We move onto Central Florida for our regional previews.
TOP FIVE “BIG” SCHOOLS (CLASS 9A thru 5A)
Leesburg (Class 6A, Region 4, District 13)
The Yellow Jackets surprised many when they copped the Class 6A state title last year. Now, they will be the hunted instead of the hunter. Leesburg returns every player of substance from last year’s team and upgraded its schedule to prepare for another playoff run. There will be challenges for sure, both within the district and the region. However, with no dominant team in the classification, Leesburg is as good a bet as any to repeat as state champ.
Notable Players: 6’2 SR Cordrayius Graham, 6’5 SR Keon Ellis, 6’2 JR Lance Irving
Orlando Oakridge (Class 9A, Region 2, District 5)
A regional finalist last year, the Pioneers hope to take the next step this time around. There is a lot of depth on the perimeter but size could be an issue depending on what happens off the court with Emmitt Williams. If those “pesky” issues can get resolved quickly, his presence makes Oakridge THE favorite, not just a contender.
Notable Players: Emmitt Williams (6’6 SR), Antwaan Jones (6’5 SR), Damon Harge (5’10 SR), Emmanuel Adedoyin (6’1 JR), Kaleb Coleman (6’6 JR)
Kissimmee Osceola (Class 9A Region 2, District 7)
The reigning Class 9A state champion, Osceola grabbed a state crown a year or two earlier than expected. The core of the team is still young as its top three players are just juniors. Most likely the Kowboys will have to get by Oakridge again to make it back to Lakeland. The schedule has been upgraded and the team will get tested throughout the season. Come playoff time, Osceola should be more than ready.
Notable Players: Omar Payne (6’8 JR), Isaiah Palermo (6’4 JR), Josh Marte (5’9 JR)
The Villages Charter (Class 5A, Region 2, District 5)
An influx of transfer talent is expected to help The Villages make a deep playoff run. It hurt to lose 5’11 JR Terry Ivey for the season to a knee injury this summer, but the Buffalo should be able to compensate for it. They most likely will have to get by either Orlando Lake Highland Prep or Windermere Prep (see below) to get to the final four; no easy feat.
Notable Players: Tre Mann (6’2 JR), Niven Glover (6’5 JR), Peyton Williams (6’6 JR)
Windermere Prep (Class 5A, Region 2, District 6)
The program lost several talented players to graduation last year but has re-stocked and once again looks formidable. Adding Balsa Kaprovica, one of the top juniors in the country, certainly helped. Finding him help on the boards and getting reliable outside shooting so that defenses don’t collapse inside on Kaprovica will be keys to success.
Notable Players: Balsa Kaprovica (7’0 JR), Shaquan Jules (6’6 SR), Rahsaan Lewis (5’10 SR)
TOP FIVE “SMALL” SCHOOLS (CLASS 4A thru 1A)
Orlando Central Florida Christian Academy (Class 2A, Region 3, District 5)
CFCA got to the regional finals last year but fell in a close game to Florida Prep. That matchup will most likely be repeated this season. CFCA lost some size to graduation but a couple of newcomers should offset that loss to a certain extent.
Notable Players: Dante Treacy (5’11 SR), Jordan Preaster (6’3 JR)
Melbourne Florida Prep (Class 2A, Region 3, District 6)
A three pointer at the buzzer by Miami Christian crushed Florida Prep’s state championship dream last season and certainly gives them fuel for another run to Lakeland. If the team wants to, it can trot out a front line of 6’11, 6’10, and 6’10 as well as a 6’6 wing, giving the team size that few in the state, let alone the classification, can match.
Notable Players: Lahat Thioune (6’11 SR), Kimani Doughty (6’6 JR), Dujuan Small (5’10 SR), A.J. Houston (5’10 SR)
Mount Dora Christian (Class 3A, Region 2, District 3)
MDC has been a strong program in Central Florida for several years. Their challenge has always been that there was another team in its district or region that had just a bit more talent and/or size which would keep MDC from reaching Lakeland. That may still be true this year as Orlando Christian Prep looms large in their path.
Notable Players: Taylor Trudeau (6’2 JR)
Oviedo The Master’s Academy Class 4A Region 2, District 3)
Reggie Kohn has built this program into a perennial contender. The team will miss the sterling inside play of graduated Brooks Cluxton, but the team returns a strong group of guards and wings that should have no difficulty in putting points on the board.
Notable Players: Jose Placer (6’2 SR), Joe French (6’3 JR)
Orlando Christian Prep
OCP was dominant in its run to last season’s Class 3A state title and by all accounts should be even better this season. Games in the City of Palms, Kingdom of the Sun, and a TV game against Montverde Academy may not leave them with a spotless record, but will have them more than ready come playoff time. The team has depth, athleticism, and talent. Don’t be surprised if OCP gets some kind of national recognition this coming season.
Notable Players: Nassir Little (6’6 SR), Renaldo Segu (6’0 SR), C.J. Walker (6’7 JR)
Top Five Players
Collin Castleton, Daytona Beach Father Lopez: The 6’10 senior had an outstanding summer and parlayed that into a scholarship offer from Michigan. Castleton is quite skilled offensively and can stretch the floor with his ability to make perimeter shots.
Balsa Kaprovica, Windermere Prep: A 7’0 junior that is a member of the Serbian U17 National Team, Kaprovica is a transfer from U-School in Fort Lauderdale. A top ten player nationally in the 2019 Class, Kaprovica has a high skill level and is effective posting up or facing the basket out to fifteen feet.
Nassir Little, Orlando Christian Prep: The 6’6 senior has committed to North Carolina and he will provide the Tar Heels with an athletic wing that refuses to be outworked. He has put in a lot of work to become a near-lock for the McDonald’s All American game this coming April.
C.J. Walker, Orlando Christian Prep: The 6’7 sophomore is taking cues from Little on how to work hard and become a high profile recruit. Long and bouncy, Walker shines in transition and around the rim but his skill level seemingly improves with every game we see him play.
Emmitt Williams, Orlando Oakridge: At 6’6, Williams doesn’t have ideal size to play the “four” at the next level but his motor, energy, and tenacity more than make up for it. A long and athletic “robo-rebounder”, Williams seemingly snatches any and every missed shot that comes off the rim. He’ll make enough jumpers and drives from inside the arc to force defenses to play him.
#1 Senior - Nassir Little (see above)
#1 Junior - Balsa Kaprovica (see above)
#1 Sophomore - Kario Oquendo, Titusville: A starter last season, Oquendo quickly became a go-to scorer for an experienced club that fell just short of Lakeland. He’s strong, athletic, attacks the rim, and is a rip-and-go rebounder on the defensive end. He gets closer to unguardable as his jump shot improves.
#1 Freshman – Moussa Diabute, Florida Prep: We heard good things about Diabute during the spring and summer but when we got to see him in person, his great potential was evident. At 6’9, he handles the ball well and can play some on the perimeter. He may see time off the bench at Florida Prep but he will no doubt make a meaningful contribution.
Senior Sleeper – Elmwood Tomlinson, Orlando The First Academy: Moving over from Timber Creek, Tomlinson will get a chance to be a big-time scorer without having to carry the team. He’ll have more help at TFA but yet be the primary option. Though only 6’1, he’s strong and aggressive in attacking the rim. A streaky shooter, he’ll have stretches where he’ll make three or four in a row and whip the crowd into a frenzy.