Preseason Boys Hoops FAB 50 (No.'s 1-25)

<p>Unlike some other preseason rankings that have come out, you won't see any teams with fifth-year players among our best. Oak Hill of Virginia could be better than ever with another controversial revamped all-star lineup, while the top-ranked teams from Illinois, New York and Florida all appear poised to take a grab at the national No. 1 ranking as well. Part II of a two-part package, covering teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 25.

Contributing: Mark Tennis, Sheldon Shealer, Brad Eye.

Listed with final 2002-2003 record and national ranking.

1. Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 31-4 (8)The Warriors, by their standards, had an `off-season' in 2002-2003 so they upgraded the roster with a trio of preseason All-American honorees: 6-8 Josh Smith, an Indiana recruit from Georgia; 6-9 Brian Johnson from Virginia, the youngest member of the U.S. Junior National team; and 6-6 Dayshawn Wright, a Syracuse recruit from New York. Add to the mix 6-1 Rajon Rondo from Kentucky, 6-5 junior K.C. Rivers from North Carolina, and two foreign transfer students -- Bamba Fall (6-11) and Donatas Visockis (6-9). Coach Steve Smith, in his 18th season, figures to improve on his career record of 532-36, including four mythical national crowns.

2. Peoria Central (Peoria, Ill.) 31-1 (14)Four starters return from a team that won its last 29 games and the state Class AA title. Leading the way for the Lions is all-stater and top recruit Shaun Livingston, a 6-6 point guard who averaged 15.5 points and seven rebounds a game last season. Other veterans include seniors Brandon Lee (6-0) and Jacob Mottele (5-9) plus touted 6-6 junior DeAndre Miranda.

3. Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 31-4 (20)The Railsplitters have a solid nucleus to defend their state Federation Class A crown. Included are two regulars in two-time all-stater and top recruit Sebastian Telfair plus 6-7 junior Antonio Pena, the MVP of the state finals. The 6-foot Telfair was the Student Sports National Junior of the Year. An All-City football player, 6-3 junior Nyan Boetung and touted 6-6 freshman Brandon Walters should contribute.

4. Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) 20-1 (5)Seven players return from last season's once-beaten team that finished with 15 straight wins, including one over pre-season No. 1 Oak Hill. Senior leaders include 6-6 point guard Churchill Odia — a Xavier recruit, 6-10 center Tunji Soroye and 6- foot guard Antwan Hardy. Junior veterans are 6-2 K.J. Matsui, 6-8 Uche Echefu and 6-5 Darrell Johnson. Joining the mix is 6-5 senior wing guard Tom Hammonds and 6-8 freshman Herb Pope.

5. Edgewater (Orlando, Fla.) 34-2 (19)The Eagles return four key veterans, including two-time all-stater and University of Memphis recruit Darius Washington from the state Class 6A runnerup team. The 6-foot guard averaged 30.1 points last season. Other returning senior starters are 6-1 Brandon Johnson and 6-6 Kenny Ingram, also a football standout. Junior Quintin Thornton (6-8) anchors the middle and senior Jeremie McClendon (5-10) is another veteran.

6. Dunbar (Fort Worth, Texas) 37-1 (7)Four senior starters are back from a Wildcat team that won its last 35 games and the state Class 4A title. The leader of the pack is 6-5 all- stater Jeremis Smith, who averaged 25.2 points and 12 rebounds. Other vets are 6-3 Dominique Williams (13.1 ppg), 6-3 Jeffrey Muriel (11.6 ppg) and 6-4 Jared Whatley (6.7 ppg). Last season's Student Sports National Coach of the Year, Robert Hughes, is the all-time winningest coach nationally with a 45-year record of 1,282-248.

7. Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.) 33-3 (4)Wow, what a difference a transfer makes, especially if it's a prominent player who figures to fit in perfectly where he's needed most. Meet Amir Johnson, a 6-10 center who until a few days ago was enrolled at Verbum Dei of Los Angeles. One of the top juniors in the nation, Johnson's arrival at Westchester brings the Comets way back up toward the top of the national rankings. Before he came in, let's just say we had Westchester tabbed between No. 35 and No. 25. Coach Ed Azzam already was looking to returnees Marcus Johnson and Jonathan Toliver plus newcomers Gabe Pruitt and Ray Reese to lead this year's team. Pruitt and Reese transferred in a year ago, but weren't eligible until this season. Yet another new arrival is athletic forward Rodgerick Craig, son of former NFL great Roger Craig, who's transferred in from Valley Christian of San Jose. Westchester is going for its third straight CIF state Division I title.

8. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 35-2 (3)The Monarchs were the No. 1 team in the state last year and should have another potent starting lineup, although they may not be as deep. Freshman Taylor King (6-6) has already committed to UCLA and could flourish as a wing guard with junior point guard Mike Gerrity getting him the ball. Also back for Mater Dei is 6-9 Sean Henry and 6-7 Marcel Jones. Sophomore Rashad Austin, a transfer from Claremont, is another to watch.

9. West Aurora (Aurora, Ill.) 27-4 (nr)Three of Illinois' top 10 players return to lead the Chicago metro area's No. 1 ranked team. Veterans include 6-9 Shaun Pruitt, an Illinois recruit, plus Seton Hall recruit Justin Cerasoli (6-5) and Jaeh Thomas (6-2).

10. St. Raymond's (New York, N.Y.) 26-4 (35)Three regulars and four of the top six players return from defending state Parochial A champs. Leading the way are 6-4 Brian Laing, 6-7 Gavin Grant and 5-10 Wesley Wicks. Other junior vets include touted 6-4 Ricky Torres and 6-5 Shawn Hilliard.

11. Cardinal Dougherty (Philadelphia, Pa.) 24-4 (nr)Four starters return from last year's city Catholic League runnerup. The leader of the pack is 5-11 point guard Kyle Lowry, a top recruit. He's joined by fellow seniors DeSean White (6-8) and Bilal Benn (6-5) and touted junior Shane Clark (6-7).

12. St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) 21-5 (nr)The Friars' stock rose in impressive summer camp team competition and appear ready to contend for state and national honors. Coach Bob Hurley enters his 32nd season with a 796-91 record, eight state Tournament of Champions' crowns and two national poll titles. Leaders include 6-2 senior guards Otis Campbell and Marcus Williams along with Derrick Mercer (5-9) and Lamar Alston (6-2). Ahmed Mickens, a 6-8 junior transfer, and 6-5 sophomore Barney Anderson also should contribute.

13. St. Patrick's (Elizabeth, N.J.) 27-4 (9)The Celtics have reloaded from last year's state Tournament of Champions' title team. Joining the squad is 6-1 guard Devon Moffat, who scored 1,350 points at Clifton High. He joins 5-11 Desmond Sanders with help from 5-11 Tyrone Cook and touted 6-4 sophomore Ruben Guillandeaux. Cook's 6-7 sophomore brother, Daquan, will be up front with two 6-6 players -- junior Andre Davis and senior Marcel Brantley.

14. Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.) 21-3 (nr)Eleven veterans, including all five starters, are back for Indiana's No. 1 ranked team. Leading the way is one of the nation's top sophomores in 6-11 Greg Oden. Another sophomore, 6-1 Mike Conley, returns along with junios Donald Coutier (6-6) and Brandon McPherson (6-1) and seniors Stefan Routt (6-5) and Anthony Sargent (6-2).

15. Fairfax (Los Angeles, Calif.) 28-4 (16)California Sophomore of the Year Jamal Boykin and high-scoring shooting guard Josh Shipp have the Lions assuming a favorite's role to start the season in the CIF L.A. City Section. Three of Fairfax's losses last year were to Westchester of Los Angeles, one of the nation's top teams.

16. Mason County (Maysville, Ky.) 35-2 (27)Four of five starters who scored in double figures and five of the top six players return from defending one-class state title team. All-stater Chris Lofton (6-3) averaged 22.1 points last season, including 39 in the title game. Also back are 6-3 seniors Jarrod Litzinger and Dustin Grutza plus juniors Wes Jones (6-1) and Andrew Tibbs (5-11).

17. Renaissance (Detroit, Mich.) 21-4 (nr)Two of the nation's Top 30 players, and both four-year starters, return to the defending City Public School League title team -- Michigan recruit Joe Crawford (6-3) and Malik Hairston (6-5). Also back are 6-1 Marcus Stout and touted 5-8 point guaard Tajuan Porter.

18. Milby (Houston, Texas) 29-6 (nr)Four senior starters will anchor this periennial contender, including Univ. of Arizona recruit Jawann McClelland (6-5). He's joined by Larry Posey (6-5), Leon St. Rose (6-5) and Tramaine Webster (5-5).

19. Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) 26-1 (nr)Three all-state players return to face a beefed-up schedule -- seniors Dexter Gray (6-5) and Keith Benjamin (6-3) plus sophomore Jonathan Mitchell (6-6), labeled New York's top freshman last season.

20. Rainier Beach (Seattle, Wash.) 25-3 (11)The Vikings shouldn't drop much if at all even with the departure of superstar twins Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart. C.J. Giles, a 6-10 center who has committed to the University of Miami, headlines the roster. Also back are 6-6 Jarvis Stewart and 6-5 junior Terrence Williams.

21. El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.) 31-3 (32)Recent transfers Craig Austin, a 6-10 center, and Brad Alkizin, a 5-11 point guard, should fit in perfectly for a Wildcat team that returns three other key starters. Forwards Gyno Pomare (6-6) and James Daniels (6-4) and guard Justin Armstrong (6-3) all played key roles last season as El Camino was good enough to beat L.A. Fairfax and then lost a close game to the same team in the Southern Regional playoffs.

22. Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio) 23-4 (29)Three starters are back from last season's state Division 1 title team, the school's second in five years. All-state forward Josh Duncan (6-7), an Xavier recruit, anchors the lineup which includes 6-7 Andrew Brackman and 6-1 Adam Walther, an Akron signee. Duncan averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds last season.

23. Gaffney (Gaffney, S.C.) 28-0 (39)The Indians return eight veterans from an unbeaten state Class 4A championship team. Two 6-4 all-state returnees are Sidney Rice, a South Carolina football recruit, and A.Z. Reid. Other vets include juniors Phillip Buckson (6-7) and Donald Sims (6-0) and sophomores Nick Melton (6-0) and Julius Wilkerson (6-3).

24. Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) 30-2 (33)Seven veterans return as the Wildcats seek a third straight state Class AAAAA crown. The leader will be 6-foot junior Sharaud Curry, who averaged 15.7 points and 5.8 assists last season. Other key vets include senior Mike Williams (6-1) and juniors Chris Hanna (6-3) and Xavier Gilstrap (6-4). Size is the main concern.

25. Rice (New York, N.Y.) 19-8 (nr)University of Kansas recruit Russell Robinson (6-3) heads the returnees for a team that annually plays one of the most demanding schedules. Other key performers are senior Arturo Dubois (6-7) and touted sophomore Curtis Kelley (6-8).


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