We will address five pressing questions about the boys and girls basketball scene every week throughout the 2009-10 season.
What will this decade be remembered for in boys' hoops?
Outside of the great individual talent produced, such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the past 10 years will be most remembered for high school basketball hitting the big time: nationally-televised games, revenue-producing showcases and the top players becoming household names to college and even NBA fans. Dajuan Wagner took it to another level when he had an entourage with him at the 2001 McDonald's All-American Game, a group that included longtime mentor William Wesley (a few years before everyone who followed the game came to know him as "Worldwide Wes"). We saw it first-hand that season as Tyson Chandler drove around in a Cadillac Escalade and the worst kept secret in basketball was that he would never play a minute in college. The prep-to-pro ban hasn't slowed the process, and a potential negative of the game going "big-time" is players' unrealistic value of their NBA worth and the poor decisions they make as a result.
Should Oak Hill Academy hop St. Patrick in the FAB 50?
Because preseason No. 1 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) dropped a game, No. 3 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) or No. 2 St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) are primed to take over the top spot if they win post-Christmas holiday tournaments. Entering the week, Oak Hill seemingly had the advantage since the Warriors were 16-0, whereas St. Pat's was only 3-0 and had yet to beat a significant opponent. That could change if Kevin Boyle's club reaches the championship game of the Maxpreps Holiday Tournament on Dec. 30, where it could face No. 21 Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.). Because states start the season at different times, and because elite teams vary greatly in the number of games played, the amount of games played shouldn't have a great bearing on the FAB 50. The quality of wins, and not quantity, should matter most. With that in mind, St. Pat's hasn't done anything to justify getting hopped by Oak Hill, or any other team for that matter.
Can Austin Rivers or Michael Gilchrist win Mr. Basketball USA?
Gilchrist has a better chance, but both would have to buck history. Rivers is coming off an MVP performance at the City of Palms, the second consecutive year he's had show-stopping performances at the tournament, and that makes him a legitimate candidate the rest of the season. Gilchrist hasn't yet made that kind of splash, but he'll have plenty of opportunities down the line. Both players are juniors, and since our editors have selected national players of the year beginning with the 1955 season, only three non-seniors have won. Gilchrist is the one top prospect some feel can enter the lofty status of game-changer. But without more games under his belt, it's hard to put him on the level of Jerry Lucas (1957), Lew Alcindor (1964) and LeBron James (2002).
Durant, Beasley and now John Wall ... what next?
A movement that will eventually repeal the NBA's 19-year-old age rule. Kentucky's John Wall is regarded as a legit NCAA POY candidate, which -- if he were to be honored -- would mark the third time in four years a true freshman was considered the best player in the nation, following Texas' Kevin Durant (2007) and Kansas State's Michael Beasley (2008). It's great for fans of college basketball, but it makes coaching and recruiting even harder when incoming players have grand visions of being "one-and-done." It mocks the 19-year-old rule and increases the probability that top-level players (think USC's O.J. Mayo and Memphis' Derrick Rose) will have their amateur status compromised by alleged wrongdoing when they probably shouldn't have been in college in the first place.
Will the latest airport security issues affect high school sports?
We think they will down the line, especially if travelers have to start arriving at airports three or four hours in advance. Had the Christmas Day incident on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 turned out worse, we might have seen many of the post-Christmas holiday tournaments canceled. Student-athlete safety is a lot different than traveling on one's own accord. We could see a scenario where elite teams will attempt to play in tournaments close enough to drive to if airline travel becomes too uncomfortable or if the process becomes longer than it already is. It's a topic that will be interesting to follow in 2010.