The Findlay Prep Pilots slide in at No. 19, and once again they are our preseason No. 1 in Nevada. Rodney Haddix takes over the head coaching reigns from Paul Washington, and just like every year since 2006, Findlay will field a rotation with talent from top to bottom. The Pilots don’t necessarily have the star power that they’ve had in years past, but their nucleus of talent should keep them as a west coast powerhouse in 2018-19. The Pilots feature five underclassmen that will play big minutes, so they’ll be heavily reliant on the leadership and veteran voice of incoming transfer P.J. Fuller.
Fuller is the most high-profile prospect on the Pilots, and they’ll likely advance as far as the senior takes them. The 6-foot-3 TCU verbal commitment is a do-it-all combo guard capable of taking over a game offensively. Fuller, a top 100 recruit in basically every scouting outlet, had a standout spring and summer for Team Bradley in the Adidas Gauntlet, leading a talented roster in scoring. Fuller is one of three upperclassmen guard on a roster relatively thin in the backcourt, so it will be imperative that he stays healthy and out of foul trouble for the majority of the season. Jamie Dixon’s future point guard will be looking to improve his strength and defensive makeup before he gets to campus next fall.
Senior guard Sherif Kenney will play big minutes alongside Fuller in the backcourt, and the Brewster Academy transfer should make for a great compliment. Kenney is a big point guard who will be relied upon for his playmaking abilities, just as he was when the 6-foot-4 senior helped DC Premier win the UAA Association Title this summer. The rest of Findlay’s supporting cast is their youngest in school history. 6-foot-10 sophomores Zach Clemence and Alex Tchikou get things started in the frontcourt. The duo begins the season as relatively underrated prospects on the national level, but coach Haddix is equally high on both, and each will play big minutes in the frontcourt. Blaise Beauchane makes his way to Vegas from transferring from Hopkins (MN), and the 6-foot-1 combo guard has unlimited range. Beauchamp is the best shooter on the roster and has already proven the ability to play against national competition after spending the spring and summer with Howard Pulley - Minneapolis’ NIKE EYBL representative. Guards Taryn Todd (2020) and Ashton Smith (2019) are terrific role players for the Pilots in the backcourt, and they’ll receive minutes behind Kenney and Fuller. Todd recently won the co-MVP at the Pangos All-Canada camp, while Smith played big minutes for the EYBL’s Bluff City Legends this summer. Saba Gigiberia, a 7-foot junior of Georgian descent rounds out the rotation. Gigiberia impressed at this summer’s FIBA U16s, averaging 8.6 points and 6.3 rebounds while displaying an advanced offensive skill set down low.
The Pilots ranking at No. 19 is just as much due to their history as a program as it is due to their on-court talent. Year in and year our, Findlay has proven to be a national contender at the highest of levels. Findlay will once again test themselves early and often with their national schedule. They’ll play highly-ranked national foes La Lumiere (IN), McEachern (GA) and Sunrise Christian (KS), as well as regional rivals Bishop Gorman (NV) and Bella Vista Prep (AZ). Haddix is preaching toughness and discipline, as he’s seen enough basketball to know he has the athletes and talent to compete against and beat nation’s best.
“I think this will be the team that helps Findlay prep get back to the level of toughness we have had in the past,” Haddix said. “We have a group of guys that are hungry and have something to prove, it should be a fun year.”