The High School season is fast approaching. We will be presenting are annual previews over the next couple of weeks. As is tradition, we’ve broken the regions down into the Panhandle, North Florida, Central Florida, Southwest Florida, and South Florida. We kick off our regional coverage with a look at the Panhandle, which we consider to be Tallahassee to Pensacola.
Top Five “Big” Schools (Class 7A-5A)
Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee (Class 5A, Region 1, District 1): The Indians reached regional play last season and lose only two seniors of note from that team. While those two seniors both averaged double-figures, the returnees have tasted success in the past and should manage to elevate their play this season. Keymaury Allen, a 6’2 junior, Joseph Taylor, a 6’1 senior, and Isaac Hancey, a 6’2 senior are the top returning scorers. Chris Pitts, a 6’4 senior, will provide an interior presence.
Milton (Class 6A, Region 1, District 1): The Panthers were a young team last season that struggled through growing pains, failing to make the region playoffs. Their play this past fall at the Hoop Exchange Fall Festival suggests their fortunes will change dramatically in 23-24. Treymar Jones, a 6’2 junior, averaged double figures as a sophomore last season. C.J. McKinley, a 6’2 senior, also dropped in ten points a game last year. Rashaun Elzy, a 5’11 junior, was the team’s third leading scorer. Sergio Robinson, a 6’3 sophomore, was impressive as well at the Fall Festival.
Tallahassee Rickards (Class 5A, Region 1, District 2): The Raiders made into region play last year and lose no seniors of consequence from that team. Leading scorer Randall Pompey, now a senior, averaged nearly fourteen points a game last season. Romie Cosby, a 5’11 junior, added just over twelve points a contest. Travis Morris, a 6’2 senior, and juniors Travell Gallon (6’5), Isaiah Washington, and Benjamin Plummer (6’4) all made significant contributions last year and will look to build on those individual numbers.
Cantonment Tate (Class 6A, Region 1, District 1): The Aggies return three of their top four scorers from a team that reached regionals last year. Lucas Williams, a 5’10 senior, and Evan Bignall, a 6’4 senior, each averaged in double figures as well as grabbing nearly five rebounds a game. Senior Deonne Williams, a senior, will look to upgrade his numbers from 8 points and 6 rebounds a contest.
Pensacola Washington (Class 5A, Region 1, District 1): The Wildcats took a tough blow recently when their top player, 6’6 senior Jordan Bucchanan, transferred out of state. Still, the team returns, four of its top six scorers from a regional playoff team last season. Alex Jasquith, a 6’6 senior, is a versatile wing with an accurate three-point shot as well as the ability to get to the rim and score through contact in a crowd. Yet another senior, 6’6 Logan Brown, provides another active body to chase rebounds and challenge shots on the interior. Tyler White, a 6’4 senior, provides a perimeter complement to the team.
Top Five “Small” Schools (Class 4A thru 1A)
Panama City Bay (Class 4A, Region 1, District 1): The Tornadoes return three of their top five scorers from last year’s region playoff team. The top returning scorer is Tramello Carter, a 6’0 junior that tossed in eleven points a contest. Albert McKinney, a 6’8 senior, and senior Janorian Allen, provide punch on the interior and perimeter respectively. They will need to get contributions from some untested teammates but Bay should be heavily in the 4A playoff mix.
Tallahassee Florida High (Class 3A, Region 1, District 1): A region finalist last year, the loss of Missouri-bound Anthony Robinson stings but there is certainly enough returning to go as far, if not farther, than last season. T.J. Baker, a 6’2 senior, has proven that he can pick up the scoring slack with several productive outings over the course of the off-season. Trey Card, a 6’5 junior, provides a presence on the inside. Iryan Francis, a 6’6 junior, transfers over from Munroe and plays with a great deal of energy. Dakota Morris, a 6’6 senior, is a tough-to-contain inside/outside player.
Jay (Class 1A, Region 1, District 1): The Royals return four of five from a region finalist. Ethan McDonald, a 6’2 senior, will look to upgrade his fourteen points a game average. Jay is a surprisingly tall team for Class 1A. Matt Skipper, a 6’8 senior, Mason Allen, a 6’6 senior, and Brady Godwin, a 6’6 junior, provides size that is tough to match-up with. If those three can control the glass and McDonald can get good perimeter looks, this could (finally) be the year that the Royals get to Lakeland.
Marianna (Class 3A, Region 1, District 1): The Bulldogs reached regional play last season and return four of their top five scorers. Tra’jan Spears, a 5’10 senior averaged fourteen points a game last season, the team’s only double-figure scorer. Delijah Coleman, a 6’0 sophomore, Ryan Peace, a 6’0 senior, and Ja’cobi Hall, a 6’6 junior, will each be counted on to take their game to the next level.
Paxton (Class 1A, Region 1, District 1): The Bobcats return three of their top five scorers from last season’s region playoffs participant. Leading the way will be Collin Stewart, a 6’1 senior guard that earned all-state honors last season. Sawyer Adams, a 6’9 senior, is a capable interior scorer and rugged rebounder. Noah Morgan, a 5’10 senior, is a solid complement to the skills of Stewart and Adams.
TOP FIVE PLAYERS
T.J. Baker, Tallahassee FSU School: The 6’2 senior is a bucket-getter, pure and simple. He can drain perimeter shots and drive to the rim and finish in a crowd. Baker plays with great energy at both ends and wears out opponents by game’s end.
Treymon Jones, Milton: The 6’2 junior pretty much does it all for Milton: hitting shots from all three levels, finding open teammates for scores in both transition and half-court and rebounding well against bigger opponents. He has a real chance to play at the next level.
Dakota Morris, Tallahassee FSU School: The 6’6 senior is tough and athletic. He patrols the glass on both ends and gets a lot of hustle points. Morris challenges shots on defense and doesn’t mind playing physical in the paint.
Lucas Williams, Cantonment Tate: A first-team all-area selection as a junior, Williams does more than just score for the Aggies. He sets the table for teammates, drawing defensive attention away from them and then getting them open looks.
Nasir Williams, Gadsden County: One of only two underclassmen to make First Team All-Big Bend last season, the 6’1 senior averaged a double-double, and nearly 17 rebounds a game according to Max Preps. Through in four steals and four assists a contest and you have one of the better athletes in the state.
#1 Senior: T.J. Baker (see above)
#1 Junior: Iryan Francis, Tallahassee FSU School: At 6’6 with long arms and live legs, Francis gets a lot done around the basket. He has some solid if basic post moves and a soft touch inside. Francis gets to rebounds quickly at both ends and is fast down the floor in transition. Look for him to extend his shooting range and upgrade his ball-handlings skills to become more versatile on the offensive end in the near future.
#1 Sophomore: Alijah Chilton, Laurel Hill: The 5’10 sophomore is the top returning sophomore scorer in the region, averaging over seventeen points a contest as a freshman for the Hoboes. That is a lot of production for a first year player. Now the challenge is to elevate his teammates and get more wins.
#1 Freshman: Tarek Caesor, Tallahassee Rickards: Coming into high school at 6’5 and 180lbs, Caesor flashed some ability at the FABC Team Camp in June. He is certainly one to watch.
Senior Sleeper: Kyler Bryant, Chipley: The 6’2 senior average just over twelve points a contest last year in leading the Tigers to the 1A final four. Look for him to up that average in the quest to return to Lakeland.