The team that finished No. 1 last April begins this season in the same spot. Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev., is fast becoming high school basketball’s biggest bully, but that doesn’t mean this winter is void of juicy storylines.
- How far up the rankings can mega-stars like Harrison Barnes (Ames) and Brandon Knight (Pine Crest) carry defending state championship teams? In high school basketball, a singular, dominant player can go a long way.
- Can any of the nation’s top public schools (Yates, Northland, Bloomington South, Westchester) unseat the private school and academy powers at the top?
- Which school will be hitting on all cylinders in December and make the biggest statement during the holidays?
- An experienced team with great chemistry comes out of nowhere every year to make a push toward the top of the rankings. Who will that mystery team be?
The answers will play out over the next four months. For now, we look into the crystal ball and give you high school basketball’s best for the 2009-2010 season – MaxPreps.com's Preseason Xcellent 25 presented by the Army National Guard.
PRESEASON XCELLENT 25 presented by the Army National Guard
1. Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Head coach: Michael Peck
2008-2009 record: 33-0, ESPN Rise National High School Invitational champions
Key returnees: Cory Joseph (6-3, Sr., G), Godwin Okonji (6-8, Sr., F), Tristan Thompson (6-10, Sr., F, Texas commitment)
Keep an eye on: Dekeba Battee-Aston (6-8, So., F), Jabari Brown (6-3, Jr., G), Nick Johnson (6-3, Jr., G), Marko Petrovic (6-3, Sr., G), Winston Shepard (6-7, So., W), Nigel Williams-Goss (6-3, Fr., G)
Scouting report: Could the Pilots be better than a year ago when they ran the table with a 33-0 record and finished as the nation’s top-ranked team? Repeating their success of a year ago won’t be easy with a daunting schedule and a roster featuring seven new faces, but Findlay Prep has more talent top to bottom this winter and the starpower needed to replace current Texas freshman Avery Bradley, who emerged as a national player of the year candidate last season. It starts with Joseph and Thompson, both natives of Canada and two of the top 20 seniors in the country. Okonji also returns from the team that beat Oak Hill in the finals of the ESPN Rise National High School Invitational final last April.
“With three key returners, we put that responsibility on them to let the younger guys know what it is going to take,” Peck said. “They are doing a good job, but it is a work in progress.” Key additions to the program include Brown and Johnson, two of the top sophomore guards in their home states of California and Arizona, respectively, a year ago. Williams-Goss has been touted as the best player in the class of 2013 since he was in seventh grade and could become Findlay’s first four-year player. Peck also will get help from overseas with Battee-Aston (Australia) and Petrovic (Croatia). Shepard showed promise as a freshman last season in Texas. Despite the diversity of talent, bringing together the largely unfamiliar group has been a smooth ride so far.
“The chemistry is really good,” Peck said. “This is a receptive group, and they are following the lead of the veterans as far as understanding what we are trying to accomplish. Part of it is unfair to them, me wanting to pick up right where we left off in April. You want to hold on to that. But that’s not realistic. My expectations probably aren’t fair, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hold on to them.” Key dates on the Pilot schedule include Nov. 28 against Quality Education Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), Dec. 17 against Northland (Columbus, Ohio), Dec. 19-23 at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., and Jan. 18 against No. 2 St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) at the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass.
2. St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.)
Head coach: Kevin Boyle
2008-2009 record: 30-3, New Jersey Tournament of Champions winner
Key returnees: Kevin Boyle Jr. (5-9, Sr., G), Michael Gilchrist (6-7, Jr., W), Derrick Gordon (6-2, Jr., G, Western Kentucky), Kyrie Irving (6-1, Sr., G, Duke)
Keep an eye on: Josh Daniel (6-7, Sr., F), Julian Washburn (6-8, Sr., F), Chris Washburn (6-7, So., F)
Scouting report: This could be Kevin Boyle’s best team at St. Patrick, which says plenty considering the Celtics have captured five New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles – including three of the last four – and churned out players like Derrick Caracter, Samuel Dalembert, Corey Fisher, Al Harrington and Mike Nardi. Irving and Gilchrist – the nation’s top junior – will be the headliners for this talented bunch. Gilchrist has garnered praise as the best high school player in the country regardless of class.
Boyle Jr. and Gordon add even more firepower in the backcourt, while Texas transfers Julian and Chris Washburn were icing on the cake for a team that was tentatively slotted at No. 2 before their arrival. Key dates for the Celtics include two trips to California for the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in December and the Nike Extravaganza in February, the aforementioned Jan. 18 showdown with No. 1 Findlay Prep and a Feb. 12 clash with No. 3 Oak Hill Academy.
3. Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Head coach: Steve Smith
2008-2009 record: 40-1
Key returnees: Pe’Shon Howard (6-2, Sr., G), Baye Moussa Keita (6-11, Sr., F, Syracuse), Doron Lamb (6-4, Sr., G), Marco Porcher (6-4, Sr., F)
Keep an eye on: Martins Abele (7-1, Sr., F), Devon Anderson (6-2, Jr., G), John Garrett Baron (6-5, Sr., G/F), Keith Hornsby (6-2, Jr., G), Christian Malumba (6-10, Jr., F), Roscoe Smith (6-8, Sr., F), Juwan Staten (6-0, Sr., G)
Scouting report: Don’t sleep on these Warriors. With the rise of programs like Findlay Prep, some are predicting the end of Oak Hill’s 20-year run at the top of high school basketball. Don’t expect it to happen this season. Lamb is a strong candidate for All-American honors and Howard, Smith and Staten are all capable of going for 20-plus points on any given night in support. Already out to a 5-0 record and averaging 102 points per game, Smith likes what he sees from this team.
“I’m optimistic. We are playing better than I thought we would this early in the year,” Smith said. “We are not as deep, but I feel good about our top six or seven.” Hornsby is the son of singer/songwriter Bruce Hornsby and has played well off the bench early on. The Warriors have three players 6-10 or taller to plug up the paint in Keita, Abele and Malumba.
4. Yates (Houston, Texas)
Head coach: Greg Wise
2008-2009 record: 34-1, Texas Class 4A state champions
Key returnees: Alexander Davis (6-9, Sr., F), Darius Gardner (5-10, Sr., G), Marshall Lange (6-0, Sr., G), Brandon Peters (6-1, Sr., G), Joseph Young (6-2, Sr., G, Providence).
Keep an eye on: Elton Roy (6-2, Sr., G), Clyde Santee (6-6, So., F)
Scouting Report: The Lions return all five starters and 11 lettermen from a squad that was simply dominant in claiming the Texas 4A title a year ago, racking up 94 points per game and topping the 100-point mark 13 times. Yates used end-to-end pressure to drill opponents in the postseason by an average of over 30 points per game and won its last 24 contests.
“We are very deep and dress out 15 players,” Wise said. “We try to be relentless not only on the defensive end but the offensive end, as well.” Gardner, who Wise calls "the best leader I've ever had," Peters and Young are capable of going big in the scoring column on any given night, while Davis brings a tremendous wingspan and aggression around the basket. The Iolani Classic in Hawaii and the T-Mobile Invitational in December will give the Lions a chance to showcase their fan-friendly style of play on the national stage. “We feel like we are the best team in the country. That is our mindset," Wise said. "We want go out every night and not only beat teams, but beat teams decisively.”
5. Northland (Columbus, Ohio)
Head coach: Satch Sullinger
2008-2009 record: 27-1, Ohio Division I state champions
Key returnees: Trey Burke (5-11, Jr., G, Penn State), Ke’chaun Lewis (6-3, So., G), Jordan Potts (5-11, So., G), Jalen Robinson (6-8, So., F), Devon Scott (6-8, So., F), Jared Sullinger (6-9, Sr., F, Ohio State), James Weatherspoon (6-6, Sr., F, Ohio State)
Scouting report: Three future Big Ten players highlight the Viking roster, led by the nation’s premier post man, coach’s son and future Buckeye in Sullinger (No. 2 overall in the MaxPreps 2010 Top 100). Burke runs the point while Weatherspoon – another Ohio State pledge – adds to Northland’s presence in the paint.
“These kids are winners,” head coach Satch Sullinger said. “You can look at their track record in AAU and high school. My job is to keep them grounded, but they pretty much ground themselves. That’s what makes this team so special. There are no egos.” This could be just the beginning of a big run for Northland in Ohio with four talented sophomores – all Division I prospects – in Lewis, Potts, Robinson and Scott. Robinson is among the state’s top sophs and already has an offer from Bob Huggins and West Virginia. The Vikings face national No. 1 Findlay Prep on Dec. 17 in Columbus. “Our goal is to win the last game of the season,” coach Sullinger said. “The team that does that will be state champion.”
6. Bloomington South (Bloomington, Ind.)
Head coach: J.R. Holmes
2008-2009 record: 26-0, Indiana Class 4A state champions
Key returnees: Dee Davis (5-10, Jr., G, Xavier), Erik Fromm (6-8, Sr., F, Butler), Spencer Turner (6-3, Jr., G)
Keep an eye on: Matt Carlino (6-3, Jr., G, Indiana)
Scouting report: The Panthers are bidding to become just the second team to repeat as the big-school state champion in Indiana since the state adopted classifications in 1998. Despite losing Mr. Basketball Jordan Hulls, Bloomington South shouldn’t miss a beat. Carlino, an Indiana Hoosier commitment, uprooted from Arizona to get an early start on life in Bloomington and should emerge as one of the state’s top players. Davis, Fromm and Turner were key pieces to last season’s unbeaten team. Opportunities to take on out-of-state challengers are always limited for Indiana squads, but the Panthers will play Lexington Catholic (Lexington, Ky.) on Jan. 2.
7. Westchester (Los Angeles)
Head coach: Ed Azzam
2008-2009 record: 35-2, California Division I state champions
Key returnees: Kareem Jamar (6-4, Sr., W), Jordin Mayes (6-2, Sr., G), Reggie Murphy (6-9, Sr., F), Dwayne Polee (6-6, Sr., W, USC)
Keep an eye on: Denzel Douglas (5-11, Sr., G), Bre’lon Leverette (6-4, Jr., F), Mario Nored (6-7, Sr., F), Marquise Washington (6-6, Sr., F), Tre’vonne Williams (6-4, Jr., F)
Scouting report: It’s hard to imagine Azzam not doing special things with a defending state championship team that returns this much experience. While these Comets lack the starpower that previous Westchester teams have enjoyed (Trevor Ariza, Hassan Adams), Jamar, Mayes, Murphy and Polee – an athletic marvel – will all play at the Division I level. The key for Westchester will be replacing Dominique O’Connor at the point, and Douglas appears to be the leading candidate. Key dates on the schedule include a trip to Oregon’s Les Schwab Invitational – where a potential matchup with Oak Hill Academy awaits – and a Jan. 23 clash with New York City power Rice at West Virginia University as part of the PrimeTime Shootout.
8. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
Head coach: Mike Jones
2008-2009 record: 32-4, Washington Catholic Athletic League champions
Key returnees: Quinn Cook (6-0, Jr., G), Jerami Grant (6-4, So., W), Jerian Grant (6-4, Sr., W, Notre Dame), Mikael Hopkins (6-8, Jr., F), Victor Oladipo (6-4, Sr., W, Indiana), James Robinson (6-1, So., G)
Scouting report: Jones has to be excited about the immediate future at DeMatha. The Stag roster is oozing with talent, and most of it will be back in 2011. Cook is one of the nation’s top junior guards and was a member of the United States’ Under-16 gold medal team over the summer in Argentina. Oladipo and Jerian and Jerami Grant give DeMatha three long, athletic wing players. Hopkins’ shot-blocking ability and potential have colleges drooling, while Robinson led a U-16 national championship team on the AAU circuit. Crucial games include an early-December date with Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy and California’s Mater Dei as part of the HoopHall Classic in January.
9. Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)
Head coach: Stu Vetter
2008-2009 record: 21-3
Key returnees: Justin Anderson (6-5, So., W), Terrence Ross (6-5, Sr., G, Maryland)
Keep an eye on: Michael Carrera (6-6, So, F), Paul Gombwer (6-6, Jr., F), Joshua Hairston (6-8, Sr., F, Duke), Nigel Pruitt (6-4, So, F), LeBrent Walker (6-0, So., G),
Scouting report: With a pair of ACC commitments in Ross and Hairston to go along with two of the nation’s top sophomores, Vetter hopes to make a run at the National High School Invitational this season. Hairston joins the program from Courtland High School in Virginia, where he averaged 23.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Anderson spent part of his summer in Argentina winning a gold medal with the United States Under-16 squad. Walker joins the program from New York City, where he averaged over 20 points per game as a freshman during a brief stint at Bayside. Key challenges for Montrose Christian include the Iolani Classic in December, the Montverde Academy Invitational in late January and a game against Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) team at the PrimeTime Shootout.
10. Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.)
Head coach: David Boyd
2008-2009 record: 24-8
Key returnees: Evan Nolte (6-7, So., F), Dai-Jon Parker (6-4, Jr., G), Julian Royal (6-8, Jr., F), Shannon Scott (6-2, Jr., G),
Keep an eye on: Laron Blakemore (Fr., G), Chase Coleman (5-9, So., G), Jazz Felton (6-3, Fr., G), Kevin Kornegay (6-0, Jr., G), Jordan Loyd (6-2, Jr., G), Luke Neenan (6-2, Jr., G), Eric Riley (6-6, Jr., F)
Scouting report: After making a run to Georgia’s AAAAA title game with a starting lineup that featured three sophomores and a freshman last season, Boyd isn’t shielding his team from big expectations. “Our goal for this year is to win the state championship and be nationally ranked, and for next year, win the state championship and the national championship,” Boyd said. “The only way you can do that is play the schedule we are playing.” Parker, Royal and Scott all averaged double figures in the scoring column as sophomores and are each being courted by dozens of major-conference schools. Not to be overlooked, Nolte averaged 14 points per game as a freshman. Milton has plenty of support coming off the bench, including freshman Jazz Felton – the son for former University of Georgia head coach Dennis Felton. The Eagles’ big test comes in December at the City of Palms Classic.
11. Melrose (Memphis, Tenn.)
Head coach: Jermaine Johnson
2008-2009 record: 29-7
Key returnees: Davonte Hampton (6-1, So., G), Jermaine Hollimon (6-5, Sr., G/F), Chris Jones (5-10, Jr., G), Darius Moore (6-8, So., F), Nate Rucker (6-7, Sr., F), Adonis Thomas (6-6, Jr., G/F), Telvin Wilkerson (6-5, Jr., G/F)
Keep an eye on: Markel Crawford (Fr., G), Willie Atwood (6-6, So., F), Terrance Boxley (6-9, Sr., F), Bobby Parks Jr. (6-3, Jr., G/F)
Scouting report: History and a pesky Memphis rival (White Station) are the primary forces at work against Melrose being the best in Tennessee’s AAA classification and a factor on the national landscape. The Golden Wildcats haven’t won a state title since 1983, and Joe Jackson-led White Station will be in the hunt for its sixth championship since 2000. But Johnson’s squad is loaded and got better recently with the addition of transfer Bobby Parks Jr. – the state’s Division II-A “Mr. Basketball” recipient after averaging 22.1 points per game last season at St. George’s.
Thomas is one of the nation’s elite juniors with offers from Florida, Memphis and Tennessee, while Jones was a scoring sensation on the summer circuit. Johnson called Atwood “one of the best freshman in Tennessee” last spring, and Crawford could follow suit in that description this season. In an effort to keep a deep and talented team happy and working toward the same goal, Johnson showed his team video of Mike Krzyzewski’s handling of the most recent Olympic gold medal team featuring LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. The message was clear – check your egos at the door. Big tests include a trip to the Arby’s Classic in Bristol and out-of-state showdowns with Georgia’s Dunwoody and Mississippi’s Murrah.
12.Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.)
Head coach: Derrick Taylor
2008-2009 record: 27-5
Key returnees: Spencer Dinwiddie (6-5, Jr., W), Landon Drew (5-9, So., G), Dominique Evans (6-2, Jr., F), George Idehan (6-3, Sr., F), Stephen Maxwell (6-4, Jr., F), Sam Natt (6-0, Sr., G), Pierson Williams (6-3, Sr., W)
Keep an eye on: De’Andre Daniels (6-7, Jr., W, Texas), Jordan Gathers (6-1, Sr., G), Bryce Jones (6-5, Sr., W, USC), Brandon Perry (6-4, So., F)
Scouting report: Transfers Daniels, Gathers and Jones bring some serious firepower to a team that notched playoff wins over California powers like Dominguez and Fairfax a year ago. Drew is the younger brother of North Carolina’s Larry Drew II and should take over at the point after gaining experience as a freshman. Dinwiddie and Williams were significant contributors a year ago and will be valuable role players. Taylor is also excited about sophomore Perry, who should add a rugged presence in the paint. Things could have looked even rosier for Taft had 6-10 junior Kevin Johnson been cleared to play after transferring from Gardena Serra in the fall.
13. White Station (Memphis, Tenn.)
Head coach: Jesus Patino
2008-2009 record: 31-7, Tennessee AAA state champions
Key returnees: Andre Hollins (6-2, Jr., G), Brandon Bullock (5-10, Sr., G), Julian Burton (5-9, Sr., G), Joe Jackson (6-0, Sr., G, Memphis), Marvin Williams (6-8, So., F)
Keep an eye on: Nino Johnson (6-8, Jr., F), Dre’Sean Looney (5-10, Fr., G), Jordan Miles (6-6, Sr., F), Rodriguez Tucker (6-3, So., F)
Scouting report: White Station is carving out quite a legacy in Tennessee high school basketball. The Spartans have won 20 or more games in 14 straight seasons, winning five state titles during that span. This year’s team should only add to that legacy led by Jackson, who may be the nation’s best scoring guard. Plenty of talent surrounds the future Memphis Tiger, including Hollins in the backcourt and 260-pounder Williams and Melrose transfer Johnson in the paint. Patino will take the Jackson/Spartan show on the road for the Pepsi Shootout in Missouri, John Lucas’ Holiday Xplosion in Houston, Texas, the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions and the Hotbed Classic in Mississippi.
14. Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.)
Head coach: Doug Lipscomb
2008-2009 record: 25-7, Georgia AAAAA state champions
Key returnees: Joab Jerome (6-4, Sr., F), Charles Mitchell (6-8, So., F), Phillip Taylor (5-9, Sr., G, Florida International), Jamal Tiller (6-3, Sr., G)
Keep an eye on: Karl Cochran (6-1, Jr., G), Derrick Evans (5-8, So., G), Jelan Kendrick (6-6, Sr., G), Tevin Reeves (6-0, Jr., G), Kariem Simmons (5-11, Jr., G),
Scouting report: The addition of Kendrick, a long, athletic player with legitimate point guard skills at 6-6, was huge for Georgia’s defending AAAAA state champions. He joins Taylor in the backcourt, who will play for Isiah Thomas at Florida International but plays a little like University of Washington guard Isaiah Thomas. Mitchell is an emerging star and was a contributor last year as a freshman. Jerome and Tiller are solid role players who are attracting collegiate attention in their own right. Wheeler and No. 10 Milton not only will compete for the same state title, but the same region title as well in Georgia’s 6-AAAAA.
15. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Head coach: Gary McKnight
2008-2009 record: 31-2
Key returnees: David Brown (6-2, Sr., G), Gary Franklin (6-1, Sr., G, California), Collin Krahe (6-5, Sr., F), Tyler Lamb (6-5, Sr., W, UCLA), Eli Stalzer (6-2, So., G)
Keep an eye on: Max Hooper (6-6, Sr., W), Keala King (6-6, Sr., W, Arizona State), Jordan Strawberry (6-0, 150, Fr.)
Scouting report: The Monarchs are looking to put a bitterly disappointing 2008-2009 season behind them. Mater Dei started 30-0 and was ranked No. 1 nationally by most media outlets, then saw things end abruptly with a pair of playoff losses that left them without a section or state title. Three future Pac-10 perimeter players in Franklin, Lamb and Compton Dominguez transfer King should help McKnight’s bunch start down that road. Hooper is another talented transfer from San Jose, while Stalzer was regarded as one of the area’s most promising freshman a year ago. Strawberry is the son of former MLB star Darryl Strawberry and brother of Italian basketball pro D.J. Strawberry. Key games for Mater Dei include No. 8 DeMatha at the HoopHall Classic in January and Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman at the Nike Extravaganza in February.
16. St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.)
Head coach: Dan Hurley
2008-2009 record: 24-3
Key returnees: Gilvydas Biruta (6-8, Sr., F), Aaron Brown (6-4, Sr., W), Myck Kabongo (6-2, Jr., G, Texas), J.P. Kambola (6-8, Sr., F), Blaise Mbargorba (7-0, Sr., F), Mike Poole (6-6, Sr., W), Tavon Sledge (5-9, Jr., G)
Keep an eye on: Sidiki Johnson (6-8, Sr., F, Arizona), Wil Martinez (6-2, Jr., G)
Scouting Report: Kabongo, a native of Canada and an elite 2011 guard, will make this year’s Gray Bees go. Sledge is a nice sidekick in the backcourt. Brown and Poole make St. Benedict’s strong on the wing, while Johnson will be the team’s best post after transferring from St. Raymond in the Bronx, N.Y. Hurley will be looking for his second holiday tournament victory in Florida in as many years at the City of Palms Classic after winning the Hawk Kreul Classic in 2008. No. 12 Taft awaits at the Nike Extravaganza in February.
17. Christ School (Arden, N.C.)
Head coach: David Gaines
2008-2009 record: 36-2, NCISAA champions
Key returnees: Tony Kimbro (6-6, Jr., W), Sebastian Koch (6-8, Sr., F), Marshall Plumlee (7-0, Jr., F), Lucas Troutman (6-9, Sr., F, Elon)
Keep an eye on: Trevonte Dixon (6-4, Jr., W), DaMarcus Harrison (6-5, Jr., W), Eric Smith (6-0, Sr., G, South Carolina)
Scouting report: The Greenies, already 1-0 after a blowout win over a talented Quality Education Academy team from Winston-Salem, are loaded with Division I talent. Harrison, Dixon and Smith are all transfers from South Carolina and will make the backcourt as dangerous as any in the country. Kimbro is a third-year player in the program while Koch, Plumlee (the brother of Duke’s Mason and Miles Plumlee) and Troutman gives Gaines a towering trio. Findlay Prep, Grace Prep of Arlington, Texas, St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio, dot the schedule.
18. Ames (Iowa)
Head coach: Vance Downs
2008-2009 record: 26-0, Iowa Class 4A state champions
Key returnees: Harrison Barnes (6-6, Sr., G), Doug McDermott (6-7, Sr., F, Northern Iowa)
Keep an eye on: James Kohler (6-7, Sr. ,F), Michael Weber (5-8, Sr., G)
Scouting report: The Little Cyclones don’t have as much top-to-bottom talent as other teams ranked this highly. Then again, none of those teams have Harrison Barnes. The versatile and talented guard could be the nation’s top 2010 prospect when it is all said and done. He averaged 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a junior and plays with a competitive streak rarely seen at this level. If Ames can get past Illinois power Waukegan in an ESPN-televised contest Dec. 17, the road could be clear for back-to-back unbeaten state championship runs after going 26-0 last season. McDermott is the son of Iowa State head coach Greg McDermott, while Kohler is a big-time football prospect with offers from programs like Missouri and Stanford.
19. Penn Wood (Lansdowne, Pa.)
Head coach: Clyde Jones
2008-2009 record: 28-4, Pennsylvania AAAA state champions
Key returnees: Darian Barnes (6-8, Jr., F), Aaron Brown (6-5, Jr., W), Will Brown (5-11, Sr., G), Tyree Johnson (5-9, Sr., G), Jeff Kyem (6-4, Jr., F), Shawn Oakman (6-9, Jr., F), Dequan Pelzer (6-1, Sr., G), Chris Warner (6-4, Sr., F)
Keep an eye on: Jerry Price (5-8, Fr., G), Mike Riddick (6-0, Fr., G)
Scouting report: The Patriots return several key components from last season’s state championship team. It starts at the point with Johnson, who averaged 12.6 points and 5.2 assists per game as a junior. “If Tyree Johnson were 6-feet tall, he is a blue chip recruit,” Jones said. “He is definitely ACC or Big East. I go into every game knowing that it will tough to press or play man-to-man against us.” Aaron Brown can play four positions and is the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 13.2 point per game as a sophomore. “He is one of those gritty, tough kids who is just special,” Jones said. “He walks around believing he can compete with anybody on the planet. He will battle, battle, battle.” Oakman is an intriguing prospect in the post. “He is 6-9 and 250 pounds, and every inch of his body is a muscle. He is also a big-time football prospect at defensive end. His improvement has been astronomical,” Jones said. Freshmen Price and Riddick will be expected to contribute at some point in the season. Penn Wood is deep and balanced and will need both of those attributes to navigate a challenging schedule that includes a trip to the City of Palms Classic, as well as the McDonald’s Classic in Erie, Pa., and showdowns against St. Frances Academy of Baltimore, Academy of the New Church and Chester.
20. Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
Head coach: Kevin Sutton
2008-2009 record: 17-5
Key returnees: James Bell, 6-5, Sr., W, Villanova), Papa Samba Ndao (6-9, Sr., F), Ugo Okam (7-0, Sr., F)
Keep an eye on: Michael Avery (6-5, So., G), Jamail Jones (6-6, Sr., W, Marquette), Steve Missi (6-6, Jr., F), Mark Overdest (7-1, Sr., F), Haukur Palsson (6-5, Sr., W)
Scouting report: The International feel continues at Montverde Academy this season with players from Cameroon, New Zealand, Nigeria, Senegal and even Iceland. The Eagles will feature one of the nation’s premier wing duos in Villanova commitment Bell and Marquette pledge Jones, a transfer from Georgia. Palsson, a force for Iceland in the Under-16 European Championship two summers ago, is another promising addition. “He is the real deal. He is a Division I player, no question about it," Sutton said. "He can play the two or three, and he has a high basketball IQ. He’s very talented." Few teams in the country can put the type of length in the post that Montverde Academy can with 7-footers Okam and Overdest along with 6-9 Ndao, who represented Senegal in the Nike Global Challenge in August.
21. Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Head coach: David Beckerman
2008-2009 record: 28-5, Florida Class 3A state champions
Key returnees: Jeremiah Bell (6-2, Sr., G), Brett Buzzard (6-8, Sr., F), Trey Henry (6-1, So., G), Brandon Knight (6-4, Sr., G), Billy Thompson (6-3, Jr., F), Tevin Westbrook (6-6, Jr., F)
Keep an eye on: Miles Nolting (6-6, So., F), Kervin Pierre (6-4, Jr., F)
Scouting report: Pine Crest, seeking its third 3A title in a row, returns six of its top seven scorers, including the nation’s top-ranked player in Knight. The uncommitted star guard could go down as the best high school player ever from Florida after averaging over 30 points per game as a junior. Bell and Henry – a rising star in the 2012 class – and Thompson add punch in the backcourt. Buzzard, a football prospect who weighed in at 284 pounds this fall, and Westbrook are a solid pair in the post. With every big event in the country hoping to showcase Knight, the schedule will be brutal. The Hawk Kreul Classic, a trip to Ohio for Flyin’ to the Hoop and an ESPN-televised showdown with Austin Rivers and Winter Park await.
22. Holmes (Covington, Ky.)
Head coach: David Henley
2008-2009 record: 36-2, Kentucky state champions
Key returnees: Jeremiah Johnson (6-3, Sr., W), Ricardo Johnson (6-4, Sr., W, Ohio), Elijah Pittman(6-6, Sr., W)
Keep an eye on: Demetrius Avery (6-3, Sr., G), Kevon Rice (6-5, F)
Scouting report: The Bulldogs return 13 players from Kentucky’s single-class state championship team that became especially adept on the defensive end last year, allowing just 47.5 points per game. Ricardo Johnson (10.7 points per game) and Pittman (14.2) led Holmes to wins in its last 13 games and both are coveted college prospects. Ricardo Johnson’s brother, Jeremiah, chipped in around eight points per game and is also back. Avery is a transfer from Hebron Conner, where he averaged double figures in scoring as a junior. Henley’s squad will face a rising power in Bowman Academy of Gary, Ind., Dec. 5 at the Marshall County Hoopfest and Ohio Division I runner-up Princeton of Cincinnati on Jan. 6.
23. Paterson Catholic (Paterson, N.J.)
Head coach: Damon Wright
2008-2009 record: 26-5
Key returnees: Kyle Anderson (6-7, So., G/W), Trevor Clemmings (6-7, Sr., F), Fuquan Edwin (6-5, Sr., W, Seton Hall), Jayon James (6-5, Sr., W), Myles Mack (5-10, Jr., G), Jermaine Peart (6-2, Sr., W), Derrick Randall (6-8, Jr., F), Jhamir White (5-10, Jr., G)
Scouting report: Could this be the Year of the Cougar in New Jersey? Huge obstacles – like No. 2 St. Patrick – stand in the way of a Tournament of Champions title, but Paterson Catholic returns seven of its top eight scorers, including Edwin and Mack who combined for over 30 points per game last season. The rest of the cast is intriguing, as well, with top sophomore Anderson, two-sport star Clemmings and James. Peart, Randall and White were all major contributors last season.
24. Madison Memorial (Madison, Wis.)
Head coach: Steve Collins
2008-2009 record: 26-1, Wisconsin Division 1 state champions
Key returnees: Vander Blue (6-4, Sr., G, Marquette), Tre Creamer (6-4, Sr., F), Junior Lomomba (6-4, So., W)
Keep an eye on: Tre Burnette (6-3, Jr., G), Miles Chamberlain (6-4, Jr., F), Erik Fruhling (6-1, Sr., G), Karl Klatt (6-2, Sr., G), Ed Kluender (6-7, Sr.), Jamar Morris (6-5, So., W), Alvin Olson (6-1, Sr., G)
Scouting Report: Current Marquette freshman Jeronne Maymon will be missed, but Blue takes over as the state’s top senior after averaging 17 points per game as a junior. Creamer and Lomomba are capable scorers, while Kluender brings size to the post. Madison Memorial will get a big test at the Motor City Roundball Classic in Detroit Dec. 28-30.
25. Scott County (Georgetown, Ky.)
Head coach: Billy Hicks
2008-2009 record: 30-4
Key returnees: Robbie Barber (6-3, Jr., F), Dakotah Euton (6-8, Sr., F, Akron), Austin Flannery (6-3, Sr., G), Ge-Lawn Guyn (6-2, Sr., G), Chad Jackson (6-4, Sr., W), Will Schu (6-5, Sr., F)
Keep an eye on: Josh Harris (6-2, So., G), Isiah Ivey (6-1, So., G), Tamron Manning (6-3, So., G)
Scouting report: The Cardinals hope to unseat Holmes as Kentucky’s state champion behind senior trio of Euton, Guyn and Jackson. Manning has the potential to be one of the best to ever play at Scott County while Ivey is also highly-regarded sophomore. Hicks' squad will participate in the Beach Ball Classic from Dec. 26-31 in South Carolina, an event that features three other preseason ranked teams.
26. Waukegan (Ill.)
Bulldogs return five of top six scorers from 25-5 4A runner-up squad, including star Illinois signee Jereme Richmond (6-7, Sr., W), Quan Conner (6-1, Sr., G) and Aaron Johnson (5-9 , Jr., G).
27. Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.)
Ray McCallum Jr. (6-2, Sr., G), a coach’s dream at point guard, and Amir Williams (6-10, Jr., F) return from a team that went 24-2 last season.
28. Rice (New York)
Raiders have a number of rangy upperclassmen to attack with, including Josh Gomez (6-9, Jr., F), Kadeem Jack (6-8, Sr., F), Jermaine Sanders (6-4, Jr., G/W), Shamel Williams (6-5, Jr., W) and Kansas State commitment Shane Southwell (6-7, Sr., W).
29. Whitney Young (Chicago)
Chris Colvin and Marcus Jordan are gone, but Ahmad Starks (5-8, Sr., G, Oregon State), James Reynolds (6-5, Sr., W), Anthony Johnson (6-3, Sr., G, Purdue) and Sam Thompson (6-6, Jr., F) ready to help defending state champion Dolphins reload.
30. Jefferson (Portland, Ore.)
Oregon’s defending 5A state champions bolstered by transfer Stephen Madison (6-6, Sr., W) to go along with star Terrence Jones (6-8, Sr., F) and point guard Antoine Hosley (6-1, Sr.).
31. Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.)
The Stallions hit the transfer jackpot over the summer with the addition of future Florida Gator Patric Young (6-9, Sr., F) and Kentucky commitment Stacey Poole Jr. (6-5, Sr., W), both members of MaxPreps.com’s 2010 Top 100.
32. Butler (Huntsville, Ala.)
Super junior Trevor Lacey (6-4, G) and senior Ryan Ervin (6-3, F) back to lead Alabama’s defending 5A state champions.
33. Jesuit (Portland, Ore.)
Crusaders went 25-3 a year ago en route to 6A state title and return top two players in Kyle Wiltjer (6-9, Jr., F) and Stephen Holt (6-3, Sr., G).
34. Winter Park (Fla.)
Florida 6A semifinalists last year led by 6-3 guard Austin Rivers, one of the nation’s top juniors and son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
35. United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.)
Florida State verbal Ian Miller (6-1, Sr., G) and Kadeem Green (6-8, Sr., F) lead the way, but big things are expected of youngsters Peter Jurkin (7-0, So., F), Allerik Freeman (6-3, Fr., G) and Patrick Rooks (6-2, Fr., G).
36. Cedar Hill (Texas)
Sharpshooter and coach’s son Tanner Milson (6-1, Sr., G) returns for 5A runner-up along with burly post Thomas Gipson (6-7, Jr., F).
37. Academy of the New Church (Bryn Athyn, Pa.)
The talented frontcourt of Rakeem Christmas (6-9, Jr.), Malcolm Gilbert (6-11, Jr.) and Savon Goodman (6-6, So.) is sure to help the Lions improve their record of 15-12 a year ago dramatically.
38. St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
Legendary head coach Bob Hurley returns plenty of weapons from last season’s 24-5 team, including an impressive frontline trio in Devon Collier (6-7, Sr., F), Ashton Pankey (6-8, Sr., F) and Richmond commitment Derrick Williams (6-6, Sr., F).
39. Chaminade (St. Louis)
The Flyers went 28-4 and captured a Division 5 state title a year ago behind the play of 6-3 shooting guard Bradley Beal, an elite junior nationally who led the United States Under-16 squad to a gold medal in Argentina over the summer.
40. St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio)
Fighting Irish coming off first state title in the post-LeBron James era and loaded with talent, including juniors Davonte’ Beard (6-1, G) and Jakarr Sampson (6-8, F), and sophomore Lorenzo Cugini (6-6, W).
41. Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)
Duke commitment Tyler Thornton (6-2, Sr., G) and Richmond verbal Cedrick Lindsay (6-0, Sr., G) form one of the nation’s better backcourt combinations.
42. Lake Clifton (Baltimore, Md.)
Lakers lose Will Barton to prep school ranks but still have brother Antonio Barton (6-2, Sr., G), a Memphis commitment, and DeMatha transfer Josh Selby (6-1, Sr., G)
43. North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Future Purdue Boilermaker Terone Johnson (6-3, Sr., G) will be joined by super sophs D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (6-3, G/W) and Patrick Ingram (6-1, G) to form Indiana’s best backcourt – outside of Bloomington, that is.
44. Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.)
North Carolina commitment Kendall Marshall (6-3, Sr., G) back to lead cast of 11 returnees from last season’s 23-9 team.
45. Pershing (Detroit)
Michigan State-bound Keith Appling (6-3, Sr., G) and Juwan Howard Jr. (6-5, Sr., W) back for Michigan’s defending Class A state champions.
46. St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio)
Juniors Delbert Love (6-1, G) and James Price (6-10, F, Louisville commitment) look to get Eagles to the next level after regional semifinal appearance last season.
47. Quality Education Academy (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Star junior Quincy Miller (6-9, F) and underrated guard Stargell Love (6-3, Sr.) should be ready to carry the Fighting Pharoahs to national prominence after going 26-7 against grueling schedule last season.
48. Coral Reef (Miami, Fla.)
Alabama commitment Charles Hankerson Jr. (6-5, 215, Sr.) leads Florida’s defending 6A state champions.
49. Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia)
Future Wake Forest Demon Deacon Tony Chennault (6-2, Sr., G) and Tyreek Duran (6-1, Sr., G) lead Saints in the backcourt.
50. Powers Catholic (Flint, Mich.)
Double figures scorers Pat O’Brien (6-3, Sr., F), Patrick Lucas-Perry (5-11, Jr., G) and Demarco Sanders (6-1, Sr., G) return for team that knocked Detroit Country Day out of postseason en route to winning Class B state title.