SBLive Power 25: Montverde Academy No. 1 in 2021 preseason national high school boys basketball rankings

The 2021-22 high school basketball season has arrived.

To kick off the season, SBLive is launching its inaugural national high school boys basketball rankings. The SBLive Power 25 will publish every Monday throughout the 2021-22 high school boys basketball season.

Last school year, due to states’ varying responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida and Texas played full basketball seasons, while many other states played condensed or delayed seasons. The pandemic isn’t over, but high school basketball should be back to a more even playing field in 2021-22. 

But make no mistake – the high school boys basketball landscape has changed during the pandemic. The National Interscholastic Basketball Conference is expanding to eight teams and will play a 10-game season in 2021-22. The presence of non-state association-affiliated prep schools has exploded in the last 18 months, luring a staggering number of the country’s top Division I prospects away from traditional high schools.

In order to qualify for SBLive’s Power 25, a team must be either affiliated with the state high school athletic association in the state it resides in, or be allowed to play affiliate high schools in their home state. For example, the likes of AZ Compass Prep, Prolific Prep and Hillcrest Prep do not qualify, because the Arizona Interscholastic Association and California Interscholastic Federation bar teams from playing non-affiliate prep schools.

Read the full breakdown of our first preseason SBLive Power 25 below:

The SBLive Power 25 rankings are compiled by SBLive reporter Andy Buhler based on observations and conversations with an extensive network of coaching and media sources across the country. You can reach Andy on Twitter @AndyBuhler or email him at andy@scorebooklive.com.

SBLIVE POWER 25 NATIONAL BOYS BASKETBALL RANKINGS

Oct. 25, 2021

1. Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) (0-0)

Head coach: Kevin Boyle

Last season: 25-0

Ranking rationale: As good as many of the country’s best teams are, it’s hard to imagine many teams challenging the Eagles. After winning its second straight GEICO National Championship, Kentucky-bound senior point guard Skyy Clark transferred in from Ensworth (Tenn.), joining Duke-bound senior forward Dariq Whitehead, 6-7 Texas commit Dillon Mitchell and 6-9 junior Kwame Evans Jr. — all consensus five-star prospects. Even as Clark recovers from a torn ACL, this group remains capable of adding to its trophy case (five GEICO titles in coach Kevin Boyle’s 10 years). The NIBC may be Montverde’s to lose, but will this team age into legend like their 2019-20 team, many of whom are now in the NBA?

2. IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) (0-0)

Head coach: Sean McAloon

Last season: 21-3

Ranking rationale: At IMG, there may be enough stars up and down the roster to fill the night sky and, as well as the studded cast of talent knows how to play with one another, the gap between Nos. 1 and 2 is thin. That starts with backcourt mates Keyonte George, a 6-4 shooting guard and a five-star Baylor commit, and Alabama-bound Jaden Bradley, who many consider the top 2022 point guard in the country. Down low, IMG boasts rangy 6-7 four-star wing Jett Howard, Jarace Walker as the top presence down low, as well as 6-7 UConn commit Alex Karaban and even more young talent behind them.

3. Milton (Milton, Ga.) (0-0)

Head coach: Bruce Thornton

Last season: 28-2

Ranking rationale: After winning its first 7A Georgia state championship and earning its first GEICO Nationals berth, the Eagles bring back one of the top backcourts in the country with Ohio State-bound Bruce Thornton and five-star combo guard Kanaan Carlyle. They also largely retained their core from last season, and bolstered the roster with transfers. Five-star football prospect Lebbeus Overton returns, as does George Mason-bound forward Cam Walker. Greenforest transfer guard Chase Cormier will boost an already deep backcourt and 6-7 forward Jonathan Murray, who transferred in after leading Huffman to its first state title in school history in 2020, adds versatility.

4. Sunrise Christian (Bel Aire, Kan.) (0-0)

Head coach: Luke Barnwell

Last season: 20-4

Ranking rationale: How do you replace the production of Kennedy Chandler and Kendall Brown, who are now suiting up for Tennessee and Baylor, respectively? Mark Mitchell, a 6-8 forward and five-star Duke commit, returns, along with recent 6-9 Maryland commit Bobi Klintman and 6-6 Kansas-bound forward Gradey Dick, the reigning Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year, leading a team that is capable talent-wise of avenge a loss in the GEICO National Championship to Montverde. 

5. Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) (0-0)

Head coach: Steve Smith

Last season 20-9

Ranking rationale: After an uncharacteristic nine-loss season, Oak Hill is back. And it’s got shooters. Kentucky-bound 6-6 small forward Chris Livingston solves a lot of problems as a creator, energy-giver and versatile defender. Five-star Duke-bound 6-5 guard Caleb Foster and shifty Pitt-bound combo guard and volume scorer Judah Mintz stirs the drink. Keep an eye on Justin McBride off the bench. At 6-foot-7, he turned heads in a loaded-field preseason event, the 2021 GEICO Top Flight Invite, which Oak Hill won under the Moniker “Virginia Gold.” The Warriors lost interior standout MJ Rice (Kansas) to Prolific Prep, but its returning roster will be competitive atop the NIBC.

6. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) (0-0)

Head coach: Andre Chevalier

Last season: 16-2

Ranking rationale: Before August, the most glamorous high school program in the country was already bringing back a nationally-competitive roster, headlined by five-star senior Amari Bailey, one of the country’s top guards. Since then, even more D-I talent has flocked to Chatsworth. Jeremiah Nyorkko and junior guard Mike Price joined an already-loaded group that includes center Kajanni Wright, a USC commit, Isaiah Elohim, Nebraska-bound Ramell Lloyd, Shy Odom and Bronny James, the son of Lebron James.  

7. Duncanville (Duncanville, Tex.) (0-0)

Head coach: David Peavy

Last season: 29-1

Ranking rationale: The Panthers return the most talent-laden team in Texas coming off of a 29-1 season and its second consecutive Texas Class 6A championship last year. One player’s status could vault them into the national title picture. Its true ceiling may hinge on the status of five-star forward Anthony Black, who was is appealing being ruled ineligible to the UIL after transferring from Coppell. Even without Black, Duncanville is still the team to beat in Texas. Among its key returners are 6-foot-8 Ron Holland, maybe. the top junior prospect in Texas in 2023, 6-foot-9 junior power forward Cameron Barnes and 6-8 junior Ashton Hardaway, the son of former NBA great and University of Memphis men’s basketball coach Penny Hardaway.

8. Camden (Camden, N.J.)

Head coach: Rick Brunson

Last season: 13-0

Ranking rationale: Some consider DJ Wagner the top junior in the country (He was the only sophomore SI All-American finalist last year). If he’s named a McDonald’s All-American, he’d be a part of the first father-son-grandfather trio to receive the honor, joining his grandpa, Milt Wagner (1981) and DaJuan Wagner (2001). Camden will go as far as Wagner, a 6-3 point guard, 7-0 junior center Aaron Bradshaw and company take them. Could it be the guard/big tandem’s first NJ Tournament of Champions title?

9. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) (0-0)

Head season: Peter Strickland

Last result: 9-0

Ranking rationale: Xavier-bound Tyreell Ward — maybe the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference’s best player — is back, as is four-star shooting guard Rodney Rice, a Virginia Tech commit. Will the longtime DMV powerhouse dip under with longtime head coach Mike Jones on Virginia Tech’s staff now? Whether or not interim coach Peter Strickland, whose temporary promotion ruffled some feathers over the summer, carries the torch well is yet to be seen, but talent and tradition remain strong in one of the country’s toughest leagues.

10. North Little Rock (Little Rock, Ark.) (0-0)

Head coach: Johnny Rice

Last season: 20-2, 9-2 6A Central

Ranking rationale: The state of Arkansas has produced NBA talent. Now it’s building national high school powers, starting with the Charging Wildcats, winners of five 7A/6A state titles in the last decade. Joining 7-foot Oregon commit Kel’el Ware are two high-profile transfers: Nick Smith Jr., a five star guard and recent Arkansas commit, and versatile 6-6 senior guard Corey Washington from neighboring Sylvan Hills. Washington, who shot 71 percent from the field last year and led the team in charges and rebounds, can do a little bit of everything

11. Combine Academy (Lincolnton, N.C.)

Head coach: Jeff McInnis

Last season: 29-3

Ranking rationale: Combine Academy’s goal was to build a national power in the mold of IMG Academy and Oak Hill when it opened its doors in 2012, and each year the Goats continue to chart their own rise. Combine will play a national schedule again, and they bring back enough to build on last season. That would have started with standout Robert Dillingham, a five-star junior and the Charlotte Observor’s player of the year as a sophomore, but the standout guard reportedly left for Kanye West’s supposed upstart prep school Donda Academy. But Jayden Epps, a 6-2 combo guard and Illinois commit returns. Keep an eye out for versatile 6-9 forward Mekhi Grant, both a scorer and rim protector. 

12. Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah) (0-0)

Head coach: Paul Peterson

Last season: 18-7

Ranking rationale: A year after suiting up its first McDonald’s All-American — now-Gonzaga guard Nolan Hickman — Wasatch Academy is trying to build on arguably its best season in program history, making the GEICO Nationals as a 5-seed before losing in the first round. Hickman is gone, and backcourt mate Richard “Pop Pop” Isaacs transferred back to Coronado in Henderson, Nev. The Tigers are led by Ohio State commit Roddy Gayle Jr., a 6-4 guard, and its returning starting center Keba Kieta. Newcomers help too, like the rangy, versatile Chris Bunch, a Syracuse-bound wing, Purdue commit Camden Heide and San Diego State commit Koren Johnson, a transfer from Garfield in Seattle who adds another elite scoring option. They may not have the jump-off-the-page talent of an IMG or Montverde, but there’s a reason head coach Paul Peterson considers every game winnable in the first full-season NIBC slate.

13. La Lumiere School (La Porte, Ind.) (0-0)

Head coach: Pat Holmes

Last season: 6-9

Ranking rationale: The sting of five-star 7-footer Vince Iwuchukwu transferring to national power and now-NIBC foe Montverde may linger, but the Lakers return the heft of a core that should be competitive in the NIBC, coming off of a GEICO Nationals berth as a 10-seed in the spring. Combo guard JJ Starling, a Notre Dame commit and junior point guard Jeremy Fears are ones to watch, in addition to a strong frontcourt manned by 6-7 power forward Chisom Okpara (Harvard commit) and center Kebba Njie (Penn State).

14. Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) (0-0)

Head coach: Ben Witherspoon

Last season: 24-3

Ranking rationale: Returns the bulk of its core after winning its first Florida High School Athletic Association Class 7A state title in epic fashion, beating the same top-ranked Oak Ridge team that it lost to in the regular season. That starts with the guards, with senior point guard Denzel Aberdeen, a Florida commit and the team’s returning leading scorer and his backcourt mate, Mississippi State commit Riley Kugel and Kansas-bound 6-10 forward Ernest Udeh Jr.’s thunderous presence and rim protection down low. 

15. Richardson (Richardson, Tex.) (0-0)

Head coach: Kevin Lawson

Last season: 26-2

Ranking rationale: The top of Texas is talented, and this year, more competitive. After losing to Duncanville in the state 6A semifinals last season, Richardson has the talent to compete with anyone, starting with one of the top recruits in the class of 2022 is 6-4 guard Cason Wallace, who plays alongside shooting guard Rylan Griffin, who can really score the ball. The Eagles will get chances against national-level competition starting with the Battle in the Bluff in Bartlett, Tenn. Dec. 9-11. Can they build on their best season in more than 30 years and win a UIL 6A state title? That path could lead to presumed favorite — Duncanville.

16. Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) (0-0)

Head coach: Dave Boff

Last season: 12-3

Ranking rationale: Four-star junior combo guard Simeon Wilcher (UNC) returns, after reportedly turned down a six-figure deal to join professional upstart league Overtime Elite. He’ll shoulder a bigger load scoring after backcourt mate Corey Floyd Jr., a 6-4 UConn commit, enrolled in college after reclassifying from 2022 to 2021. To complement his skillset down low, the Lions added 6-9 four-star power forward Akil Watson via transfer from Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) in August. In addition to competing in the ever-competitive Union County Conference and another N.J. Tournament of Champions, the Lions will play in the Spaulding Hoophall Classic in January alongside preseason No. 18 Westtown School, No. 22 Long Island Lutheran, No. 4 Sunrise Christian and No. 12 Wasatch Academy.

17. Glenbard West (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) (0-0)

Head coach: Jason Opoka

Last season: 13-1

Ranking rationale: The Hilltoppers nearly ran the table in the West Suburban Conference in a season condensed in the pandemic, and bring back what might be the team to beat in Illinois. The senior-heavy group is big, long and deploys a tough 1-3-1 zone defense and showed it in the spring, beating Chicago city powerhouses like Simeon (twice). Senior Braden Huff, a 6-9 Gonzaga commit, returns, as does nearly its entire core, including Princeton-bound Caden Pierce, 6-foot-8 forward Ryan Renfro and 6-7 Hinsdale South transfer Bobby Durkin — both Army commits.

18. Westtown School (Bellefonte, Penn.) (0-0)

Head coach: Seth Berger

Last season: 20-5

Ranking rationale: The days of Cam Reddish and Mo Bamba in the same lineup are a thing of the past. Now, it’s the Dereck Lively II show. The 7-1 center, five-star Duke commit and consensus top-three senior nationally will finally get a chance to play a full season in a Westtown uniform after the COVID-19 pandemic shrunk the school’s schedule. The school added 6-4 Penn State commit Jameel Brown via transfer to an already solid rotation that includes guards Quin Berger and Diego Uribe and forward Alpha Banguara.

19. Whitney Young (Chicago) (0-0)

Head coach: Tyrone Slaughter

Last season: 15-1

Ranking rationale: AJ Casey, 6-7 power forward, recent Miami commit and the top prospect in Illinois, led the Dolphins to a 15-1 record in a condensed 2020-21 season against a Chicago Public League schedule. Versatile 6-8 forward Xavier Amos, who committed to Northern Illinois in September, is also one of the state’s top prosects complements Casey down low.

20. Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) (0-0)

Head coach: Clik McSweeney

Last season: 17-7

Ranking rationale: Took care of business in its own backyard, winning a FHSAA 4A state championship, but came up short to NIBC powers Montverde (twice), IMG Academy, La Lumiere and Sunrise Christian. This year could be different. The Eagles return four of five starters, highlighted by Michigan commit Gregg Glenn, 6-7 senior forward, UCF commits Taylor Hendricks (6-9 senior) and Tyler Hendricks (6-5 senior shooting guard) and 6-4 junior guard Marvel Allen, a five-star (per Rivals and ESPN) who is poised for another big season.

21. St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.) (0-0)

Head coach: Nicholas Myles

Last season: 15-1

Ranking rationale: Last season, St. Frances nearly ran the table on its way to a Baltimore Catholic League championship (would have been a first in nearly 40 years) before losing to John Carroll, a team it beat earlier in the season. Four-star 2023 shooting guard Jahnathan Lamothe and 6-7 four-star Shawn Simmons are players to watch, as is junior combo guard Carlton Carrington. But the top story of the offseason is 6-9 forward Derik Queen, who some regard as the top 2024 prospect in the country, transferred to Montverde.

22. Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) (0-0)

Head coach: John Buck

Last season: 15-1

Ranking rationale: The eight-time New York State Federation champs had what was gearing up to be a strong group in 2020-21, but its schedule was reduced to just three games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Providence-pound 6-1 point guard Jayden Pierre is back, as is junior point guard Jayden Reid, rangy 6-9 senior Finley Sheridan forward and 6-11 center Jaxon Kroll. The Crusaders have been announced in the Hoophall Classic field in January, which means for the first time in two years, they will play sanctioned national-level games.

23. Beaumont United (Beaumont, Tex.) (0-0)

Head coach: David Green

Last season: 31-0

Ranking rationale: Ran the table en route to a 5A Texas (UIL) state title last year, led by dynamic 6-foot-7 forward Terrance Arceneaux, a Houston commit, who hit two buzzer-beaters in the state title game. The Timberwolves are the 5A favorite and could be the top team in East Texas after returning the bulk of its core from last year. They’re the favorite to repeat as 5A state champs, but how might they fare against nationally-competitive competition

24. Corona Centennial (Corona, Calif.) (0-0)

Head coach: Josh Giles 

Last season: 21-2

Ranking rationale: Even with Kylan Boswell going the prep school route (AZ Compass Prep), Centennial is still riding high off of its CIF Open Division title in the spring. Junior guard Jared McCain can do much more than just shoot, and he’ll be tasked with a bigger role and he appears more than ready, averaging more than 25 points per game in the Border League this fall. Head coach Josh Giles’ teams know how to defend.

25. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) (0-0)

Head coach: Grant Rice

Last year: Did not play

Ranking rationale: With standout guard Will McClendon at UCLA, the future looks bright at Gorman, which did not have a season in 2020-21 due to the pandemic. The Gaels boast lots of young talent on the verge of taking significant steps forward this season, like Jase Richardson, a 6-foot-2 guard and the son of former NBA standout Jason Richardson and electric sophomore point guard John Paul “Juni” Mobley Jr.

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