The game becomes much easier if a team has size. Offensively it can get you easy baskets close to the rim. On the defensive end, it makes it harder for the other team to score in half-court sets. With those things in mind, we look at those high school programs that will have formidable front courts this coming season.
7’0 SR Balsa Kaprovica, 6’9 SR Omar Payne, 6’8 SR Precious Achiuwa, 6’8 SR Jordan Mitchell, 6’11 JR Pavel Zakharov
The Eagles pretty much turned over their entire roster from last year’s 35-0 National Champions. While both Kaprovica and Mitchell were on the team last season, Kaprovica didn’t see a lot of court time until Dick’s Nationals and Mitchell was out all last season with an injury. This quintet should provide Montverde with more than enough depth, offensive production, and defensive prowess to keep pace with what will be the most challenging season in recent Montverde memory. Kaprovica looks to be more comfortable and aggressive on the offensive end. He has the ability to step away from the basket, handle the ball and stretch the defense with his perimeter shot. Payne, a top forty Florida commit, will make the most impact on the defensive end with his ability to switch out and guard perimeter players. He’s also a long and athletic shot blocker, rebounder, and rim runner in transition. Achiuwa, a transfer from St. Benedict’s in New Jersey, is considered one of the top ten players in the national 2019 Class. He has the ability to play either forward spot, combines strength and athleticism into a matchup problem for opponents, and is solid on the defensive end. Mitchell has been out of the spotlight for over a year but he’s a multi-skilled player than can handle, pass, and shoot the basketball. Zakharov, a native of Russia, was very impressive at the Fall Festival last month. He runs the floor well for a guy his size, passes the ball well, and will knock down open shots along the perimeter. Last year’s Eagles were very perimeter-oriented due to the exceptional talents of R.J. Barrett, Andrew Nembhard, and Michael Devoe. Expect a more balance attack this time around.
Fort Lauderdale NSU University School
6’10 SR Vernon Carey, 6’8 JR Scottie Barnes, 6’6 JR Jace Howard
Last year’s national runner-up, “U-School” will look to replicate that accomplishment behind its frontcourt. Carey, who many consider the top high school player in the national Class of 2019, is a modern big man that seems destined for the NBA. Blessed with size, skills, strength and athleticism, Carey can punish opponents down low as well as step out and connect on perimeter shots. He’s at his best when going strong to the basket, whether from the post, driving from the perimeter, or running the floor in transition. When the mood strikes, he can be a dominating defender and rebounder. Barnes, a top five member in the Class of 2020, was the MVP of the City of Palms Classic last season, leading U-School to the tile. He can play any position on the court, and has a great combination of size and skills. Barnes is likely to play a lot of “point forward” this season. Howard comes over from Gulliver Prep and will certainly aid the Sharks in their attempt for state and national honors. An athletic wing with a smooth perimeter game, Howard is quite effective as a slasher to the basket, a shooter from beyond the arc, and a facilitator on the wing.
Bradenton IMG Academy
6’9 SR Armando Bacot, 6’9 SR Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Bacot, a North Carolina commit, transferred in from Virginia while Robinson-Earl came in from Kansas City. Both have a legitimate chance to play in the McDonald’s All American Game in the spring and are considered top twenty prospects in the Class of 2019. Bacot dominates the basket area with his wide frame and energy. He finishes well through contact, earning a lot of “and one” opportunities. Bacot is also a good shot blocker for his size and is aggressive in pursuing rebounds. Robinson-Earl is an efficient scorer around the basket, is effective in coming off ball-screens thanks to good hands, and plays with a competitive fire. His ability to play away from the basket has greatly improved over the last year. At the defensive end, he is a good shot blocker and rebounder. Bacot and Robinson-Earl will make it very difficult for opponents to score in the paint this coming season.
6’8 SR C.J. Walker, 6’6 SR Kaleb Coleman
Walker, a transfer from Orlando Christian Prep, made quite an impression this past summer on a national level, raising his profile to that of a high major recruit and a “more likely than not” participant in the McDonald’s All American Game. Walker gets a lot done on the court thanks to his physical gifts of speed, quickness, athleticism and length. His ability to score from the perimeter or at the basket after a dribble or two has vastly improved. Playing with intensity, he is an active shot blocker and rebounder that can switch out on ball screens and harass opposing ball-handlers. Coleman had some excellent moments this past spring and summer with Team MOAM and has a fist full of D-I offers. He’s got a nice stroke from beyond the three point line, takes the ball to the basket with authority, and is a solid athlete. Coleman’s ability to play both inside and out makes him a matchup problem that the Pioneers hope to exploit on a nightly basis.
6’5 SR Ahren Freeman, 6’9 SO James Repass
Providence returns most, if not all, of their important pieces from last season, two of the most important being Freeman and Repass. Strong, physical, and athletic, Freeman can outmuscle smaller players and outhustle bigger ones. A good ball-handler and passer on the perimeter, Freeman could see minutes as a point forward. His outside shot has improved and he is unafraid to battle bigger players inside for rebounds. Repass has excellent hands and feet, has solid moves in the post, and scores well with either hand around the basket. While only average athletically, he has a solid hoops IQ and skill set that allows him to succeed against more athletic defenders.
6’8 SR James Pursley, 6’7 SR Xavion Lockwood, 6’5 SR Joshua Gloster
The Terriers reached the final four in Class 7A last year and hope the additions of Pursley and Gloster can get them over the hump this season. Pursley played last season in 2A but started his high school career at Oldsmar Christian, so he has faced tough competition. Strong and physical, he is at his best when he can get the ball in the lane and go up strong. Pursley runs the floor well for a guy his size and does a nice job of protecting the basket on the defensive end. Lockwood is an excellent athlete that accomplishes a lot on sheer effort. He’s an opportunistic scorer but he will make the most impact on the defensive end. Though just 6’5, Gloster plays much bigger. He’s quick with his post moves, has big shoulders and a strong frame, and plays with energy and aggression.
Others of Note
Auburndale: 6’6 SR Isaiah Turner; 6’6 SR Nate Beymer
Fort Lauderdale Dillard: 6’7 SR Markere William; 6’7 JR Jaylen Haynes
St. Petersburg Lakewood: 6’6 SR Jalen White; 6’9 JR Jamille Reynolds
Okeechobee: 6’7 SR Jequon Ferrell, 6’7 SR Jamal Davis
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas: 6’9 SR Shane Hunter; 6’7 SR Wallace Chester
Gainesville The Rock School: 6’8 SR Zmife Nwokeji; 6’8 SO Lynn Kidd
Windermere: 6’7 SR Dakota Rivers; 6’6 JR Eric Canavan