For the past two weeks, USA TODAY High School Sports has been releasing its Super 25 preseason boys basketball rankings. We began with teams 11-25 and teams 6-10. Monday, Plano West (Plano, Texas) was released as our No. 5 . Tuesday, Bishop Gorman was released as our No. 4 team and Wednesday, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) was released as our No. 3 team. Thursday we released No. 2: Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.). Today, we talk about our No. 1 team Montverde Academy of Montverde, Fla., which went 28-0 last season.
The Eagles won the DICK’S Sporting Goods National Tournament, finished the season as the No. 1 team in the Super 25 rankings and show no sign of slowing down.
Begin with the No. 1 player in the country in power forward Ben Simmons, an LSU commit who was one of only two juniors on the ALL-USA team last season. Even at 6-9, Simmons is practically average height on this squad. Florida commit Noah Dickerson is 6-8, Wake Forest commit Doral Moore is 7-1 and Florida State commit Jean Marc Koumadje is 7-4. Freshman E.J. Montgomery is a 6-10 wing, and already drawing a lot of Division I interest.
“There are times when everyone on the court will be 6-8 or taller,” said Montverde coach Kevin Boyle. “We just happen to be so big this season and hopefully it is a good thing. We obviously will have to adjust to guarding smaller and quicker guys.”
Of course, somebody is going to have to give the big men the ball and while the Eagles lost point guard D’Angelo Russell to Ohio State, several guards could take his place, including: Polish native Marcel Ponitka; returning junior Kevin Cham; Howard Washington Jr., a 6-3 junior transfer from Canisius (Buffalo, N.Y.); and Martez Cameron, a senior who transferred from De La Salle (Chicago).
“Marcel is more of a combo guard,” Boyle said. “He’s really gritty and tough. Howard is a very good player. He’s being recruited by a lot of Division I schools and Martez has good leadership skills.”
With all the talent and depth, Boyle has one problem.
“I have a lot of guys who can play,” he said. “The chemistry thing will be important and everybody has to buy into their role. Ben, for a kid who has gotten a lot of attention, doesn’t have a big ego. He just goes about his business. But we’ll need him to be more of a vocal leader this year.”
The Eagles aren’t going to get many breathers. Besides the target that being No. 1 brings, they will play at least five teams that are in the presseason Super 25: No. 4 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas); No. 5 Plano West (Plano, Texas); No. 7 Roselle (N.J.) Catholic; No. 16 Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland); and No. 22 St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark).