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Basketball teams motivated by preseason Super 25 rankings

All but one team -- No. 1 Huntington Prep -- is chasing Nigel Williams-Goss and No. 2 Findlay Prep in the Super 25 rankings. / Photo courtesy of Findlay Prep

You’ll have to excuse Allerik Freeman if he doesn’t turn a cartwheel or take his Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) teammates out for pizza, but when Freeman learned that he and the reigning National High School Invitational champion Pilots were ranked No. 2 in the preseason Super 25 boys basketball poll, he was anything but excited.

“Our goal isn’t to be No. 2,” said Freeman, a shooting guard who is signed to UCLA. “Our goal is to be the No. 1 team in the country, so why would we be happy that we haven’t reached our goal? All that told us was that we had more work to do.”

MORE: Findlay's Case for No. 1

From teams thinking they got shafted to teams worrying about complacency, reviews were mixed on the Super 25. The one constant was that every team, even No. 1 Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.), agreed that the preseason rankings’ greatest asset was the boost in motivation.

“We still have to keep playing on a high level and dominating,” said Huntington Prep shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a Florida State signee. “It's still early so we have to prove to all the doubters that we really are the No. 1 team. When we step on the court with the stands full of people we want everyone to leave with no doubt in their minds that we’re the best team in the country.”

MORE: Huntington Prep's Case for No. 1

Naturally, not everyone agrees with that appointment.

Quality Education Academy (Winston Salem, N.C.) played the Express tough in a 50-42 loss at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge on Nov. 23, and Pharoahs’ forward Tyrek Coger is thoroughly convinced that Huntington Prep is “very beatable.”

“They’re the number one team?” Coger said. “Well, we need to be somewhere near the top too because we not only could’ve beat them, we should’ve beat them. We definitely should’ve been ranked.”

Coger and the Pharoahs are among the teams that fell outside of the initial rankings and feel a bit overlooked.

PHOTOS: Preseason Top 10

Rashad Vaughn said he chalks up Robbinsdale Cooper’s (New Hope, Minn.) unranked status to the fact that his team doesn’t travel to national tournaments and therefore doesn’t have the opportunity to knock off elite teams.

“It’s different for me in the summer because I travel all over the country in AAU, but living in Minnesota is a little different,” said Vaughn, a junior shooting guard who is ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 60. “We’re not really known as a hoops state like that so it doesn’t shock me that we didn’t get ranked. But we’re not worried about it. We’ll go out and win games anyway.”

Moss Point (Miss.) shooting guard Devin Booker has a similar perspective.

“I understand why we’re not ranked right now,” Booker said. “Our team is young and we don’t travel as much, so I get it. I want to get a chance to play against those big teams next year, but for now we’re only gonna worry about what we can control and we can’t control rankings.”

Still, Findlay Prep coach Todd Simon said that he consistently instills into his team that “if you’re gonna be a highly ranked team, you better work hard.”

“I tell the guys all the time,” Simon said. “We’re the No. 2 team in the Super 25 and if you don’t think that the opposing team knows that, you’re crazy. We know that we’re every team’s Super Bowl so that’s how we have to prepare. It’s good to be a highly ranked team, we embrace that, but the hard part comes after the ranking. What are you gonna do to stay highly ranked and even go higher? That’s the question.”

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.



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