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November 9, 2006When compiling the preseason Student Sports FAB 50 National Boys Basketball Rankings last year at this time, it wasn't known if the hugely-talented Artesia High of Lakewood basketball team was going to be facing penalties for possible residency violations within the program. The Pioneers were ranked among the best in California but weren't in the FAB 50, then were cleared of wrongdoing and wound up being one of the top teams in the nation.
This year, the unknown surrounding Artesia is about the eligibility of one player, incoming sophomore transfer Renardo Sidney. He happens to be regarded by most scouts as the top sophomore in the nation, a 6-10, 245-pound versatile talent orignally from Mississippi who made a national reputation for himslef on this summer's AAU circuit.
With Sidney joining the likes of returnees James Harden (the 2006 CalHiSports.com State Junior Player of the Year) and Malik Story (one of the state's top five sophomores last year), Artesia would seem to be a mythical national title contender. Without him, the Pioneers are still formidable but more like a team that is No. 20 to No. 25 nationally.
The release of this week's Student Sports preseason FAB 50 on StudentSportsBasketball.com took a middle approach with Artesia starting out at No. 12, still in a high position to make a run at the top should Sidney be on hand but not too high.
The only California team to crack the top 10 of the preseason FAB 50 chart is Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Most of the Monarchs' top rotation of players from last year's squad that went 33-3 but was upset in the CIF Div. II state final by Palo Alto is back and it's a team with NBA-like size up front.
Four-year starter Taylor King, who should move up high on the all-time career state scoring list before he's through and who averaged 27 ppg last year, leads the cast. The Duke-bound King will be joined by 7-1 Alex Jacobson (headed to Arizona) along with 6-10 sophomore twins Travis and David Wear. Point guard Kamyron Brown also is back and will be joined in the backcourt by one of the state's top incoming freshmen, Gary Franklin, also a point guard.
After Mater Dei at No. 7 and Artesia at No. 12, the next two from the Golden State in the FAB 50 are L.A. City rivals Westchester and Fairfax at No. 27 and No. 28, respectively. Some believe Fairfax has the superior returning talent, but Westchester was young last year as well and beat the Lions in the final game that really counted in the L.A. City Section semifinals.
The only other team from California in the preseason rankings is Mitty of San Jose at No. 47. The Monarchs feature 6-9 junior Drew Gordon, the state's top sophomore last year, in the middle and have a number of other key returnees plus a potential impact transfer coming in from Arizona.
Writeups for the complete preseason FAB 50 will be on StudentSportsBasketball.com starting this weekend. Also look for the complete preseason state rankings on CalHiSports.com within the next 10 to 14 days. Those will be posted as premium stories.