Favorite: Orlando Christian Prep
On the one hand, this is a simple choice. OCP has dominated this classification for several years. The program continually finds and develops talent, plays a challenging schedule in Central Florida, then all but steamrolls its playoff opponents. Looking up and down the list of schools in Class 3A, no program stands out as a challenger to OCP. On the other hand, if teams are going to take down the Warriors, this is the year to do it. The squad features only two seniors and the cast of returnees doesn’t have a lot of experience in tight contests. Still, until a program defeats the Warriors or it becomes clear that the program’s success is in the rear view mirror, there is no reason to jump off the bandwagon.
Regional Favorites: Tallahassee St. John Paul II (Region 1); Naples First Baptist (Region 3); Hialeah Champagnat (Region 4)
SJP II didn’t make it out of district’s last season but that young squad is a year older and with the presence of Rickards transfer Alan Jean-Rose, the program should have the upper-hand this time around. Rose, along with all-area returnee Chosen Levarity, gives the team a 1-2 punch that no one else in the region has. Down in Southwest Florida, it should come down to Naples First Baptist and Fort Myers Canterbury, just like last season. Despite returning four starters, none of them is Berric Jean-Louis. First Baptist actually won the district title over Canterbury and lost by only a single point in the regional semi-final rematch last season. Preston Urbanic will be the best player on the floor this time around and his presence should get First Baptist over the proverbial hump. In South Florida, Champagnat made a run to the regional final last year and because they are a known commodity, it won’t surprise if they get to Lakeland. There are several question marks in this region, which could make for a lot of chaos.
Best Player: Taylor Trudeau, Mount Dora Christian
Trudeau has an old man’s game in a young man’s body. His calling card is his ability to make shots from deep. While he may never be the most athletic of the ten guys on the court, Trudeau is crafty and just seems to know how to score. He’s got a solid frame and isn’t afraid to bowl over people to take the ball to the hoop. It wouldn’t surprise if Trudeau led the state in scoring this coming season.
Pre-Season All-State: Taylor Trudeau (Mount Dora Christian); Alan Jean-Rose (Tallahassee St. John Paul II); Preston Urbanic (Naples First Baptist), Simon Milbar (Fort Meyers Cantebury); TBD, Orlando Christian Prep
Trudeau has been discussed above. Jean-Rose, a 6’6 senior wing, will do a little bit of everything for SJP. He’s a lengthy defender and rebounder and will get to the basket and make plays on the offensive end. Urbanic, a 6’2 senior, is a facilitator and scorer for First Baptist. He will certainly have a chance to play at the small school collegiate level. The 6’9 senior Milbar is a combination of size and skill that will be difficult for Canterbury’s opponents to match up with. When he focuses on owning the paint and doesn’t float around on the perimeter, Milbar dominates at this level. No doubt that Orlando Christian Prep will have a player emerge as “the guy”. We have a guess as to who that might be, but we think it is best to let things play out.
Better Than Advertised: Jupiter Christian
Jupiter Christian had a stellar record last season heading into the regional playoffs. They fell by six at home, which no doubt left a bitter taste in their collective mouth all season. Senior twins Gethro and Gedeon Germinal will be counted on to get Jupiter Christian over the hump this coming season.
Don’t Sleep On: Jovan Stolic, Naples Seacrest Country Day
Playing in a loaded district that includes Canterbury, First Baptist, Evangelical Christian, and Southwest Florida Christian, Seascrest County Day needs a lot from Stolic, a 6’5 senior. Last season as a junior he delivered to the tune of 22+ points a game while shooting 53% overall from the floor and 40% from three (76 makes) and knocking down 87% of his free throws. To keep Seacrest competitive this season, Stolic will need to come close to those same numbers.
PRE-SEASON TOP FIVE
1.Orlando Christian Prep
2.Tallahassee St. John Paul II
3.Naples First Baptist
4.Fort Myers Canterbury