Tough to ever forget that feeling when you first fall in love with someone or something. When it comes to my life as a sports fan and now a hard-working *cough* objectively as possible *choking* writer and observer of these games it starts with hoops. I know this is mainly a football site, but I absolutely love the state finals in any sport; especially basketball. Whether the games are blowouts or not, you can give me 5 straight days of hoopin’ because it’s like going to a casino over there at the Lakeland Center. You walk in, there’s no sunlight, it’s loud, there’s the smell of food and you’re sucked in for 13-14 hours. At least I am. Thank God for coffee.
The smaller classifications were loaded with talent, but spread out pretty much evenly with only one team worthy of having more than 2 players make into the pool for the three teams picked. Most of the criteria is numbers-based. The way I look at it, when you get to this point in the season everybody’s pretty good (even if the classes are watered down, but that’s another issue) or at least got someone or a few someone’s that are good enough to beat you, so for the most part, it’s about what you light up that scoreboard with. There were 24 guys spread out among the 4 classes and 16 teams with which to take a serious look at it. Some were no-brainers, while others (especially those on one and done teams) were a little more difficult to compare to guys that had to do it on back-to-back days/nights.
Joel Berry, Lake Highland Prep, SG, 6-1, Sophomore
One word to describe this young man. Beastmode. This kid is special. No other way to describe it to be honest. Berry averaged 27 points in his two games against Godby and Pine Crest, along with 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Berry is explosive with the ball in his hands, but most importantly has a true scorers mentality complimenting, not necessarily overlapping the skill set of the other two guards that made this team. Since many of you probably didn’t watch either one of his games, you’ll get plenty of chances. He’ll have as much hype as some dude down the street from LHP in Winter Park by the last name of Rivers had when he left Orange County. Please mark my words on that.
Josh Heath, Tampa Prep, G, 6-2, Junior
The second of three listed guards to make the 1st team and rightly so. Without Heath at the controls the Terrapins are yet again home without a state title. They may have received some clutch shooting in the end vs. Sagemont, but Heath was the catalyst behind it all for both contests. He averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. If he were a member of this team, he would be the actual PG, but for Tampa Prep he was Mr. Everything while trying to pick up his teammate Devontae Morgan who was having tough games. The speed at which Heath pushes the ball in transition is unreal compared to what it was the year before when he led the Terps into Lakeland as a Sophomore. He will certainly join Mr. Berry over in Orlando in the hype-fest which will start very, very soon if he makes that same progression to his senior season.
Traveon Henry, Pine Crest, G, 6-1, Senior
And to think basketball is not even his primary sport. This young man who broke the all-time assist record at the Fort Lauderdale school is actually going to play football at Northwestern in the fall. For now, he’s the worker bee of this guard-heavy starting lineup. Went for 24 points against Lake Highland Prep in the title game helping the Panthers win yet another title. Averaged 17 points and 5 assists, but was instrumental with his calm presence on the floor in both games when they needed him the most making him a must-have in my world. His skill-set as a scorer AND a distributor of the ball along with the physicality makes him the perfect compliment to just about any style of play within the backcourt; without question the reason why they’re state champions at the moment.
Jeff Coby, Sagemont, PF, 6-8, Senior
Got into foul trouble in the Tampa Prep game, but was dominating the Terrapins on the glass while in the game. Averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds putting in 22 vs. Shorcrest. Was dominant last year for the Lions en route to their title, but as mentioned couldn’t really get into a flow with his 3rd foul picked-up only midway through the 3rd Quarter in the title game. Doesn’t diminish the fact that when he’s on, he can get out in transition with the best of them in any class and his post-moves are more than adequate to play inside if needed at the next level. A true inside-out Forward. Although in this day and age, 6-8 is more of a Small Forward in some conferences.
Tonye Jekiri, Champagnat Catholic, C, 6-11, Senior
Averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds against Grandview Prep and Orlando Christian Prep. Against OCP his team was completely overwhelmed, but he was not. His performance against Grandview Prep (24pts, 18rbs, 5blks) is about as good as you’re going to find. He’s all of 6-11 and as expected can extended himself down low into an impossible target to shoot over. He can step out and draw the defender and shoot the mid-range jumpshot too. Works well with this specific group (if they were playing in a pickup game) too since he can run the floor (albeit not the whole game, but can allow you to play up-tempo.)
Justin Gray, Berkeley Prep, G, 6-4, Sophomore
Only had the chance to play one game, but had 17 points when he hurt his ankle towards the end of their game with Pine Crest. A rising superstar.
Alex Andrews, Godby, G, 6-3, Senior
Absolutely lit-up Lake Hihgland Prep. Had 20 of the Cougars 51 points. Nearly identical player to Gray in my opinion. Can play anywhere from the 1 to the 3 on the floor.
Ivan Canete, Grandview Prep, G, 6-3, Junior
Put up 20 points against Champagnat in the their semifinal, but it’s his jumpshot that makes him worthy of being this high on my list. Canete’s range is pretty much anywhere in the gym.
Marshall Holmes, Tampa Prep, G, 6-4, Sophomore
Averaged 15 points and with just under 2 minutes to go in the game hit the biggest shot in school history. Another reason that the future of Bay Area ball is brighter than ever.
Dre Clayton, Orlando Christian Prep, F, 6-6, Junior
Averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds for the 2A State Champions. This team is virtually an All-Star team without superstars, but Clayton stands out with ability hit boards and create space in the post.
Alex Hamilton, Chipley, G, 6-3, Senior
Averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists for the 1A State Champions.
Jordan Montgomery, Orlando Christian Prep, G, 6-3, Junior
10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block in the title game gets him at least some sort of recognition deserved.
Isaac Cohen, Orlando Christian Prep, G, 6-4, Senior
Averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds for OCP vs. FAMU and Champagnat Catholic.
Landon Stokes, Lake Highland Prep, F, 6-5, Junior
Excellent post player for Jeff Turner and Highlanders. Averaged 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Cameron Naylor, Providence School, F, 6-7, Senior
University of North Florida commit. Went for 16 points and 16 rebounds against Tampa Prep.