BENSALEM, Pa. – This time of year can mean one thing: the Blue Star Media Elite 25 boys’ basketball preseason rankings.
Topping the rankings is Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Rounding out the top-5 are Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), East (Memphis, Tenn.) and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.). Defending Elite 25 national champion La Lumiere School (La Porte, Ind.) checks in at No. 7.
The Elite 25 boys’ rankings will return pre-Christmas. Makes sense to come back with a new set of rankings heading into the heavy holiday tournament calendar. It should be a crazy first two months to the season. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and spending time with your family.
Hope to see you at a game soon. – Christopher Lawlor
Blue Star Media Elite 25 Boys’ Basketball Preseason Rankings, Nov. 12, 2017
(Records from the 2016-17 season)
1. Montverde (Fla.) Academy (25-5)
Low-down: The word out of central Florida is the Eagles might be the most talented team that Kevin Boyle has coached. If so, that means Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament title is a must especially after falling short in last year’s final and not winning it the last two trips to New York. At 6-foot-7 R.J. Barrett, who led the Canadian National Team to a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship over the summer, is the nation’s top player and has reclassified to the Class of 2018. He recently verballed to Duke. PG Andrew Nembhard is headed to Florida and 6-3 Mike Devoe to Georgia Tech. The talent and depth of MVA is apparent with the Mitchell brothers 6-10 Makhi and 6-9 Makhel, both verballed to Maryland. There’s more interior size with 6-10 Serbian Filip Petrusev. Boyle’s team plays another loaded schedule and will visit China in December and on the way home stop in Honolulu for the Iolani Classic. After Christmas they play at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, W.Va., the Hoophall Classic for two games, and three more games in New Jersey at the Metro Classic in February. That’s a heckuva schedule for the nation’s top team.
2. Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va. (38-4)
Low-down: Once again future Hall of Fame coach Steve Smith (1,068-70 record) rolls out an all-star squad that beat anyone, anywhere, anytime. The jet-setting Warriors are off to 14 states and are a team in demand with scheduling highlights that include the Les Schwab Invitation, Chick-fil-A Classic, Hoophall Classic, Bass Pro Invitational and most likely the DICK’S National in New York to end the season. The rotation includes 6-4 PG Will Richardson, 6-10 David McCormack (Kansas signee), 6-5 Keyontae Johnson, 6-7 Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) and 6-9 Maurice Calloo. Five of the 12 roster players are at least 6-6 or taller but all have strong skill sets and love to run the floor.
3. Findlay Prep, Henderson, Nev. (33-4)
Low-down: The senior-laden team annually competes for a national championship at the DICK’s Nationals and with addition of several high-profile transfers; the Pilots are back in the mix. The main cogs are PG Jamie Lewis (Wake Forest commit), 6-8 Reggie Chaney, 6-6 Spencer Washington, 6-4 T.J. Moss (transfer from Memphis East) will compliment 7-3 Connor Vanover (Memphis recruit). Another rugged national schedule has the Pilots aiming high and addition last week of 7-3 Bol Bol (from Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.) is a game-changer.
4. East, Memphis, Tenn. (33-3)
Low-down: The two time Tennessee defending Class AAA champions are in line for a third with strong nucleus returning and coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway at the controls. The Mustangs are athletic and deep with 6-5 Ryan Boyce (UAB) and 6-0 Alex Lomax (McDonald’s All-American candidate, Wichita State) and a trio of juniors, 6-8 Chandler Lawson, 6-11 James Wiseman and 6-7 Malcolm Dandridge. Last season the Mustangs won a state title and petitioned their state to play in the DICK’S National but were denied. It would be a shame if they are in that position again and the same edict is handed down. The Mustangs belong among the nation’s elite.
5. IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (26-2)
Low-down: The Ascenders, who qualified for the DICK’S Nationals last March, have a new pilot in Sean McAloon, considered one of the country’s top prep coaches. The inside game of 7-3 Chol Marial and 6-9 Silvio De Sousa (Kansas signee) is formidable and is combo guard Keyshawn Embery (Arkansas). Six-six Josh Green is an impactful junior.
6. La Lumiere School, La Porte, Ind. (28-1)
Low-down: The defending Blue Star Media Elite 25 National Champions have a different look from last April when they bagged the elusive DICK’S Nationals championship. Gone is coach Shane Heirman (to DePaul University as an assistant) and in is right-hand man Pat Holmes. PG Tyger Campbell is the straw that stirs the drink and 6-9 junior transfer Isaiah Stewart are a one-two punch. Add 6-5 juniors Charles Smith IV and Paxson Wojcik and 6-9 Franklin Agunanne and the Lakers should be good to go. An appearance in the Bass Pro Invitational in Springfield, Mo., could be the springboard for another invite to the DICK’s Nationals.
7. Simeon, Chicago (30-4)
Low-down: The Wolverines fell short of the ultimate prize, dropping the Illinois Class 4A final but that will only motivate coach Robert Smith’s crew. A senior core showcasing Iowa State-bound 6-5 Talen Horton-Tucker, 6-2 Kezon Brown (Chicago State), 6-5 Messiah Jones (Drake) and 6-3 Xavier Pinson and 6-4 transfer Zion Young (from Merrillville, Ind.) could be the formula for a seventh state title under Smith’s tutelage.
8. McEachern, Powder Springs, Ga. (29-1)
Low-down: Last season the Mike Thompson-coached Indians made it to the Class AAAAAAA semifinals before seeing a 29-game win streak snapped. The core returns intact and it could be a serious two-year run with juniors, 6-5 Isaac Okoro, 6-9 Jared Jones and 6-8 Babatunde Akingbola and 5-9 sophomore Sharife Cooper. Playing in a competitive state will test the mettle but so will another visit to the City of Palms Classic in December.
9. Archbishop Molloy, Briarwood, N.Y. (21-8)
Low-down: It’s been a while since the Stanners were a relevant team on the national scene or in the New York Catholic High School Athletic Association but this should be the year. And why not if you have three big-time players that bring different skill sets to the hardwood. At 7-1, Moses Brown is versatile post and considered a top-10 recruit. Georgia Tech-bound 6-7 Khalid Moore is a powerful athlete, who can play on the wings or go hard to the rim. The puppet master who pulls the strings is 6-3 Cole Anthony, who is the point guard in the junior class and son of former NBAer Greg Anthony. Mike Cleary is aiming for the program’s first city title since 1989 when Kenny Anderson ran the show and legendary coach Jack Curran stalked the sidelines. The Stanners will find out in a hurry when they play in the City of Palms Classic in Florida.
10. Webster Groves, Mo. (29-2)
Low-down: Missouri’s reigning Class 5 champions are stocked with three primetime players—6-0 Courtney Ramey (19.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 5.9 apg), who was the St. Louis All-Metro Player of the Year, 6-6 Carte’Are Gordon (Saint Louis recruit) and 6-1 Amorey Womack. The Statesmen are headed to Florida before Christmas for the City of Palms Classic, where they will play No. 12 Hudson Catholic (Jersey City, N.J.) in the first round. They are accustomed to big-time competition after knocking off three state champions during the 2016-17 season.
11. Hudson Catholic, Jersey City, N.J. (26-4)
Low-down: Few teams have the 1-2-3 punch as potent as the Hawks’ 6-3 Luther Muhammad (Oregon recruit), 6-1 Jahvon Quinerly (a McDonald’s All-American candidate, Arizona de-commit) and 6-8 Louis King (Ohio State). It allowed them to reach the Non-Public B state final before bowing to No. 23 The Patrick School (Elizabeth), the eventual State Tournament of Champions winner. That’s what coach Nick Marinello must do this season in a loaded field. He’ll need plenty of help up front from 6-8 junior Danny Rodriguez and 6-7 Precious Ikediashi. A challenging schedule that starts next month at the prestigious City of Palms Classic in Florida.
12. Wesleyan Christian Academy, High Point, N.C. (28-5)
Low-down: The frontline is bolstered by 6-5 Andrew Wiggins (Maryland commit), 6-9 PF Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest) and 6-10 junior DeAundre Wilkins but the Trojans received good news when 6-1 junior twins Keyshaun and Kobe Langley (both Virginia Tech pledges) transferred in from nearby Southwest Guilford. Battling No. 18 Greensboro Day for the North Carolina Independent Schools 3-A state crown is the goal and a trip to New York for the DICK’S Nationals is ultimate goal and realistic.
13. Cypress Falls, Houston (35-3)
Low-down: In a rarity, the Class 6A state champions return the entire starting five. Though repeating in Texas’ largest classification isn’t for the faint of heart, the Eagles are hardwired to go the distance. At 6-4 Nigel Hawkins is the go-to scorer and 5-10 Trajan Wesley (Louisiana recruit) sets the pace. DeShang Williams-Weaver is a 6-6 wing forward.
14. Paul VI, Fairfax, Va. (29-8)
Low-down: The Panthers are the top team in the DMV (Washington, D.C. area) and feature 10 Division I players, including 6-7 Brandon Slate (Villanova signee) and 6-4 Mile Latimer (Stony Brook). Sophomore PG Jeremy Roach might be best player that Glenn Farello has ever coached and is a future pro. Latimer is one of three 6-4 wings—sophomore Josiah Freeman and freshman Trevor Keels—that will stretch the defense. Junior transfer Josh Oduro is a 6-8 post and 6-2 classmate Anthony Harris has ACC offers. Competing in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, considered the nation’s best league, is pain enough bit Farello has a treacherous December slate that includes a visit to the Chick-fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C., for three games. It should prep the youngsters for the WCAC regular season and postseason tournament in the New Year.
15. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (33-3)
Low-down: The Monarchs were on the cusp of greatness a season ago, but were flummoxed twice by Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) in the sectional final and the CIF Open Division Southern Regional title game. This time coach Gary McKnight, who has more than 1,000 wins, 11 state and 22 Southern Section crowns, has Harvard-bound PG Spencer Freedman 7-3 Bol Bol, 6-10 Michael Wang (Pennsylvania recruit) and 6-4 Harrison Butler (Southern Utah). Another brutal schedule is dotted with Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., and Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro, Ore. (after Christmas). Last week, the Monarchs dealt two blows from 6-4 P.J. Fuller went home to Seattle and 7-3 Bol Bol (son of the late Manute Bol and down to Kentucky and Oregon in recruiting news) transferred to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.).
16. Clarkston, Mich. (27-1)
Low-down: Michigan’s clear-cut preseason No. 1 is out to defend their Class A state championship and that became closer to reality when Michigan State-bound 6-8 Thomas Kithier (21 ppg, 12 rpg), a double-double waiting to happen, transferred from Macomb Dakota over the summer. At 6-9, Taylor Currie signed with Michigan.
Combo guard Foster Loyer (25.1 ppg, 6.4 apg) also is headed to Michigan State. Coach Dan Fife’s team is loaded but will play only in-state competition, as Michigan’s travel rules are quite strict.
17. Shadow Mountain, Phoenix (27-1)
Low-down: Coach Mike Bibby is a former NBA standout and a fine prep coach, who guided his team to a Conference 4A state crown and an appearance at the DICK’S Nationals. A guard-oriented attack is paced by juniors, 5-10 Jovan Blacksher and 6-1 Jaelen House, and 6-4 senior transfer Immanuel Allen (from Lakeridge in Lake Oswego, Ore.) is a show-time addition. The Matadors have at least three more transfers that will distance themselves from the rest of the state.
18. Greensboro (N.C.) Country Day (34-4)
Low-down: Freddy Johnson enters his 41st year at the helm and may have his deepest team. The senior triumvirate of 6-5 John Newman (Clemson signee), 6-5 shooter Alex Michael and 6-3 Will Dillard, the team’s defensive ace. Key juniors are 6-9 stretch four Mike Fowler and 6-3 Austin Inge, while 6-1 senior transfer Tripp Greene (18 ppg at Forsyth Country Day) has plenty of suitors. The holiday tournament schedule has the Bengals headed to Iolani Classic in Honolulu and back home after Christmas for the HAECO Invitational at the Greensboro Coliseum. A return trip to the DICK’S National in New York is predicated on winning the North Carolina Independent Schools 3-A state title but No. 13 Wesleyan Christian Academy is huge rival and looking to book a ticket north too.
19. Westlake, Austin, Texas (29-7)
Low-down: Texas’ top-ranked preseason Class 6A went to the Region 4 final and needs to qualify for a first-ever state tournament. With four starters returning, the Chaparrals might just make history in March. That’s if 6-7 Matthew Mayer (Baylor recruit), 6-5 Keonte Kennedy (Xavier), 6-11, 230-pound junior Will Baker and 6-7 sniper Brock Cunningham live up to expectations. Six-one Luke Pluymen inherits the point. The early season schedule features a date with Denton Guyer on Nov. 25
20. Imhotep Charter, Philadelphia (31-2)
Low-down: The Panthers appear to be a shoo-in for a sixth PIAA Class AAAA state title but repeating is never easy. A trio of athletes, 6-4 Dahmir Bishop, 6-0 PG Bernard Lightsey and 6-6 wing Jamil Riggins are ready for the rigors of the Philadelphia Public League A. Coach Andre Noble’s team will test the national waters over the holidays at the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina.
21. Morgan Park, Chicago (26-6)
Low-down: The defending Class 3A champions are in good hands with 6-4 Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois recruit), who is a serious McDonald’s All-American Game candidate. But the Mustangs will need more support from 6-9 Tamell Pearson (UAB pledge) and 6-2 Kenyon Duling (Tennessee State). The rigors of the Chicago Public League schedule with No. 8 Simeon (on Dec. 7) and Curie (on Dec. 12) are early tests as is the opener against Crossroads School (Santa Monica, Calif.) on Nov. 26.
22. Jefferson, Portland, Ore. (27-1)
Low-down: The Democrats captured the Class 6A championship and with Texas-bound 6-9 Kamaka Hepa and 6-4 junior floor general Marcus Tsohonis back in the fold along with 6-8 Kahlil Chatman it might be a repeat. The schedule is highlighted by appearances in the Iolani Classic in Honolulu before Christmas and locally in the loaded Les Schwab Invitational a week later.
23. The Patrick School, Elizabeth, N.J. (29-4)
Low-down: In spite of graduation six Division I players, including all five starters, the Celtics will be a factor. At 6-10, Giorgi Bezhanishvilli is a raw Aussie big man but has help up front from 6-9 Valdir Manuel and from fleet guards 5-8 Markquis Nowell, 6-3 Atiba Taylor and al Amir-Dawes. Repeating as State Tournament of Champions and Non-Public B titlists would be a chore with teams such as No. 12 Hudson Catholic, Ranney School (Tinton Falls) and county rivals Roselle Catholic presenting stiff challenges.
24. Prolific Prep, Napa, Calif. (29-3)
Low-down: Coach Billy McKnight’s national club competes on the adidas Grind Session circuit and will feature 6-5 Jeenathan Williams, 6-9 Amadou Sow (UC-Santa Barbara), 6-10 Jordan Brown (McDonald’s All-American Game shoo-in) and 6-3 sophomore Nimari Burnett (a transfer from Chicago’s Morgan Park). Circle two key events when the Crew plays No. 6 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) on Jan. 13 at Flyin’ to the Hoop in Kettering, Ohio and an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C., the week before Christmas in a loaded, star-studded field.
25. First Love Christian Academy, Washington, Pa. (24-3)
Low-down: It’s time to show coach Khayree Wilson’s club some love after winning the National Christian School Athletic Association national championship last March. The Knights feature a lineup of 5-10 Shamar Givance, 6-1 Julian McGee, 6-4 Jason Eubank and 6-4 Aneury Parra in four guard rotation. The frontline is stocked with 6-8 Riny Lual and 6-7 junior JaMier Fletch, who is gaining interest from West Virginia, Cincinnati and Providence.
High-Fives by Region
- Roselle (N.J.) Catholic (18-10)
- Gonzaga, Washington, D.C. (32-5)
- DeMatha, Hyattsville, Md. (25-10)
- Christ the King, Middle Village, N.Y. (18-9)
- Mount St. Joseph, Baltimore (35-4)
Geography: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
- Huntington (W.Va.) Prep (26-4)
- Moeller, Cincinnati (28-1)
- Whitney Young, Chicago (27-7)
- Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul, Minn. (24-10)
- New Albany, Ind. (25-4)
Geography: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
- University School, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (20-7)
- Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy (30-2)
- Denton (Texas) Guyer (25-6)
- Cox Mill, Concord, N.C. (27-6)
- Trinity, Louisville, Ky. (29-4)
Geography: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
- Wasatch Academy, Mount Pleasant, Utah (23-5)
- Clark, Las Vegas (27-5)
- Garfield, Seattle (23-5)
- Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas (22-9)
- Rainier Beach, Seattle (22-10)
Geography: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
About: The Blue Star Media Elite 25 High School Boys’ Basketball Rankings are released weekly from November until the conclusion of the high school season. Criteria considered are the quality of the team and its players, strength of schedule, tradition, and quality of the team’s league, conference, region or district. Teams with fifth-year players cannot be ranked. The rankings are compiled by Blue Star Media’s Christopher Lawlor, who consults with a national network of coaches, talent evaluators and prep sports writers. The final rankings will be released in April. Follow him on Twitter at #clawlor.