There was a lot of basketball around the state this weekend. Events in Miami, Port Charlotte, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee were stocked with talent and teams. So after fifty games from Friday night to Monday night what did we learn?
TOC MLK – Miami
Ely is the class of schools playing for a state title: Lake Wales may disagree but Ely plays a tough BCAA schedule and defeated Miami Sr., the top team in Class 8A. Their only losses are to nationally ranked Bishop Gorman out of Nevada and Montverde Academy. With good size inside, a scorer in Benji Bell, and a ferocious defense, it is hard to imagine them not holding the trophy in Lakeland.
If he can stay on the floor, Joell James is dominant: Every time we’ve seen him play, whether it is travel ball or high school, it seems like James is in foul trouble early. On Saturday, he wasn’t and he was allowed to show just how good he is and can be. James has a soft touch around the rim and it more about getting baskets than just crushing dunks. If Dwyer can get quality guard play they will be a tough out in the playoffs.
Nura Zanna is better than originally thought: Zana, a 6’7 post player for Coral Springs Christian, put up big numbers on Saturday. But it was more the way he did it than the actual numbers themselves. He quickly spins and is able to get the ball up and into the basket before the defense can react. Zanna’s footwork inside is as good as anybody we’ve seen in a while. If he can extend his range to fifteen feet, he could become unstoppable.
Ransom Everglades and Grandview Prep are next: With one senior on their combined rosters, Ransom Everglades out of Miami and Grandview Prep from Boca Raton are poised for bright futures. Sam Singler is a 6’4 do-it-all junior for Ransom. Junior Eric Mance and freshman Kamil Williams are primary scorers for Prep. The scary thing is Prep has 6’9 junior Wendale Glanton and 6’3 junior Ivan Canete currently unable to play. Add those two to the mix and Grandview will have high expectations for next year.
Saint Thomas Aquinas’ junior class could take them places: On the perimeter, 6’3 Papa N’Diaye and 6’6 Steven Haney create offense both from behind the arc and at the rim. Inside, 6’8 twin towers John Hunter and Jason Wilkerson score, grab rebounds and guard the paint. They’ll need to find additional depth, but Coach Strand and the Raiders look very good both this year and next.
Dillard is still Dillard: No matter how good the team or program, it is tough to imagine a squad coming into Norland’s gym and coming away with a victory, particularly this year’s group. However, Dillard darned near pulled it off. Despite 6’8 Staphon Blair’s foul trouble, Dillard was able to ride the scoring of 6’6 Terrence Smith to stay with Norland. Only some late turnovers derailed Dillard. It wouldn’t surprise if they put together a stretch of games and make it to Lakeland.
Wally Keller Classic – Port Charlotte
Chris Davenport of Montverde may have broke through: Though highly regarded, 6’7 junior Chris Davenport usually is called on for defense and rebounding in limited minutes. Against Miami Hialeah Gardens, Davenport led the way with 21 points. It would help both the player and team if he can maintain that level of performance. As an aside, Montverde supposedly had 18 dunks in the game.
Nick Havener of Riverview is one to watch: A left sophomore, the 6’7 Havener is reasonably skilled at this age. He is somewhat reminiscent of former Lake Howell in UF player Chandler Parsons at the same age. Havener will need to get stronger, improve his shooting, and become more confident to reach Parson’s level. If he continues to grow, he could certainly be a guy that could run an offense out of the low or high post.
Miami Dr. Krop’s woes continue: We didn’t know until speaking with event director Donnie Wilkie that 6’8 UCF signee Dylan Karell had been dismissed from the team. With 6’9 South Carolina signee Tyrone Haughton not making the trip, Krop was more than handled by Fort Myers. It is more than disappointing that one of the better players in the state would be dismissed from the team but hopefully Karell will learn from this. As for the program, it must be tough to go from the state semi’s last year to possibly not getting out of district’s this year, especially when they return more than enough talent to compete.
Young teams stand out: Community School of Naples is a team full of sophomore and they won their contest over a more experienced Venice team in a small school vs. big school matchup. Charlotte only has one senior on its roster and they defeated a depleted but tough Boca Ciega team. East Lee County (near Fort Myers) walloped Englewood Lemon Bay. East Lee has a team full of juniors and may be on the short list of local teams for the 2012 City of Palms.
Dallas Moore just made another three: Without stud junior D.J. White (knee injury), 5’9 junior Dallas Moore has had to score a lot more for Boca Ciega. He doesn’t seem to mind. He had 20 of his team’s 24 points in the first half and connected on six threes in the game. At this rate, he will need to start icing down his arm after each game.
Two is greater than Five: Bishop Verot put it to Cape Coral Mariner in a game matching the area’s best bigs, 6’8 soph Ricky Doyle of Verot and 6’9 Furman signee Kendrec Ferrera of Mariner. They each scored ten points but the real story was the play of Verot’s 6’0 senior Mark Wagner and 6’4 junior Mason Taylor. Wagner had 26 while Taylor had 21. The entire Mariner team only scored 44 points for the game.
Florida Prospects MLK Classic – Orlando
Jones is a different team with Matt Williams healthy: UCF signee Matt Williams has been hobbled with ankle issues for much of the season. Now healthy, he will play the key role in Jones’ post season run.
Miami American is a sleeper team in South Florida: Though four of five starters are underclassmen, American doesn’t need to wait until next year to be successful. With a good blend of size and speed, they are going to be a tough out in Class 8A Region 4.
Lakewood’s “down time” will be short: St. Pete Lakewood is a tradition rich program. In its first year without coach Wright, they have been some struggles. However, with 6’4 soph Jacoby Boykin as well as some size which the program hasn’t had in a while, Lakewood will soon be back among the best in Pinellas County.
West Orange is deep: The Warriors were missing two starters in their game against Miami American but they still were able to pull off a convincing victory. Murray State recruit Eric McCree led the way and the reserves are all athletic and play well in transition.
MLK Basketball Showcase – Jacksonville
Poole powers Parker: Terry Parker was undefeated heading into this weekend’s event. However, with Poole nursing an injured ankle, they dropped both of their games. Poole is a dynamic player and Parker should be considered a favorite to get out of their region in 5A and represent in Lakeland. If the ankle doesn’t get completely healthy then Parker could have trouble.
Raines is rounding into form: Raines didn’t look so good when we saw them in the pre-season. The Vikings have gone on a win streak of late and have turned things around. They play in a difficult region but if they remaining hot, anything is possible.
University School is really good: It’s one thing to beat Lake Wales on a less than neutral floor. It’s another thing to be a solid Providence team in the same type of venue. University School out of Fort Lauderdale did just that and they look to be favorite in a very difficult Class 4A. They have a tough combination in quick guards Mikon Hewitt and the Phanord twins as well as a force down low in 6’6 Marquedis Bain.
Buzzer beaters were the order of the day: On Monday, two consecutive games came down to game-ending buzzer beaters. In the game between Jacksonville Sandalwood and Middleburg, the game was tied when a Sandalwood player broke free and slammed home a dunk just before the final horn. Next up was Bishop Kenney. The hit a three as time expired to pull an upset over South Miami.
Eastside wins with defense: While taking care of business against Terry Parker on Saturday night, Gainesville Eastside showed they are going to win with defense. They took seven charges during the game and played well at that end of the court as a unit.
Antravious Simmons is for real: The 6’9 junior has expanded his game away from the basket. He knocked down jump shots and was able to put the ball on the floor and score after a dribble or two. Coaches from all levels came to the event to watch him perform.
Ridgeview and Ed White may be the best in the area: The Duval County area doesn’t get as much respect as it probably should. Both Ridgeview and Ed White are looking to change that. Ridgeview plays very hard as a team. Ed White is a bit on the small side but are aggressive and bring pressure. Both should challenge in their respective regions.
Our thanks to Donnie Wilkie (Wally Keller Classic), Robert Sumpter (Florida Prospects) and Dale Green (Leroy Butler Foundation – Jacksonville) for their contributions to this article.
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