Commentary

Top 10 predictions for high school sports

Updated: January 5, 2009, 2:45 AM ET
By Mark Tennis | ESPNRISE.com

ESPN RISE editors look into the future for what's likely to happen in high school sports in 2009.

[+] EnlargeLance Stephenson
Kelly Kline for ESPN.comWill Lance Stephenson and Lincoln win a third straight title in 2009?

1. In boys' basketball, Lance Stephenson from Lincoln of Brooklyn will lead his team to a third straight New York Federation state title and will stamp himself as one of the greatest prep players ever from New York. Although several other players are ranked higher in the ESPNU 100, Stephenson's career and season will be too much, and the 6-foot-8 guard will be named the first ESPN RISE Mr. Basketball USA.

2. In football, the nation's most hyped team next fall will be at Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, Calif. The Lions, who went 14-0 in 2008 and were No. 9 overall in the final CalHiSports.com state rankings, have already received plenty of attention, in part because the sons of Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky and actor Will Smith are on the varsity and junior varsity rosters. Those sons -- quarterback Nick Montana, quarterback Trevor Gretzky and receiver Trey Smith -- will all be back in the fall and should be playing enhanced roles. The best player on the field for Oaks Christian, though, will be running back/linebacker Malcolm Jones, who will be one of the top recruits in the nation.

3. With the proliferation of club soccer programs -- led by the Major League Soccer youth academy, the U.S. Soccer youth academy and the traditional U.S. Youth Soccer -- expect more top players, both boys and girls, to pass on representing their high school teams.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Pete Cochran/SportsPlusPhotography.comYou heard it here first: Byrnes will be a national title contender in 2009.

4. The nation's most electrifying boys' track standout this spring will be Marquise Goodwin of Rowlett, Texas. Goodwin blazed to a top time of 10.09 seconds in the 100-meter dash last year (the No. 3 mark on the DyeStat.com Elite Performers list), and he also leaped 25-4 3/4 in the long jump. Goodwin also had a best wind-aided mark of 26-1 1/2. No other long jumper in the nation did better.

5. The ESPN RISE FAB 50 mythical national champ in baseball will come from California, although predicting exactly which team in that talent-rich state is too difficult. We will also say that power pitcher Tyler Matzek from Capistrano Valley of Mission Viejo, Calif., will be a first-round pick in June's baseball draft.

Bold Predictions

Which players will shine in 2009? Which teams will take home titles? ESPN RISE asked its experts to make bold predictions for the new year:

Top 10 predictions for high school sports
Nine high school athletes to watch in 2009

By sport:
Baseball
Boys' basketball
Girls' basketball
Boys' lacrosse
Soccer
Softball
Boys' volleyball
Girls' volleyball

6. One of the nation's top-ranked preseason football teams and a certain ESPN RISE FAB 50 national title contender will be Byrnes High of Duncan, S.C. If not for a regular season loss to Dorman that was later avenged in the playoffs, the Rebels would have been near the top of the 2008 final rankings. Marcus Lattimore, who should be one of the nation's top-ranked running backs, and Chas Dodd, who will be a three-year starter at quarterback and another highly recruited prospect, are among those returning to Byrnes in the fall.

7. Waubonsie Valley's nation-best 58-match undefeated streak in girls' high school soccer will come to an end, but look for the team to three-peat as state champion in Illinois. The odds have to catch up to this program eventually.

8. Sheldon High of Sacramento, Calif., will be the best high school softball team in the nation this year. The Huskies bring back an unstoppable battery of Jolene Henderson and Lindsey Ziegenhirt. The Cal-bound pair has been working together for years, and last year the Huskies fell short of the No. 1 national ranking. This year, Henderson and Ziegenhirt are seniors and will lead their team to another CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title and a final No. 1 ranking in the ESPN RISE FAB 50.

9. Gilman High of Baltimore will win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association title in boys' lacrosse and will lose only one match the entire season. Look for Gilman also to contend for the mythical national title.

10. Private prep schools in girls' basketball will begin to approach the level of success enjoyed by similar boys' private schools in recent years. Potter's House Christian of Jacksonville, Fla., has already cracked the ESPN RISE FAB 50. The girls' team at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., will also be on the rise.

Mark Tennis is the deputy sports editor of ESPN RISE. Andrew Drennen, Sheldon Shealer, Garland Cooper and Brett Hughes contributed to this story.