1. Will programs designed to excel at basketball be forced to play only against each other?
No, not as long as the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) defers to state associations with regards to restrictions to whom member schools can play. Some state associations allow their teams to play programs such as Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.) or Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and others do not. These non-members follow the rules of the association in their home state to varying degrees. We say programs and not schools because the players at Findlay Prep and Huntington Prep attend other secondary schools; the one on their jerseys do not exist. If the National Federation doesn't take a stand or strongly suggest state association members not to play these programs, they will continue to be relevant and that's fine with us as ratings compilers. Our job is to enforce general guidelines for ranked teams to follow to ensure a level playing field, have as much accurate info about as many teams as possible and use the result of games as the basis for our rankings. It's not our job to pass judgment about who should be allowed to compete against whom.
2. What kind of impact will the NBA lockout have on the high school game?
Lost in the hoopla around the sticking points of revenue allotment between owners and players and the length of player contracts is the 19-year old age rule that was administered the last time the NBPA negotiated the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2005. The rule could be abolished, but it's not the focus in this work stoppage. While the country waits for both parties to come to their senses, general fans looking for their hoop fix might turn to the college and high school game, a huge plus for teenagers who love the game.
Shaq Goodwin and other senior Mr. Basketball USA candidates will get strong competition from junior Jabari Parker for the coveted honor.
3. Which ranked teams have the most pressure to live up to lofty expectations?
The two teams located on opposite ends of the desert oasis known as Las Vegas -- Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep. The Bishop Gorman coaching staff felt its team should have won last season’s Class 4A state title even with the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, nursing a bothersome ankle in the state semifinals. The Gaels lost that game by a point and what made that result even more shocking is the team that upset them, Bishop Manogue of Reno, lost in the final by 35 points. In a recent fall showcase, Gorman took on Findlay Prep, minus Muhammad, and even with "ringer" Katin Reinhardt of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) in the lineup, the Pilots led early by more than 20 points. Findlay Prep probably has its most talented roster since 2008-09 when it finished No. 1 in the FAB 50, but the Pilots have to prove they can survive a murderous schedule and not have letdowns similar to the ones they’ve had the previous two seasons.
4. Can an underclassman win ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA honors?
Yes, there is a solid chance it could happen for the first time since LeBron James earned the honor after his junior season at St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) in 2001-02. Some high school experts feel juniors Nerlens Noel of The Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.), Julius Randle of Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas) and Jabari Parker of Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) are the best prospects in high school basketball, regardless of class. Noel’s candidacy is somewhat hindered by playing at a school that allows post-graduates while opinion varies on Randle. Some recruiting experts feel Randle is a once-in-a-decade type player, while others feel he has a lot of work to do on his perimeter game. Either way, he'll have to elevate the play of his teammates to have a chance and that's where Parker might have the edge. His Simeon team plays a tough enough schedule to put him in great position for a historic season.
5. Does the summer have an impact on team rankings?
Yes it does. When most think of the summer scene they think of endless games, long travel days and earning -- or losing -- college scholarships. But the summer is also an aid in team evaluations, although the top players on many POWERADE FAB 50 teams don't play together. It's the improvements shown by lesser-known players that are key, or team success among a group of players from the same high school. For instance, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) was an inconsistent team last year but came on strong towards the end of the season. The Stags' top three returnees -- CG James Robinson, WF Jerami Grant and PF BeeJay Anya -- had a standout summer with Team Takeover and that bumped up the team a few spots in the preseason rankings.