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2017-18 Preview: Independents

By Rick Staudt, 11/26/17, 8:45AM CST

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Top Team: Montverde Academy

Nearly every outlet that puts out a national high school team ranking has placed Montverde Academy at numero uno.  There are many reasons.  At the top of the list is 6’7 senior R.J. Barrett, a Duke signee that is considered the top player in all of high school basketball.  Also, this is arguably the deepest team that Montverde has fielded since it took the plunge into big-time high school basketball a little over a decade ago.  When healthy, there are no less than twelve players capable of playing college basketball anywhere from mid-major on up.  With the likes of 6’4 seniors Andrew Nembhard (Florida), Micheal Devoe (Georgia Tech), 6’10 senior Filipe Petrusev (Gonzaga) and 6’9 junior Makhi Mitchell (Maryland) running alongside Barrett, their opponents will essentially be facing a high-major D-I team.  The bench is no less talented, athletic, and skilled.  Montverde is embarking on a most strenuous schedule, including trips to China, Hawaii, the Beach Ball Classic and the Hoop Hall Classic.  Should they somehow come thru the season unscathed (or even with a loss or two), this could be the best team in Montverde history.

Best of the Rest: Bradenton IMG Academy (Independent); Orlando West Oaks Academy (SIAA); Bradenton Victory Rock Prep (SIAA)

IMG lost some talent to graduation and transfer but the team also got an influx of underclassmen talent that should help IMG continue the success it experienced last year.  Keyshawn Embry, a 6’2 Arkansas signee, 6’2 sophomore Noah Farrakahn and 6’6 junior Josh Green make up an explosive perimeter while on the inside Florida Vipers teammates 6’8 Kansas signee Silvio De Sousa and 6’7 LSU recruit Darius Days team up for their final year of high school ball.  Guarding the paint will fall to 7’0 junior Chol Marial. West Oaks will unleash a deep crop of guards on opponents and hopes to play at a hyper-quick pace.  Seniors Ben Tal (6’0) and P.J. Person (6’0), along with 6’1 junior Tyrell Jones will put the pedal to the metal.  The interior is a bit thin with only 6’10 junior Christian Lora and 6’9 junior Simeon Graham, but West Oaks has won big this way more than once.  Conversely, Victory Rock Prep is a bit thin in terms of numbers on the perimeter but has a lot of height at its disposal.  Juniors Jackson Makoi and Kolton Mitchell looked to get the ball to a talented and tall interior group in the form of 6’6 senior Madut Akec, 6’7 senior Jonathan Dos Anos, 6’10 South Florida signee Michael Durr and 7’0 junior Ibrahim Diallo.

Best Player: R.J. Barrett, Montverde Academy

Always considered one of the top prospects in the Class of 2019, Barrett decided to reclass up to 2018 and quickly became the top player in that class.  After dropping 30+ on Team USA in leading his native Canada to the U19 World Title this past summer, Barrett’s stock shot up even higher.  Though his jump shot is still somewhat streaky, he is still a magnificent scorer when attacking the basket.  He is also a fierce defender that quickly converts turnovers into, not just points, but demoralizing sportscenter-worthy dunks.

Pre-Season All-State: Barrett, Silvio De Sousa (IMG), P.J. Person (West Oaks), Madut Akec (Victory Rock Prep), Jimmy Bean, Jr. (Jacksonville Potter’s House Christian Academy)

De Sousa is a beast on the inside thanks to his strength and athleticism.  He has a nice touch on his jumper from ten feet and in and doesn’t shy away from any of the physical aspects of post play at either end.  Person is a fast, attacking guard that is tasked with keeping West Oaks playing uptempo at all times.  Though his jump shot lacks some consistency, he finishes well at the rim and is a fierce on-ball defender.  Akec is a smooth wing with a soft jumper out to the arc and finishes above the rim in transition.  Bean is physically gifted with strength and bounce.  He has become a consistent jump shooter from mid-range and beyond and does a good job of knocking down those shots off the dribble. 

Better than Advertised: Oldsmar Chrstian

Less than a month ago, Oldsmar went through a coaching change and mass player defections.  They’ve regrouped and while still expecting some additional bodies to come in, they have enough to challenge the rest of the SIAA.  Tyrese Williams, a 6’7 senior, gives them their only player of size right now.  Seniors Cameron Lee and Ricardo Clouden, both 6’4, are creative scorers from the perimeter.  Should Akeil Shakoor decide to return as expected and run the point guard duties, Oldsmar will be in much better shape for the rest of a competitive SIAA season.

Don’t Sleep On: Antrell Charleton, Gainesville The Rock School

The 6’2 Charleton will need to be at his absolute best to lift a young The Rock program to its customary place near the top of the SIAA.  An athletic guard with a scorer’s mentality, Charleton is always ready and willing to attack the defense, whether with a slashing drive to the basket or shot from beyond the arc.  He has the length, lateral quickness, and instincts for the ball to be disruptive on the defensive end.