Favorite: Fort Lauderdale Stranahan
Last season, this team started four sophomores and a junior. They reached the regional final where a dream season was ended by the Leesburg juggernaut. Now, this squad is primed to take the next step. The junior trio of Brian Dugazon, David Herard, and Chayse Culpepper, is a potent combination for defenses while junior big man Inady Legeste provides an interior scoring punch and rim protection the belies his 6’6 size. The team is taking on a challenging schedule and that should only help them be more prepared come playoff time. Suncoast out of Riviera Beach should provide a stiff challenge, as well as either Eustis or Leesburg come regional final time.
Regional Favorites: Tallahassee Rickards (Region 1); Palatka (Region 2); Sarasota Booker (Region 3)
This classification is always a tough one to figure out. On paper, Rickards certainly looks like the best of the group in Region One. Neighboring Godby will certainly put up a fight. Jacksonville schools make up the other part of the region and expect programs such as Ribault, Paxon, and Bishop Kenny to challenge. Region 2 is just as difficult to get a grip on. Palatka has a good bit of talent and experience returning from last year’s final four team. Athletic teams such as Dunnellon and Gainesville Eastside should be capable of providing a challenge. Sixteen schools in the area north of Tampa will fight it out for a spot in the regional finals. Booker came oh-so-close to taking out Leesburg in the semi-finals last year and the duo of Johnny Williams IV and Jordan Clark are eager to take that next step this year.
Best Player: Hunter Cattoor, Orlando Bishop Moore
Cattoor, a 6’2 combo guard, signed with Wofford during the early period. He’s athletic, competitive, and fundamentally sound. He’s talented enough to take over a game but also understands how to get and keep his teammates in the flow of the contest. An excellent shooter from all three levels, Cattoor scores in a variety of ways. He also has a high basketball IQ and makes good shot vs. pass decisions with the ball when on the move. In short, Cattoor is a complete player.
Pre-Season All-State: Cattoor, David Herard (Fort Lauderdale Stranahan), Johnnie Williams IV (Sarasota Booker), Jalen White (St. Petersburg Lakewood), Lance Irving (Leesburg)
The 6’3 junior Herard was Stranahan’s top scorer last season. He’s quick to the basket but also has a respectable jumper from the perimeter. The 6’4 senior Williams is a streaky shooter at best from deep but his athleticism and ability to finish above the rim are highlight reel worthy. White, a 6’6 senior, is chiseled and overpowers opponents all over the court. While his perimeter shooting is questionable, he’s a solid passer and ball-handler at his size, is active on the boards at both ends, and has a knack for coming up with 50/50 balls. Irving has proven that he can score points in bunches over the past couple of seasons. The defense is put in a really difficult spot with Irving. If they try to take away his jump shot, he’ll drive and dunk on defenders at the rim. Take away the drive, he’ll drain threes all game long.
Better Than Advertised: Lake Wales
With the inside/outside combo of 6’7 junior Gervon Dexter and 6’1 sophomore Walter Clayton, Lake Wales has a chance in nearly every game this season. Dexter is a physical specimen and can overpower most defenders around the basket. Clayton scores well from the perimeter and does a great job of handling defensive pressure and getting the ball where it needs to go. If their teammates stick to their roles and not try to do too much, Lake Wales could make a significant playoff run.
Don’t Sleep On: Norris Taylor, Sebring
The 6’2 Taylor has been a varsity starter since his freshman year. He plays both guard spots equally well. Taylor scores best when attacking the basket. His shot is a bit streaky at times. A good passer in transition, Taylor consistently searches out the best scoring option when pushing the pace. Taylor is also quite active on the defensive end, forcing turnovers and getting to loose balls.
PRE-SEASON TOP TEN
1.Fort Lauderdale Stranahan
6.St. Petersburg Lakewood
8.Jacksonville Bishop Kenny
9.St. Petersburg Gibbs