Class 7A, the state’s biggest classification, is seemingly wide open this year. Any one of a number of teams have the talent to rise up and take the crown come March. We are putting the bulls-eye on Miramar to start the season. We’ve been a fan of senior point guard Brent Davis for quite some time, with his ability to both score and distribute the basketball. He’s got a young core around him, but the talent level of that group is very high. Deshawn Jean Charles and Faheim Meran, both sophomores, had excellent travel circuit seasons this spring and summer, and should head into the season with a great deal of confidence. Dr. Krop should provide the stiffest challenge in the district while programs such as Cypress Bay, Coral Gables. Miami High, and Palmetto are just some of the teams that could lie in wait in the regionals.
Regional Favorites: Apopka (Region 1), Oakridge (Region 2), Forest Hill (Region 3)
Apopka was stunned early in the district playoffs last year and that will provide fuel for redemption this season. Led by 6’7 FGCU signee Zach Anderson, the Blue Darters will ride their defense until the offense gels together. The district will be challenging with the likes of Dr. Phillips and Ocoee looking have solid squads while Sanford Seminole, Bartram Trail and Hagerty look like regional challengers. Orlando neighbor Oakridge will be young, with just one senior looking to make a significant contribution. However. That young core is talented and should propel the Pioneers back to Lakeland. Their district doesn’t look all that challenging but schools such as Osceola, Windermere, Tampa Sickles, Lakewood Ranch, and Sarasota Riverview would all love a shot to surpass Oakridge. Forest Hill out of West Palm Beach has been knocking on the door the last couple of seasons. This year it should finally get it to open. The Falcons have a solid perimeter trio in seniors D’ante Daniels, Jonathan Mogbo, and junior Donovan Draper. Wellington has owned this region in the past, and should be good again. Other contenders come in the form of Vero Beach, Dwyer, Park Vista and Coral Springs.
Best Player: David Greene, Ocoee
At 6’7 with a strong frame, Greene is tough to slow down when it comes to rebounding the ball or scoring around the basket. Greene also has a solid perimeter game as he can connect on shots from beyond the three point line as well as take defenders off the dribble to score at the rim. Greene draws a lot of fouls and spends a great deal of time at the foul line, where he connects at a pretty good clip.
Pre-Season All-State: Greene, Malachi Wideman (Venice), Zach Anderson (Apopka), Brent Davis (Miramar), D’ante Daniels (Forest Hill)
Wideman moved down to Venice from Sarasota Riverview, primarily for football reason, but he is a dynamic slasher and finishes well above the rim. He’s headed to FSU for football next year. Anderson’s versatility was on display in the EYBL this past spring. His long wing span serves him well when it comes to rebounding and defense but he’s skilled enough to play on the perimeter at the offensive end. Davis, a 6’3 guard who has signed with the Citadel, plays both guard spots effectively. Daniels is a true point guard that hits consistently from deep but also consistently hits open teammates with passes for easy baskets.
Better Than Advertised: Orlando Dr. Phillips
The Panthers have a young group and a new coach, but are definitely on their way to back to being one of the premier teams in Central Florida. The sophomore combo of 6’8 Ernest Udah inside and 6’0 Denzel Aberdeen should be effective and the rest of the Panthers understand their roles and perform them well.
Don’t Sleep On: Ga’Khari LeCount, Miami Coral Park
While LeCount signed with D-II Lynn University in the early signing period, it could be argued that if he waited until later in the spring a D-I school or two may have offered him. Though a bit thin, LeCount scores well in traffic and has a potent perimeter shot. He has been very impressive at various venues this fall.
PRE-SEASON TOP TEN
2.Orlando Oak Ridge
4.West Palm Beach Forest Hill
5.Bradenton Lakewood Ranch