01 Feb 2019

“Baker’s Dozen” of Questions for the Tampa ARS Hoop Fest

Questions going into the ARS National Hoop Fest at Tampa Berkeley Prep

Will it answer the Montverde vs. IMG debate?

Yes and No.

At the Hoop Hall Classic two weeks ago, IMG defeated Oak Hill 72-67 without Cole Anthony, who some consider the top player in the Class of 2019. Should Montverde lose to an Anthony-less Oak Hill, then the answer is obvious.  Should Montverde get a win over Oak Hill, with or without Anthony by more than five points, Eagle supporters would certainly have an argument.  Should Montverde lose to a full Oak Hill squad, then the waters get murkier and those on the IMG side have their counterpoint.  So yes, there will be an answer.

But truthfully, unless Montverde Academy and IMG Academy can meet up on a neutral court (hopefully in the season-ending Dick’s Nationals event) with everybody healthy, the “who is better” question will not get a clear-cut answer. 

Who is most SEC-Ready: Tyrell Jones or Tre Mann?

When we last we saw Tyrell Jones of West Oaks, he was slicing through the Superior Collegiate defense with little resistance, making the game look easy.  Our most recent viewing of Tre Mann from The Villages was an electrifying 31 point performance on the road against a very good Ocala Trinity Catholic team.  By all accounts, they are the top two point guards in the state’s Class of 2019.  While they won’t be playing against each other on Saturday, their approach, effort, and the results in their respective contests should give an idea as to which one is best ready to tackle the rigors of SEC play come the fall.

Will the combined points for Tampa Catholic and The Villages exceed 140?

At last check, The Villages was averaging 76.7 points a contest, good for #2 in the state behind Forest Hill out of West Palm Beach.  Tampa Catholic is averaging 71.0 points per game, which is #7 in the state.  Both teams play at a fast pace and are unafraid to let fly early in possessions.  If you have suffered through a stall-ball contest at any time this season, this game may be your antidote.

Who is the #1 Player in the Class of 2019?

Vernon Carey had his shot in front of ESPN last Friday against Sunrise Christian. Now it is Cole Anthony in the spotlight.  He was injured and didn’t play against IMG at the Hoop Hall.  If he’s 100% and ready to go, a top flight performance against Montverde could put him over the top.

Both played in the City of Palms earlier in the year.  Anthony’s numbers were a bit better but he has the ball in his hands every possession while Carey doesn’t have that luxury.  Still, it’s a big stage with the bright lights of ESPN.  We’ll see how both handle the expectations.

Who gets the nod as the “most versatile player” in the Class of 2020: Scottie Barnes of U-School; Cade Cunningham of Montverde, or Jaemayn Brakefield of Huntington Prep?

Phrases often used to describe Barnes are “multi-dimensional” and “versatility…to play anywhere from the one to the four spot”.  Cunningham has been Montverde’s de facto point guard this season and “has the knack for making those around him better” according to one national scout.  Brakefield is touted as a player with the “versatility necessary to play just about any position on the court”.  It will be interesting to see each of these high profile juniors play on a national stage and how they impact the game for their respective team.

Highest riser, both on the recruiting charts and in the air: Harlond Beverly or Niven Glover?

Glover is an Olympic-class athlete who has the mixtape views to back up his skywalking abilities on the court.  Beverly impressed us right away upon his arrival to Montverde with his own high-wire act.  He’s also been getting a lot of pub lately for his basketball skills to go along with his athleticism.  Both play a similar style, with perimeter shooting supposedly each one’s weakness.  How far each climbs up the basketball ladder will be determined by how soon that weakness can be conquered.

Battle of the Bigs: Balsa Kaprovica or Kofi Cockburn?

Kaprovica goes about 7’0 and 230 pounds.  Cockburn clocks in at 6’10 and probably 250+.  Cockburn is a bully on the block, a better athlete than given credit for, and not afraid to play physically at either end.  Kaprovica has been knocked for not being more physical and aggressive, but the Florida State signee is showing signs of turning that around.  If both can avoid foul trouble, it should be an entertaining battle inside the paint.

Better Now vs. Better Long-Term: Precious Achiuwa or C.J. Walker?

Achiuwa is ranked #7 in the Class of 2019 by the Recruiting Services Composite Index (RSCI) and with good reason.  He’s got a strong body, scores well around the basket, is a volume rebounder and can defend multiple positions.  Walker checks in at #28 on the same index.  While quite thin when compared to Achiuwa, Walker is long, quick, and considered a better perimeter shooter at this stage.  So, while Achiuwa may be considered the better player right now, it is arguable that Walker is a better prospect with a higher ceiling.

Best Class of 2020 scorer: Cam Thomas (Oak Hill) or Moses Moody (Montverde)?

When we saw Cam Thomas play for the Boo Williams AAU team at the Super Showcase this past July, we were blown away by the 6’3 guard’s ability to score from any and all levels and angles.  He did nothing to change that opinion when playing at this year’s City of Palms Classic.  Moody has two inches on Thomas and while not putting up huge numbers because of the balance on the Montverde squad, he was considered one of the best shooters on the EYBL circuit last spring.  It will be interesting to see which gunslinger will come out on top in their shootout.

Which Florida freshman makes the biggest splash? C.J. Hawkins of Berkeley Prep or Jett Howard of U-School?

While nearly the same height, Hawkins and Howard are very different from each other.  Hawkins is 6’6, surprisingly muscular for a player his size and age, and works best around the basket.  Howard, at around 6’5, is a thin perimeter player with a smooth stroke.  It is unlikely that they will match-up against each other, and Hawkins may have to face the daunting task of trying to guard Vernon Carey inside.  Still, there is a great chance to see a break-out game by one or both of these freshmen.

Who has the best motor: Christian Brown, Omar Payne, or Emmanuel Okpomo?

“Energy” and “Big-Time Athlete” are usually the first phrases when mentioning the 6’6 senior Brown from Oak Hill.  Payne, a 6’9 Florida signee at Montverde, brings the same things to the court for Montverde.  Okpomo, just a junior at Huntington Prep, is a 6’9 “combination of size, length, and athleticism…plays with a lot of energy”.  Playing hard on a consistent basis IS a skill, and right now it is what sets these three players apart from their contemporaries.

Can the Oakridge “PG by committee” matchup with A.J. Hoggard of Huntington?

The Pioneers have a deep stable of perimeter players.  Seniors Niven Glover, Emmanuel Adedoyin, Zavian Smith, and sophomore Jalen Smith are all talented enough to play on some collegiate level.  However, none of them is a “true” point guard and have unlikely matched up with a player like Huntington Prep’s 6’4 junior A.J. Hoggard.  A native of Philly, Hoggard is a top 75 player in the Class of 2020 and is regarded as a “strong, physical, athletic, and competitive point guard that creates plays on both ends of the court”.  This could well be the individual matchup that determines the outcome of the contest.

Couldn’t they have found a way to add a game involving IMG?

Norcross out of Georgia would have been a very interesting opponent for IMG.  Kyle Sturdivant, a Southern Cal signee and the point guard for Norcross, played in the Nike Team Florida backcourt on the EYBL circuit with IMG’s Noah FarrakhanJaden Springer of IMG and Brandon Boston of Norcross are considered two of the top shooting guards in the Class of 2020.  Norcross’s 6’8 Daniel Ramsey and 6’9 Issa Muhammad would certainly offer some resistance inside to IMG’s Armando Bacout and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

Ah, what could have been.