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Preseason FAB 50: (16-30)

FAB 50 No. 24 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) lost players to transfer but added two standouts as well, including returning underclass All-American V.J. King from Ohio. Photo: Ronnie Flores

FAB 50 No. 24 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) lost players to transfer but added two standouts as well, including returning underclass All-American V.J. King from Ohio. Photo: Ronnie Flores

We continue our preseason Grassroots Hoops FAB 50 national team rankings release with an in-depth look at teams No. 16-30. We began with teams No. 31-50 on Sunday evening, November 2 and our final installment will be teams No. 1-15 on Tuesday, November 4.

Preseason 2014-15 Grassroots Hoops
FAB 50 National Team Rankings

Compiled by Ronnie Flores
Contributing: Mark Tennis

(Final 2013-14 ranking in parentheses; *Forfeit wins-losses not included; Look for preseason Region-By-Region Top 20 Rankings on Friday, November 7 and for the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker on Thursday, November 20.)

Note: The Grassroots Hoops FAB 50 is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and they were compiled by the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 15 years ago.

All 50 teams are written up with explanations for why they were placed in these positions. Montverde Academy of Florida was the 2012-13 and 2013-14 mythical national champion and the National Sports News Service Rankings as published by GrassrootsHoops.net was the only weekly national rankings with the Eagles as preseason No. 1 both seasons. Montverde Academy is attempting to become the first team to win three consecutive mythical national titles since McClymonds (Oakland, Calif.) between 1958-60. CLICK HERE to view the all-time list of preseason No. 1 ranked teams.

RELATED: Preseason Student Sports FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason Student Sports FAB 50 (31-50)

16. (NR) Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 20-6*
Key Players: SF D.J. Williams 6-7 2015 (No. 68 Hoop Scoop, Illinois commit); SG Zach Norvell 6-5 2016 (No. 63 Hoop Scoop); PF Edward Morrow 6-7 2015 (No. 75 Hoop Scoop, Nebraska commit); SF Ben Coupet 6-8 2016 (No. 113 Hoop Scoop); SF Isaiah Moss 6-7 2015.
Why This Ranking: With 2014 Mr. Basketball USA Cliff Alexander of Curie and Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young off to college, a new era begins in the Chicago Public League. The Wolverines won four straight Class 4A state titles between 2010-13 with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jabari Parker in the lineup, but they were supposed to slide back a bit last year. Simeon was actually quite competitive and took Whitney Young down to the wire in a Class 4A Marist Sectional semifinal. Simeon has as much firepower on the wing as any team in the country. Williams is a major-league finisher with a good mid-range game, Norvell is one of the best junior shooting guards in the country and Morrow mans the boards.
The Skinny: Simeon might not have a dominant superstar, but no team in the Chicago Public League does this season. The Wolverines just have to remain unselfish to remain a major threat to win state title No. 5 in six seasons. They play a tough schedule, including versus No. 44 St. Rita on national television in December, and just have to find the right combination on a deep roster to peak in February. The ingredients could include dynamic freshman point guard Marquise Brown (6-2).

Mater Dei17. (2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 35-0  (@MDHSMonarchs)  
Key Players: SF Rex Pflueger 6-3 2015 (No. 56 Hoop Scoop, Notre Dame commit); C Michael Cage Jr. 6-10 2016 (No. 41 Hoop Scoop, Student Sports Underclass All-American); SG La’Vette Parker 6-2 2015.
Why This Ranking: The Monarchs are the four-time CIF state champions in the highest classification, but all those teams had Stanley Johnson (Arizona) in the lineup. Don’t cry for Mater Dei as life without Johnson begins, as the Monarchs still have a formidable lineup, an excellent scheme both offensively and defensively, and players with big-game experience. Someone is going to have to fill the void as the go-to player, and Pflueger has the athleticism and skill to be that guy. In every big game last season, Cage Jr. put up numbers and played an integral role.
The Skinny: Make no bones about it, Johnson nearly single-handily saved the Monarchs from defeat in at least three or four tough games last season. At least one credible outlet named the Monarchs mythical national champions last season, so about the only thing remaining for coach Gary McKnight (995-85) to fulfill on his resume is 1,000 career wins. He’ll get that early in the season, but in order to win state title No. 12, the team needs to get steady play from the point guard position. Junior Bailey Stout (6-3) has experience, but the key will be the eventual role of transfer K.J. Smith (6-3).

18. (NR) Archbishop Carroll (Philadelphia, Pa.) 23-5
Key Players: SF Derrick Jones 6-6 2015 (No. 27 Hoop Scoop, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, UConn offers); C Ernest Aflakpui (No. 210 Hoop Scoop, Rhode Island, Temple, VCU offers); G David Beatty 6-3 2017.
Why This Ranking: The Patriots have a good combination of size, athleticism and rebounding to compete with the nation’s best teams. They also have one of the most dynamic wing players in the country in Jones. Outside of perhaps Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler’s Jaylen Brown, there might not be a more athletic small forward with the skills Jones possesses. He’s a nightmare to match up with, and there are enough pieces to go around him to make Archbishop Carroll the Pennsylvania Class AAA favorite.
The Skinny: Carroll plays a loaded schedule, which includes trips to the Marshall County Hoopfest, City of Palms Tournament, Cancer Research Classic and Hoophall Classic, and will quickly find out if it has what it takes to win those types of games. Coach Paul Romanczuk is not particularly worried about his team’s preseason ranking, he just cares about where it ends up in the Class AAA playoffs. Jones is not yet a great shooter, and outside shooting is one area of concern, so the development of Beatty and junior guard Josh Sharkey (5-9) in the backcourt will be critical.

19. (NR) Hamilton (Memphis, Tenn.) 19-6

Dedric Lawson's new coach at FAB 50 No. 19 Hamilton (Memphis) is former Wildcats legend and University of Arkansas standout Todd Day. Photo: Kelly Kline/adidas

Dedric Lawson’s new coach at FAB 50 No. 19 Hamilton (Memphis) is former Wildcats legend and University of Arkansas standout Todd Day. Photo: Kelly Kline/adidas

Key Players: PF Dedric Lawson 6-8 2015 (No. 17 Hoop Scoop, Student Sports Underclass All-American); SF K.J. Lawson 6-7 2015 (No. 20 Hoop Scoop, Student Sports Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: Talking to Memphis-area coaches and scouts, Hamilton is an overwhelming choice as the top team in Bluff City. This despite the departure of head coach Keelon Lawson to the University of Memphis. Lawson coached at Hamilton since 2003 and won one state championship (2006). The Wildcats seem like shoo-ins to win another because Lawson’s sons, Dedric and K.J., return to the fold after briefly considering leaving for Arlington Country Day in Florida. Dedric is an athletic 4-man with a versatile skill set, while his brother K.J. is the better perimeter player with good ball-handling and passing ability for his size.
The Skinny: The Lawson brothers are not the sole reason to like Hamilton, as the team that lost in the TSSAA state quarterfinals to Murfreesboro Blackman lost only three senior lettermen. Senior Tarrance Baker (6-8) is a high-flyer and received plenty of high level experience playing with the brothers on the Team Penny travel ball team as part of the Nike EYBL. New coach Todd Day (a Grassroots Hoops All-American at Hamilton in 1988) is looking to avoid a slow start and if his team does, a January 10 showdown with Oak Hill Academy could have major FAB 50 ramifications.

20. (NR) St. Francis (Alpharetta, Ga.) 23-7
Key Players: SG Malik Beasley 6-4 2015 (No. 18 Hoop Scoop, Florida State commit); SF Kaiser Gates 6-7 2015 (No. 104 Hoop Scoop, Xavier, Texas Tech, UCF offers); PG Kobi Simmons 6-5 2016 (No. 6 Hoop Scoop, Ohio State, N.C. State, Missouri offers); C Josh Coleman 6-9 2015 (Coastal Carolina commit).
Why This Ranking: It’s just not the quantity of returnees for Georgia’s Class 1A private schools state champ that are coming back, it’s the quality of players that puts this club in the top 20. Beasley (19.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.1 spg) is a fantastic athlete and is already the school’s all-time leading scorer. Simmons (17.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg) is one of the best junior guards in the country and gives the Knights a dynamic backcourt. St. Francis has eight lettermen returning and all will contribute.
The Skinny: It’s a breath of fresh air to see a defending state champion basically return intact and now this team has its eyes on a bigger prize. St. Francis will travel to the City of Palms Tournament right before Christmas and the Beach Ball Classic right after and will have plenty of opportunity to rumble with teams ranked ahead of them. With Gates (14.4 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and the underrated Coleman (6.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg), the Knights have just enough size to compete on a national level. If they get a few breaks along the way and the young role players step up, this could be a team that moves up in the rankings.

21. (21) Callaway (Jackson, Miss.) 31-1
Key Players: SG Malik Newman 6-4 2015 (No. 9 Hoop Scoop, First Team Student Sports All-American); C Damien Moore 6-10 2017.
Why This Ranking: The Chargers are gunning for their fourth consecutive MHSAA Class 5A state title and with Newman back for his senior year they are the clear favorites. Despite defenses specifically geared to slow him down, Newman upped his statistical output from his sophomore campaign, averaging 29.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He was edged by Ben Simmons of defending FAB 50 champ Montverde Academy for national junior player of the year honors after earning national class player of the year honors as a freshman and sophomore. Callaway has just enough back to warrant beginning where it left off last season.
The Skinny: Are there some teams with deeper personnel? Yes. Do some teams play tougher schedules? Sure do. But if Callaway wins a fourth straight state title and runs through in-state competition (it avenged its only loss last year), it’ll finish ranked somewhere in this vicinity. If Moore rapidly develops, Callaway could be dominant again. In the bigger picture, however, the Chargers have a greater opportunity to fall, rather than rise, in these rankings because the schedule isn’t overwhelming.

22. (NR) Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) 31-6
Key Players: C Raymond Spalding 6-10 2015 (No. 62 Hoop Scoop, Louisville commit); SF Daniel Ramser 6-4 2015 (Bellarmine commit); SF Jax Levitch 6-6 2015 (Delaware, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, IPFW, IUPUI offers).
Why This Ranking: Despite coming up short in the Sweet 16 semifinals last season, what’s not to like about the Shamrocks? Among the 12 returning lettermen, there are at least six that can play at the next level. It’s the addition of 22 ppg scorer D’Angelo West (6-2) from Jackson (Miss.) Provine that makes Trinity a potential juggernaut this season. Spalding, much improved over the last 12 months, anchors a team with quality size at every position and good outside shooters throughout the lineup.
The Skinny: Coach Mike Szabo is giddy about the potential of this team. Because of the depth, Trinity can really get after it in practice and the players could push each other to the next level. Consistency from Spalding will be key when Trinity ventures to the City of Palms right before Christmas. A solid showing in Florida could propel the Shamrocks to a state title and a shot at Kentucky’s highest-ever finish in the FAB 50/National Prep Poll. Scott County of Georgetown finished number No. 13 in 1998.

23. (NR) Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) 33-4  (@PrestonwoodPCA)
Key Players: C Schnider Herard 6-11 2016 (No. 52 Hoop Scoop, State Tourney MVP, Kansas, UConn, Kansas State offers); G Evan Peters 6-3 2016; G D.J. McGee 6-0 2016; C Djery Baptiste 6-11 2015 (No. 58 Hoop Scoop, Vanderbilt commit).
Why This Ranking: With its six top players back off a team that won its third consecutive TAPPS 5A state title, it’s a simple call to label the Lions a top 25 club. Coach Chris Lovell has an experienced team with athleticism and skill to match. Herard came up big in the post-season as did McGee, who made two clutch free throws with eight seconds remaining in a one-point victory over Plano John Paul II in the state title game. With Baptiste transferring in after a spectacular summer on the grassroots circuit, Prestonwood has a chance to be scary good if the chemistry is on point.
The Skinny: Playing two near seven-footers can be tricky, but with Baptiste’s offensive game somewhat limited it will work in Prestonwood’s favor. Baptiste doesn’t need the ball to make an impact and that will help build chemistry between the returning veterans and the newcomers. The Lions’ West Coast trip to the Tarkanian Classic, where they could meet the likes of Bishop Gorman or Corona (Calif.) Centennial, and to the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Palm Desert, where Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon and No. 17 Mater Dei await, will set the tone for the rest of the season.

24. (11) Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 31-6  (@PVIHoops)
Key Players: SG Franklin Howard 6-4 2015 (No. 60 Hoop Scoop, Syracuse commit); SF V.J. King 6-6 2016 (No. 15 Hoop Scoop, Student Sports Underclass All-American).
Why This Ranking: There was some player movement coming and going, but when the dust settled the Panthers are a solid No. 1 team from the powerful Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC). The WCAC’s preseason No. 1 team traditionally is highly-regarded nationally since No. 38 DeMatha also begins in the FAB 50 one season after three teams were FAB 50 ranked in the preseason. After the teams beat up on each other in conference play, Paul VI emerged as VISAA champions with a win over previously unbeaten and preseason No. 32 Cape Henry Collegiate.
The Skinny: Not only does PVI have the two best players in the conference in Howard and King, a transfer from St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio), the Panthers have a penchant for playing ranked opponents tough under coach Glenn Farello and that helps their ranking here. Howard has recovered from knee surgery two summers ago to develop into one of the nation’s most dynamic guards. He is a tremendous competitor, can play both guard spots and his skill and savvy will help keep Paul VI in many games. King helps ease the loss of forward Marcus Derrickson to Brewster Academy while adding a level of athleticism last year’s team didn’t posses.

25. (NR) Potter’s House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) 27-4* (@Stevo_904)
Key Players: C Udoka Azubuike 6-10 2016 (No. 10 Hoop Scoop, Student Sports Underclass All-American); SF Oliver Joshua 6-8 2015; SG Treante Mason 6-2 2016.
Why This Ranking: The relatively new Sunshine Independent Athletic Association has quickly developed into one of the best basketball leagues in the country. Two SIAA teams will crack the top 25, as PHC returns enough surrounding potential All-American Azubuike to warrant the No. 2 spot in the league behind Arlington Country Day. Oldsmar Christian might have more individual talent than PHC, but we’re going to take a wait-in-see approach with a team like Oldsmar that lost nine games last season. Besides, PHC lost to ACD in the SIAA title game by two points and defeated Oldsmar by 10 points.
The Skinny: Azubuike (17.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg) has the potential to be dominant. There will be plenty of tough league games against other teams filled with D1 players, so Joshua (6.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and the other returnees must increase their offensive production. Mason, a transfer from Milwaukee (Wis.) Riverside, is talented and if the backcourt comes through with timely shooting, the Lions will be tough to beat down the stretch.

26. (28) Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.) 27-5 (@EHSAthletics)

Kameron Edwards of No. 26 Etiwanda (Calif.) had a standout summer and the Pepperdine commit is looking to translate it to his senior high school season. Photo: Ronnie Flores

Kameron Edwards of No. 26 Etiwanda (Calif.) had a standout summer and the Pepperdine commit is looking to translate it to his senior high school season. Photo: Ronnie Flores

Key Players: SF Kameron Edwards 6-6 2015 (No. 133 Hoop Scoop, Pepperdine commit); C Jordan Naughton 6-9 2015 (Wyoming commit); PG Garrett Carter 6-0 2016.
Why This Ranking: The Eagles started last season a tad bit high (No. 7) in the FAB 50, but this year’s team deserves to begin right around where it left off last season. That’s because of its nice blend of talent, experience, size and coaching. Yes, guard Jordan McLaughlin is off to USC, but Etiwanda will be more balanced offensively and if Naughton remains healthy, Etiwanda will be tough to beat. Coach Dave Kleckner (497-155) preaches man-to-man defense, and this group has the horses to impose its will on teams that have more highly-publicized recruits.
The Skinny: Etiwanda is a rare team in that its equally talented in the frontcourt as the backcourt. If there is a go-to man, it’s the slashing Edwards, who enjoyed a standout summer. Senior Delewis Johnson (6-4) and transfer Marquis Reed (6-4) will do a lot of the thankless work that is typical of Etiwanda’s front court men. If the flashy Carter runs the team as Kleckner desires and improves his outside shooting, this team will be tough to take down in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs.

27. (NR) Morgan Park (Chicago, Ill.) 24-6 (@NICKIRV)
Key Players: SG Charlie Moore 6-2 2016 (No. 206 Hoop Scoop); PF Alonzo Chatman 6-9 2016 (No. 178 Hoop Scoop); PG Marcus LoVett Jr. 5-11 2015 (No. 45 Hoop Scoop).
Why This Ranking: The Mustangs start below Simeon in the Chicago Public League pecking order, mainly because they have a relatively young roster. However, you have to like a team that is the back-to-back defending Class 3A state champions. “Stevenson and us are the top two teams in the state along with Simeon,” said Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin, a former standout guard at Chicago Carver. “We’re young grade wise, but we’ve been there before.” Irvin has tough-minded players that get after it on the defensive end. In addition to his two returning starters (Moore and Chatman), Irvin expects the five other returning lettermen to step up their production.
The Skinny: If the role players develop, this team will be in line for Illinois’ top ranking. Irvin is happy with the development of junior James Burton (6-3), who gets after it on the defensive end and has the ability to slow down the other team’s top offensive threat. The X-factor is the talented and flashy LoVett Jr., a transfer from California with Midwest roots. LoVett will start from day one and if everyone meshes together, the results could be spectacular. LoVett has been playing at the California small school level and Irvin, who coins LoVett “Bright Lights,” believes the daily intensity of Chicago Public League ball will bring out the best in his new point guard.

28. (17) Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) 33-1 28. (@CoronaHoops)
Key Players: SF Dane Kuiper 6-7 2015 (No. 88 Hoop Scoop, New Mexico commit); PG Alex Barcello 6-2 2017 (Virginia, New Mexico offers); C Marvin Bagley III 6-10 2018 (No. 2 Hoop Scoop).
Why This Ranking: The Aztecs won their third consecutive AIA D-I state championship and from a national perspective earned much respect for only suffering one loss and that was against perennial FAB 50 power Findlay Prep. Corona del Sol began near the bottom of the FAB 50 last season, but gets an uptick this year because it has plenty firepower to replace the graduated Casey Benson and Connor MacDougall. Kuiper will be the go-to player while Barcello, one of the better sophomore guards on the West Coast, will play a bigger role. Speaking of bigger, Bagley replaces MacDougall as the pivot man and the results could be more spectacular. He’s considered by some recruiting experts as the best freshman in the country and is one of the early front-runners for Grassroots Hoops National Freshman of the Year honors.
The Skinny: Coach Sam Duane (305-135) wants to defend at a high level and play up-tempo and has the horses to do it. The Aztecs will be heavily favored in-state, so they’ll have to get up for the out-of-state games on an upgraded schedule. Corona del Sol will play in the VisitMesa.com Challenge, the Hoophall West and Hoophall East. If players such as Bagley and junior Tyrell Henderson (6-3) play big on the big stage, this team could finish up ranked even higher than last season.

The Buzz 15029. (NR) North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) 26-2 (@johnnyrice22)
Key Players: G KeVaughn Allen 6-3 2015 (No. 30 Hoop Scoop, Student Sports Underclass All-American, Florida commit); G K.J. Hill 6-0 2015 (Arkansas football commit); G Adrian Moore 6-4 2016 (Tulsa, Wake Forest offers).
Why This Ranking: The Charging Wildcats have the talent and pedigree to be ranked among the nation’s top 30 teams. Coach Johnny Rice’s program is the defending back-to-back Class 7A state champions and the heavy favorites to three-peat. Among the seven lettermen back are three returning starters — all of whom were all-state last season. Allen is one of the most undervalued players in his class nationally and is a dynamic scorer from all three levels. Hill brings experience and toughness to the backcourt and this could be a breakout year for Moore nationally if he plays big in North Little Rock’s showcase games.
The Skinny: Rice’s team has upgraded its schedule, but has little wiggle room locally. It will be awfully tough for the Charging Wildcats to move up in the FAB 50 if it loses to two in-state foes like it did last season. The good thing is, the rest of the country will get to find out just how good the Charging Wildcats are. They will participate in the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina, the Shooting Straight MLK Showcase in Washington, D.C., and the Rumble on the Ridge in Forrest City, Arkansas.

30. (NR) Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 24-3 (@CCPBasketball)
Key Players: SF Jayson Tatum 6-8 2016 (No. 4 Hoop Scoop, Student Sports Underclass All-American); PF Tyler Cook 6-7 2016 (No. 248 Hoop Scoop).
Why This Ranking: The Red Devils have enough returning talent to capture the Class 5 state title. Leading the way is Tatum, one of the most dynamic players in the nation who can beat teams off the dribble, on the wing or inside. He’s not the only reason to like Chaminade, as 10 lettermen return including Cook. He gained plenty of experience playing with Tatum on the Nike EYBL circuit for the St. Louis Eagles and Cook will make teams pay if they spend too much time focusing on him.
The Skinny: The Red Devils lost to St. Louis Ladue Horton Watkins in the Class 5, District 8 title game, 61-58, in a game in which Tatum scored 16 points. It left a bad taste in their mouth, and Chaminade has a lot of incentive (not to mention talent) to erase that memory. From a national perspective, the program will see where it stands right away when it hits the road to take on No. 41 Bentonville (Ark.) on November 29.

RELATED: Preseason Grassroots Hoops FAB 50 (1-15) | Preseason Grassroots Hoops FAB 50 (31-50)

Ronnie Flores is the Publisher and Editor of GrassrootsHoops.net. He can be reached at ronlocc1977@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores