We finalize our regional previews with a look into South Florida.
TOP FIVE “BIG” SCHOOLS (CLASS 7A thru 5A)
Coral Gables (Class 7A, Region 4, District 15)
Despite the loss of highly regarded Jimel Lane to transfer, Gables brings back a solid nucleus to compete for a spot in Lakeland. Desmond Romer, a 6’0 senior, was first team all-county last year and will be called upon again to run the club. Kuran Bryant, a 6’6 junior, has plenty of length, athleticism, and skill to take on a greater role at both ends of the floor. Romeo Delgado-Gonzalez, a 6’4 junior, provides a lot of intangibles and will get more scoring opportunities this season. Gables lost in the regional semis last year but don’t be surprised if the team gets farther this time.
Doral (Class 6A, Region 4, District 16)
Doral won a state title in 2019 and looked in position to repeat until a shoulder injury took out star guard Devin Carter. The Firebirds have a trio of players that make the team a serious contender in Class 6A. Kameron Johnson, a 6’8 senior, provides a strong presence on the inside at both ends of the court. Younger brother Justin Johnson, a 6’6 sophomore, is considered one of the rising stars in South Florida’s loaded 2023 class. His skill level is high for a player his size and age. The perimeter will be strengthened by the transfer-in of 6’3 junior Levertis Williams from Coral Reef. Williams can play both guard spots but is best when able to focus on scoring. The balance of the squad will do what Doral has become known for: playing tight defense and running opponents ragged with movement and a crisp passing game.
Hialeah Mater Academy (Class 6A, Region 4, District 16)
Mater Academy was dealt a pair of significant blows this off-season. The first came when highly touted 6’8 junior Malik Reneau transferred to Montverde Academy. Secondly, and far worse, was the untimely passing of coaching legend “Shakey” Rodriguez (our condolences to the family). If ever a team needed inspiration and motivation, it is now for Mater Academy. Thankfully, everybody else of importance returns. Ryan Sanchez, a 5’9 senior, is a demonic defender as well as slashing penetrator with the ball. His backcourt counterpart, 5’10 sophomore Michael Bradley, has gotten taller and stronger while still maintaining an accurate shot from well past the arc. Terrance Shelman, a 6’3 senior and Rashard Parms, a 6’4 senior, will make the most of their scoring opportunities. Senior Lennox School, a 6’7 senior, won’t fully replace Reneau, but will certainly provide interior defense and scoring.
Miramar (Class 7A, Region 4, District 13)
Last year’s state champs in 7A will miss all-everything Brent Davis but has more than enough pieces back to contend once again. Senior Khamaury McMillan returns and will have the responsibility of running the team on the floor. He’s quick, athletic, and a tough defender. Deshawn Jean Charles, a 6’6 junior, made a splash in last year’s final four. An athletic forward, DJC can defend just about any position, take smaller players inside and score or take bigger players away from the basket and blow by them. Faheim Meran, a 6’5 junior, is another athlete with size and scoring skills. Sophomore Isaiah Williams, 6’3, should get a chance early on to contribute.
Pembroke Pines Charter (Class 5A, Region 4, District 14)
Pines Charter reached the Class 5A title game last season, only to fall in a bit of an upset to Tally Rickards. The three seniors lost from that team will be missed but Pines Charter looks to have enough back to make another run. Javen Flowers-Smith, a 6’0 senior, scored in double-figures last year. More will be expected from him and he should be more than up to the task. Geoffrey Sprouse, a 6’0 junior, is the other returnee that averaged 10+ points a game last year. Both Flowers-Smith and Sprouse bring speed and quickness with the ball on offense and determination on the defensive end. Kolby King, a 6’0 junior, transfers in from Ely. He brings many of the same qualities, both physical and skill-wise. Size seems to be in short supply at this time for Pines Charter, but this group seems to have that “junk yard dog” ferociousness that makes them a tough opponent night in and night out.
TOP FIVE “SMALL” SCHOOLS (CLASS 4A thru 1A)
Boca Raton St. Andrew’s (Class 3A, Region 3, District 11)
Last year’s Class 3A state champ will miss big man Yussif Basa-Ama, but everyone else of consequence returns and St. Andrew’s has a valid shot at repeating. It starts with Memphis signee Josh Minott, a 6’8 senior that has a wide array of skills. Devin Hines, a 6’3 senior, scores well from the perimeter with an accurate jump shot or when attacking the basket with the drive. Senior point guard Brody Landon does a great job of taking care of the basketball and orchestrating the offense. Inside, seniors Kenny Turner (6’7) and Bobby Stewart (6’8) form a dynamic combo. Turner brings the power, athleticism, and tenacity to control the glass and the paint while Stewart is an excellent passer and can score both inside and out.
Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian (Class 3A, Region 3, District 12)
To be concise, Calvary has loaded up. The talent returning was enough to make Calvary one of the better teams in the area, but the transfers have propelled this squad to national notoriety. Gregg Glenn, a 6’7 junior, is a national top fifty player in the class. He has plenty of inside/outside skills. Dylan Canoville is a 6’5 senior with explosive athleticism and thrives when able to attack the basket. Carl Cherenfant had a very good freshman campaign and the 6’5 wing should elevate his game this season. Marvel Allen, a 6’4 sophomore transfers in and brings an attack mode mentality to both ends of the floor. Taylor Hendricks, a 6’9 junior and twin brother Tyler Hendricks, 6’4, come over from U-School. The taller Taylor is a fluid athlete that runs the floor well, finishes around the basket, and protects the rim. Tyler is an accomplished perimeter shooter that will help space the floor. Logan Lord, a 6’11 senior and Sami Elkamel, a 6’8 sophomore, provide more depth on the interior.
Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy
WA has built a solid program and this year should be no different. It is a young squad with an exciting future. Ben Middlebrooks, a 6’10 junior, performed very well this summer and fall and has become a target of several high-major colleges. He can stretch the floor with his shot or score inside. Jaylen Carey, a 6’9 sophomore, comes over from U-School to become a great inside/out partner with Middlebrooks. Carey has great hands and footwork, scores with a soft touch inside, and is a physical defender. Javaris Rolle, a 6’5 senior will add versatility on offense and will help control the boards on both ends of the floor. Balancing the floor will be 6’5 junior Aiden Abell. He has a great perimeter stroke and will allow his bigger teammates to operate more freely inside. Hopefully, a pass-first point guard will be found that can bring all of the pieces together.
Hialeah Mater Lakes (Class 4A, Region 4, District 14)
A very young group that last year got bounced in the first round of the playoffs as an eight seed is now more experienced and has gotten an infusion of size. Last year’s starting backcourt, 5’10 Jamai Tejada and 5’10 Anthony Floyd, are now sophomores with a lot of experience under their belts. They will welcome the presence of 6’3 junior Kareem Barnett. Not only does he bring size, Barnett is very athletic and has an “always attack” mentality. Craig Starks, a 6’8 senior, has moved in from Miami Beach. He’s strong, athletic, and provides needed muscle and mayhem on defense and in the rebounding department. Additional help will come from 6’5 senior Max Moratinos and 6’7 sophomore Andruw Rondon-Delacruz.
Miami Riviera Prep (Class 3A, Region 4, District 15)
Citing COVID-19 concerns, Riviera Prep has already opted out of the FHSAA playoffs and will play as a “club” team under the name of Shahbaz Elite. Still, they will play this season and will be one of the top teams in that part of the state. Estban Llubres, a 5’9 junior, is the straw that stirs the Riviera Prep drink. He has the ball on a string, makes good decisions, and has ample scoring tools. Osmar Garcia-Araujo, a 6’7 sophomore, is the go-to scorer. He is an excellent post scorer that can also step out and score on short drives or jump shots. The presence of Edward Nnamoko, a 6’10 junior, gives the aforementioned Garcia-Araujo the opportunity to move outside. Nnamoko, is athletic, runs the floor, rebounds at both ends and is a good shot blocker. Landon Suarez, a 5’11 sophomore is a floor-spacing perimeter shooter and the rest of the supporting cast know their respective roles and performs them well.
Top Five Players
James Henderson, Miami Westminster Christian: The 6’8 senior is athletic, strongly built, and plays with a high level of energy and tenacity. He has quick moves to the basket down on the block and is quick to posterize smaller defenders. He rebounds and runs the floor, protects the basket, and is a vocal teammate on defense, calling out switches and other defensive assignments.
Taylor Hendricks, Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian: The 6’8 junior has good offensive skills as he has a nice touch around the basket and can step away and connect on the shots from behind the arc with consistency. He is a good athlete that covers a lot of ground quickly on defense and challenges shots in the lane. Hendricks’ offensive versatility make him a tough matchup on a nightly basis.
Josh Minott, Boca Raton St. Andrew’s: The 6’9 senior can and will play just about anywhere on the floor. He can run the offense, create for others, manufacture points on his own with the drive or jump shot, grab-and-go with the ball after a rebound and block shots, either straight up or coming over to help. Despite not having a club circuit to play on, Minott elevated his national profile into the top fifty nationally.
Amen Thompson & Ausur Thompson, Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest: If one thinks it is hard to tell them apart, try playing against them! The 6’5 twins played in a national event this summer and immediately caught the eye of noted national scouts. That drove the Thompsons’ recruiting profile into the stratosphere. Combining high basketball IQs, skills, athleticism, and length, Amen and Ausur pretty much have the whole package. Yes, their perimeter shooting consistency needs to improve but no doubt that is coming. They play extremely well off each other, giving them an advantage against the defense.
#1 SR: Josh Minott (see above)
#1 JR: Amen & Ausur Thompson (see above)
#1 SO: Osmar Arajuo-Garcia: The 6’7 hybrid forward continues to impress after a stellar freshman season. Strong and skilled on the interior, he has good post moves and a soft scoring touch in the lane and has proven at various fall events that he can get to the basket and score with one or two dribbles as well as connect on jumpers to eighteen feet.
#1 FR: Marcus Allen, Miami Norland: The 6’5 wing already has great size and a high skill level. He is a physical guard that seeks contact and consistently gets to the basket. He is a respectable perimeter shooter and decent passer. If first looks are any indication, Allen can be as good as he wants to be.
Senior Sleeper: Jacoby Brown, Miami Palmetto: The 6’7 Brown has labored on the interior but based on what we saw this summer, he is now ready to play more on the perimeter and become a serious inside/out threat. His ball skills and jump shot are respectable and Brown is a good athlete that plays hard on both ends of the court.