08 Apr 2024


Time to close out our HS End of Season Awards with some team categories.


For this category, we are only going to consider teams that participated in the FHSAA playoffs.  Both Montverde Academy and IMG Academy are members of the FHSAA but do not participate in the playoffs.

Miami Christopher Columbus had the target squarely on its back.  And they embraced it.  The two-time Class 7A champions lost a pair of guards to graduation but when 6’3 senior Randy Smith came over from Miami Palmetto and the Richardson brothers (6’5 senior Jase and 6’6 sophomore Jaxson), both ranked nationally in their respective classes, transferred in, the Explorers became a marquee team and national draw for the biggest of events.  Columbus suffered a pair of losses in the City of Palms in December, but big wins over Paul VI out of Virginia and Long Island Lutheran put Columbus in the upper echelon of the national polls.  As in the past two years, Columbus had a tough championship game but squeaked out a victory.  This year, a Cameron Boozer dunk with seven seconds to play tied the title game against Oak Ridge in regulation.  A three from the aforementioned Smith to open the overtime period gave Columbus a lead it never relinquished.  This year’s version of Columbus is arguably one of the best “non-academy” teams Florida has seen in this young millennium.


When preparing our pre-season previews, Wiregrass Ranch didn’t register on our radar.  We did see the team in 2022-23 and while we liked Preston Linville, then a junior, we were unsure of the talent around him.  This past season, the Bulls used an experienced lineup to reach the program’s first regional final in school history.  An early season win over a very good Tampa Jesuit team gave Wiregrass Ranch the confidence it needed to meet the challenges of the season.  The group played unselfishly and for each other all season, and with the emergence of 6’2 junior K.J. Smith to take the scoring pressure off Linville, Wiregrass Ranch soared to heights thought unattainable at the beginning of the season.


Wouldn’t it be great if Florida held a Tournament of Champions for all its classification winners?  If that had taken place this season, below is our seeding for the bracket.

#1 Seed: Miami Christopher Columbus – Highest nationally-ranked team

#2 Seed: Miami Riviera Prep – The Bulldogs defeated both 2A champion Sagemont and 5A champion Norland this season.

#3 Seed: Weston Sagemont – Sagemont has a win over Norland in the regular season and like the two teams above them played a very difficult schedule.

#4 Seed: Pembroke Pines Charter – With a win over Norland in the regular season but no games against the above three squads, Pines Charter lands at the #4 position.

#5 Seed:  Miami Norland – A final record of 21-10 sounds like a lot of losses but Norland played arguably the toughest schedule in the state among FHSAA schools.  The losses to the four teams above them place them here.

#6 Seed: Williston – The Class 1A champs are the best 1A team we’ve seen in close to a decade.  The Red Devils played a challenging schedule to prepare them for a title run and it worked.

#7 Seed: St. Petersburg Gibbs – The Class 4A champs didn’t play as challenging a schedule as the other state champs, but the Gladiators would no doubt give any of the above schools a game.


Below is an early look at a team and player to watch in each classification heading into 2024-2025.  These are the teams and players that we think will have a breakout season:

1A: Team to Watch: Hawthorne; Player to Watch: C.J. Hall, Hilliard

2A: Team to Watch: North Tampa Christian; Player to Watch: Patrick Lilburd, Weston Sagemont

3A: Team to Watch: Windermere Prep; Player to Watch: Matthew Able, Tampa Berkeley Prep

4A: Team to Watch: Palm Bay; Player to Watch: Collin Paul, Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian

5A: Team to Watch: Leesburg; Player to Watch: Josh Lewis, Tampa Blake

6A: Team to Watch: Palm Coast Matanzas; Player to Watch: K.J. Smith, Wiregrass Ranch

7A: Team to Watch: Miami Senior; Player to Watch: Arasco Dubois, Orlando Evans

Independent: Team to Watch: Academy of Central Florida; Player to Watch: Jayden Joseph, Orlando West Oaks Academy

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