Favorite: Miami Norland
With the return of 6’6 senior Marcus Allen from a year at AZ Compass Prep, it feels like the Vikings will once again return to prominence. Allen’s versatile skill set was on display during the EYBL sessions this spring and summer. He is an improved perimeter scorer that is also a capable rebounder, ball-handler, and distributor. Tristan Wilson, a 6’6 senior, elevated his overall game last season in Allen’s absence, averaging in the high teens. A confident and reliable perimeter shooter, Wilson won’t hesitate to attack the basket if the opportunity presents itself. Jamal Ware, a 6’4 senior, does a little bit of everything to make him impact on the game. It is expected that 6’7 senior Kendrick Preston will be a presence on the interior and 6’4 junior Oneal Norelus will contribute. Norland will have no shortage of challengers on the road to Lakeland. Rockledge, Oakland Park Northeast, Stranahan, Archbishop McCarthy, and reigning champ Belen Jesuit will provide stiff competition on the region.
Regional Favorites: Daytona Beach Mainland (Region One); Tampa Blake (Region Two); Cape Coral Mariner (Region Three)
Mainland was a bit of a surprise last year with a young nucleus making a playoff run. Nate Kirk, a 6’0 sophomore paced the team in ppg last season. This time around he should get more help from 6’5 senior Naryan Thomas and 6’6 senior Tajah Thomas. If 6’10 senior DeAndre Newland can find his footing, Mainland will be hard to guard. Blake has three of the better frontcourt players in the state, all underclassmen. Joshua Lewis, a 6’7 junior, played well on the 16U EYBL circuit and is getting some high-major notice. K.J. Martin, another 6’7 junior, excels as a point-forward while also being able to create his own scoring opportunities. Joe Philon, a 6’7 sophomore, is athletic and just scratching the surface of his vast potential. If some solid guard play can be found, watch out! Cape Coral Mariner returns the majority of a team that reached region play last season. The Tritons have set themselves up with a tough schedule to get them battle tested come playoff time.
Best Player: Marcus Allen
Having already mentioned Allen quite a bit in this post and others, Allen is considered the top senior in the state NOT attending Montverde or IMG. He is a national top 100 player according to a variety of national scouting services. He has made his mark as a versatile player at both ends of the floor.
Pre-Season All-State: Allen; Ryan Blount (Rockledge); Josh Lewis (Tampa Blake); Ian Smikle (Riviera Beach Suncoast); Trey Murray (Wesley Chapel)
Blount, a 6’6 senior, is a sniper that plays with swagger and confidence. He can create his shot off the dribble, makes good reads coming off ball-screens and puts in work on the glass. Lewis, a 6’7 junior, has length, skills, and versatility. Smikle, a 6’9 senior, is one of the better post players you will find anywhere. He is committed to Tulsa and should make an immediate impact. All the 6’2 Murray did as a junior was lead the state in scoring at nearly 28 points per game.
Better Than Advertised: Miami Belen Jesuit
The reigning champs in this classification lost a lot to graduation but don’t count them out. Their style of play is unique and hard to guard. Size may be an issue, but shooting the three-ball and playing hard will not be.
Don’t Sleep On: Nate Boakye, Tampa Jesuit
We were impressed with Boakye this summer at the FABC Team Camp. He creates havoc on the defensive end with his speed, quickness, and ability to disrupt the passing lanes as well as control the dribble. He generates turnovers that turn into points for his team. He scores best when in transition or when finding an open path to the rim. The 6’3 senior simply finds ways to make plays.
PRE-SEASON TOP TEN
3.Daytona Beach Mainland
5.Cape Coral Mariner