Pre-Season #1: Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV)
Last season: 33-0
Three players return for what could be a dynasty in the making for the school based in the Las Vegas suburbs. Having what could be the top senior inside-outside combination in the country doesn’t hurt the Pilots chances at another national championship, either.
Lead guard Cory Joseph, a 6’-3” senior, exploded over the summer and should greatly improve on last season’s 10 ppg. Joseph and fellow senior Tristan Thompson are both considered top 20 national prospects. Thompson joined the team late in the season, transferring from national power St. Benedict. The 6’-9” post was good for a scoring average of 11 ppg, in limited games played.
The other returner is 6’-9” Godwin Okonji. The big man will join Thompson for a tough front court. A pair of elite junior guards, 6’-3” Nick Johnson and 6’-4” Jabari Brown (19 ppg), join the squad. Johnson was an all-state player in Arizona, while Brown dominated the Bay Area.
A pair of underclassmen could be dangerous; 6’-6” sophomore Winston Sheppard joins the squad from Texas and touted 6’-3” freshman Nigel Williams-Goss from Oregon are both considered by some scouts to be top ten national players in their class.
The road to another undefeated season won’t be easy, as the national schedule presents many challenges. Findlay Prep faces numerous ranked opponents at showcase events across the county. It’s hard to imagine another undefeated season against that difficult slate, but the Pilots may be up to the task.
Pre-Season #2: Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA)
The national’s premier basketball academy met its challenge, as the upstarts from the West Coast, Findlay Prep, won a thrilling victory in the ESPN Rise National High School Invitational.
If both teams turn out as expected, they could very likely being in the same position again. The Warriors, as the old saying goes, don’t rebuild, they reload. Still, four returning players gives legendary coach Steve Smith more experience than usual.
The team star is New York City native Doron Lamb, a 6’-4” senior wing. He stepped up his game near the end of last season and will hard to stop. He averaged better than 15 ppg, and 5 apg last season. 6’-2” senior guard Pe’Shon Howard and 6’-0” senior Juwan Staten (Dayton), a transfer from Ohio, lead what could be the nation’s top backcourt.
Returning big man Baye Keita (Syracuse) may be ready to improve on last year’s performance. Transfer forward Roscoe Smith (21 ppg and 11 rpg at Walbrook), a 6’-8” senior from Baltimore, should be a standout. Two foreign 6’-10” big men will also join the roster. It’s hard to find a weak link on the Warriors squad.
The Warriors’ national schedule is again difficult, with several national powers scheduled, as well as a post-Christmas trip to the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland, OR.
Pre-Season #3: St. Patrick (Elizabeth, NJ)
Winning the New Jersey Tournament of Champions is year-in and year-out, among the toughest tasks in the national high school basketball. Last year’s Celtics did just that, and may even be better this year.
Senior guard Kyrie Irving (Duke) missed the first part of last season as a transfer, but it’s hard to imagine anyone could have predicted the impact he would make when he became eligible. Irving is quite simply among the best guards in the country, and averaged better than 16 ppg and 3 apg last season.
He’s joined in the backcourt by the able Kevin Boyle Jr., son of the Celtics’ head coach, and a three point threat. Junior wing guard Derrick Gordon has made an early D-1 commitment to Western Kentucky.
As tough as Irving will be to stop this year, junior forward Michael Gilchrist could be a monster. Some national scouts consider Gilchrist to be the top prep prospect in the country, regardless of class. An Irving-Gilchrist duo may be the hardest to stop in the country. Chase Plummer, a 6’-5“ senior, will help inside.
The Celtics received a boost when Julian Washburn (6’-8” senior) transferred in from fellow national power Duncanville, TX. St. Patrick also has two of the highest touted freshmen in the nation, 6’-9” Austin Colbert and 6’-5” Jason Boswell.
St. Patrick holds its destiny in its own hands. They will play PrepHoopsAssist’s pre-season #1 Findlay Prep and #2 Oak Hill Academy during the season. Should they win both games and another New Jersey TOC, the Celtics first national title may be in order.
Pre-Season #4: Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA)
After an uncharacteristic early ousting from the CIF D-1 Southern Sectional, Mater Dei should be hungry to re-emerge as a California and national contender again.
The Wear twins are now at North Carolina, and Andy Brown is at Stanford, but don’t weep for Coach Gary McKnight, as the Monarchs may be even better. With a perimeter attack that will rival anyone in the nation, Mater Dei should be capable of scoring plenty of points.
6’-2” senior guard Gary Franklin is headed to Cal, and 6’-5” senior guard Tyler Lamb (UCLA) both scored 14 ppg last season. Transfer Keala King (Arizona State) is a 6’-5” lead guard considered by some to be the top prospect in California.
Add to that group another transfer 6’-5” junior wing Max Hooper, a deadeye shooter, and that group of stars is hard to compete against. The sophomore class is deep and ready for action. Wings Katin Reinhardt and Eli Stalzer should be ready for increased roles, and 6’-4” forward Josh Cook will help as well.