Favorite: Riviera Beach Suncoast
It feels like the Chargers’ championship window is wide open for the year and next. They come in with a good blend of interior strength and perimeter fire power. Ian Smikle, a 6’8 junior, presents a problem in the post for opponents. He has a good frame, a surprising amount of bounce, and puts in work at both ends of the floor. Stone Bureau, a 6’1 junior, runs the show from the point. He is a solid two-way player that scores well and make life uncomfortable for opposing ball-handlers. Nate Sasser, a 6’6 senior, possesses a great deal of versatility. He can score from multiple spots on the floor, create plays for teammates, and defend various positions. Another junior, 6’7 Jeremiah Police, provides size and athleticism. He is coming off a productive summer and his name is getting known in recruiting circles. It won’t be an easy playoff journey in Region 4 of this classification. As always, Miami Norland will be a factor as will district rival Fort Lauderdale Stranahan. Add in the likes of Miami Northwestern and Miami Belen Jesuit and if Suncoast can get through that gauntlet, they will be more than ready for what awaits them in Lakeland.
Regional Favorites: Jacksonville Riverside (Region One); Orlando Jones (Region Two); St. Petersburg HS (Region Three)
Riverside reached the region finals with a cast of underclassmen. They look poised to take the next step. Dominick Scott, a 6’5 senior, will be the leader and catalyst for a dynamic group that may lack size but have an abundance of speed and athleticism. Challengers in the region include Pine Forest and Washington, both out of Pensacola, Lake City Columbia, Tallahassee Rickards, and district rival Ed White. Orlando Jones reached the semi-finals last season and return most of the group that make that run. Jalon Cole, a 6’2 senior, spearheads an up-tempo attack at both ends of the floor. Programs such as Leesburg, Auburndale, and Tampa Jesuit will be formidable foes on the way to Lakeland. St. Pete has some quality talent returning from last season. Tristan Gross is arguable the best player in the classification. Look for the likes of Parrish, Cape Coral Mariner, and Barron Collier out of Naples to be in the mix.
Best Player: Tristan Gross, St. Petersburg High
The 6’5 senior is one of the better shot makers in the state. He routinely makes contest shots off the dribble on either side of the arc. Gross is also a good ball-handler and distributor. He makes good decisions on the move toward the basket and though wired to score, Gross will get the ball to open teammates for a better shot attempt. He also works hard on the defensive end and helps out on the boards.
Pre-Season All-State: Gross; Carl Parrish (Miami Norland); Cameron James (Leesburg); Dominick Scott (Jacksonville Riverside); Jalon Cole (Orlando Jones)
Parrish, a 6’2 senior, is a solid two-way guard that will lead a talented but young Norland squad. He had a good run this summer with the Nightrydas on the EYBL circuit. James, a 6’5 senior, is full of strength and athleticism. If he gets loose in transition or has a straight-line drive to the goal, get the camera on your phone ready. Scott, a 6’5 senior, arguably doesn’t have a defined position; he just goes out there and makes the needed plays to win ball games. Cole, a 6’2 senior, scores well from the perimeter and looks to push the ball quickly in transition. He also covers a lot of ground quickly as part of Jones’ full court defense.
Better Than Advertised: Hialeah American
This group of athletes played so hard at our Fall Team Camp that they have to be recognized. While no one player stands out, it is truly a team effort that no doubt will reap rewards this season.
Don’t Sleep On: John Zeigler, Tampa King
The 6’1 senior came through in clutch moments in King’s run to the regional final last season. A career double-figure scorer, Zeigler will surprise with his ability to weave through traffic and score at the rim in a crowd. He is also a solid shooter from the perimeter off the catch. Ziegler plays with reckless abandon, diving for loose balls, taking charges, and challenging opponents at both ends of the court. Ziegler finished last season shooting over 50% from the field, over 40% from three and over 80% from the foul line on his way to averaging 18.5 points a game. He is a guy you love to play with but absolutely hate to play against.
PRE-SEASON TOP TEN
1.Riviera Beach Suncoast
8.Miami Belen Jesuit