Favorite: Madison County
Madison County made it to the state semi-finals last year and came within two points of eventual champions Wildwood of reaching the title game. This time around, Madison County will be the odds-on favorite to take the title. Travis Jay, a 6’3 guard that nearly put up a triple-double in that semi-final game, is arguable the best player in Class 1A. He’ll get help from the likes of senior Demarvion Brown and junior Vincenta Mitchell.
Regional Favorites: Bonifay Bethlehem (Region 1); Chipley (Region 2); Wildwood (Region 4)
Regions 1 & 2 are tough to assess at this time due unforeseen impacts from Hurricane Michael in that region. Bethlehem out of Bonifay lost a close one on the road in the regional final last season. Maybe it’s their time this year. Chipley continues to be a model of consistency. Last year’s team made the final four to the surprise of many. Senior Kelvin Dean had 20 points in the semis and hopes to get another crack at a state title. Wildwood lost a lot of firepower from last year’s title team but semi-finals hero Marcus Niblack, a junior, is talented enough to get Wildwood into a position to defend the crown.
Best Player: Travis Jay, Madison County
Though already committed to Florida State to play football, Jay is an excellent basketball player. At 6’3 with a strong frame, he overpowers most defenders when going to the basket. He has good court vision and gets the ball out quickly to shooters when the defense collapses. At this level, he plays big and is a force on the boards. No doubt that if he chose hoops over the pigskin, he would have been a D-I prospect.
Pre-Season All-State: Jay; Marcus Niblack (Wildwood); Jacob Crews (Hilliard); Khalil Jackson (Hawthorne); Kelvin Dean (Chipley)
Niblack is a creative and talented player with the ball in his hands. He makes shots from deep, gets to the basket, and gets his teammates involved at the offensive end. Crews was very impressive this summer. He’s a very good run/jump athlete and a knock down three point shooter. Jackson does a bit of everything for Hawthorne. He’s at his best when he can get out in transition and get to the basket. Dean does a little bit of everything. While he isn’t spectacular in any single phase of the game, he is solid across the board.
Better Than Advertised: Milton Central
Last season, Central had three freshmen in double figures. With a year of experience under them, Central could be that sleeper team that no one wants to play come mid-February.
Don’t Sleep On: Carlos Williams, Cross City Dixie County
The 6’0 senior averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds a game for the Bears last season, leading them to playoff berth.
PRE-SEASON TOP FIVE