The following is an except from the FREE 2014 National High School Basketball Preview publication, published by Hoopniks.com. Download your copy of the 2014 National High School Basketball Preview publication using the button below this paragraph. The publication includes the Terrific 30 High School Rankings, Top 5 Post Graduate teams, Top 100 Seniors, Best Tournaments and Events and underclassmen player rankings!
1. Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL)
Last Year: 28-0 (including forfeit win), DICK’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament Champion
Head Coach: Kevin Boyle
Key Players: Doral Moore, 7’-0”, Sr., C, WAKE FOREST; Noah Dickerson, 6’-8”, Sr. F, FLORIDA; Ben Simmons, 6’-8”, Sr., F, LSU.
Despite sending a half-dozen players into the D-1 ranks from their 2013-2014 championship squad, Montverde Academy should be one of the top high school teams in the country after reloading their roster with blue chip talent. Montverde Academy did lose once on the hardwood last season, but their record was left without a blemish due to forfeit caused by off the court problems encountered by Curie (IL).
The strength for the Eagles is unquestionably their interior play, with the nation’s No. 1 player, Ben Simmons, pushing forward their attack. Simmons is a tremendous frontcourt player, but is a skilled and capable enough ballhandler to play three positions for the Eagles. He is a native of Australia that could dominate during his senior year of high school.
He’ll have a cast of high-major bound big men around him, as Doral Moore, Noah Dickerson and Jean-Marc Chris Koumadje (Florida State) all will be on prolific high-major rosters next year. Both Moore and Koumadje exceed 7-feet tall, and Dickerson’s bulk and power make him a load at the high school level.
Perhaps the key to the Eagles’ fortunes will be in the backcourt, where transfer Howard Washington is expected to man the controls. He joined the squad after transferring from New York, and showed terrific point guard skills on the grassroots circuit. If Washington can get the ball to his talented teammates, it’s hard to imagine too many teams that can legitimately beat Montverde Academy. As always, they’ll challenge themselves with a competitive schedule with dates in several showcase events and elite tournaments.
2. Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV)
Last Year: 31-5, DICK’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament Semifinals
Head Coach: Andy Johnson
Key Players: Allonzo Trier, 6’-5”, Sr., G, ARIZONA; Horace Spencer, 6’-8”, Sr., F, AUBURN; Derryck Thornton, 6’-1”, Jr., G.
After a successful one year tenure as head coach at Findlay Prep, Jerome Williams gives way to Andy Johnson, but the Pilots’ program appears to be loaded once again, and in good hands. Johnson has been with the program as an assistant coach for awhile, and it’s reasonable to assume the Pilots will keep things moving forward.
One of the nation’s top backcourts in Allonzo Trier and Derryck Thornton are potentially the key to the Pilots’ fortunes. When Trier is scoring and Thornton is making plays and distributing, the Pilots will be hard for foes to stop. Both are among the nation’s very best at their respective positions, and could create synergy that is hard to slow, let alone stop.
The frontcourt is mostly new to the program, but appears very formidable. High energy power forward Horace Spencer could be a volume rebounder and crash the boards like few others. Junior transfers Khalea Turner and Jayce Johnson are both top 100 talents that will have a size advantage over defenders.
If the aforementioned three big men hold the paint down effectively it will open up scoring opportunities for touted junior wing forward Justin Jackson, an early UNLV pledge. Several young players will push for playing time, and would be a mistake for opponents to not game plan for.
Findlay Prep doesn’t have the depth or size that Montverde Academy does, but unquestionably has more talented starting guards. As the season progresses, don’t be surprised to see Findlay Prep potentially take the top slot if Montverde Academy is knocked off over the course of their challenging schedule.
3. Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA)
Last Year: 41-4, DICK’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament Runner-up
Head Coach: Steve Smith
Key Players: Dwayne Bacon, 6’-6”, Sr., G, FLORIDA STATE; Daniel Giddens, 6’-10”, Sr., C, OHIO STATE; Joshua Reaves, 6’-5”, Sr., G, PENN STATE.
One of the most venerable “name brands” in high school basketball, the Warriors have once again reloaded with an elite-level team capable of beating anyone. They have a brutal schedule to compete against, but luckily the roster appears to be up to the challenge.
Two mature top 50 talents, Dwayne Bacon and Daniel Giddens are newcomers to the squad sure to make a huge impact. Bacon can do it all from the wing and is a scorer like few others in the class. He’s physically mature and likely to maintain his production throughout the course of a long season. Meanwhile, Giddens is one of the top defensive players in the nation, and a rim protector to the highest degree.
A holdover from last year’s team, 5’-11” guard Terrence Phillips will distribute the ball to the top notch scorers on the team, including early D-1 committed wings Andrew Fleming (Iowa) and Joshua Reaves (Penn State). Fleming is a terrific outside shooter, while Reaves has a versatile offensive game.
Don’t bet against head coach Steve Smith and his staff as they have “been there” and “done that” for many seasons at this point. While depth may be a concern, Smith has the roster to compete for national title this year.
4. Huntington St. Joseph’s Prep (Huntington, WV)
Last Year: 28-5, DICK’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament Semifinals
Head Coach: Arkell Bruce
Key Players: Thomas Bryant, 6’-10”, Sr., C; Ted Kapita, 6’-8”, Sr., F; Miles Bridges, 6’-6”, Jr., F.
Former Huntington St. Joseph’s Prep head coach Rob Fulford jumped to the college ranks to join Missouri’s program as an assistant coach. Still, he left the cupboard plenty full at Huntington St. Joseph’s Prep, with a national caliber team built for success at the highest level for new head coach Arkell Bruce at the helm.
The frontcourt is deep and strong, which some college programs could be envious of. Top-100 senior post players Thomas Bryant and Ted Kapita are both being recruited by bluebloods, and starred together at the 2014 LeBron James Skills Academy. They will be a load for opponents. Behind them is former West Virginia commit Levi Cook, a 6’-10” load in his own right.
Two juniors will be key performers on the wing and in the backcourt, as transfer Curtis Jones at 6’-4”, and Miles Bridges are both top-50 prospects nationally. Both are already being sought-after by some of the most famous college basketball programs, and each will be over-sized offensive threats. Another player to watch is 6’-3” senior guard Ronshad Shabazz, who looks like a steal for Appalachian State, where he verbally committed.
Huntington St. Joseph’s Prep has the size to hang with Montverde Academy, but it will be key to watch the way newcomers are blended with the holdovers in this elite program.
5. La Lumiere School (La Porte, IN)
Last Year: 23-3, DICK’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Shane Heirman
Key Players: Jalen Coleman, 6’-3”, Sr., G, ILLINOIS; Isaac Humphries, 7’-0”, Jr., C; Alex Olesinksi, 6’-9”, Sr., F.
Part of an ever-increasing trend as of late, La Lumiere’s former head coach Alan Huss is now in the college ranks as an assistant at New Mexico. Don’t feel bad for new head coach Shane Heirman, though, as the Lakers’ squad is still loaded with talent.
A talented mix of national and international talent lines the roster at La Lumiere, but make no mistake, elite senior guard Jalen Coleman will be the straw that stirs this drink. He is a well-rounded combo guard that will be difficult for foes to keep off of the scoring column as he gets buckets in a variety of ways. His backcourt running mate, senior Munis Tutu, already has experience playing for Canada’s national team. Tutu is one of many talented Canadians on the roster.
The frontcourt also looks loaded. Vanderbilt commit Joseph Toye transferred back to Whitney Young (IL) but there is still plenty of depth. Australian big man Isaac Humphries will debut in the United States this year, and was considered a standout at the U-17 World Championships last summer for his home country’s squad. He could become a top 50 ranked player nationally. 6’-9” senior Alex Olesinski and 6’-9” junior Nolan Narain are also terrific options in the post.
Junior guard Brandon Cyrus joined the squad via transfer and could find a role if defenders try to key on Coleman. His strength gives coach Heirman versatility in using a variety of lineups.
6. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, NV)
Last Year: 30-3, Nevada 4A Champion
Head Coach: Grant Rice
Key Players: Stephen Zimmerman, 7’-0”, Sr., C; Chase Jeter, 6’-11”, Sr., F, DUKE; Nick Blair, 6’-5”, Sr., F.
It is perhaps a forgone conclusion that Bishop Gorman will dominate in-state competition, so a national title seems like the most reasonable goal for the Gaels this year, as it is for their loaded football program. With an unmatched interior duo, Bishop Gorman is perhaps primed for their sixth state championship in seven years and perhaps national glory.
A three-headed monster in the frontcourt should give the Gaels one of the nation’s top frontline combinations, involving two likely McDonalds All-American game candidates. Duke pledge Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman are a borderline unfair duo for high school foes to try to take on, especially in-state, but given Bishop Gorman’s ambitious schedule, they’ll need both players primed for production. If both players achieve their potential, no one should be able to match their production.
Nick Blair is sure to increase his role as a highly-athletic senior wing. He’s a high-flyer that also looks to be a future D-1 player in college, as he’ll benefit from Bishop Gorman’s ambitious travel schedule. A talented crop of young players are also waiting in the wings behind the twin-towers. 6’-10” junior center Zach Collins and 6’-4” sophomore wing Charles O’Bannon are both national ranked players in their respective classes.
Replacing current Akron freshman Noah Robotham, who was the point guard that moved the ball last season is imperative in assessing the Gaels potential this season. If Bishop Gorman can get the ball to their stars, few teams can stop them.
7. Plano West (Plano, TX)
Last Year: 22-7, Texas 5A regional semifinals
Head Coach: Anthony Morgan
Key Players: Mickey Mitchell, 6’-7”, Sr., F, OHIO STATE; Tyler Davis, 6’-9”, Sr., C, TEXAS A&M; D.J. Hogg, 6’-8”, Sr., F, TEXAS A&M.
After an early departure from the Texas 5A tournament last year, the Wolves are back and could be better than ever. An imposing collection of size and talent makes Plano West a potential national title contender, though a juggernaut of opponents exist for them to overcome.
The frontcourt is already committed to high-major college basketball programs as center Tyler Davis and sweet shooting combo forward D.J. Hogg will stay in state at Texas A&M and wing wizard Mickey Mitchell selected Ohio State. The key will be for all three players to stay healthy and keep everyone playing to their strengths. Davis has the size and bulk to own the paint, while Hogg can burn opponents from the mid-range and beyond. Davis sat out as a junior after transferring, but did play with Hogg in grassroots basketball.
One of the nation’s top football players, Soso Jamabo will find a role in the backcourt and on the wing, as should an elite sophomore guard, Chris Giles, who is under consideration for USA Basketball’s youth national team. Mitchell is skilled enough to be a point forward and handle the ball extensively when the situation dictates it, allowing Jamabo and Giles to have less pressure on their play.
The Wolves have an early date with Prolific Prep (CA) and No. 1 Montverde Academy, and the results of those games could propel the Wolves to top billing if they win.
8. Our Savior New American (Centereach, NY)
Last Year: 28-3
Head Coach: Ron Stelzer
Key Players: Cheick Diallo, 6’-9”, Sr., C; Kassoum Yakwe, 6’-7”, Jr., F; Damon Wilson, 6’-5”, Sr., G, PITTSBURGH.
If you are looking for a sleeper national championship contender, it just might be Our Savior New American. They will play a difficult schedule and have the size and talent to hold their own against any program on the high school level.
A top 10 national prospect, center Cheick Diallo, should be nearly unstoppable on the high school level. He is an unmatched rebounder, has terrific foot speed, and will battle in the paint against anyone. Diallo is the centerpiece to defending on the interior, and can erase and alter shots with ease. His junior understudy, Kassoum Yakwe, will get more attention down the road, but for now he should benefit from scoring opportunities due to defenders keying on stopping Diallo.
Over-sized guard Damon Wilson has continually developed, and will be a mismatch for high school defenders to try to slow down. He can bully smaller players, and also has the shooting ability to light it up from beyond the arc. Wilson has legitimate point guard skills at 6’-5” which provides him with vision as he sees over defenders. Additional backcourt help will be provided by Djibril Diallo, who can get some buckets from the mid-range and beyond with defenders keying on the talented interior.
Our Savior New American will have the opportunity to prove their merits with several showcase games and tournament entries. Also, it’s hard to pick against a squad keyed by Cheick Diallo from finding success.
9. Roselle Catholic (Roselle, NJ)
Last Year: 21-10
Head Coach: Dave Boff
Key Players: Isaiah Briscoe, 6’-3”, Sr., G; Chris Silva, 6’-9”, Sr., F, SOUTH CAROLINA; Asante Gist, 5’-10”, Jr., G.
The New Jersey high school basketball scene is always loaded with talent, but this year’s Roselle Catholic squad looks to have the depth and star power at the head to be the top dog.
Elite national guard Isaiah Briscoe transferred in last season, and averaged almost 6 assists to go with 20 points per game. As a top 15 prospect, Briscoe is a capable scorer and will be hard for foes to stop this season. He could play more off the ball as a senior, as junior lead guard Asante Gist has emerged as a future D-1 player in his own right. Briscoe can score with the best of high school players, and Gist hooking him up could be just what the doctor ordered. Junior wing Matt Bullock could provide pop out of the backcourt as well.
High-energy big man Chris Silva will man the interior, prior to taking off to South Carolina for college. Silva could be a double-double performer as a senior, as he’s capable of finishing inside and collecting caroms. He’s the leader of a crop of frontcourt performers that includes Monmouth pledge Pierre Sarr and top 5 ranked freshman Nazreon Reid.
A New Jersey Tournament of Champions is the goal for Roselle Catholic, and there’s no doubt they could elevate to elite national status if they play to their potential.
10. Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, CA)
Last Year: 28-5, CIF Open Division runner-up
Head Coach: Lou Richie
Key Players: Ivan Rabb, 6’-10”, Sr., C; Paris Austin, 6’-2”, Sr., G, BOISE STATE; Isaiah Thomas, 6’-8”, Sr., F.
With a handful of returnees and one of the top big men in the country, Bishop O’Dowd could have the horses to compete for the title of the best team among many talented squads in California. Bishop O’Dowd is well-positioned at two spots on the floor that demand strong performances against elite-level competition in high school and beyond.
Agile frontcourt performer Ivan Rabb is currently undecided on his future college, but any program nationally would find a spot for him. He has a great combination of size and athleticism, and has been at times considered the top prospect in the class. Rabb’s running mate and point guard Paris Austin came into his own on the grassroots circuit, and netted numerous scholarship offers before announcing he was taking his game to the Mountain West Conference and Boise State. He’ll be responsible for feeding the post with regularity.
The emergence of talented forward Isaiah Thomas should take some of the pressure off of Rabb inside. His interior abilities, along with the presence of Austin Walker and Franklin Longrus gives the Dragons options when Rabb and Austin are heavily covered by opponents. In particular, Thomas could form with Rabb to be one of the top interior duos on the West Coast.
While not owning the depth that other top 10 teams have, the Dragons have serious star power and experience after facing a difficult schedule last season. It doesn’t seem likely they’ll suffer five losses again this year.
11. Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, FL)
Last Year: 30-5, SIAA champions
Head Coach: Rex Morgan
Key Players: Mario Kegler, 6’-7”, Jr., F; Tulio da Silva, 6’-8”, Sr., C, SOUTH FLORIDA; Yankuba Sima, 6’-11”, Sr., C.
The Apaches have size that a few college teams would envy, and a crop of young international talent that should set them up to have a quite prosperous season. Additionally, against a deep and competitive schedule, Arlington Country Day will have no shortage of chances to prove themselves.
The frontline has experience in international competition, as Yankuba Sima has starred for Spain and Tulio da Silva did the same for Brazil’s youth national teams. Both players may be new to high school basketball in the United States, but it’s doubtful they’ll be intimidated by anyone. Two transfers will add talent to the frontcourt, with senior Malik Hicks and touted junior Mario Kegler both set to find roles. Both are capable of putting points on the board, and Kegler was part of two state title teams at Callaway (MS) prior to transferring.
The backcourt could need some time to gel but should end up quite strong. Talented junior Lamonte Turner is ready for an expanded role and senior transfer Jahshire Hardnett proved his scoring chops over the summer. Turner and Hardnett can provide some flash in transition and on the perimeter.
There’s no reason Arlington Country Day can’t compete with any given opponent on any given day. With their overall roster, this ranking could end up being way too low.
12. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA)
Last Year: 35-0, CIF Open Division Champion
Head Coach: Gary McKnight
Key Players: Rex Pflueger, 6’-5”, Sr., G, NOTRE DAME; M.J. Cage, 6’-10”, Jr., C; La’Vette Parker, 6’-2”, Sr., G.
The heart and soul of the Monarchs’ attack during an undefeated 2014 season, Stanley Johnson, departed to Arizona. Still, Mater Dei is the king of California based on their track record and last year’s undefeated team, that is until someone beats them.
Several returning starters, and a mix of touted underclassmen form Mater Dei’s talented roster. Wing Rex Pflueger will pick up the scoring slack, as a high-major recruit to Notre Dame capable of scoring in multiple ways. Given the loss of Johnson, the Monarchs need an alpha dog to step up and fill Johnson’s role. On the inside, few are more sturdy than junior center M.J. Cage, a top 50 national prospect in his class. He has plenty of upside and can already produce in the paint. Both Pflueger and Cage will have to step up in the absence of Johnson.
The supporting cast should all have expanded roles. Senior guard La’Vette Parker could be ready to find his niche after being a supporting player for several seasons. The backcourt was bolstered by the addition of transfer K.J. Smith, a senior, and does have Bailey Stout back to steady things. As is typical in Mater Dei’s program, numerous gifted young players are waiting in the wings for their opportunity, as sophomore center Miles Brookins, along with freshmen forwards Michael Wang and Harrison Butler are all regarded prospects.
At least one source considered Mater Dei the national champion last season after their undefeated run, and this year will prove just how much Johnson meant last year.
13. Wheeler (Marietta, GA)
Last Year: 27-6, Class AAAAAA runner-up
Head Coach: Douglas Lipscomb
Key Players: Jaylen Brown, 6’-6”, Sr., F; Shembari Phillips, 6’-5”, Sr., G, TENNESSEE; Darius Perry, 6’-0”, So., G.
It’s hard not to consider what might have been, as Wheeler lost 6’-10” center Daniel Giddens over the off-season, as a transfer to Oak Hill Academy (VA). Giddens is considered by some to be among the top interior defenders in the nation, so his loss was a tough pill to swallow for a team that should have high-reaching aspirations. Still, Wheeler did receive some transfers of its own, and remains one of the nation’s top teams.
Jaylen Brown achieved major national hype in the off-season ascending to be the No. 1 player in the nation, at least by one respected source. A do-it-all wing forward, Brown may be forced to fill in the interior more than last year given the loss of Giddens. He’s athletic enough to make it work though, especially if Wheeler can get him moving in transition. Brown will be hard to stop from scoring this year, given his overall abilities.
Brown’s main running mate could be Shembari Phillips, an early pledge to Tennessee who joined the team via the transfer route, as did two other players. Phillips is capable of playing several positions like Brown, and could pick up some scoring slack. Two other transfers played with Brown during the off-season on his AAU team, 6’-7” Hakeem Anchrum and sophomore point guard Darius Perry. Both should move into the starting lineup and play key roles this season.
Brown can compete and produce like less than a handful of players in the country. If he stays on his game and the newcomers meld together, Wheeler has to like their chances.
14. Stevenson (Lincolnshire, IL)
Last Year: 32-2, Class 4A Semifinals
Head Coach: Pat Ambrose
Key Players: Jalen Brunson, 6’-2”, Sr., G, VILLANOVA; Connor Cashaw, 6’-3”, Sr., G, RICE; Matt Johnson, 5’-11”, Sr., G.
Two heady guards, Jalen Brunson and Connor Cashaw make Stevenson the favorite as the top team going into the season in the deep and talented basketball ranks in Illinois. There are no shortage of talented opponents in Illinois, though Stevenson has slayed many in the past years in the Brunson-era.
Brunson simply could not be stopped as a junior, averaging 25.4 points, leading his squad in assists and finishing second in rebounding. After being selected to the USA Basketball U18 team, Brunson could be primed for a tremendous senior season. He had several breakout scoring games as a junior, and is considered by some as the best lead guard nationally.
Brunson’s main partner-in-crime on the hardwood floor is Connor Cashaw, who can hit shots from long-range and also averaged 17.8 points per game. Fellow guard Matt Johnson also returns to the starting lineup after clearing almost 11 points each contest. If opponents key too much on Brunson and Cashaw, Johnson could make them pay. Stevenson would really benefit from an increased role from 6’-5” senior Parker Nichols this season on the inside.
What Stevenson lacks in depth they make up for in star power. Assuming Brunson and his cast of supporters play the way they did in 2013-2014, few can beat them.
15. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, CA)
Last Year: 29-4
Head Coach: Ty Nichols
Key Players: Devearl Ramsey, 5’-11”, Jr., G; Cody Riley, 6’-8”, So., PF; Ira Lee, 6’-8”, So, PF.
The most talented collection of young players on the West Coast are back at Sierra Canyon, though they will start the season with the pressure-filled title of one of the most talented teams in California.
Bookend sophomore big men Cody Riley (14.5 points, 7.7 rebounds) and Ira Lee (9.4 points and 7.6 rebounds) are back and improved. The sky is the limit for their production this season. Each player is considered among the top 25 players nationally, and it’s fair to say the pivot is well stocked for the Trailblazers with both big man in play.
The player getting them the ball is no slouch either, as Devearl Ramsey spent the summer travelling to Dubai as part of USA Basketball’s U17 national team. He’s a pure point guard like few others nationally, but can also hit shots when necessary. Sophomores Remy Martin (5’-11”), Adam Seiko (6’-3”), and Terrence McBride (6’-3”) could have important roles on the wing as defenders key on the interior performers.
Sierra Canyon played an ambitious schedule last year and will do the same again this year. They have potential to be the best team in California, and if the pieces stay together they could be an early top 5 team in 2015-2016.
16. St. Francis (Roswell, GA)
Last Year: 26-7, Class A Private State Champions
Head Coach: Drew Catlett
Key Players: Kaiser Gates, 6’-8”, Sr., F, XAVIER; Malik Beasley, 6’-4”, Jr., G, FLORIDA STATE; Kobi Jordan-Simmons, 6’-4”, Jr., G.
If basketball was played as a 3 on 3 game at the high school level, you’d be hard pressed to find many teams out there who could compete with St. Francis, even if you give them a sub or two. Luckily for new head coach Drew Catlett (who takes over for Cabral Huff and has experience on the collegiate level), his squad can compete with anyone, given their talent level.
Four starters return from a Class A championship run, and they’ve matured and gotten better in the off-season. The backcourt of Kobi Jordan-Simmons and Malik Beasley is just dynamic, as Jordan-Simmons is one of the best scoring point guards in the junior class nationally, and Beasley picked Florida State over numerous suitors with his scoring ability. If one player has an off game, the other should be able to pick it up. High school basketball is often a guards game, and few have a duo like St. Francis.
Two standouts return to the interior, as skilled face-up forward Kaiser Gates can do damage in the paint and also hit long range shots. 6’-9 Josh Coleman should hold down the interior. He made an early verbal commitment to Coastal Carolina and gives St. Francis a serious presence near the hoop.
Several other returners give St. Francis cause to have high hopes for this season. The road to success lies in their backcourt and the sky is the limit for their success.
17. Simeon (Chicago, IL)
Last Year: 20-6, 4A sectional semifinals
Head Coach: Robert Smith
Key Players: Ed Morrow, 6’-7”, Sr., F, NEBRASKA; D.J. Williams, 6’-7”, Sr., F, ILLINOIS; Zach Norvell, 6’-5”, Jr., G.
The first year of the post-Jabari Parker era at Simeon went a little rough, but the Wolverines young talent has coalesced in the off-season which included a trip to play overseas. They should have as much depth as any public high school team does nationally. Certainly foes are plenty in the Chicago Public League, but Simeon likely learned from last year’s results and is ready to show out this year.
Fans of Big Ten basketball can get any early preview of three incoming players, in forwards D.J. Williams and Ed Morrow, as well as wing Isaiah Moss. Williams is a do-it-all forward that can score, and has participated in USA Basketball’s youth national team try-outs for years. Meanwhile, Morrow has a junkyard dog-style game and mentality, capable of doing the dirty work that makes teams succeed.
Moss also came into his own over the summer, and had many college basketball programs to choose from, before selecting Iowa. Though the seniors are talented, a strong group of underclassmen are no doubt chomping at the bit to make their impression on the game. Lanky junior guard Zach Norvell and his forward classmate Ben Coupet are second to none in the 2016 class, and junior guard Josh Thomas and sophomore point guard Evan Gilyard each should increased roles. It remains to be seen if freshman guard Marquise “Kezo” Brown is a key part of Simeon’s plans this year, as he has already picked up scholarship offers.
There are plenty of pieces to Simeon’s puzzle this year that head coach Robert Smith will have to fit together to find national success. Still, it’s hard to bet against a roster as talented as this one.
18. Callaway (Jackson, MS)
Last Year: 31-1, Mississippi 5A Champion
Head Coach: David Sanders
Key Players: Malik Newman, 6’-4”, Sr., G; Dimencio Vaughn, 6’-5”, Sr., F; Damien Moore, 6’-10”, So., C.
A fourth straight Mississippi state championship is a legitimate goal for Callaway, as the nation’s top scorer, shooting guard Malik Newman returns for his last high school season. Things would have been more certain if expected junior returnee Mario Kegler had stayed in the program instead of transferring to Florida, but it’s unlikely many teams can stop Newman’s scoring onslaught.
Newman is considered by some to be the best player in the nation, and he is easily the top scorer among guards. Newman hits 3-point shots, drives to the basket and dunks, and has no problem doing anything in between. Make no mistake, to stop Callaway, multiple defenders will have to key on Newman, which allows his teammates to pick their spots.
Even though they lost Kegler, Dimencio Vaughn joins the program via transfer. He’s another D-1 prospect that should be a secondary threat in the attack. Sophomore center Damien Moore has the potential to excel down the road, and junior guards Decardo Day, Marcus Summerville and Jamal Bolden all return from last year’s team.
The depth is not overwhelming at Callaway, but past success and Newman’s star power should ensure a national ranking at the end of the season.
19. North Shore (Galena Park, TX)
Last Year: 35-3, Texas 5A Champion
Head Coach: David Green
Key Players: Kerwin Roach, 6’-3”, Sr., G, TEXAS; Jarrey Foster, 6’-5”, Sr., F, SMU; Geren Mills, 6’-4”, Sr., F.
With a half-dozen or so players back from a state championship squad, North Shore has the roster and talent to defend their title against what is sure to be a bevy of strong contenders.
Don’t expect North Shore to run the table as they play a tough schedule, but if Kerwin Roach and Jarrey Foster can be healthy at the right time, North Shore can peak and repeat. Roach is a complete scorer that blew up in July while Foster can play inside and out and is primed to play in college at SMU. Foster tore his ACL in July and a January return is anticipated. Both players rank among the finest in Texas.
North Shore will need production and an increased role from 6’-6” senior Adrian Brown than they got last season to find similar success, and also will expect Geren Mills to be an able contributor while they wait for Foster to return to full strength. Several other seniors had minor roles last year and will need to increase their performances.
There are certainly question marks about the roster and health at North Shore, but taking the squad in an optimistic light means favorable results should be expected.
20. Hamilton (Memphis, TN)
Last Year: 27-7, TSSAA Quarterfinalist
Head Coach: Todd Day
Key Players: Dedric Lawson, 6’-8”, Sr., F, MEMPHIS; K.J. Lawson, 6’-6”, Sr., F, MEMPHIS; Romero Hill, 6’-3”, Jr., G.
There was plenty of change in the off-season at Hamilton, as long-time successful head coach Keelon Lawson departed to become an assistant coach at Memphis, and his two sons (who were originally expected to leave the state to finish high school) eventually decided to remain enrolled at Hamilton. Former NBA player Todd Day takes over a Hamilton team that looks primed for success.
The Lawson siblings pack plenty of firepower, as K.J. Lawson averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds as a junior, and Dedric Lawson scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds during his sophomore campaign. Dedric Lawson reclassified in the off-season and is now a senior, along with K.J. Dedric does his damage inside, and K.J. can get points from the outside and in.
In terms of a supporting cast, Tarrance Baker has significant size at 6’-8” and played on the same grassroots team as the Lawsons. He returns from last year’s team, as does touted junior guard Romero Hill. Fellow junior guard Jarvis Morgan should get the backcourt moving along with Hill.
Day is a first year head coach but he has the talent in place and the background as a player to have the strongest team in one of the most underrated metro areas in the country..
21. Oak Ridge (Orlando, FL)
Last Year: 19-9, Regional Semifinalist
Head Coach: Alex Jackson
Key Players: Antonio Blakeney, 6’-5”, Sr., G; Alex Owens, 6’-9”, Sr., F, PROVIDENCE; Willy Nunez, 6’-6”, Sr., F.
A power-packed duo of top 100 players in guard Antonio Blakeney and post Alex Owens have the Pioneers primed to be among the top squads in the country.
Few guards can score the way Blakeney does at the high school level. He put up 25 points and grabbed 5 rebounds during his junior season, and is likely to expand upon those numbers as a senior. He originally committed to Louisville before re-opening his recruitment and many put Blakeney among the top several shooting guards nationally. Alongside of Blakeney, big man Owens was a chairman of the boards as a junior, pulling down 15 rebounds to go with 17 points per game.
Oak Ridge had nine underclassmen on last year’s team, and though Blakeney and Owens are the key standouts, there is depth on the roster. Senior forward Willy Nunez was the 4th leading scorer on last year’s team, and there’s reason for excitement about some of the younger players in the program. Incoming freshman lead guard Michael Devoe looks to be a factor, sooner rather than later.
Oak Ridge will have its shot at national prominence, as they are set to play in the nation’s top tournament, the City of Palms Classic, amidst a competitive schedule.
22. Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, PA)
Last Year: 23-5, State Quarterfinalist
Head Coach: Paul Romanczuk
Key Players: Derrick Jones, 6’-6”, Sr., F; Ernest Aflakpui, 6’-9”, Sr., C, TEMPLE; Samir Taylor, 5’-11”, Sr., G.
The Patriots are playing a barnstorming, take on almost all-comers schedule, which will take them to several tournaments and showcases. The ambitious scheduling may be cause for some early losses, but it will no doubt toughen Archbishop Carroll up for a deep state tournament run.
Senior forward Derrick Jones is among the most athletic players nationally, and is capable of winning just about any amateur dunk contest he could enter. He’ll be deadly on the wing and in transition, as he runs the floor and can soar above defenders. Where Jones scores points on flash, center Ernest Aflakpui is more about quietly getting the job done. He should expand on his 12 points per game from last season, and collect his share of caroms and blocks.
The backcourt is still coming together with senior Samir Taylor, junior Josh Sharkey and sophomore David Beatty all figuring into the plans prominently. At least one player of the trio will need to find a role that involves feeding Jones and Aflakpui for easy buckets, and therefore allowing the Patriots to maximize their potential offensively.
Archbishop Carroll is the top team in the traditionally talent-rich Philadelphia-area. Nothing less than a state championship is expected from this crew of players.
23. Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, NC)
Last Year: 24-9, NCISAA 3A Champions
Head Coach: Keith Gatlin
Key Players: Harry Giles, 6’-9”, Jr, C; Kwe Parker, 6’-3”, Jr., G; Brandon Childress, 6’-1”, Jr., G, WAKE FOREST.
We may be jumping the gun on the Trojans, who are loaded with underclassmen, but one cannot overrate their track record as back-to-back NCISAA 3A champions. Though the roster is still young, the talent is undeniable and if the team stays together, they could potentially contend for pre-season No. 1 status in the 2015-2016 season.
Three players departed to the D-1 ranks, but the most important thing to know about the Trojans is the top junior nationally, 6’-10” post Harry Giles, is back after missing his sophomore season due to injury. He recovered sufficiently to be named to USA Basketball’s U17 national team, and played a prominent role on the squad. Simply put, there aren’t too many players with Giles’ talent nationally.
His supporting cast should be good as well. The expected backcourt of point guard Brandon Childress and shooting guard Kwe Parker both transferred in and should allow coach Keith Gatlin to rest easy with them at the helm. Several returners also bolster the roster, as Michael Buckland, Jalen Johnson and Avery Steele all return from last year’s title team.
While they are the odds-on favorite to win another state title, youth could certainly be a factor this year. Still it’s hard to bet too much against Giles and company.
24. Chaminade (St. Louis, MO)
Last Year: 24-3, District runner-up
Head Coach: Frank Bennett
Key Players: Jayson Tatum, 6’-7”, Jr., G; Tyler Cook, 6’-9”, Jr., F; Will Gladson, 6’-9”, Jr., C.
With several underclassmen standouts returning from a 2013-2014 team that fell short of expectations, Chaminade is primed to be one of the top squads in the Midwest this year.
A member of the USA Basketball U17 national team and considered by some to be the top junior nationally, Jayson Tatum averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists as a sophomore and has tremendous court vision and savvy. Don’t be surprised to see the offense run through him, despite his size. Tatum is a threat to come away with a triple-double every game.
A highly-promising interior duo of Tyler Cook and Will Gladson continues to improve rapidly, with Cook gaining a slew of offers from high-major programs recently. Cook teamed with Tatum on the grassroots circuit and they are a talented duo that will both be in the power conference ranks after two more years of high school. Guard Michael Lewis, a junior, had a big sophomore season and was named the top newcomer in Chaminade’s league.
A state title is the aspiration this year at Chaminade, as an underclassmen-dominated roster has the juice to make serious moves as the season progresses.
25. Trinity (Louisville, KY)
Last Year: 30-5, Sweet 16 semifinalist
Head Coach: Mike Szabo
Key Players: Raymond Spalding, 6’-9”, Sr., F, LOUISVILLE; D’Angelo West, 6’-2”, Sr., G, TEXAS STATE; Christian Thieneman, 6’-5”, Sr., F, MARSHALL;
With a half-dozen or so players on the current roster expected to play college hoops, at one level or another next season, Trinity is among the deepest teams in the Terrific 30, and also has solid overall size.
On the interior, Raymond Spalding made the decision to stay at home at play for Louisville, but could certainly push Trinity towards a Sweet 16 title as a senior before he does matriculate to college. He’ll hold down the interior and occasionally step outside to show off his versatile skills, with support from Jax Levitch and early Marshall pledge Christian Thieneman.
The backcourt was bolstered by the addition of transfer D’Angelo West, an early pledge to Texas State who starred in Mississippi as a junior, and returns experienced lead guard Michael Stafford. Wing Daniel Ramser is bound for one of the top D-2 programs nationally, Bellarmine.
Trinity has the talent to be the top squad in the Bluegrass State and the ability up and down the roster to overcome most opponents nationally.
26. St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, NJ)
Last Year: 19-7, Prep A runner-up
Head Coach: Mark Taylor
Key Players: Eli Cain, 6’-5”, Jr., F, DELAWARE; Kamar McKnight, 6’-3”, Sr., G; Trevon Duval, 6’-1”, So., G.
A deep crop of backcourt talent will allow the Gray Bees to compete on the perimeter with any opponent. St. Benedict’s Prep looks to have another squad with good depth, youth and overall talent.
Two of the top 100 sophomore guards, Trevon Duval and Nate Pierre-Louis will be hard to keep off the hardwood. Their emergence could allow senior returners Kamar McKnight and Eli Cain to do damage on the wing as well as on the perimeter. Both McKnight and Cain are back to provide senior leadership to a squad that will mix newcomers with a handful of holdovers.
The frontcourt is less defined than the backcourt. Recent Florida Atlantic pledge Connor Shorten has size at 6’-8” and sophomore Arnaldo Toro is expected to increase his role. Junior power forward Isaiah Mike is one of many new talents brought in to bolster the squad. Developing a solid presence in the paint should open up the court for the substantial crew of backcourt talent.
As always, St. Benedict’s Prep will face a challenging schedule and depth will help in that endeavor. It remains to be seen how the transfers and youth blend together, but talent is apparent.
27. Arthur Hill (Saginaw, MI)
Last Year: 16-4
Head Coach: Greg McMath
Key Players: Eric Davis, 6’-3, Sr., G, TEXAS; Brian Bowen, 6’-6”, So., F; DeQuavion Johnson, 6’-5”, Sr., GF.
Cross-town rival Saginaw ended their 2013-2014 season, but Arthur Hill should have enough juice to get over the hump and be Michigan’s top squad this year.
Texas-bound senior Eric Davis had a dominant junior season, averaging 27 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. He’s a do-it-all guard capable of playing on and off the ball, depending on what his team needs for success. Not surprisingly, Davis was the Class A Player of the Year in Michigan as a junior.
Davis’ primary running mate is sophomore Brian Bowen, who has improved and is considered one of the nation’s top players at his position. Bowen has been tendered a scholarship offer by many of the nation’s prominent college basketball programs, and has tested his game at several prominent camps. If foes key on Davis and Bowen, though, DeQuavion Johnson can also hurt them. Johnson is sometimes overlooked but is a college basketball prospect in his own right.
Arthur Hill is restricted by their schedule, but running the table would unquestionably result in a high national ranking this season.
28. Rainier Beach (Seattle, WA)
Last Year: 30-1, DICKS’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals quarterfinals and Washington 3A champion
Head Coach: Mike Bethea
Key Players: DeJounte Murray, 6’-5”, Sr., G, WASHINGTON; Shadeed Shabazz, 6’-2”, Sr., G; Keith Smith, 6’-7”, Jr., F.
A dream season saw the perennially strong Rainier Beach program run roughshod over their schedule, and successfully petition their state governing board to be allowed to participate in the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals. While a handful of D-1 players departed from the 2013-2014 team, the cupboard is still full enough for the Vikings to be nationally relevant.
The centerpiece is do-it-all DeJounte Murray, who may see time at all five positions on the hardwood during the course of the season. He was a must get for Washington, as an in-state talent with almost limitless versatility. Murray will be in the spotlight this year, though, and will have to adapt in that role after being in Louisville freshman Shaqquan Aaron’s shadow last year.
The other key senior is combo guard Shadeed Shabazz, who will have an increased role and be expected to pick up some of the scoring slack that has departed. One of the top juniors in Washington, Keith Smith, will also play multiple positions in the way that Murray can for the Vikings. Sophomore guard Kahlil Shabazz also returns from the 2014 squad, and will need to keep the ball moving while he’s on the floor.
The Vikings aren’t as deep as they were last season, but it would be a mistake betting against them as the top team in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.
29. North Little Rock (North Little Rock, AR)
Last Year: 26-2, 7A State Champion
Head Coach: Johnny Rice
Key Players: KeVaughn Allen, 6’-3”, Sr., G, FLORIDA; Adrian Moore, 6’-4”, Jr., G; K.J. Hill, 6’-0”, Sr., G.
North Little Rock has the pieces in place to achieve a third straight state championship, as three all-state players return from last year’s squad, which did suffer the loss of Anton Beard, a current Arkansas freshman guard.
Future Florida combo guard KeVaughn Allen is a top 100 senior and posted prodigious stats playing off the ball as a junior, averaging 21 points per game. He can be successful in both guard slots this season, depending on where the team needs him. Future Arkansas football player K.J. Hill brings a burst of speed to the backcourt, and returns as an all-state player.
The future of the program is likely in junior Adrian Moore’s hands. He’s already proven his chops on the AAU circuit, and was an all-state pick as a sophomore. With a great basketball name, 6’-10” center Sam Dunkum has already committed to Lafayette and could add another dimension to a squad already deep with guards, if he can control the interior.
North Little Rock is undoubtedly a power in their region, and this year’s team could find acclaim beyond their area. Elite junior Malik Monk and Bentonville (AR) await, but North Little Rock has strong talent.
30. Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, VA)
Last Year: 26-1,VISAA Division II runner-up
Head Coach: Mark Hall
Key Players: Marcus Evans, 6’-2”, Sr., G, RICE; Chris Clarke, 6’-5”, Sr., F, VIRGINIA TECH; Paul Grinde, 6’-10”, Sr., C.
An undefeated state championship season was foiled by powerhouse Paul VI last season, but Cape Henry Collegiate looks primed for national recognition this year, based on a strong collection of returners and new additions.
The dynamic duo of Marcus Evans and Chris Clarke have already decided on Rice and Virginia Tech, respectively, and both had good summers. Evans is the distributer on this squad, averaging 5 assists as a junior to go with 13 points and Clarke did it all in averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds.
If Cape Henry can get some increased production from big man Paul Grinde it would certainly add a huge presence in the lineup. Additionally, sophomore guard Iziah James and transfer Malik Marrow could be sleepers waiting to break out against a strong schedule of opponents.
Cape Henry is not a team to be underrated based on the way they won last year, and could prove themselves to be elite again this year.
• Chino Hills (CA)
• Corona Del Sol (AZ)
• Long Island Lutheran (NY)
• Paul VI (VA)
• Prime Prep Academy (TX)