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2017-18 Preview: CLASS 8A

By Rick Staudt, 11/25/17, 6:30AM CST

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Favorite: Pompano Beach Ely

Arguably the most dominant program in the FHSAA since the turn of the century, Melvin Randall’s teams always seems to be reaching its peak at playoff time.  This year should be no different.  With the tandem of 6’7 senior Wilkenson Isnord and 5’11 senior Michael Forest, the Tigers have a solid presence both inside and out.  As is usually the case with Ely, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Names will come out of the woodwork that will push Ely to its usual level of excellence.  The team will certainly face tough competition along the road to Lakeland, but this pack of Tigers is expected to meet those challenges.

Regional Favorites: St. Johns Creekside (Region 1); Winter Haven (Region 2); St. Petersburg HS (Region 3)

Creekside has lost in the regional finals by small margins each of the last two seasons.  A group of players that have been starters since their freshmen year are looking to take that next step.  Winter Haven has been pointing to this season for three years.  With the return of 6’6 Keyshawn Bryant and the presence of 6’7 UNF signee Dorian James, they hope to bring a large legion of fans to the Lakeland Center in March.  St. Pete may have lost key players to graduation from last year’s final four team but the senior guard tandem of Serrell Smith and Ty Strickland should provide the Green Devils with another shot at a state title.

Best Player: Serrell Smith, St. Petersburg HS

The 6’3 senior has already signed with Ol’ Miss to play in the SEC next year.  He is the definition of a scoring guard, putting up 30+ on mighty Oak Hill last season.  Smith is one of the top shooters off the dribble we have seen in quite some time.  He can stop and pop from nearly anywhere on the court or use his crafty ball skills and quickness to get to and finish at the rim in traffic.

Pre-Season All-State: Smith; Michael Forest (Pompano Beach Ely); J’Michael Plummer (St. Johns Creekside); Dorian James (Winter Haven), Tyrick Brascom (Tampa Bay Tech)

Forest is a returning All-Broward selection.  He can score when necessary but has a desire to get and keep his teammates involved.  This will be Plummer’s fourth year as a starter.  The 6’0 guard was the only underclassmen to make first team All-Jacksonville last season.  James is a 6’7 inside-out player that is a tough matchup.  He can post up and score inside and take defenders out on the perimeter and either shoot over or go by them.  Brascom may only be 5’9 but he is fearless and scores near twenty points a contest.

Better than Advertised: Fort Lauderdale High School

While it may be a relatively young squad, the Flyin’ Ls will be a handful for opponents.  Antonio Daye, a 6’1 junior, can by dynamic at times on the perimeter.  Newcomer D.J. Warren, a 6’8 junior presence in the post will provide rebounding and rim protection.  Standout freshman 6’4 Jordan Shorter, will also be a factor.  Get the L’s now while you still can.

Don’t Sleep On: Xavier Hutchinson, St. Augustine Bartram Trail

A 6’5 senior, Hutchinson plays all over the court for Bartram Trail.  He can bring the ball up and run the offense as a point guard, score from different levels off the ball, or help defend the paint.