City of Hialeah Educational Academy
COHEA is a relatively young program and by all accounts will be a player in the small school ranks. The backcourt duo of 6’0 Chris Levy and 5’10 Reece Randolph is speedy, quick to the basket, and find creative ways to finish over and around bigger players inside. Each looks to get the ball to open shooters when the defense collapses on them in the lane. The primary beneficiary of those passouts is 6’6 sophomore JayQuan Freeman. He made several three-point shots that way. Freeman shows a lot of promise with athleticism and ability to rebound the ball. As he tunes up his ability to drive and score in a crowd, his recruiting level will elevate. Friently Francois, a 6’9 senior, has a strong frame, plenty of athleticism and a lot of physical tools to work with. He gets his points on opportunity baskets such as putbacks and in running the floor. Francois is a strong post defender and relishes the opportunity to block shots.
Daytona Beach Mainland
Mainland is always a tough out come playoff time and this year should be no different. It is hard to believe that Nate Kirk is only a sophomore. The 6’0 point guard is just so savvy and plays beyond his years. He doesn’t get rushed, scores in a variety of ways without dominating the ball and looks to get teammates involved. Naryan Thomas, a 6’5 senior, has blossomed from primarily a force inside in his younger days to a tough cover on the perimeter. He has excellent strength, good ball skills, and has become a shooter that must be challenged on the perimeter. Tajah Thomas, a 6’6 senior, brings strength and energy when it comes to defending the interior and pursuing rebounds. An X-Factor could be 6’0 freshman guard Kade Manley. He may look like the team manager, but he has a deft touch from three and takes care of the ball.
Miami Country Day
The Spartans have a bevy of young players that will be good in time but right now lean heavily on 6’4 senior guard Trey Wilson. He’s got the whole package physically in terms of size, strength, and athleticism. Wilson is skilled as well. A dangerous perimeter shooter, he can also get to the basket quickly and muscle up shots in traffic. He also has good court vision and passing instincts. One of the better young players in the program is 6’0 freshman Malik Charles. Not afraid of the spotlight, Charles is quick to the basket, handles the ball well, and is active on the defensive end. He struggled with his perimeter shot but that should come in time. Also, be on the lookout for Dylan Johnson, a 6’0 eighth grader, who showed off a reliable perimeter shot.
For those unaware, Milton is located in the Panhandle just east of Pensacola, so kudos to the team for making the trip to Central Florida. They have some players and could be one of the better programs west of Tallahassee this coming season. Treymar Jones (pictured), a 6’2 junior, was eye-opening in his play Sunday morning. He pretty much did it all for Milton: hitting shots from all three levels, finding open teammates for scores in both transition and half-court and rebounding well against bigger opponents. He has a real chance to play at the next level. Rashaun Elzy, a 5’11 junior, had his moments as well. He produced on the drive, either by scoring or assisting, making good decisions on the move. Sergio Robinson, a 6’3 sophomore, made a bunch of hustle plays, had several assists in transition, and scored quickly at the basket off cuts into the lane.
Jacksonville North Florida Educational Institute
A Class 2A power, NFEI seemingly has a never-ending pipeline of players. We came away very impressed with the play of 6’6 junior Elijah Clinton. He demonstrated perimeter shooting range to the arc, an ability to create and knock down mid-range jump shots and score with authority in transition. The team has some size as well in 6’10 senior Josh Johnson, 6’9 senior Odaine Clahar, and 6’10 sophomore Nigel Challenge. Each has work to do in terms of strength and skill development but the old adage “you can’t teach size” still applies.
Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
The Chiefs are hoping that 6’3 senior Casey Ettienne will play one more season of basketball before heading off to college to play football. He suffered a knee injury last season but is now healthy and playing on the gridiron. That being said, Gibbons still has some solid players in its program. Samuel Vil, a 6’2 senior, scored the ball well on Sunday, displaying an accurate perimeter jumper as well as the ability to get to and finish at the basket. Ryan Grant, a 6’2 senior, also didn’t mind challenging defenders to keep him from the rim. He made some tough shots in traffic as well as knocked down the occasional jumper. The team doesn’t have a lot of size, so 6’4 junior Marcus Perrier found himself putting in work on the glass at both ends of the court. He fared well. Perrier also got to the line frequently after getting fouled on post-ups in the lane.
Two things you can always count on with the Yellow Jackets. One, they will play hard at both ends. Two, they will be better in early February than when you see them in October/November. There is some talent to work with and Bartow will be trouble for all once the calendar flips to 2024 and possibly before that. Sevastian Rosado, a 5’9 senior, scores the ball at a high rate. He is quick to penetrate and hit floaters as well as connect on deep perimeter shots. Nathan Smathers, a 6’3 senior, was a pleasant surprise. He effectively did the dirty work, crashing the boards, scoring quickly around the basket or making open perimeter shots, and moving the ball quickly to open teammates. Ed Wiggins, a 6’6 senior, provides the only size for Bartow, but he is long, a quick leaper, and blocks his fair share of shots. Antwain Willis, a 6’0 senior, and Daniel Thompson, a 6’3 senior, provided firepower from the perimeter to help the cause.