Every year there are players that raise their reputation with their play. This year was certainly no different. These are just some of the performers that had us sit up and take notice.
C.J. Hall, Hilliard: In 21-22, Hilliard did not make the playoffs and was not among the top twenty-five ranked teams in MaxPreps in 1A. One year later, Hilliard finished the season with a 20-5 record and made it into the regional round, ranking #7 in the classification by the FHSAA. Hall, a 6’2 sophomore, gets a lot of credit for that success as he averaged twenty points and 6 rebounds a contest. Hilliard and Hall are now firmly implanted on our radar for next season.
Matt James, Jupiter Christian: A 6’8 senior, James’s future is on the football field as he is heading to Georgia State. However, he is a solid basketball player as well and it would not surprise to see him help out the basketball team come January. He paced Jupiter Christian to a solid showing this season as the team reached the regional semi-finals. James was a force in the paint with his ability to score around the rim, get putbacks, and challenge shots on defense.
Jahmari Johnson, Fort Myers Gateway Charter/Latrell Davis, Naples First Baptist Academy: Both of these guys were so impressive when viewed this season that we could not choose one over the other.
Johnson, a 6’4 senior, was at times an unstoppable scoring machine for Gateway Charter. With three-level scoring ability and a tenacious, attacking mentality, it was a chore for defenses to keep him from filling out the scorebook. Johnson comes across as a tough-minded defender that doesn’t shy away from a challenge. If D-I coaches are looking for late signees, Johnson should be at the top of their shopping list.
Davis, a 6’3 senior, did a whole lot of everything for FBA this season. Whether scoring at the basket with physical drives or knocking down perimeter shots with range, Davis finds creative ways to put points on the board. Strong and physically tough, he has a rugged playing style that should translate well to the next level. Davis makes opponent work when on defense, is a grab-and-go rebounder, and seeks out teammates for good shots.
Dontrell Jenkins, Alachua Santa Fe: A 5’10 senior, Jenkins is the embodiment of the phrase “it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog”. Jenkins led a young and undersized team to the regional final and came so very close to reaching Lakeland. We never doubted Jenkins individual skills and abilities, but the putting of the team on his back and carrying them elevates his value to an entirely new level. Hopefully, he will get the chance to play at the next level, which he has not only earned but deserves.
Trey Murray, Wesley Chapel: The 6’4 junior was second in the state in scoring at over 27 points a contest and led a young Wesley Chapel team to the region playoffs. He wasn’t on radars prior to the beginning of the season but he sure is now.
Rolijah Hardy, Lakeland: A 6’2 junior heading to the Naval Academy to play football, Hardy could probably be of big help to the Midshipmen on the hardwood as well. With his strong frame he overpowers defenders to get to and score at the rim in traffic and his perimeter shot is dangerous enough that it must be respected. His play elevated Lakeland to the regional finals.
Dawson Barr, Oviedo Hagerty: A 6’4 senior, we had seen multiple accolades for his play on the summer circuit but until this season we had not seen him live and in person. Our first viewing of Barr was probably his worst game of the season. When we caught his act the second time, in a district semi-final, it was a whole different story. Barr shot the ball well from deep, beat defenders off the dribble, and prowled the passing lanes. For the season, Barr averaged not only 24 points a game but did so on 59% shooting from the field overall, 46% from behind the arc, and 86% from the foul line.
Asa Newell, Montverde Academy: A 6’9 junior, we must admit we were a bit concerned about the amount of playing time Newell would get this past season at Montverde Academy after transferring from Choctawhatchee. Even with his stellar play over the summer for 1 Family and his slot on Team USA, we still had our reservations. Well, Newell proved to be more than capable of handling the challenge of playing in such a program. Whether starting or coming off the bench, Newell put in great effort at both ends, made hustle plays and knocked down open perimeter shots. We’ve seen guys make big jumps in their game if they play 2 or more years for the Eagles. It will be interesting to see what Newell has become this time next year.