There were four separate eight-team brackets this past weekend at the Hoop Exchange Fall Festival: ACC, PAC 12, BIG TEN, and SEC. The ACC and PAC 12 brackets took place Friday night thru Saturday afternoon while the BIG TEN and SEC had a Saturday/Sunday schedule. First up is a look at the teams in the ACC and PAC 12 that we were able to observe.
Miami Palmetto (winner of bracket)
Coach Marcus Molina won a state title a few years ago with Hialeah Gardens and this year’s Palmetto squad could get him back to Lakeland. The team does not have great overall size but 6’8 senior Noah Louis was solid on the glass at both ends, ran the floor well in transition, and was a scoring threat on the interior. Teaming with him was 6’6 junior Josmel Martinez, an inside/outside player that scores well on drives and around the basket. His perimeter shooting needs to continue to improve but he is a good ball-handler and passer out on the perimeter. Martinez is also a good rebounder and has the ability to grab the ball off the board and bust out of a crowd to start the break. The team got solid contributions on the perimeter from 5’11 senior Mikal Starks, 5’9 junior Jordan Hamburger, and 5’11 senior Danilo Castellano.
Gainesville The Rock School
The team lost top 100 recruit Darius Days to transfer so the Lions, though still quite talented, are now requiring guys to step into bigger roles. Based on watching the team this weekend, both 6’3 senior Antrell Charlton and 6’0 junior Bryan Greenlee are prepared to do just that. Charlton should emerge as their go-to scorer. He is at his best when attacking the basket in either transition or on drives from the perimeter. In the game we observed his perimeter shot was off-target but normally he shoots it okay. Greenlee is solid in pushing the pace and generally makes good decisions on the move. A knock-down shooter from behind the three point line, he’s not averse to putting the ball on the floor and challenging the defense that way. Marcus Gomez, a 6’2 junior provides help along the perimeter. Based on this weekend’s roster, the players with size such as 6’9 Nikita Rozdobudko and 6’7 Lynn Kidd are either freshmen or sophomores and patience will be needed for their development.
Winter Garden West Orange
We highlighted the play of 6’2 senior K.J. Simon in our Friday report and there is no question that how Simon goes, so go the Warriors. A good one-on-one player that can create points in a variety of ways, Simon will have his hands on the ball as much as possible. The team will need players such as 6’3 junior Jamarcus Clark, 6’4 senior Tyler Yorke and 5’11 junior Ezekiel Williamsonbey to provide offense when opponents focus on Simon. The team really doesn’t have much size so defensively the will rely on their athleticism and ability to quickly cover ground. When Simon and Williamsonbey put their minds to it, they can be very tough on-ball defenders.
Chaminade is a young group with a promising future. At the top of the list is 6’6 junior Toumani Camara. He is the catalyst for the team at the offensive end with drives to the rim and activity on the offensive glass. His perimeter shot is a work in progress but the form on it is solid; it is just a matter of consistency. Thaddeus Franklin, a 6’1 freshman, also plays football but with a bye week he was able to come play. He may see some time at the point but he is an effective scorer when he does play off the ball. He is strong for a freshman and is best when he can get the ball going downhill to the hoop. His jumper is solid inside the arc. Andre Weir, a 6’7 sophomore, is now fully recovered from an ankle injury that kept him off the court last year. Once he gets into basketball shape, he’ll make more of an impact. While not overly athletic, he has soft hands, catches tough passes inside, and scores well on either side of the rim.
Fort Lauderdale HS
Like Chaminade, the Flyin’ Ls of Fort Lauderdale are young with their best players being underclassmen. Antonio Daye, a 6’0 junior, is a dynamic scorer and playmaker. He is both strong and quick and very difficult to keep out of the paint. His shot is streaky but if on he’ll knock down a few in succession. At times he is high risk/high reward in his play but he is fun to watch. Jordan Shorter, a 6’4 freshman, will get plenty of time on the perimeter. He can play the point thru the small forward spot as he handles the ball well, is a solid passer and a promising perimeter shooter. Complementing the perimeter play of Daye and Shorter is 6’7 junior Damone Warren, Jr. He knows what he is and that is a low post presence on the offensive end and a rim protector on defense. Warren is still a work in progress in terms of skill development and game experience but he seems to improve each time out.
Montverde Academy (winner of the bracket)
We could write an entire article on the team that Montverde unleashed on the field at the Fall Festival. To make matters worse for future opponents, no less than five guys that will contribute this coming season were either not in attendance or not in uniform. Both R.J. Barrett and Andrew Nembhard did not attend and 6’6 senior Karrington Davis, 6’7 junior Jordan Mitchell, along with 6’9 junior Makhel Mitchell were in street clothes and did not play. No doubt that is a national-caliber squad right there. The thought of adding them into the mix of the group that did play for the Eagles this weekend is mind-blowing.
Opponents often found themselves facing a trio of 6’9 guys on the frontline. Makhi Mitchell, a junior, dominated the interior with strength and a soft touch around the rim. He catches everything inside, rebounds well at both ends and gets up and down the floor well for a big guy. Filip Petrusev has been mentioned as a top 50-75 player nationally by some outlets and it is easy to see why. He has an array of moves around the basket, can make shots from behind the three point line. Petrusev is also a solid ball-handler and passer on the perimeter. Kevin Zhang was arguably the revelation of the weekend. He had everything working offensively from all three levels and was solid in the rebounding and defense departments. Throw in 6’8 senior Alex Kotov who is also mobile and skilled enough to play on the perimeter and there is depth at every position.
In the backcourt, 5’11 Trevin Wade used his speed and quickness to push the pace offensively and disrupt the opposition on the defensive end. He didn’t come across as being a great scorer but he made shots when given the opportunity. 6’4 senior Michael Devoe didn’t always shoot the ball well from the perimeter this weekend but he seemed to come up with every loose ball, long rebound, and stray pass that was in his area, got teammates involved, and was frequently successful in getting to and scoring at the basket. 6’3 junior Trae Broadnax and 6’3 sophomore Joe Bamisile round out a four-man rotation in the backcourt that applied a great deal of defensive pressure and quickly turned turnovers into points.
Jacksonville Impact Christian Academy
A small 2A school in Jacksonville, ICA was able to stay with Montverde for about a quarter before the disparity in size and talent kicked in. Still, based on their personnel, it is conceivable that they could be in Lakeland come March. Jordin Jackson, a 5’8 sophomore, makes the team go. He’s quick, has good court vision and ball-handling skills, and is a dangerous enough perimeter shooter that he must be respected. Anthony Willis, a 5’8 senior, made four three pointers against Montverde and will combine with Jackson to give ICA a strong scoring punch. 6’6 senior Michael Cole provided a scoring option in the lane and was a solid area rebounder.
Jacksonville North Florida Educational Institute
NFEI brought in a team with just two seniors on the roster. The team was essentially given a bye into the semis of the bracket. This only meant that the team got to play Orlando Oakridge on Friday night and the turn around and play Montverde Saturday afternoon. Both outcomes were losses but no doubt they young squad learned some painful but necessary lessons that will help them down the road. A bright spot for NFEI was the play of 6’7 sophomore Deangelo Elisee. While not much of a scoring threat, Elisee was quite active on the defensive end and held his own against the taller Montverde squad on the glass. He plays hard and the team feeds off of his defensive energy.
Tampa Bay Tech
It was a rough Friday night as Tampa Bay Tech took on both Montverde Academy and Orlando Oakridge, two of the most talented teams in the state. Despite the losses, TB Tech looks to be solid again this season as they reached the regional final last year and return all of their key players. At the top of that list is 6’7 senior Tyrese Williams. With his ability to play inside and out, he is a tough matchup on the defensive end. He quick off of his feet, runs the floor well, finishes above the rim and makes mid-range perimeter shoots. The catalyst to the squad is 5’9 senior Tyrick Brascom. Quick and shifty, he gets where he needs to go to make things easier for his teammates. He doesn’t go into the lane without a play, can score from the perimeter, and seems unphased by pressure.