While California – and rightly so – is known as the hotbed of the sport, which has spawned so many great volleyball players over the years, we can’t continue sleeping on Lincoln Land when it comes to the youth side of things.
A look at VolleyballMag.com’s Boys Fab 50 2023 proves that the state of Illinois, and Chicago’s suburbs in particular, continues to up the ante and produce quality players who play in major NCAA Division I-II programs.
After seven selections in Illinois in 2022, this year 12 Illinois players were named to the Fab 50, which includes the country’s top 50 senior boys as voted by an elite panel of NCAA Division I-II coaches. VolleyballMag.com does not participate in the voting process other than sending the ballot and listing the final results.
The longest-running boys’ volleyball roster in the country, under the auspices of Volleyball Magazine/VolleyballMag.com’s 47-year-old brand, Boys Fab 50 takes into account a player’s overall skill level and is not limited solely to their high school, club or US volleyball prowess. Our annual All-American High School Boys Awards will be presented this summer.
Delving deeper into this dozen Illinois, 11 different urban and suburban Chicago high schools are represented, along with seven different clubs (Ultimate headed by three Fab 50 picks) and nine different players coming to college (Ball State and Loyola Chicago each has two Chicago-area signers).
Of course, California is still California with 22 Boys Fab 50 selections. No surprise there.
As for the colleges on this year’s list, and what is usually the precursor to our fall VolleyballMag.com men’s recruiting class rankings, Coach John Hawks’ Loyola Chicago Ramblers leads the list with eight Fab 50 picks, followed by UCLA and Lewis with five each, and Pepperdine, USC, Hawai’i and George Mason four each. Sixteen Division I-II programs had at least one Fab 50 selection.
What was interesting this time around was the best player in the class of 2023 voting, which resulted in no runaway winner, but two clear picks with a decent voting gap after that.
UC Santa Barbara affiliate George Bruening (Corona del Mar for the high school and Balboa Bay for the Southern California club) is the top pick, ahead of USC signing Wes Smith (6-10 in the center outside the San Diego area) by two voting points. Five different players received the first place in the voting.
Bruening joins a list of recent top 50 Boys Fab recruits that includes Dillon Klein (UCLA, 2022), Klistan Lawrence (Long Beach State, 2021), Clarke Godbold (Long Beach State, 2020) and Alex Knight (UCLA, 2019) . Klein was named to the MPSF Second Team and the MPSF Freshman Team this spring. Godbold was a Big West freshman in 2021, while Knight was a second-team All-American selected last season and was named the 2023 NCAA Men’s Tournament Most Outstanding Player, helping lead the Bruins to their 20th.p national title.
After Bruening and Smith, the 2023 top five completes with fellow UCSB recruit Josh Aruya in 3rd, Luca Curci (UCLA) in 4th and Cole Schobel (Loyola Chicago) in 5th Sebastian Sani (Long Beach State) and Jake Read (Loyola Chicago) were tied for sixth, while Jacobi Lange (USC) was eighth in the best player voting.
Southern California’s Balboa Bay was at the top for clubs filled with Fab 50 picks – with five. The previously mentioned Ultimate from Chicago suburbs, Pulse, from Anaheim, California, Outrigger (Hawai’i) and The St. James (Virginia) had three each.
Twins are also part of the mix – two sets to be exact. Associated with Pepperdine, Jack and Ryan Graves make one pair of twins, while Luke and Zach Pekol from Chicago’s south suburbs are the other. In fact, the Graves twins are triplets along with their sister Madi.
As always, we also include our VolleyballMag.com 25 Underclassmen to Watch List which highlights the top 25 non-senior players from across the country. People on this list typically progress to the main Boys Fab 50 list the following year. We remind you that this is not a list of the top 25 juniors from the lower class, but a list of the top 25 non-seniors. And as with the Fab 50, VolleyballMag.com is not participating in the voting, which was conducted by the same elite panel of NCAA Division I-II men’s coaches.
Some of the top vote-getters in this regard include Sterling Foley (USC commitment), Tread Rosenthal (Hawaii commitment), Travell Jordan (Arizona), Caleb Blanchette (USC commitment), Parker Tomkinson (USC commitment), Tyler Robinson (USC), Sean Kelly (Princeton pledge), Finn Kearney (Hawaii pledge), and Cole Hartke (Pepperdine pledge). Notably, in the top 25 list, all 25 players are in the Class of 2024 category (juniors who will be high school seniors this fall).
2023 VolleyballMag.com Boys Fab 50
Name, position, high school, club, university Lukas Anderson, 6-4, RS, Loyola (Los Angeles, CA), MB Surf, Loyola Chicago Josh Aruya, 6-8, MB, Mission Viejo (CA), Balboa Bay, UC Santa Barbara Quinn Bishop, 6-3, OH, Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, FL), Ocean Bay, Harvard Ignacio Brito, 6-4, OH, Columbus (Miami, FL), Miami United, Stanford George Bruening, 6-8, RS, Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, CA), Balboa Bay, Pepperdine Marty Canavan, 6-5, OH-RS, Marist (Chicago, Illinois), Ultimate, Ball State Nate Clinton, 6-4, Ohio,Amador Valley (Pleasanton, CA), Bay to Bay, Stanford Luca Curci, 6-3, OH,Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, CA), Balboa Bay, UCLA Jack Ebertin, 6-5, OH, St. Francis (Mountain View, CA), Bay to Bay, USC Nate Egerstrom, 6-8, MB, Calabasas (CA), SoCal Legends, Penn State Robert Evangelista, 6-2, OH, Jesuit McQuaid (Rochester, NY), Pace Bootlegger, George Mason Jack Graves, 6-5, OH, Beckham (Irvine, CA), A4, Pepperdine Ryan Graves, 6-6 years old,S, Beckham (Irvine, CA), A4, Pepperdine Spencer Graves, 6-5, MB, Loyola (Los Angeles, CA), MB Surf, UCLA Sean Harvey, 6-7, OH, Bartlett (IL), Future, Penn State Cameron Hoying, 6-8, S, St. Francis DeSales (Columbus, Ohio), Vanguard, Lewis Tyler Howard, 6-4, OH, Canyon (Anaheim, CA), Pulse, Loyola Chicago Aidan Klein, 6-9, MB, Evanston (IL) Township, MOD, Loyola Chicago Carson Kneisl, 6-6, OH, Arvada (CO) West, Front Range, Stanford Jacob Lange, 6-4, OH, Hinsdale (IL) Central, 630, USC Charlie Ledford, 6-2, Libero, Cathedral (San Diego, CA), Wave, Loyola Chicago Gray Mandelbaum, 6-7, MB,Brentwood (Los Angeles, CA), Rockstar, Stanford Matt Mazur, 6-8, RS, Lancaster (New York), Niagara Frontier, Pepperdine Gabe Metcalf, 6-3, S,La Canada (Flintridge, CA), Rockstar, George Mason Derek Nagel, 6-10, RS,Palatine (IL), Pipeline, George Mason Gavin O’Brien, 6-8, MB, Neuqua Valley (Naperville, IL), Sports Performance, Loyola Chicago Brad Pan, 5-8, Libero, Cupertino (California), Mountain View, USC Luke Pekol, 6-9, OH-RS-MB, Joliet (IL) Catholic, Uno, Lewis Zach Pekol, 6-9, OH-RS-MB, Joliet (IL) Catholic, Uno, Lewis Liam Phinizy, 6-8, OH-RS, Huntington Beach (CA), Pulse, Loyola Chicago
Jake Read, 6-4, OH, Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, CA), Balboa Bay, Loyola Chicago Kai Rodriguez, 6-4, Ohio, Moanalua (Honolulu, Hawaii), Outrigger, Hawaii Jaidin Russell, 6-5, RS-OH, Newton (Massachusetts) South, SMASH, UCLA Sebastian Sanchez, 6-5, OH, Bishop Moore (Orlando, FL), 352 Elite, George Mason Sebastian Sani, 6-8, OH, Walter Johnson (Bethesda, Maryland), The St. James, Long Beach State Kyle Saurer, 6-9, S, Elgin Academy (Elgin, IL), athletic performance, BYU Cole Schobel, 6-1, S, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA), Balboa Bay, Loyola Chicago Michael Schwob, 6-5, S, Broadneck (Annapolis, Maryland), Annapolis, Penn State Ryan Sears, 5-11 years old, Libero,Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, CA), SCVC, Hawaii Alex Smits-Van Oyen, 6-5, S, Coronado (Las Vegas, Nevada), Pulse, UC Santa Barbara Wes Smith, 6-10, MB, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, CA), Wave, USC Tyler Stewart, 6-5, S, Prospect Ridge Academy (Broomfield, Colorado), Front Range, Pepperdine Tyler Tharpe, 6-7, RS, Whitney Young (Chicago, Illinois), Ultimate, Ohio Justin Todd, 6-6, OH-RS, Moanalua (Honolulu, Hawaii), Outrigger, Hawaii James Vaccaro, 6-4, OH-S, Bishop’s (La Jolla, CA), Wave, Princeton Tyler Walenga, 6-2, OH, Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort, Illinois), Ultimate, Lewis Tristan Whitfield, 6-7, MB, Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Virginia), The St. James, Princeton Michah Wong Diallo, 6-8, MB, Marshall (Los Angeles, CA), SoCal Legends, UCLA Zach Yewchuk, 6-7, RS, Moanalua (Honolulu, Hawaii), Outrigger, Hawaii Peter Żurawski, 6-6, S, Oak Park-River Forest (Oak Park, Illinois), 630, Ball State Thiago Zamprogno, 6-6, MB, Cardinal Gibbons (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), Ocean Bay, UCLA Quinten Zilch, 6-2, Libero-OH, Shipley (Media, Pennsylvania), The St. James, Lewis Note: 52 players are named in this year’s Boys Fab 50. There was a three-way tie at 50p and finishing position, and as is VolleyballMag.com’s custom, no ties for last place are broken.
The best players in the class
1. Wes Smith (USC) 2. George Bruening (UC Santa Barbara) 3. Josh Aruya (UC Santa Barbara) 4. Luca Curci (UCLA) 5. Cole Schobel (Loyola Chicago)
25 Underclassmen on watchlist
Name, height, job title, year, high school, club, college (if known) Roan Alviar, 5-11, Libero, Jr., Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, CA), Bay to Bay, NA Caleb Blanchette, 6-5, S-RS, Jr., Ravenwood (Brentwood, Tennessee), C2 Attack, USC Kaumana Carreira, 6-7, OH, Jr., Tesoro (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA), A4, NA Kahale Clini, 6-4, OH-RS, Jr., Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii), Outrigger, UCLA Christian Connell, 6-5, OH, Jr., Torrey Pines (San Diego, CA), Wave, USC Sterling Foley, 6-6, OH, Jr., Sea Crown (Newport Beach, CA), Balboa Bay, USC Gaige Gabriel, 6-8, MB, Jr., Exeter Township (Reading, PA), Yorktowne, Penn State Riggs Guy, 6-3, OH-RS, Jr., Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, CA), Balboa Bay, NA Cole Hartke, 6-10, OH, Jr., Barrington (IL), Sports Performance, Pepperdine Ford Harman, 5-10, S, Libero, Jr., Santa Barbara, CA, Santa Barbara, Long Beach Travell Jordan, 6-8, MB, Jr., Desert Ridge (Mesa, Arizona), AZ Fear, NA Raglan Kear, 6-5, OH, Jr., San Clemente (CA), 949, UC Santa Barbara Finn Kearney, 6-5, RS-OH, Jr., Sandra Day O’Connor (Phoenix, Arizona), AZ Fear, Hawaii
Sean Kelly, 6-6, OH, Jr., Loyola (Los Angeles, CA), MB Surf, Princeton Kellen Larson, 5-7, Libero, Jr., Woodbridge (Irvine, CA), Balboa Bay, NA Victor Loiola, 6-4, OH, Jr., Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, CA), MB Surf, Long Beach State Ian Nolte, 6-5, OH-RS, Wilson (Long Beach, CA), Rockstar, Ohio Isaiah Preuitt, 6-8, MB, Central Catholic (Portland, Oregon), AJAXVB, NA Tyler Robinson, 6-8 years old, MB, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA), Rockstar, USC Trent Taliaferro, 6-4, S, Jr., Mission Viejo (California), 949, UCLA Parker Tomkinson, 6-10, MB, Jr., Carlsbad (CA), Wave, USC Eamon Rigdon, 6-6, RS, Jr., Servite (Anaheim, CA), 949, NA
Tread Rosenthal, 6-8, S, Jr., Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, CA), MB Surf, Hawai’i Marek Turner, 6-5, RS, Jr., Wilson (Long Beach, CA), Rockstar, NA Reed Wainright, 6-7, MB, Jr., St. Louis; Margaret’s Episcopal (St. John Capistrano, CA), Balboa Bay, NA
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