Williston took home the Class 1A title last season and this 23-24 team looks even better despite the graduation of Greg Maxwell. The Red Devils have a dynamic 1-2 combination in 6’6 seniors Kyler Lamb and Javon Brown. Each is long and athletic, can play and defend multiple positions, and put forth great effort on every play. Brown’s forte is taking the ball strong to the basket whether in transition or in the half-court. He is explosive off the floor and finishes above the rim. Lamb is a lefty and a bit better perimeter shooter than his counterpart. Both can grab rebounds and push the ball up the floor without getting it to a guard. It’s a combo that no other 1A team has a matchup for. Aramys Rodriguez, a 6’1 senior, is an exceptional ball-handler and passer, gets his teammates involved, and will generate his own offense should the need arise. Reggie White, a 6’2 senior, Quincy Parker, a 6’2 senior, and Deandre Harvey, a 6’3 sophomore, provide perimeter punch and athleticism on the defensive end. Izaiah Lewis-Thompson, a 6’7 sophomore, provides depth on the interior.
Regional Favorites: Jay (Region 1); Cottondale (Region 2); Hawthorne (Region 3)
If Jay is going to represent Region 1, this is the year to do it. The Royals have a returning all-stater in 6’1 senior Ethan McDonald. He runs the show from the point and has the ability to put up twenty-plus on any given night. There is also plenty of size in the form of 6’8 senior Matthew Skipper, 6’6 senior Mason Allen and 6’6 junior Brady Godwin. In Region 2, Cottondale returns its top five scorers from last season’s playoff team. Leading scorer Kee’shan Hudson, a 6’0 senior, put up 13.5 points a game while junior Cameron Odom tossed in nine a contest. They will get a challenge from district rival Blountstown, who returns four of its top five scorers from last year’s playoff team. Region 3 should be a fierce battle between Jasper Hamilton County, Hilliard, Madison County, and Hawthorne. We expect the Yellow Jackets of Hawthorne to come out when the dust settles. Junior C.J. Ingram is one of the best two-sport athletes in the state regardless of class and he has proven that he can play against “the big boys” on a national level in the EYBL 16U division. Hilliard will be a tough out as C.J. Hall, a 6’2 junior who averaged just over twenty points a contest last season, is joined by 6’2 senior transfer Malcolm Warthen, who tossed in twenty-five points on a nightly basis last year. Hamilton County will look to counter with junior Michael Harper and sophomore Jaworski Williams. Those two combined for 33.5 points a game last season.
Best Player: Kyler Lamb, Williston
A 6’6 senior, Lamb has developed steadily over the course of his high school career. An electrifying athlete with length, Lamb excites the crowd with putback dunks, forceful finishes at the rim, and the occasional three-pointer. His physical traits allow him to be a versatile defender and he has a nose for the ball when it comes to rebounding.
Pre-Season All-State: Lamb; Javon Brown (Williston); C.J. Ingram (Hawthorne); Ethan McDonald (Jay); C.J. Hall (Hilliard)
Maybe the only difference between Lamb and teammate Brown is that Lamb shoots the ball a bit better from the perimeter. Other than that, the same skills and playing styles are evident. Ingram is a junior but at 6’5 with guard skills, runs the show for an always-dangerous Hawthorne team. A walking double-double, Ingram will no doubt flirt with a few triple-doubles this season. If Hawthorne is to return to Lakeland, Ingram will be carrying them on his back. McDonald averaged 14 points a game last season, knocking down threes at a 40% clip. He has the green light and will no doubt use it. Hall is an athletic and attacking guard that averaged near 21 points a game last season, shooting 53% from the field.
Better Than Advertised: Paxton
Paxton made the regional round of the playoffs last season and returns three of its top five scorers. The Bobcats have a tough inside/outside combination in 6’9 senior Sawyer Adams and 6’1 senior Collin Stewart.
Don’t Sleep On: Kyler Bryant, Chipley
Bryant, a 6’2 senior, averaged 12.5 points for Chipley in its run to Lakeland last season. The team returns three of five starters and will challenge Cottondale in Region 2. Bryant may need to take on more of a load, and not just scoring, to get the Tigers another chance at a state title.
PRE-SEASON “FAB FIVEW”