Monday, November 03, 2008

Preseason Top 25: No. 3 Wheeler

3. 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
Toughest games: Dec. 6 vs. Jackson Callaway (Miss.) at Marshall County Hoopfest; Dec. 19-23 City of Palms Classic; Dec. 26-30 Beach Ball Classic; vs. Dominguez; vs. St. Benedict's (N.J.) at HoopHall Classic
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.

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