big games at the DC National Hoopfest, in addition to playing No. 7 St. Frances Academy in the Signature Series at the City of Palms Tournament. At the Cancer Research Classic in West Virginia (January 3-4), the Buffaloes have huge tests versus No. 9 La Lumiere and highly-regarded Huntington Prep of West Virginia. Sunrise Christian wants to close strong at the Dr. Pepper Classic in Tennessee and the Heartland Hoops Classic in Nebraska to put itself in position for another GEICO Nationals berth and its first win at the event.
13. (16) Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) 28-4
Key Players: C Cliff Omoruyi 6-11 2020 (No. 41 247Sports.com), SF C.J. Wilcher 6-5 2020 (No. 77 ESPN.com, Xavier commit), SG Niels Lane 6-5 2020 (No. 63 Rivals.com), PG Richie Greaves 6-0 2020.
Why This Ranking: It was real close with regards to whom we deem the New Jersey Tournament of Champions favorite, but we’ll go with the Lions over No. 15 Patrick School. In 2017-2018, we pegged the Lions as the TOC favorites in our preseason FAB 50, and they got the job done. Last season, we anointed Ranney School as the team to beat and that club downed Roselle Catholic in the NJSIAA Non-Public B title game on its way to the TOC crown. Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff lost two big guns in Kahlil Whitney (Kentucky) and Josh Pierre-Louis (UNLV), but he’s always stressed balanced scoring and has a nice blend of three returning starters and talented newcomers to get the nod over the Patrick School to begin 2019-20. Omuruyi will take on a bigger offensive load and if he imposes his will on teams in the big games like Naz Reid did in the TOC run in 2018, Lions fans will like the results. Greaves, a steady and experienced lead guard who will play D1 basketball, is the unifying bridge between the veterans and newcomers. Josh Rivera (6-7, 2020) also returns and will be counted on to score and rebound. This team has good length, shoots well and is solid in all aspects of the game.
The Skinny: As is the case a vast majority of the time in the Garden State, rankings are decided on-court and there could be another monster Non-Public North B showdown with the Lions and Patrick School. The difference this year is the two programs will also meet twice during the regular season (January 7 and February 1) and both games figure to be a war. Boff doesn’t quite have a dynamic wing like Jonathan Kuminga at his disposal, but the additions of Wilcher and Lane give Roselle Catholic plenty of firepower on the wings and no reliance on a single player for scoring. Even Corey Floyd Jr. (6-3, 2022) can go off, as there will be big-time talents who may not even start. If Roselle can maximize the unique talents of Omuruyi and shoot well from the outside, there is no reason why it couldn’t capture a second TOC crown in three years. The Lions will also have an opportunity to move up in the rankings because of a national schedule that includes trips to the Slam Dunk To The Beach in Delaware, the Metro Classic and Hoophall Classic where they take on No. 5 Bishop Gorman. Another reason we rate Roselle as New Jersey preseason No. 1 is it only had one bad outing last season versus No. 38 Norcross, a team it will once again face (along with Huntington Prep) at the Cancer Research Classic.
14. (BB) Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, Minn.) 29-2
Key Players: PG Jalen Suggs 6-4 2020 (No. 6 ESPN.com, Ballislife Second Team All-American), C Chet Holmgren 7-0 2021 (No. 247Sports.com), SF Prince Aligbe 6-6 2022 (No. 40 Rivals.com).
Why This Ranking: The Red Hawks come in as the No. 2 team from the Midwest Region behind No. 9 La Lumiere on the strength of five starters and ten lettermen returning, including two of the best players in the country regardless of class. Suggs (24.2 ppg) was the national class player of the year as both a freshman and a sophomore and is a legitimate Mr. Basketball USA candidate. Holmgren (18.6 ppg) is just as talented, and this summer broke out as one of the top recruits in the Class of 2021. He gives the Red Hawks the necessary size to compete against the best teams on their schedule, and is a legitimate stretch four who can handle and shoot. According to coach Lance Johnson, Aligbe (10.5 ppg) can play a multitude of positions and, most importantly, can defend them. There is plenty of experience and depth, plus any team with a 1-2 inside-outside punch that Minnehaha Academy possesses has a chance in every game.
The Skinny: This team captured the 2018-19 MHSL Class AA state title, but the expectations are much higher this season. The Red Hawks are the most highly-regarded team that didn’t finish FAB 50 ranked last season (No. 13 in Midwest Top 20) but cracking the list this year was a foregone conclusion because of the returning parts. The highest ranked Minnesota team ever in the FAB 50 era is North of Bloomington in 1999-2000 (No. 11), but in order for the Red Hawks to get to that level they will have to defeat No. 6 Sierra Canyon on January 4 in a made-for-TV contest. Last season the team’s only losses were to Class 4A state champ Hopkins of Minnetonka. The Red Hawks are now in Class 3A and from a national perspective, they obviously can’t afford any in-state slip ups. Players such as Kaden Johnson (6-4, 2020) and Donovan Smith (5-9, 2022) will be counted on to do the things that may not show up in the box sheet and score when necessary. Coach Johnson is not one to boast or over-shoot his team, but one can tell from the tone of his comments he really has high expectations for this year’s group. “I firmly believe we have the ability to be a Top 20 team nationally,” Johnson said. “I don’t know who are the top teams in the country, I just now we can be competitive with nearly anyone.”
15. (NR) Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) 17-10
Key Players: PG Noah Farrakhan 6-2 2020 (No. 114 Rivals.com), SF Jonathan Kuminga 6-8 2021 (No. 1 247Sports.com, Ballislife Underclass All-American), C Adama Sanogo 6-9 2021 (No. 54 247Sports.com), C Bretner Mutombo 6-10 2021 (130 247Sports.com).
Why This Ranking: The Celtics didn’t have a particularly noteworthy 2018-19 season, but expectations are sky high in 2019-20. In fact there is as much anticipation for this season as there was in 2002-03 and 2008-09, when the program (then known as St. Patrick and led by current Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle) opened up as preseason FAB 50 No. 1. On paper this team has the talent to contend for the top rankings spot, but hasn’t proven anything yet so we’ll go with Roselle Catholic as our Jersey No. 1 to begin the season. In the end, the on-court results will decide the mini debate as the Union County League heavyweights will meet twice during the regular season and potentially for a third time in the post-season. The optimism begins with Kuminga, who is as talented as any wing player in the country and has plenty of other scoring options at his side. Sanogo is a high-major post presence who will team with Mutumbo to give coach Chris Chavannes the inside punch to battle with Roselle Catholic’s Cliff Omuruyi and the other big men the team will face on its national schedule. Farrakhan returns closer to home after helping IMG Academy finish No. 1 in the 2018-19 FAB 50. The flashy lead guard would like nothing more than to show the boys back home at his new school how to get to that level.
The Skinny: Chavannes is a no non-sense type of coach and makes no bones about the potential of this club. “Our strength is (Jonathan) Kuminga and a highly skilled and deep front line,” Chavannes said. “This is likely the most talented team in the history of St. Patrick or The Patrick School.” That’s a big statement considering the 2009 and 2010 teams featured a future No. 1 (Kyrie Irving) and No. 2 overall NBA Draft pick (2011 Mr. Basketball USA Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), but that’s how much the coaching staff believes in the potential of this club. We’ll take the stance of letting Patrick School move up instead of anointing it on paper, as Chavannes did voice some concern about getting the blend of newcomers and six returning lettermen to jell on both ends of the floor. The ingredients are there for a FAB 50 No. 1 run, but the team has to come together quickly and find reliable outside shooting in the big games. Farrakhan’s stats were modest (7.4 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.2 spg) for the 2019 FAB 50 champs, but he provided a spark at crucial times and his stats don’t always show what he brings to the floor. If he can display offensive consistency and bring that same spark to this club, Patrick School might indeed be headed to the finest season in school history. The schedule, which includes trips to the John Wall Invitational, the Kyrie Irving Invitational, and Metro Classic, will ultimately determine that. The Celts also face No. 6 Sierra Canyon four days before the first meeting with No. 13 Roselle Catholic and take on No. 34 Whitney Young at the Spaulding Hoophall Classic.