Thursday, October 23, 2008

Preseason Teams to Watch: Wheeler

We are less than a month away from the start of high school basketball season in many parts of the country. That means in less than a month the first National Prep Basketball Poll of the season will be released.

Over the last several weeks, PrepNation Basketball Contributor Jeremy Plowman and Editor Jamie DeMoney have been analyzing top teams and players, and collecting information from high school coaches across the country.

Today, we continue giving readers a sneak peak at the preseason rankings (which will be released November 3) with another "Team to Watch" capsule.

Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.)
Coach: Doug Lipscomb (405-80, 16 years at Wheeler)
2007-08 record: 30-3, Class 5A runner-up (No. 21 in final National Prep Poll)
Top players: F Richard Howell (6-8), Sr.; F Ari Stewart (6-7), Sr.; G Tahj Tate (6-3), Sr.; G Phil Taylor (5-10), Jr.
Team strength: Experience and maturity
Question mark: Depth
Outlook: With four talented starters returning from last year's second-place squad, the Wildcats have to be considered a heavy favorite to win their fourth state championship since 2002. Wheeler, which lost only to nationally ranked Norcross, Duncanville (Texas) and emerging prep power Findlay Prep (Nevada), was led in scoring last season by Howell, a North Carolina St. recruit. The versatile power forward averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. Stewart, a superb athlete who has committed to Wake Forest, chipped in 16 points and eight rebounds per contest. Tate is a highly skilled 2-guard poised for a breakout senior season. The point guard duties will go mostly to Taylor, who is a shooting threat from beyond the 3-point arc. Wheeler is one of several nationally ranked squads participating in the the City of Palms Classic (where the outcome could go a long way toward deciding this year's Prep Poll champion). In addition, the Wildcats will compete in the Beach Ball Classic, the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass., and also are scheduled to take on Southern California power Compton Dominguez.

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