Favorite: Hialeah Mater Lakes
The Bears look to have a great opportunity to defend the crown they won last year. Anthony Knowles, a 6’0 junior, returns to run the show. He does a great job of orchestrating the Bears’ attack and has proven to be a tough cover on both his drives and his jumper. Braylon Burbage, a 6’0 senior, transfers in. He is an ideal fit with this team as he has a reliable stroke from deep and doesn’t hesitate to attack the basket if overplayed for the shot. Christian Reid, a 6’5 senior, is an interior terror. Some may consider him undersized but he is strong, athletic, physically tough and absolutely fearless. His perimeter game continues to improve but he has a nose for the ball coming off the offensive glass and more times than not simply outworks his opponent for points. Clarence Burts, a 6’3 senior, will continue to do all the little things that add up to wins on both ends of the court. Teo Martinez, a 6’8 junior, provides additional size and depth on the inside. He is capable of stepping away from the basket and stretching the defense. He may be a freshman, but 5’11 Khanye Moss has an abundance of speed and quickness, knows how to use those physical gifts at both ends of the floor and is another reliable perimeter shooter. Mater Lakes will get a stern test from Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian as the Eagles return to FHSAA playoff eligibility after playing last season as an independent. We feel Mater Lakes’ chemistry and experience gives them an edge.
Regional Favorites: Jacksonville Ribault (Region One); The Villages Charter (Region Two); St. Petersburg Gibbs (Region Three)
Ribault was a bit of a surprise to reach Lakeland last season. With the return of 6’0 senior Caleb Williams and several athletic and aggressive defenders, the Trojans will go from being the hunter to the hunted. The usual suspects such as Pensacola Bay, Tallahassee Godby, and Jacksonville rivals Jackson, Paxon, and Wolfson will test them. The Villages Charter may have lost Sam Walters to graduation and the University of Alabama, but the Buffaloe return a host of talented, albeit young players. Despite that we give them an edge over the likes of Eustis, Orlando Lake Highland Prep, and Melbourne Palm Bay. In Region Three, Gibbs has a very good shot of returning the Lakeland for the third consecutive season. The Gladiators combination of guard play and interior depth will make them a tough out.
Best Player: Christian Reid, Hialeah Mater Lakes
Playing hard is a skill and Reid may be the most skilled player in the state in that regard. At 6’5 with a strong and solid frame, he plays bigger than his size. Reid routinely outrebounds bigger players, outruns smaller ones, and finds ways to get the ball into the basket when given the opportunity. He is very adept at taking opponents off the dribble inside the arc, blowing by bigger defenders and overpowering smaller ones. Should he become a more consistent perimeter threat, especially from beyond the arc, he can become a star for teams that embrace “small ball” at the next level.
Pre-Season All-State: Reid; Caleb Williams (Jacksonville Ribault); Jacob Daniels (St. Petersburg Gibbs); Enrico Borio (Coconut Creek North Broward Prep); Sean Abaev (Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian)
Williams, last season’s Florida Times-Union Player of the Year, is a proven leader and winner. He makes his teammates better and he has proven his ability to score from all over the floor. Daniels, a 6’1 junior, will be starting his third season for the Gladiators. The point guard prospect has excellent court vision, feel for the game, and nuanced offensive skills. He gets and keeps his teammates involved but can get buckets when necessary. Borio, a 6’8 senior and Jacksonville University commit, is a skilled forward that can play both inside and out. He rebounds, runs the floor, scores well with either hand around the rim and is a good passer both out of the post and on the perimeter. Abaev, a 6’7 junior, was one of the better players as an underclassman on the Under Armor Association circuit. The lefty is wired to score and will do so in a variety of ways.
Better Than Advertised: Jacksonville Andrew Jackson.
Guard play is important come playoff time, and the General have three good ones in seniors Jaylen Dopson, Octavious Lawson, and Ronald Durham. All are in the 6’2 to 6’4 range, athletic, score from the perimeter or taking the ball to the basket. Jackson doesn’t have much size but they will use their depth of speed and quickness to harass opponents and get easy baskets.
Don’t Sleep On: Anakin Brown, Jacksonville The Bolles School
The 6’2 senior averaged twenty points a contest last season, leading the team into the regional playoffs. The son of former NBA player Dee Brown, it is clear that the son has learned well from the father.
PRE-SEASON TOP TEN
1.Hialeah Mater Lakes
2.Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian
3.Coconut Creek North Broward Prep
4.St. Petersburg Gibbs
6.The Villages Charter
7.Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
9.Panama City Bay