PRESENTING THE 2007-2008 RIVALS.COM FAB 50 NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL PRESEASON RANKINGS
(Compiled by StudentSportsBasketball.com Senior Writer Mark Tennis. Senior Editor Doug Huff & and Managing Editor Ronnie Flores also contributes to the Rivals.com Girls FAB 50. Girls basketball correspondent Harold Abend and Mike Loveday of MDVarsity.com also provide additional write-ups, which include final 2006-2007 won-loss record & FAB 50 ranking where applicable.)
Winning state titles and being ranked high nationally is nothing new for athletic teams at Poly High of Long Beach, California. It has been a fairly recent phenomenon in girls basketball, however, and this season the Jackrabbits may have their best team yet.
After finishing No. 2 in last year's FAB 50 and returning most of last year's stars, including California's consensus preseason top player, 6-foot-1 Jasmine Dixon, who recently committed to Rutgers, Poly is starting out No. 1 this week in the Rivals.com preseason FAB 50 national rankings.
The Jackrabbits, who are the two-time defending state Division I champions, already were in the mix to be the preseason No. 1 team in the land, but then one of the nations top juniors, 6-foot-3 Monique Oliver, moved to Long Beach from Nevada and head coach Carl Buggs' team went from deep like a river to deep like an ocean.
"We will have more depth this year than ever before, with speed, size and some new young players to compliment Jasmine," Buggs said.
Oliver, who averaged 26.7 points and 13.5 rebounds per game at Cheyenne High of Las Vegas, gives Poly a big-time presence inside to go with Dixon's ability to play any position on the floor. Dixon was the CalHiSports.com State Junior Player of the Year and was an EA SPORTS All-American. She averaged 15 points, 9. 5 rebounds and 4.7 steals per game.
After Poly, the next two in line for the preseason national rankings in girls basketball were fairly easy to pick with Notre Dame Prep of Virginia and Cy-Fair of Houston both loaded with returnees after finishing in the top 10 a year ago. Starting from the fourth spot downward, however, the order could have been picked in a number of different combinations.
Read below for the top 10 teams in the 2007-2008 Preseason Rivals.com FAB 50 National Girls Basketball Rankings:
1. Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) 36-1 (2) Head Coach: Carl Buggs
There are other excellent players on the roster besides Jasmine Dixon and Monique Oliver. One of those is April Cook, a strong 5-7 guard who is the defensive stopper. Also sure to make major contributions are 5-8 senior wing Janae Perkins, 6-0 junior wing/forward Kelli Thompson, 6-2 sophomore post Deshia Southall and 5-7 sophomore wing Brittany Wilson. Buggs even has more players who could start on other teams, including 5-7 sophomore wing Ashley Wilson and 5-5 sophomore point guard Jazzmine Shirley, as well as incoming 5-7 freshman Ariya Crook-Williams, whom the coach likens to former star point guard Judith Smith. In fact, Poly's second unit isn't that far removed from being one of California's top teams. The Jackrabbits will be tested right away in December at the NIKE Tournament of Champions, in Phoenix, where they are the favorite.
2. Notre Dame Academy (Middleburg, Va.) 29-1 (3) Head Coach: Mike Teasley
In four seasons as head coach, Teasley has turned Notre Dame Prep into a national power and this could be the best team he has assembled. Only one starter graduated from the team that went 29-1 last season and lost only to FAB 50 No. 1 Collins Hill of Georgia. There are eight Division I athletes on the roster, led by Boston College commit Mia Nickson, a 6-2 power forward who averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game. Azania Stewart, going to Florida, will hold down the center position and should be tough to defend with her 11.5 points per game and three blocks per game averages. The talent does not stop with the starting five, however. Guard Josette Campbell (6-1) was the first athlete off the bench last season and saw significant minutes comparable to a starter. Teasley knows what it takes to build a winner at Notre Dame Prep. He won two state titles as an assistant on the boy's team when he first arrived in Middleburg in 1998 and with this team it looks to be a contender for a national title.
3. Cy-Fair (Houston, Texas) 39-1 (7) Head Coach: Ann Roubique
The Lady Bobcats are on a mission to avenge last year's heartbreaking overtime loss in the Class 5A state final to Rockwall, which finished No. 4 in the final FAB 50 rankings, and they have the firepower to get it done this time around. It all starts with returning EA SPORTS All-American Nneka Ogwumike, a 6-foot-3 center who sports averages of 21.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and is also a standout volleyball player. Ogwumike pumped in 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in that state final loss and will be extremely motivated to play even better this season. She is complemented by her younger sister, 6-foot-2 sophomore Chiney, and both are considered among the nation's top 10 recruits in their respective classes. Five-foot-7 senior Mansa El is a returning TABC All-Region player and 5-foot-4 senior Nicole Morris is another cagy veteran. The combination of talent, experience and motivation could prove lethal for Cy-Fair's opponents all season long.
4. Hampton (Hampton, Va.) 30-2 (9) Head Coach: David Six
The loss of last season's point guard, Evelyn Lewis (Penn State), will be difficult to replace, but luckily for Six, her replacement does not have to move far. Tiffany Davis played the two-guard last season and is naturally a point. She has been described as perhaps the most exciting returning player in Virginia, male or female, and has the ability to hit the three, score in the paint or in the open court. That athleticism is typical of this season's Hampton team. Complimenting Davis is fellow returning starters Alyssa Bennett and Joycelyn Davis. Bennett and Davis can play anywhere on the court and that flexibility gives Six some opportunities he did not have last season. "We're going to be able to go small with this team," Six said. "That's something we could not do last year because the team did not have enough speed." Transfer Debbie Smith along with LaKita Hicks and Toya Carter round out the starting lineup. The Crabbers are competing in the T-Mobile Invitational where Long Beach Poly and Chaminade-Julienne on Dec. 28-29 in Albuquerque (N.M).
Four starters are back from the defending state Class 5A champions, who will be seeking their third crown in the last four years. Senior Tiffany Hayes, a UConn recruit, leads a trio of 6-foot regulars returning from last season. Others are Memphis recruit Kiara Francisco and Amanda Woodside. A key graduation loss was point guard Amanda Smith, now at the University of Kentucky, and will be replaced by junior Desirai Smith.
6. Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco, Calif.) 32-2 (12) Head Coach: Brian Harrigan
The No. 2 team in California last season starts out in the same place this year with an even better squad. Eight players return from the CIF Div. III state champions, including one of the state's top players, 5-11 guard Jazmine Jackson, who has committed to Pepperdine along with 5-8 guard and tough defender Lauren Bell. Another returnee who has gotten taller, stronger and faster after already being a load to handle last season is 5-9 guard Ki-shawna "Ki-Ki" Moore. Also starting is Cal-Poly Pomona commit Rosslyn Beard. Junior outside bomber Ashley Boggs comes off the bench for instant offense, but the biggest addition will be Jazmine's younger sister, 6-0 Kamilah Jackson, moving into the starting center position. "Our kids are definitely more experienced and with Kamilah we have a presence in the middle we've not had in the past," said Irish coach Brian Harrigan, who will find out early how good his squad is when they travel to Oregon Dec. 6-9 for the Southridge tournament that not only includes the hosts but Long Beach Poly.
7. Murrah (Jackson, Miss.) 37-2 (17) Head Coach: Anna Jackson
The Lady Mustangs' lineup remains the same after they won their seventh state Class 5A title last season. All regulars return, including first team all-stater LaSondra Barrett, a 6-foot-1 forward who averaged 16.5 points and 11.3 rebounds a game as a junior. A third-year starter, 5-8 junior guard Tanecka Carey, sported norms of 15.1 points and 5.0 assists last season and earned her second Jackson All-Metro honors. Junior forward Brandi Simmons (5-foot-11) also is a two-time All-Metro pick and averaged 14.4 points and 12.1 rebounds a year ago.
8. Washington (South Bend, Ind.) 28-1 (28) Head Coach: Marilyn Coddens
The defending state Class 4A champion Panthers are led by 5-foot-9 point guard Skylar Diggins (24 ppg., 6 apg), a top candidate for state Miss Basketball. Veteran senior guard, and Penn State recruit, Emily Phillips (9 ppg, 5 apg) should be a major contributor. Shalena Murray (5-foot-11) also is a returnee for a team seeking a third straight trip to the state title game. The schedule includes a January trip to the McDonald's Chicagoland Classic.
9. Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.) 26-2 (30) Head Coach: Sherri Retif
Caroline Doty returns for her senior season as one of the nation's top players. The 5-10 guard has been known nationally since she was 15 and can play both at the point or on the wing since she's a deadly three-point shooter. Doty has committed to UConn, but first should lead the Patriots to a 10th straight Inter-Ac League title. They usually play enough ranked teams from the East Region so we can get a good handle on where to put them nationally. Another player to watch is 6-3 junior center Meredith Carter.
10. Dunbar (Fort Worth, Texas) 32-4 (42) Head Coach: Andrea Robinson
The Lady Wildcats have won two Class 4A state titles in the past three years and the one constant on both teams is 6-foot forward Brooklyn Pope. The returning second team EA SPORTS All-American and four-year standout averaged 19 points and five blocks per game as Dunbar downed Dickinson, 62-51, in the state final. The teams loses District 7-4A Player of the Year LaShandra Hill, but as long as Pope is around this team will be favored to win it all in Austin. Senior wing Tiesha Martin (5-9) also returns after being selected second team all-district and once the younger players in the backcourt gain some experience, Dunbar should be rolling come district play.
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