Commentary

Preseason Hoops: Five Burning Questions

Updated: November 5, 2009, 12:19 PM ET
By Ronnie Flores | ESPNRISE.com

1. Is Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) the new Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)?

Longtime NBA factory Oak Hill Academy sits in tiny Mouth of Wilson, Va., on the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Competing as a traditional program for only its second year, Findlay Prep sits a few miles from the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip.

Despite their differences, the two schools converged in the championship of the inaugural ESPN RISE National High School Invitational last season, with Findlay Prep pulling out a 74-66 victory.

Does that win mean Findlay Prep has already surpassed Oak Hill as the nation's premier high school basketball program?

Perhaps. The school seems to have the infrastructure in place to attract high school players looking to play the best competition and shore up their academics. And with an NHSI title in hand and the distinction of producing last year's top recruit, Avery Bradley, Findlay Prep already has credibility.

Oak Hill, the one-time home to Carmelo Anthony, Jerry Stackhouse, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and plenty more NBA standouts, has the tradition to remain an elite program. But there's no denying Findlay has an edge considering Las Vegas has always been an attractive destination for budding hoops stars.

2. Brandon Knight is the best point guard in the nation, but is he even the best player in his own back yard?

Defending Gatorade National Player of the Year Brandon Knight of Pine Crest (For Lauderdale, Fla.) is rated the nation's No. 1 point guard in the ESPNU 100. His team is the two-time defending Class 3A state champion and starts the season ranked No. 23 in the preseason ESPN RISE FAB 50.

Sounds like the recipe for a dream senior season, right? Not so fast. There's a real possibility Knight may not even be considered the state's top player by the end of the season.

Rated the nation's No. 2 recruit in the ESPNU Super 60, Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.) junior Austin Rivers has a chance to lead his team to a title in the larger Class 6A. If he does that, Knight's in-state standing is in jeopardy.

Boys' Basketball Preview

Boys' Basketball Preview

High school basketball is back and ESPN RISE is getting you ready for boys' basketball season with a week's worth of previews, including the release of the Preseason ESPN RISE FAB 50 rankings.

Nov. 3
FAB 50 Nos. 26 -- 50
Best Players Ever By State

Nov. 4
FAB 50 Nos. 11 -- 25
Top Current Players By State
Highest Ranked Team Since 1988

Nov. 5
FAB 50 No. 1 -- 10
Preseason No. 1 By State
Regional Rankings
Five Burning Questions

Of course, Knight has a chance to represent when Pine Crest and Winter Park square off on ESPN2 on Feb. 5.

3. Preps-to-pros: What's next?

Kevin Garnett helped usher in the modern era of preps-to-pros when he became a lottery pick in 1995. Kobe and LeBron were just two of many others who followed suit. But then the NBA ruled that players had to be at least 19 and a year removed from high school to be drafted starting in 2006.

Two years later, Brandon Jennings became the new trailblazer when he signed a contract to play professionally in Italy after graduating from Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). Jennings went on to become a lottery pick in 2009 and has got off to a fantastic start with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Former San Diego (San Diego, Calif.) big man Jeremy Tyler then took it a step further when he signed a professional contract with an Israeli team after his junior year of high school. Tyler, who should be a senior this year, will be eligible for the 2011 NBA Draft.

What's the next step for this evolving issue? Some feel it's the separation of prep schools from traditional high schools or even the creation of basketball academies where college basketball wouldn't necessarily be the next step of development.

If anybody follows Tyler's lead (or even take it a step further), it could be St. Thomas More (Oakdale, Conn.) sophomore Andre Drummond, the No. 1 player in the ESPNU Terrific 25.

[+] EnlargeKenny Boynton/Brandon Knight
Kelly KlineLast year, Brandon Knight (right) was challenged by Kenny Boynton Jr. for state supremacy. Boynton may have graduated, but that doesn't mean Knight has the stage all to himself this year.

4. How will the recruitment of Harrison Barnes end up?

Oftentimes, there's not much drama surrounding the recruitment of the nation's top recruit. In past years, that player was often ticketed for the NBA or an obvious college.

This year, however, the recruitment of Ames (Ames, Iowa) senior Harrison Barnes is a unique situation. The No. 1 player in the ESPNU 100, Barnes is in the center of an intense recruiting battle between Duke and North Carolina.

Compounding matters, Barnes' teammate, Doug McDermott, is the son of Iowa State head coach Greg McDermott; Barnes' mother, Shirley, is an Iowa State employee; and his father, Ronnie Harris, played for legendary Iowa State coach Johnny Orr.

So where will Barnes end up? Well, he likes UCLA and Oklahoma, too. And Iowa products have historically done well at Kansas. Of course, what recruit can resist Tobacco Road? You get the picture.

5. Will the high school game go international?

Ever since Germany's Dirk Nowitzki dominated the American prep competition at the 1998 Nike Hoop Summit, the stage has been set for international players to star in the NBA.

More than 10 years later, the NBA is a global game. Remember, it was Nowitzki who became the first European player to win the NBA's MVP award back in 2007.

So could a foreign-born player earn Gatorade National Player of the Year honors or dot All-American rosters? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, a pair of Canadians -- point guard Cory Joseph and power forward Tristan Thompson -- are two of the best players on preseason No. 1 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). In 2008, Thompson was the 17U MVP at the adidas Super 64 summer tournament in Las Vegas for Grassroots Canada Elite (GCE), which has developed into one of the premier AAU programs.

Another Canadian, Texas recruit Myck Kabongo, is a GCE product who leads preseason No. 4 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.).

Before Nowitzki, Croatian-born Drazen Petrovic was considered a trailblazer. This year, the international phenomenon goes full circle with the nephew of the late legend, Marko Petrovic, on board to lend Joseph and Thompson a helping hand in Findlay Prep's quest for another mythical national title.

Ronnie Flores covers high school basketball for ESPNRISE.com.

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