03 Nov 2023

2023-24 Central Florida Preview

We move onto Central Florida for our regional previews.

TOP FIVE “BIG” SCHOOLS (CLASS 7A thru 5A)

Orlando Oak Ridge (Class 7A, Region 2, District 5) The Pioneers have put together one of the more talented teams in the state regardless of class and are nationally ranked in the top twenty in a couple of pre-season polls  Tyler Johnson, a 6’5 senior and Virginia Tech commit, has become a match-up nightmare now that his perimeter shooting ability is on par with his talent for scoring on drives to the rim. He is also a determined rebounder and defender.  Jamier Jones, a 6’6 junior, comes over from IMG and is another dynamic slasher that creates havoc for the defense with both his scoring and passing skills.  Jalen Reese, a 6’1 junior, is one of the better point guards in the state regardless of class.  He keeps his teammates happy with plentiful shot opportunities but Reese is a very accurate perimeter shooter that can create points on his own.  Cam Simpson, a 6’6 junior and University of Central Florida commit, stretches the defense with his shooting ability. Jordan Tillery, a 6’5 senior and Georgia Southern commit, is multi-dimensional and can play/defend any position on the floor.  Junior Amari Davis, at 6’8, can also step out and shoot and will be asked to hold down the paint at the defensive end. Tim Winkler, a 6’9 sophomore, adds more depth, size, and athleticism to the team. A strong schedule should get the Pioneers ready for the playoffs and a return run to Lakeland.

Orlando Olympia (Class 7A, Region 2, District 5) To paraphrase an old saying, “the transfer portal giveth and the transfer portal taketh away”.  Olympia lost a pair of good players to basketball academies out west, but it wouldn’t be hard to argue that two incoming players are as good if not better.  Kameren Wright, a 6’6 senior, is a dynamic slasher with a reliable shot from deep.  He covers a lot of ground quickly on defense and helps out on the glass.  Vophcy Prophet, a 6’5 senior, is dynamic in transition, an excellent on-ball defender, and an improving perimeter shooter.  Kaiden White, a 6’4 senior, had an excellent summer and is starting to get the collegiate looks he deserves.  He may be forced to slide over to the point but he is still a more than capable scorer.  Interior size may be an issue but the Titans have the talent to make an impact in 7A.

Windermere (Class 7A, Region 2, District 5) If the Wolverines’ campus were ten miles to the east, they would probably be a lock to get to Lakeland out of Region One in 7A.  As it stands, they are in a tough region two with a host of other challengers.  No doubt this group will be up for the task.  We came away extremely impressed with the improvement of 6’4 senior Chalier Torres.  He played some international ball this summer and that experience seems to have really elevated his confidence level and production.  Torres found a great deal of success attacking the basket and scoring through contact in traffic.  Add this wrinkle to his already formidable outside shooting and he becomes a tough cover.  T.J. Drain, a 6’8 junior, seemingly improves every time he steps on the court.  He owns the glass at both ends, challenges, changes, and blocks shots around the basket, and has become adept at dropping in shots from 12-15 feet.  As his body continues to mature and gain strength, his athleticism will improve, most likely making him a coveted recruit this time next year.  Nathan Earl, a 6’2 sophomore, provides a spark in the backcourt with his speed, quickness and outside shooting ability.

Daytona Beach Mainland (Class 5A, Region 1, District 4):  Mainland is always a tough out come playoff time and this year should be no different.  It is hard to believe that Nate Kirk is only a sophomore.  The 6’0 point guard is just so savvy and plays beyond his years.  He doesn’t get rushed, scores in a variety of ways without dominating the ball and looks to get teammates involved.  Naryan Thomas, a 6’5 senior, has blossomed from primarily a force inside in his younger days to a tough cover on the perimeter.  He has excellent strength, good ball skills, and has become a shooter that must be challenged on the perimeter.  Tajah Thomas, a 6’6 senior, brings the strength and energy when it comes to defending the interior and pursuing rebounds. An X-Factor could be 6’0 freshman guard Kade Manley.  He may look like the team manager, but he has a deft touch from three and takes care of the ball.

Orlando Edgewater (Class 6A, Region 2, District 6): The Eagles were solid last season but some new additions could carry them all the way to Lakeland out of this region.  Donovan Williams, a 6’4 sophomore, is one of the better players in Florida’s loaded 2026 Class.  He scores well from all three levels, is a dynamic athlete and will put in work when it comes to rebounding and defense.  Zion Mitchell, a 6’2 senior, is a solid scoring point guard that will provide Edgewater with experience, scoring, and ball-distribution.  He is also a top-level receiver on the football field and he may not hit the hardwood until January.  Myles Mayfield, a 6’7 junior, returns to provide an interior presence at both ends of the floor.  An excellent athlete, expect Mayfield to protect the rim on defense while finishing above it with authority on the offensive end.

TOP FIVE “SMALL” SCHOOLS (CLASS 4A thru 1A)

Orlando Christian Prep (Class 2A, Region 2, District 7) While the loss in last year’s 2A title game stings, OCP certainly has enough in its talent pool to contend for the 2A title this season.  Isaiah Brown, a 6’5 senior and University of Florida commit, showed off a much improved and more complete game this spring and summer.  His ability to score in a variety of ways will be a big factor.  Ameer Ramadan, a 6’0 senior and Florida Southern committ, is solid at the point guard spot.  He shoots the ball well from the perimeter, makes good decisions on the move, and doesn’t seem to be fazed by defensive pressure.  Darius Washington, III, a 6’4 junior, brings another scorer to the floor.  He is tough to contain when attacking the basket.  Mark Angueki, a 6’8 senior, has vastly improved his offensive skills and ferociously pursues rebounds and challenges shots on defense.  Hunter Johnson, a 6’1 senior, is a strong on-ball defender and lethal perimeter shooter when given space.

Windermere Prep (Class 3A, Region 2, District 6) A surprise run to the 3A state final with a bunch of youngsters suggests a bright future for the Lakers.  Sinan Huan, a 7’0 sophomore, is an elite level rim protecter.  The lefty seemingly improve offensively every time out.  Malachi Martis, a 6’5 junior, is a physical player with plenty of inside/outside versatility.  Sam Shoptaw, a 6’3 junior, mans the point.  He does a good job of running the offense, getting players involved, and dictating the tempo.  Shoptaw will score on the drive or perimeter shot when the opportunity arises.  Jordan Ford, a 6’4 junior, is a long athlete that uses his physical gifts well on the glass as well as the defensive end.  Most of his points come around the basket in transition or drives but he will drop in a three-point every now and then when the defense is inattentive.  Ian Parham, a 6’5 sophomore, fits in well after playing at Calvary Christian last season.  He has a good feel for the game, rebounds the ball well and scores well driving to the hoop.  Brandon Bass, a 6’5 sophomore, is an athletic lefty with deep range on his shot.  He continues to improve as a finisher around the basket.  Gustavo Roca, a 6’2 freshman, doesn’t play like it.  He’s savvy, plays under control, takes and makes smart shots, and has solid ball-handling and passing skills.

Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Class 4A, Region 2, District 7): LHP doesn’t have much size so it relies on a group of guards to get the job done.  Fortunately, they play pretty well together at both ends of the floor.  Julian Clarke, a 6’0 senior already committed to UNC-Asheville, didn’t play in the first half of the game we took in be quickly made up for lost time once he hit the floor.  He connected on a trio of shots from beyond the arc, penetrated the defense and cashed in floaters in the lane, and pushed the pace overall on offense.  Senior 6’0 guard Kellan Lewis has always been a steady catch-and-shoot guy.  This weekend he showed more aggression to the basket on the bounce.  A pair of sophomores will be keys to the Highlanders success this coming season.  Atwal Shiva is a 6’5 shooter that can stretch defenses.  Michael Madueme is 6’4 and shows a solid feel for the game and competency in all of the fundamental areas of the game.

Eustis (Class 4A, Region 2, District 6) Eustis was not on our radar until we caught them thrashing one of the more talented Orlando teams in a fall league game.  Granted, it is fall league, but it was a case of hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.  The Panthers took their lumps last season with a young group.  That group is now battle-tested and proving that it can play against bigger teams on its schedule and come out on top.

Oviedo The Master’s Academy (Class 3A, Region 1, District 4) Under the guidance of Head Coach Reggie Kohn, the Eagles have become one of the more consistent programs in the region.  Devaughn Stallworth, a 6’5 senior, will assume much of the scoring load this season.  He certainly has the skills and mindset to do that.  Josh Pitts, a 6’0 junior, will get every opportunity to run the show on offense.  Micah Taber, a 6’7 junior, will be called upon to man the middle.  The Master’s will play at a fast tempo, take a lot of threes, and look to wear teams down with that style of play.

Top Five Players

Kameren Wright, Orlando Olympia: The 6’6 senior transferred in and his all-around ability and athleticism will no doubt help the Titans keep pace in a very tough region.  A terror in transition and when attacking the basket against a set defense, Wright is a highlight waiting to happen.  He also is a reliable shooter from the perimeter.  Defensively he disrupts the passing lanes, has active hands and feet, and can turn the momentum of game with a steal and slam at the other end.

Jalen Reese, Orlando Oak Ridge: A 6’1 junior, Reese is the son of a coach and plays like one.  He has a high hoops IQ, has excellent court vision and awareness, handles and passes the ball well and is unfazed by defensive pressure.  Reese is a reliable shooter from deep but also a guy that runs the offense and gets his teammates the ball where they can best use it.

Ameer Ramadan, Orlando Christian Prep: A 6’0 senior, Ramadan is an extension of the coach on the floor.  He is a reliable shooter from deep, makes good pass vs. shot decisions on the move, gets his teammates involved, and is a tenacious on-ball defender.

Tyler Johnson, Orlando Oak Ridge: The 6’5 senior continues to improve his overall game.  While still able to score around the basket, Johnson is now a threat to knock down mid-range pull-ups as well a catch-and-shoot jumpers from beyond the arc.  He is an excellent rebounder at both ends of the court and finishes well on the break.

Isaiah Brown, Orlando Christian Prep: The 6’5 senior simply has a knack for getting the ball in the basket.  Whether it is creatively finishing forays to the hoop in a crowd or knocking down threes off the catch, Brown gets the ball in the hole.  He anticipates well and reacts quickly on the defensive end and will surprise opponents with his ability to finish above the rim.

#1 Senior: Isaiah Brown, Orlando Christian Prep (see above)

#1 Junior: Jaylen Reese, Orlando Oak Ridge (see above)

#1 Sophomore: Donovan Williams, Orlando Edgewater: (see above)

#1 Freshman: Martay Barnes, Melbourne Holy Trinity: As a 6’2 eighth grader, Barnes started for a solid HT team.  With the loss of a couple of players to transfer, Barnes will have even more on his plate.  He has proven he can handle it.  An excellent athlete, Barnes also has plenty of skill and should be one of the better players nationally in the 2027 Class when it is all said and done.

Senior Sleeper: Cheo James, Orlando Boone: The 6’3 senior averaged 19 points a game last season against some very tough Central Florida competition.  He is wired to score and whether driving strong to the basket to finish through contact in a crowd or lofting contested perimeter jumpers on either side of the arc, James finds way to light up the scoreboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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