Fundamentals, SoCal make hoops hot list
As teams tip off across the country, ESPN RISE looks at what's hot -- and not -- this high school basketball season. From the top teams to the top players, here's a rundown of what to watch for this winter:
|2008-2009 High school basketball preview|
|New Jersey Saints
|New York Sinners
|2008-09 Renardo Sidney
After a junior year in which he put up great numbers but was inconsistent at times, Sidney, a big man at Fairfax (Los Angeles), is back and better than ever. He shed 25 pounds and looks ready for battle. The knock on Sidney in the past has been his questionable dedication to the game, but he looks poised for a monster season.
|2007-08 Renardo Sidney
The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Sidney wore down in games at times last year thanks to the extra weight he was carrying around. With those pounds gone, he can flourish thanks to his versatile game, which includes size and the ability to knock down the 3.
|N.Y. Guards in Virginia
|Texas Guards in Virginia
The trend all over basketball -- from the Olympic level to grassroots -- is a throwback to the old days, and high school hoops is no different. Nike hosts position-specific skills academies in the summer and the nation's best players seem to be taking to it.
There will always be a place for highlight-reel dunks and behind-the-back passes in the high school game, but the most successful programs emphasize fundamentals and team basketball. It might not be as exciting, but it produces plenty of wins and state championships.
With the hype Jennings has received in going to Europe, it's hard to imagine others not following. College basketball experts like Fran Fraschilla, a former college coach and current ESPN analyst, say a year abroad could be better for Jennings' development than a year in college. Add in an extra year of salary and potential endorsement deals, and it's going to be tough for some top players to turn down.
The City of Brotherly Love has its World Series title, but this is a down year by Philly's lofty prep basketball standards. The city's top team is Neumann-Goretti, which is rated No. 40 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50. And the region landed only two players in the ESPNU 100, No. 22 Maalik Wayns of Roman Catholic and No. 33 Aaric Murray of Glen Mills School.
While Windy City native Derrick Rose went first in the NBA Draft, don't expect a top pick from this year's seniors. The 2009 class has some quality players, but no one in the ESPNU 100. But there is some big-time underclass talent, with No. 9 junior Jereme Richmond of Waukegan and two top 10 ballers in the Class of 2011 in Mike Shaw of De La Salle and Wayne Blackshear of Curie.
The Panthers enter the season ranked No. 1 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 and with good reason. The team is stocked with the talent, depth and experience to repeat its 2007 undefeated state championship season. It all starts with ESPNU 100 seniors Roger Franklin, headed to Oklahoma State, and Shawn Williams, bound for Texas.
There are plenty of great teams out there and it's impossible to compare without seeing them head-to-head, but on paper, no one matches up with Duncanville's combination of D-I talent throughout its starting lineup with quality help off the bench. Other teams to challenge the Panthers include Oak Hill Academy, Mater Dei, St. Patrick and St. Benedict's.
On the heels of George Mason's run to the Final Four and Davidson's march to the Elite Eight, mid-majors are starting to effectively recruit high-major players. No. 33 senior Aaric Murray of Glen Mills School spurned offers from Pitt, Villanova and West Virginia to commit to La Salle. No. 68 senior Zeke Marshall of McKeesport (McKeesport, Pa.) pledged to Akron despite offers from Pitt, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
While mid-majors are plucking some elite talent, they're mostly taking them from lower-level high-majors. North Carolina, Duke and UCLA won't be affected by this trend, but it's the mid-to-low level of the ACC and SEC getting affected. Harris picked Georgia State over Mississippi and Mississippi State, not Kentucky or Florida. Marshall chose Akron over Virginia and Virginia Tech, not the Tar Heels or Blue Devils.
|Sickles (Tampa, Fla.)
Sickles got the best early Christmas present a basketball team could get with the transfer of North Carolina-bound star big man John Henson. Henson's father got a job in Florida, necessitating the move, and the Gryphons are the beneficiaries. Henson is the No. 3 senior in the ESPNU 100.
|Round Rock (Round Rock, Texas)
While Sickles is thrilled with Henson's move, Round Rock lost a once-in-a-lifetime star. In addition to having to replace his double-digit points and rebounds, Round Rock loses the high profile that goes along with having a national superstar.
|Brittney Griner on YouTube
This year's Internet sensation is Griner, a 6-foot-8 center on the Nimitz (Houston) girls' hoop team. The Baylor-bound star is a dunking machine who can throw it down like no woman before. Of course, there's a decent chance you've already seen it: as of this writing it had been viewed more than 2.49 million times.
|Willie Warren on YouTube
Last year's YouTube hit featured Warren, a McDonald's All-American from North Crowley (Fort Worth, Texas), dunking over this year's No. 1 senior recruit, Xavier Henry of Putnam City (Warr Acres, Okla.). It was certainly a highlight-reel throwdown, but with Warren at Oklahoma now, the mantle has been passed to Griner.
Ryan Canner-O'Mealy covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Manziel admits to offseason 'rookie mistakes'
- Price, Rays prevail with rally over Red Sox
- Lester: I'd re-sign with Sox even if traded
- Brees thinks he could play another 10 years
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
BOYS' BASKETBALL RANKINGS
|Rank||School (City, State)||Rec|
|1||Oak Hill Academy|
Mouth of Wilson, VA
Jersey City, NJ
Flower Mound, TX
|See the full boys' basketball rankings »|