Monday, November 03, 2008

Preseason Top 25: No. 11 Oak Hill Academy

11. Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Coach: Steve Smith (718-44, 23 years at Oak Hill)
2007-08 record: 34-4, No. 14 in final National Prep Poll
Top players: F Keith "Tiny" Gallon (6-9), Sr.; G Lamont "MoMo" Jones (6-0), Sr.; G Doran Lamb (6-5), Jr.; F Glen Bryant (6-7), Sr.; G Pe'shon Howard (6-3), Jr.; G Byron Allen (6-2), Jr.; C Baye Moussa Keita (6-10), Sr.
Team strength: Depth
Question mark: Inexperience at point, perimeter shooting
Toughest games: Dec. 5 vs. Duncanville (Texas) and Dec. 6 vs. Chicago Simeon at Marshall County Hoopfest; Dec. 13 vs. Whitney Young; Dec. 18-22 Iolani Classic; Jan. 17 vs. South Atlanta at HoopHall Classic; Feb. 14 vs. St. Patrick at Primetime Shootout; March 6 vs. Montrose Christian; *April 3-5 Nike Championship Tournament (*tentative)
Outlook: No team in the nation comes close to matching the Warriors' 20 consecutive finishes in the national Top 25. But Oak Hill's No. 14 final ranking last year was its worst since 2003. It was also just the third time in 12 years that the Warriors lost four or more games. One of the reasons the Warriors took their lumps in 2007-08 (if you call losing four games taking lumps) was the number of young players who saw significant minutes. Four underclassmen started one or more games. The residual chemistry and experience gained in 2007-08 should pay off this season, as should an infusion of talent from three heralded transfers. The Warriors should have a strong inside game with the return of Gallon, a 290-pound space eater with surprising agility and soft hands. He figures to become Oak Hill's unprecedented 24th McDonald's All-American pick. Joining him in the paint will be Keita, a talented but raw native of Senegal who is committed to Syracuse. The biggest challenge for Oak Hill will be if it can get excellent guard play to ease the loss of graduated national player of the year Brandon Jennings. Much will be expected from Lamb, a transfer from Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) who is rated by the No. 2 junior shooting guard in the country by Jones, another New York City native who is with his third school in three years, gives the Warriors another scorer at the two-guard position. Howard and Allen are expected to share duty at point guard.

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