While the Most Valuable Player award hinges on the player’s ability to push his team to great playoff success, our definition of the Most Outstanding Player is different. The MOP to us is the best player, period.
Travis Jay, Madison County: More often than not, the MVP and MOP go to different players. Not so this year. While Jay chose football over basketball to play in college, there is no doubt that he could have been a hoopster at a high level. With his size, strength, outstanding court vision and high basketball IQ, Jay’s high level of performance goes beyond his season averages of 13.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 6.9 apg and 2.4 spg.
Algenis Quintana, Miami Christian: Facing the toughest schedule in Class 2A this season, Quintana, a 6’1 senior, put up averages of 15.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 5.9 apg. While games in national events as The City of Palms Classic and Montverde Academy Invitational didn’t allow for a stellar record, it did allow Quintana to show what he could do against a high level of competition. Quick and crafty with the basketball, he proved equally adept at creating and making his own shot or finding open teammates for easy scores.
Allan Jeanne-Rose, Tallahassee St. John Paul II: Jeanne-Rose’s numbers of 15.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg certainly aren’t the highest in the classification, but his high level of skill in all phases of the game, unselfish play, and ability to make things happen at both ends of the court give him a leg up on the competition.
Ahren Freeman, Jacksonville Providence: The 6’5 senior is a University of New Orleans signee and he should do very well. Freeman combines the strength and size of a forward with the perimeter skills of a guard to create a matchup nightmare for opponents. He can play any spot between the “2” and the “4” and be highly effective at any or all three of them. Freeman averaged a double-double for the season with 20.3 ppg and 10.1 rpg.
Vernon Carey, Jr., Fort Lauderdale University School: Named Mr. Basketball last season as a junior, there was little doubt that Carey would once again earn MOP honors this season. The 6’10 Duke signee and McDonald’s All-American Game participant averaged a modest (for him) 21.7 ppg ad 9.0 rpg for a team ranked in the national top ten and heading back to the Dick’s Nationals. Odds are that if the NBA did not have its current draft policy (aka one and done), Carey would be casting his lot for the NBA draft this summer.
Jalen White, St. Petersburg Lakewood: White’s season stats of 17.2 ppg and 4.4 rpg are modest, but the 6’6 senior was at his best in carrying Lakewood to the state title game. He spent a lot of his time running the Lakewood offense as a point forward and when the Spartans needed a bucket, his number was called, usually with positive results. His size and strength allowed him to overpower smaller players on the perimeter while successfully battling bigger opponents on defense or when going after rebounds at both ends of the court.
Diante Smith, Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee: We moved to the front of the Diante Smith bandwagon after his performance against a talent-heavy IMG Academy team back in January. Facing a team that nearly always had five high-major recruits on the floor, the 6’7 senior heading to TCU proved he could play on their level. Smith plays every position but the post, is a crafty scorer, and solid passer.
Luke Anderson, Lakeland: The 6’8 senior and Iowa State signee was the focal point of opponents’ defense all season long. Anderson still managed to average 21 points and 10 rebounds a contest. He opened up the lane for his teammates with his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter as well as defend the rim when necessary.
C.J. Walker, Orlando Oak Ridge: Walker played on a balanced and talented squad, so his scoring numbers of nearly 16 ppg aren’t necessarily eye-popping. However, Walker also averaged nearly fourteen rebounds, four blocks, and two steals a contest for the Pioneers who played a national schedule. The 6’8 senior will be heading to Oregon for his college ball and no doubt NBA scouts will be monitoring his progress sooner rather than later.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, IMG Academy: This was by far the toughest selection. Four McDonald All-American’s play on an independent team in Florida, three at IMG Academy. All four of them deserve the award but in the three IMG games we took in, it seemed like Robinson-Earl was the catalyst for the team’s success. Thanks to great size at 6’8 and an advanced skill set, “JRE” seemed to be the guy that most often fed his partner in the post for scores, got the ball off the glass quickly to start a devastating transition game, and found open teammates for scores behind the three point line. On a talented and well-balanced team, Robinson-Earl averaged 17.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 2.5 apg while shooting over 60% from the field.