We finalize our coverage of the Fall Festival Team Showcase with a look at some of the squads that made the trek from South Florida.
With hindsight being 20/20, we probably should have taken an extra look at the Cobras this past weekend. The team may have no established “star”, but there are a bunch of athletic players in the 6’2 to 6’5 rage up and down the roster. The group plays hard, pushes the pace, and is very aggressive on the defensive end. Martin Mercedes, a 5’10 senior, is the straw that stirs the drink for Boyd Anderson. Both quick and fast, very few defenders can stay between Mercedes and the basket. Once in the lane, he can craftily score in traffic or find teammates for open shots.
Even without a key football player or two this past weekend, Chaminade proved to be quite a potent team. It all starts with 6’9 senior and Northeast commit Andre Weir (pictured above). With a big body and big skills to match, Weir owns the block. If he gets the ball inside and isn’t double-teamed, it is two points, a trip to the free throw line, or both. Weir isn’t a great athlete but he dominates his rebounding area, doesn’t mind physical contact inside and is a decent rim protector. Playing alongside him is 6’7 senior John O’Neil. The two make for a very effective high-low tandem, but on his own, O’Neil is a very good perimeter shooter that should see a lot of three point opportunities when Weir is double-teamed. A bit thin, O’Neil doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of rebounding and defense. Dax Kaye, a 5’9 guard, was solid with his ability to knock down threes, beat the defense down the floor in transition, and overall feisty-ness.
After hoisting the state title back in March, Ely expected to be even better this coming season as eleven of fourteen players on the roster were scheduled to return. Six months later, all but two things have changed: Melvin Randall is still the head coach and “The Ely Way”, which has produced multiple state titles over the past decade, still make the Tigers a formidable opponent. Key senior contributor Lamont Evans was out this weekend with an injury, but that just means “next man up” for the Tigers. That “next man” looks to be 6’1 sophomore guard Kolby King. The speedy lefty was very accurate from beyond the arc in the game we took in but also found ways to get into the paint and rack up assists. The rest of the squad is tenacious as usual. As we’ve said before, you can’t count Ely out until they lose the last game of the season, which doesn’t happen often.
This long dormant program has really come to life over the past few seasons with Head Coach Tony Watson running the show. This past weekend, the team unleashed a three-headed monster on the perimeter that gave opponents all kinds of problems. It starts with 5’10 senior Deante Daniels at the point. Not only is he quick, make good decisions on the move, and a true point guard, Daniels is also a deadly deep threat, as demonstrated by his 5 of 6 accuracy from behind the three-point arc performance in one-half on Sunday morning. Jonathan Mogbo, a 6’5 senior, contributes on the wing with perimeter shooting and a knack for getting buckets on the offensive glass. His wing span and ability to anticipate on defense make him a valuable contributor at that end of the floor. Donovan Draper, a 6’5 junior, does a little bit of everything for the squad. He’s a marvelous passer, sneaky rebounder, and a crafty defender off the ball. The trio is surrounded by quality athletes that play hard. Forest Hill may be Palm Beach County’s best team regardless of classification.
This young program reached Lakeland last year and looks ready to make another run this coming season. We were very impressed with the play of 6’2 junior Jamel Coffer. Despite playing with a face shield due to a previously broken nose, Coffer showed no signs of it bothering him. He played with abandon at both ends of the floor, unafraid to go after loose balls or take contact when going up for shots inside. Coffer appears to have a respectable jumper out to the arc and the athleticism to finish above the rim. A.J. Lopez, a 6’4 senior, caused all kinds of problems with his ability to score from different angles and distances. He’s long, active defensively, and is quick with the ball to the basket. The team has some size as well, most notably 6’10 junior Jabari Williams and 6’9 sophomore Edward Noromko. Those two need some skill work on the offensive end, but know how to go get rebounds and what to do with the ball when they receive it near their own basket.