As the high school football season moves to the playoffs, high school basketball teams are approaching the tip off of their season. With the first games less than a week away it's time to take a look at how the upcoming season looks to shape up and take a look at our Magnoliapreps.com preseason Top 13 Hoop Rankings.
This year begins a new era in Mississippi high school sports as the MHSAA moves to six classes instead of the previous five. Creating a new 5A Classification from the top 32 teams in the old 4A Classification and spreading out the remaining teams more evenly throughout 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A. The changes affected basketball even more because with the addition of a new classification the State Tournament changed its format. Whereas in the pass three teams advanced to the state tournament from the North and South State tournaments now only two teams will advance to the coliseum, doing away with the bye for the first place teams and creating a true "Final Four" for each class, and creating another elimination game in the North and South State semi-final games, giving teams one fewer opportunity to recover from a slip up. (So you better bring your "A-Game" every night now.)
Our Preseason Rankings (Last season's final record in parentheses)
1) Jackson Provine (27-7) - After falling short of a third straight gold ball in last year's 5A final the Rams will battle this year for that same 5A crown but against a different group of teams and the Rams will go into battle with a new cast of players. The Rams welcome back only two experienced returnees from last years team in 6'7" Senior forward Jalen Courtney and 6'3" Junior guard Jarvis Summers. 6'0" Senior guard Marcellus Hansberry moves over from cross town rival Lanier to team up with Summers to give the Rams one of the best back-court s in the state. Sophomore forwards, 6'4" Roger Wood and 6'5" Raheem Logan will be expected to give quality production in the front-court, while defensive demon Scottie Sterling will provide depth in the back-court.
2) Jackson Callaway (33-6) - The defending 4A and Overall champions appear more than capable of taking home a second straight gold and silver ball. The Chargers will be led by 6'0" Junior guard "Deville" Smith and 6'7" Senior forward Jeverick Nelson. Defensive steward Jason Gibson is the third returning starter for the Chargers while Senior forwards 6'6" Cory Young and 6'4" Malcolm Sanders should give the Chargers solid production.
3) Brandon (28-5) - coming off of their third straight trip to the state tournament the Bulldogs look ready to make a run for a gold ball. The Bulldogs will be led by the outside-inside tandem of 5'9" Senior point guard D.J. Evans and 6'9" Junior center Tyler Adams. 6'2" Senior sharp shooter Caleb Jent, who is injured and will be out until late December, is the third returning starter for the Bulldogs. 6'7" Junior forward Tre Brown and 6'4" Sophomore forward Nelson Adams, Tyler's younger brother, will be counted on to provide interior support.
4) Starkville (23-5) - The Yellowjackets have been one of the winningest programs in the state for the last few years but are still searching for that first gold ball. The Yellowjackets will make a push for the first ever 6A crown behind the Senior duo of 6'4" forward Rashard Perkins and 6'0" point guard Edward Townsel. The seniors will be complimented by 6'8" Sophomore center Gavin Ware.
5) Jackson Wingfield (20-10) - after a strong season last year with a underclassman dominated team the Falcons appear ready to make a run at the 6A championship. Wingfield will be led by 6'2" Senior guard Trency Jackson, who appears poised for a breakout season. Other returning starters are 6'0" Senior guard Jurmond Cottenhead and 6'3" Junior wing JaMichael Hawkins. The Falcons welcome in 6'6" Junior forward Darius Forest, who should give the Falcons front-court more pop.
6) Biloxi (30-3) - Defending 5A champion Indians will be led in their quest for the first ever 6A crown by 6'0" Senior guard Jeremiah Dunnings, one of the state's best shooters. Dunnings will be complimented by the Senior duo of 6'6" center Guy Payne and 6'5" forward Tyler Jones while 6'1" Senior guard Shakelle Borel, 6'1" Junior forward Corey Jackson and 6'6" Junior forward Victor Vertison will be counted on for support.
7) Jackson Lanier (15-10) - The Bulldogs appear poised for a bounce back season. 6'9" Senior center Jordan Cornelius and 6'3" Senior forward Obacus Taylor lead the Bulldogs, they should be complimented by 6'3" Junior guard Alex Thompson, 6'5" Junior forward Kadarilias Kemp and 5'9" Junior guard Greg Lee.
8) Cleveland Eastside (22-12) - Lead by 6'9" Junior center Johnny O'Bryant and 6'0" Senior point guard Ramone Wesley, the Trojans look to carry the torch for the smaller classes. O'Bryant and Wesley will be supported by 6'4" Senior forward Cataviuos Vaughn and 6'5" Senior forward Laquavius Cotton.
10) Ridgeland (26-8) - Top Players: LeAntwan Luckett 6'5" Jr., Donovan Ross 6'5" Jr, Calvin Johnson 6'3" Sr., Jamal Hester 6'8" soph.
11) Vicksburg (22-11) - Top Players: Kesley Howard 6'3" Sr., Michael Ammons 6'6" Jr.
12) McComb (23-10) - Top Players: Ladarrius White 6'5" Soph., Rodrick Bland 6'7" Sr.
13) Forest Hill (29-6) - Top Players: Andre Stringer 5'9" Sr., Richard Deans 6'2" Sr.
6A teams to watch: North 6A looks to be quite interesting with a number of teams appearing capable of making a run for the "Big House", Olive Branch (30-4), Greenville Weston (25-8), Tupelo (21-7) and Jackson Murrah (14-12) all warrant keeping an eye on. In the South, Jackson Jim Hill (18-12), Pascagoula (16-14), Gulfport (19-9) and Harrison Central (11-16) all have promise.
5A teams to watch: New Hope (25-6), Yazoo City (18-14), Wayne County (28-4), Moss Point (23-8) and Long Beach (13-18) appear to be the teams outside the top 13 with the potential to make some noise.
4A Greenwood (19-11) appears to be the class of North 4A but Pontotoc (20-11) and Rosa Fort (29-5) both have enough back to past them up. Bay St. Louis (19-12) looks strong down South but Raymond (24-9) and St. Stanislaus (30-5) appear capable of strong runs also.
3A Aberdeen (19-11) appears to be Eastside's biggest challenger in the North but never count out Ripley (23-5) or Tchula Marshall (24-7) and Jackson Bailey (9-17) promises to be battle tested; In the South, Kemper County (25-11) and Morton (22-7) seem to be the cream of the crop but Perry Central (16-12) , Forest (14-10) and Heidelberg (14-10) all appear capable of making some noise.
2A Defending champion Hinds AHS (33-3) leads a strong pack of South contenders as Newton (24-8), Richton (25-4), Loyd Star (25-4) and Piney Woods (10-18) all appear capable of making a run to the "Big House"; West Bolivar (24-7) looks to be the class of the North while Baldwyn (25-4), Calhoun City (22-13), William Sullivan (25-7), and Hickory Flat (22-12) all look capable of making some noise.
1A Okolona (22-11) and Myrtle (26-13) appear to be the top contenders in the North, but don't count out Ingomar (19-17) or Shaw (23-4); McAdams (21-13) and Durant (25-6) continue to be the class of South 1A but Dexter (22-8) and Sabastapol (19-5) always puts up a challenge.
MAIS Madison-Ridgeland Academy (36-4), Jackson Academy (29-7) and Brookhaven Academy (30-10) appear to be the cream of the Independent school ranks.