Every year there are players that raise their reputation with their play. This year was certainly no different. These are just some of the performers that had us sit up and take notice.
Ethan McDonald, Jay: One might have thought that Jay’s season would be sub-par after junior Tristan Wilson missed the first seven games of the season recovering from a knee issue and playing the remaining fourteen games with what looked to be a bulky brace. However, McDonald, a sophomore picked up the slack and helped get Jay to the region final. McDonald averaged 22 points a game, making him a top forty scorer in the state regardless of class according to Max Preps. With McDonald and a fully recovered Wilson next season, Jay may make its long awaited to trek to Lakeland.
Isac Tevarus, Jacksonville North Florida Educational/Adrian Cruz, Weston Sagemont: We saw both of these players perform during the “off-season” and knew they were capable scorers, but what these two players did in their Class 2A semi-final matchup was nothing short of spectacular.
Tevarus, a 6’3 junior, is “all accelerator, no brakes” on the hardwood. He scored 46 points in the OT loss to Sagemont, missing much of the first quarter due to a non-injury related issue and making only one three point attempt. Tevarus is absolutely merciless when it comes to getting to the basket against an extended defense or a defense that fails to sprint back. Once at the rim, he scores in all kinds of different ways with either hand. He loves to rebound, which gives him a chance to grab and go with the ball. His perimeter shooting form looks solid but when a player is that successful, not just getting to the basket but scoring and drawing fouls, the jumper becomes a very secondary option.
Cruz, a 6’3 senior, scored 40 points in that semi-final but did so with much more variety. He too had frequent forays to the hoop but he also showed an ability to make jumpers off either the catch or the dribble out to the arc. Cruz also surprised with his ability to make the right shot vs. pass decisions on the move and get the ball to teammates for good looks. He has the ability to play either guard spot and approaches the game with a certain savageness that elevates his play and that of his teammates.
Daniel McGregor, Clearwater Calvary Christian: The 5’11 sophomore definitely took his game to another level this season. As a freshman he averaged just under eight points a contest. This year, he upped that number to just shy of twenty points a contest in leading Calvary to the region-semis. McGregor plays with a confidence and toughness that is rare for a sophomore. He is skilled in all facets of the game, make his teammates better, and doesn’t hesitate to step into the spotlight come crunch time.
Michael Kalina, North Broward Prep: A 6’2 senior, Kalina was a key cog in North Broward Prep’s undefeated regular season run. If the team hadn’t been in the same district, region, and classification as Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian, no telling how far the team could have gotten. Kalina made sure NBP’s frontline that went 6’8, 6’8, and 6’6 got the ball when and where they wanted it to get the best possible shot. He is very crafty with the ball in his hands and is alert to get the ball to open shooters when the defense cuts off his path to the basket. Kalina isn’t a great athlete but he is quick enough to get defenders on his hip to draw fouls. He also does a good job of anticipating on the defensive end of the floor.
Karmani Gregory: A 6’2 senior, Gregory was a very potent scorer in the two games we saw him play this season. He dropped 30 points on a solid Auburndale team in the Sunbash event over Christmas break. At the Invitational against top ten Windermere, Gregory led Southeast with 20 points. Clearly, he’s a productive scorer. Gregory has good range on his shot, is strong going to the basket with the ball, and has a knack for getting to the foul line. He was key in leading the team to a regional semi-final before falling to state runner-up and district foe St. Petersburg.
Ross Candelino, Ponte Vedra: The 6’4 lefty senior was the leader of the Sharks that surprised many observers in making a run to the state title game. Operating within a Princeton-style offense, it was clear that Candelino has a high basketball IQ. He played multiple positions within the offense, found cutters for easy baskets, and directed traffic away from the ball. Candelino made several shots from the perimeter and has a reliable shooting range past the three-point line. He puts in great effort on the defensive end, pursuing rebounds, hustling after loose balls, and rotating quickly to stop penetration.
Edgerrin James, Orlando Olympia: The 6’2 junior was often spectacular this season, leading his team to a district title and getting to the regional semi-finals. James excels as a mid-range scorer but can also break down the defense and score at the basket or rise up and connect from beyond the arc. He combines strength, quickness, and smarts to make him arguably a top fifty player nationally in the 2023 Class. We knew he was good coming into this season, we just didn’t realize he was THIS good.
Sammie Yeanay, Gainesville The Rock School: We’ll have to admit we were a bit disappointed that the 6’8 sophomore left his local school and enrolled at The Rock in the middle of the season (Christmas Break). Still, such is the nature of high school basketball these days. The change of scenery must have been a big boost for Yeanay. He went from post player to versatile offensive performer seemingly overnight. While he still gets the majority of his points operating in the lane, Yeanay now sports a reliable mid-range jumper, an occasional three-point shot, and an ability to get to the basket and score with one or two dribbles from the short corners and high post areas. A good shot blocker and rim protector, Yeanay will be one to watch on a national level.