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2018 Fall Festival – Individual Showcase Rpt I

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The 2018 Hoop Exchange Fall Festival produced a number of outstanding performances by players taking part in the Individual Showcase events that ran both Saturday and Sunday.  Below are just a few of the players that caught are attention.

At the end of Saturday, we asked a long-time scout who he liked and we weren’t surprised by his response: Michael Phillips.  The 6’7 junior out of St. John’s Creekside overwhelms opponents and onlookers with his effort, enthusiasm, energy and overall zest for the game.  He converted a turn-around jumper from the mid-post, scored inside thru contact, and more than once grabbed defensive rebounds and went end-to-end for baskets.

Gary Jones, a 6’10 junior from Tampa Sickles, was a new name to us on Saturday.  Obviously, his size draws attention but the young post player was productive.  He controlled his rebounding area on the defensive end, challenged shots, and displayed good hands and soft touch around the basket.  While not as athletic as some, Jones still moves up and down the floor well in transition.  As he gets stronger and becomes more comfortable with his size, his production will significantly increase.

Participating both Saturday and Sunday in the separate Individual Showcase events, 6’2 junior guard Bradley Douglas out of Eustis proved to be one of the better players in attendance both days.  Both strong and quick, he repeatedly got by defenders and scored through contact.  He continues to improve as a perimeter shooter and on both days in the games we observed he strung together a series of makes from beyond the three-point line.  Douglas was also one of the few who played tenacious defense over the course of the two-day event.

Junior forward Jalen Haynes continues to develop at a rapid pace.  The 6’8 Dillard Panther was his typical productive self when it came to rebounding the ball and scoring inside.  On Saturday, Haynes showed an improved ability to score off the drive in traffic as he converted multiple three point play opportunities in the game we focused on.  Haynes perimeter scoring skills seem to still be a work-in-progress but if he continues to improve as he has over the past year, that perceived weakness should become a strength in due time.

A 6’3 senior guard out of Holy Trinity Episcopal in Melbourne, Andru Nickson came out very aggressive on the offensive end on Sunday.  He quickly converted a transition basket, knocked down a three pointer coming off a ball screen and then scored at the basket after a drive, ultimately converting a three point play.  A good athlete that is also a football prospect, Nickson brings a lot of tenacity to the defensive end.

If wearing warm-up pants instead of shorts allows Nicolas Louis-Jacques to shoot the ball as well as he did on Sunday, then he may want to petition to wear those all the time.  A 6’4 junior wing from Miami Killian, he converted three deep balls in succession early in the contest.  He didn’t stop there as he scored on drives and offensive rebounds, and made some nice passes to teammates for baskets.  A good athlete, Jacques’ game will continue to improve as he gets physically stronger over the next couple of years.

Though we saw him just a few weeks ago at another event, Kanye Jones, a 6’3 sophomore guard from Orlando The First Academy, continues to impress with a smooth, overall game.  He’s become very adept at scoring with either hand when driving to the basket, converting pull-up jumpers in transition, and connecting on catch-and-shoot threes.  A good rebounder from the backcourt, Jones is quick to push the pace in transition once he gets possession of the basketball.

A 6’5 sophomore wing out of Jacksonville Lee, Alex Fudge was another “young gun” that put on a shot-making show during Saturday’s individual showcase.  The lithe and athletic Fudge went four for four from beyond the arc in the contest.  Though he wasn’t as successful at converting drives into points, Fudge wasn’t hesitant about attacking the defensive off the bounce.  With his length and quickness, he could evolve into a versatile defender.

While we don’t buy into his listed height at 6’4 (more like 6’2), we do buy into the idea that Orlando University sophomore guard Emmanuel Maldonado is a player to watch in the Class of 2021.  A very confidant player, he takes pride in his ability to challenge the defense and exploit whatever opening they give him.  If given room, Maldonado will knock down perimeter jumpers.  If played too tight, expect him to head to the basket.  He’s a fair passer on the move and makes his free throws at a high rate.

2018 Fall Festival Team Showcase – Rpt III

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Oldsmar Christian

If this weekend is any indication, Oldsmar Christian will be a young but talented team that make noise in the SIAA this coming season.  Jadrian Tracey, a 6’5 junior wing, had some spectacular moments.  Not only is he a high flyer, he’s also a skilled scorer with a dangerous assortment of one-on-one moves and an accurate jump shot out to the arc.  Fellow junior Kobe Gibbs, 6’7, is another athlete that is long and gets a lot done in transition and on the glass.  Sophomore point guard Ray Robinson, 5’11, pushes the pace and excels at getting into the lane and collapsing the defense.  Senior 6’5 guard Braxton Bartlett provides a three point threat to keep defenses from collapsing while fellow senior 6’8 Jelal Williams scores well above the rim on offense and challenges shots on defense.

Miramar

A very young team with only two seniors on the roster this past weekend, Miramar will be quite different from the one that last season reached the final four in Class 9A.  However, this group appears to be talented and tenacious in its own way, so don’t count them out.  Brent Davis, a 6’2 junior guard was the team’s main offensive threat on Saturday.  He seemed comfortable playing either guard spot.  Davis connected on jumpers off the dribble, got past the defense into the lane and scored at the rim, and moved the ball quickly to open teammates for shots.  We were most impressed by 6’6 freshman Deshawn Jean-Charles.  Not only did he display an accurate jumper from the perimeter, but also a consistent stroke from the free throw line and a nose for the ball coming off the offensive glass.

Fort Lauderdale

To be honest, it was tough to get a read on “the Flyin’ Ls” as they took on an overwhelming Montverde contingent.  The team does have a solid inside-outside combo in 6’5 sophomore Jordan Shorter and 6’8 senior Damone “D.J.” Warren.  Shorter is a big point guard with strength.  He easily sees over most defenders to make plays with excellent court awareness and vision.  Shorter also overpowers defenders when taking the ball to the basket.  While he is an accomplished scorer from all three levels, Shorter is also a willing passer and generally makes good pass vs. shot decision.  Warren has a nice post-up game but can also connect on shots from the high post and short corner areas of the court.  He runs the floor well in transition and is a presence in the paint on the defensive end.  Both Shorter and Warren played very well in the individual showcase this weekend to go along with their time running with their high school team.

Oakland Park Northeast

In the game we watched, Northeast played Oldsmar tough, falling by a single point.  Unfortunately for us, Northeast wore jerseys with no numbers on them.  Therefore, the only player we could identify was Wesley Cardet, a 6’5 sophomore guard.  He can (and will need to) do a little bit of everything on the court.  Come the high school season, don’t be surprised if Cardet is running the offense, looking to get teammates involved.  However, when a bucket is needed, his number will be called.

Riviera Beach Suncoast

Of the twelve players on the Chargers’ roster, only two were seniors.  Seven of those twelve were freshmen.  So, either the Charges will have a very young team or a very good JV program.  Outside of 5’11 senior Jakobe Cox knocking down a trio of shots from beyond the arc, 5’11 junior Samuel Rolle was the only player for Suncoast ready and able to compete in this environment.  A penetrator and passer deluxe, Rolle is superb at sucking in the defense and then delivering the ball to teammates for easy shots.  Despite his size, he is adept at completing plays in traffic and earning “and one” opportunities.  We’d like to see him shoot a higher percentage from beyond the arc, but that is quibbling.  Rolle is also a solid on-ball defender.  Hopefully, 6’6 sophomore Darius Runner can provide some interior support as the high school season moves along.

2018 Fall Festival Team Showcase – Rpt. IV

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Jacksonville Potter’s House

This crew out of the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association brought a bunch of dynamic athletes to the event.  While 6’2 senior Marsei Caston is the most well-known, having played a prominent role with E1T1 this past travel season, a lot of new faces stepped up to be noticed.  Junior 6’4 wing Mayoum Mayoum is an explosive athlete that finished ferociously above the rim on more than one occasion.  Taelon Martin, another 6’4 junior, got after opponents defensively, turning steals and loose ball retrievals into impressive scores.  A third junior, 6’6 Keano Calderon, turned out to be a surprisingly good passer to go along with his athleticism and rebounding prowess.  As intriguing as those three junior wings are, Caston is still the guy the makes the team go.  An athletic finisher at the basket as well as an improving perimeter shooter, as Caston goes, so goes Potter’s House.

Flemming Island

We caught this team out of Clay County in a pair of games; A two point loss on Friday night and a one point win on Saturday morning.  The guard combo of 6’3 senior Gianfranco Grafals and 6’0 junior Sebastian Astor put on a clinic both games.  Having played together in Puerto Rico before the hurricanes of 2017 forced them here, it’s clear they know each other’s tendencies.  On more than a few occasions they superbly executed a baseline back-door play for scores.  Grafals can play either guard spot but plays off the ball when running alongside Astor.  He didn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter but he’s a plus athlete and when he got to the rim he tried to dunk on anyone in his way.  He has the ability to play either guard spot.  Astor is more of a “pure” point guard.  He looks to set up his teammates and pass first but will make perimeter shots if given time and space.  Aaron Brown, a 6’4 junior, also deserves mention.  A chemistry and energy guy, he did a lot of little things the win games.  A sneaky offensive rebounder and crafty defender, Brown does a bit of everything on the court.

St. Petersburg Lakewood

The Spartans were missing two of their starting guards this weekend, so it was up to 6’6 senior Jalen White and 6’9 junior Jamille Reynolds to carry the load.  White is an overpowering and athletic player whose forte is facilitating from a point-forward position.  Much more a scorer than a shooter, he’s most productive within fifteen feet of the basket.  White is a good passer on the move and does a good job of getting the ball to open teammates should the defense collapse on him.  Reynolds has all the physical tools to be a big time player.  His low post offensive game is solid if not played too physically, as he has a nice jump hook.  Reynolds also pays dividends as a rebounder and rim protector on the defensive end.

Jacksonville Impact Christian

This squad made it to the final four last season in Class 2A and it wouldn’t surprise if they did it again, not just this year but in 2020 as well.  Jordin Jackson, a 5’10 junior point guard, is the catalyst on both ends of the floor.  He really likes to push the pace, get to the basket, and challenge opposing ball-handlers.  Myles Smith, a 6’5 junior forward, is a tenacious rebounder at both ends.  Tim Grant, a 6’2 guard, provides outside shooting when the defense collapses on the drive or into the post.  Ivan Lawson, a 6’5 sophomore is a productive post scorer and rebounder.  Brothers Calvin Johnson (6’4 sophomore) and Kelvin Johnson (6’5 freshman) are two youngsters to keep an eye on in the future.

2018 Fall Festival Team Showcase – Rpt II

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We continue our look at teams we caught in action at the Hoop Exchange Fall Festival.

Leesburg

While this year’s group of Yellow Jackets may not be as lethal as the one last season that rolled to the state title in Class 6A, don’t think for a second that they won’t have an opportunity to defend that crown.  The energy and effort is a constant on the defensive end.  Last year’s role players such as 6’5 junior Jyre McCloud and 6’5 senior Deshawn Benton appear ready for expanded roles on the offensive end.  Lance Irving, a 6’2 senior was dynamic this past weekend, not only with Leesburg in the Team Showcase but in the Individual Showcase as well.  Always a dangerous three-point shooter, Irving is a much-improved slasher that completes plays at the rim in traffic.

Bartow

Another hive of Yellow Jackets that is always dangerous, Bartow competed well this past weekend against some “big city” competition as Coach McGriff called it.  While there may not be a singular standout on the team like a Tony Bradley, the group as a whole is much more valuable than the sum of its parts.  Jordan Daughtry, a 5’9 senior point guard, proved to be a catalyst at both ends of the floor with his mid-range scoring and his defensive ball-hawking.  Junior Joshua Simmons may only be listed at 6’2, but the burly forward owned the glass against much bigger competition in the game we watched.  Sophomore Alex Vigo, a 5’11 guard provided plenty of perimeter scoring, going 3-5 from deep.  Look for 5’8 freshman Jordy Lowery to make an impact this season.

Jacksonville Providence

A consistent title contender in Class 4A, Providence will again be one of North Florida’s better teams, if not the best.  Ahren Freeman, a 6’5 senior, is a matchup nightmare every game.  He overpowers smaller players and is too skilled and athletic for bigger players to keep up with.  Freeman is just as likely to grab a defensive board and go end-to-end for the finish as he is to outlet the ball quickly up the court for an assist.  He is complemented well on the inside by 6’10 sophomore James Repass.  With solid footwork, good hands, and a soft touch on both sides of the rim, the big man is tough to defend on the block.  Repass controls his rebounding area and challenges shots in the paint.  Noah Mitchell, a 6’3 senior, is the main point producer on the perimeter.  On Sunday, both 5’11 senior Norman Haynes and 6’0 sophomore Jack Dillard connected on a combined six three pointers, making it difficult to help inside when Repass posted up or Freeman or Mitchell attacked the basket with the dribble.

Punta Gorda Charlotte

The Tarpons had an up-and-down weekend but it shouldn’t put a dent into their title as one of the top teams in Southwest Florida this coming season.  The guard trio of 6’3 senior Ahmad Johnson, 6’2 senior Makai Reaves, and 6’1 junior Tyrik Gainer can each effectively score or distribute the basketball.  Johnson has the hops to finish above the rim once he gets there and has also shown to be a solid shooter from the perimeter when contested.  Both Reaves and Gainer do their best offensive work inside the arc.  Tre Carroll, a 6’6 sophomore, has filled out since last season and contributed significantly on the boards.  He’s also able to handle the ball out on the perimeter to spread the floor.  Faustin Phanor, a 6’8 junior, has improved by leaps and bounds since the spring.  He’s stronger and feels much more comfortable with his size and is providing more production when it comes to rebounding the basketball and challenging shots in the lane.

The Villages Charter

While we were disappointed that University of Florida commit Tre Mann did not play this weekend, it did give us a chance to focus on some other Buffalo players.  At the top of that list was Terry Ivery, a 5’9 senior who injured a knee last season and hasn’t been seen in a while.  The knee certainly appears better as he has retained the speed and quickness he was known for prior to the injury.  A dunk attempt, while missed, was also another indicator of recovery.  Jarred Hall, a 6’10 sophomore, is the definition of “big man”.  We saw him in the spring and he showed great improvement, especially at the offensive end when he dropped in an eight foot jumper.  Prior to that, anything other than an unmolested dunk attempt was an adventure.  Junior Bryan Jackson, a 6’2 guard, was solid in his role as a secondary scorer.

2018 Fall Festival – Signs of Promise

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One of the more interesting aspects of the Hoop Exchange Fall Festival Individual Showcase is that we can get a sense of a team’s prospects for the upcoming season if they have a couple or more players play in the event.  After watching several games of the weekend, we think the following teams have a good chance to make noise when the high school season tips off after Thanksgiving.

Sarasota Booker

Booker should be one of the favorites this coming season in Class 6A.  A lot of that optimism can be traced to the play of senior guards Johnnie Williams and Jordan Clark.  The 6’4 Williams is a high-flying athlete with a streaky shot.  When he’s on target from behind the three point line, he’s very difficult to contain.  Clark, at 6’3, can score when necessary but his value lies in other areas of the game.  He’s a solid defender, good set-up man and takes care of the basketball.

Apopka

It is unlikely that any team in Class 9A’s region one will have the depth of wings that the Blue Darters can trout out.  At 6’5, senior Nate Louis is a guy that will get you buckets.  He’s a strong slasher and finisher at the rim and a solid mid-range shooter.  On Sunday he showed off improved shooting from beyond the arc.  6’6 senior Keeving Etienne will bring energy to the rebounding and defensive areas of the game.  Saturday, he got a lot of points on drives that he finished with contact as well as knocking down a pair of shots from beyond the arc off the dribble.  Finally, 6’7 junior Zach Anderson can do a little bit of everything.  His ability to score in the half-court is rapidly improving and he’s a threat to go end-to-end for a score any time he spears  defensive rebound.  With this trio’s length, athleticism, and versatility, opponents are in for a long night at both ends of the floor.

Coral Springs Charter

South Florida is chock full of good teams and Charter will have its hands full but they aren’t devoid of weapons after watching 6’7 senior Alexander London and 6’4 junior Ivan Reynolds plays this past weekend.  London provides a nice combination of size and athleticism on the interior.  He knocked down a couple of jumpers on Sunday to be considered a threat to score when facing the basket.  Reynolds is more known for his passing and ball-handling skills but after connecting on back-to-back threes at one point on Sunday, he too becomes a perimeter threat.  Pair these two with 6’4 junior Ian Trajelli, a known sniper from distance, and Coral Springs Charter should be a tough out this coming season.

Orlando Edgewater

A pair of 6’5 junior athletic forwards, Navaun Peterson and Lloyd Matthew, should help the Eagles fly this season.  Peterson played both Saturday and Sunday, one of the few to do so.  While he didn’t shoot the ball from the perimeter as well as we have seen in the past, Peterson still dropped in a couple of deep ones over the course of the weekend.  With a strong upper-body, he was able to carve out room under the offensive glass and get a lot of points off of putbacks.  Peterson also proved to be swift in transition and fine finisher at the rim.  Matthew may not be as skilled, but he gives great energy and effort every play and is an active rebounder and defender.  Combine these two with junior guard Robert Eads as a primary scorer, and Edgewater should continue to be one of Central Florida’s top teams over the next couple of seasons.

Melbourne

Playing a bit in the shadows of their Central Florida brethren to the west, the Melbourne program should be solid this coming season.  Max Fielder, a 6’9 center, drew raves with his play over the summer and turned it into a D-I scholarship.  He’ll be flanked by a pair of juniors that should provide him plenty of support.  Redrick Hill, at 6’7, showed some athleticism as well as an ability to connect on open threes during play on Sunday.  He’s also quick off of his feet for rebounds and runs the floor well.  Recently arrived from Texas, 6’3 wing Derion Green, is a fine athlete that produced some highlight dunks and blocks Sunday afternoon.  He didn’t get much of a chance to show his skill level so we hope to get a better gauge of that at some point.  On a side note for Green, he has big hands and feet and may not be done growing.

Somerset Chapel Trail

If this program didn’t play in arguably the toughest private school district in the state (Class 5A Region 4 District 13), they would certainly be a state final four contender.  Three of their projected starting five played on Sunday and left no doubt that this team is one to watch.  We’ve mention the play of 6’0 sophomore Jon Renois before and he continues to be a tantalizing point guard prospect.  He shot the ball better from the perimeter this weekend and when combining that with his ability to penetrate and score at the basket, he’s a tough cover.  Brandon Garcia, a 6’1 junior, shot the ball very well from the perimeter, connecting on five shots from deep in the game we watched.  He can sometimes be a bit too fast and loose with the ball but playing alongside other talented guys this season should help solve that issue.  Finally, 6’7 junior Nathan Montaque, can provide matchup problems inside or out.  He’s too mobile for big defenders and too strong for small ones.  Montaque scores well off ball-screen action as the screener, crashes the offensive glass and makes shots from the perimeter.  Throw in Tyson Civil, the teams’s leading scorer last year and Dudley Blackwell, and you have as potent a starting five as you will find in the FHSAA.

Jacksonville Paxon

Paxon faces a tough slate in Class 6A, Region 1, District 3 but has a young nucleus in place that could make a lot of noise this coming season.  It starts with 6’6 junior wing Isaiah Adams, a first team all-first coast selection last season.  In an event such as this where the pace is always up-tempo, Adams excels.  His long strides move him up and down the floor rapidly, he finishes well above the rim, and is an excellent passer on the move.  Adams’ jump shot is a bit suspect at this point but his other skills more than make up for it.  His length and ability to anticipate on the defensive end creates havoc.  Adams has help in the form of 5’10 sophomore guard Maurice Willie.  He did a great job of pushing the pace on Saturday.  He’s also a good enough perimeter shooter to keep the defense honest and makes good shot vs. pass decisions when driving the ball to the basket.

Orlando Christian Prep

Don’t think for a milli-second that OCP will fall off the pace after losing four of five starters from a dominant team last season.  The Warriors have a young core that despite playing individually this weekend, show that OCP is a long way from ending its run of dominance. Eric Butler, a 6’3 junior combo guard, is an efficient scorer but also a productive set-up man and distributor.  A trio of freshman could see plenty of minutes this season.  6’3 wing Anthony Brown looked solid in knocking down a pair of threes, getting to the basket and scoring in traffic, and finishing off offensive rebounds.  6’5 forward Ven-Allen Lubin was a rugged interior operator, more than up to the challenge of playing against older competition as he competed and finished well on the offensive glass.  Finally, 6’2 guard Fabio Basili kept his teammates involved on Sunday with pinpoint passing while also scoring well in transition and coming off of ball screens, finishing in traffic.

Ocoee

Just over a decade old, this program west of downtown Orlando doesn’t have much basketball tradition.  This coming season could help start one.  Sadeem Blake, a 6’1 junior guard, was a scoring machine on Sunday.  At one point, he hit four of five from beyond the arc, all off the dribble while being contested.  He’s quick and strong enough to get to and score thru contact at the basket if overplayed for the shot.  David Green, a 6’6 junior, showed promise as well.  A solid athlete, he impressed with an off-hand finish on a drive to the rim, a mid-range jumper off a ball-screen, and a three off the catch.  Green also did a lot of work on the offensive glass as well as beating the defense down the court in transition.  Combine these two with 6’6 classmate Alston Andrews and the Knights could be a real threat.

Boca Raton St. Andrew’s

This squad could be a dark horse in their Class 5A region.  It starts with 6’9 junior Yussif Basa-Ama, an athletic interior presence at both ends of the floor.  Saturday he showed improved strength and touch around the basket and as usual was a defensive deterrent in the paint.  6’5 sophomore Josh Minott should provide much needed versatility at both ends of the floor.  Long, he proved to be a capable ball-handler and passer, as well as able to rebound in traffic against bigger and stronger opponents.  Throw in 6’0 senior guard Alejandro Relat into the mix, who had his own moments on Saturday, and you’ve got a trio that opponents will find tough to contain.

2018 Fall Festival Team Showcase – Rpt I

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There is a lot of ground to cover from the Fall Festival’s Team Showcase.  Unlike recent years, there was no tournament format.  Instead, there were showcase games for each team.  Let’s get into it.

Montverde Academy

The defending national champs bring in pretty much a new team from last season.  Even without three potential starters, the Eagles were able to handle the weekend’s opponents with relative ease.  The only significant carryover from last season is 7’1 senior Balsa Kaprovica.  Highly skilled for a player his size, he can stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting as well as operate effectively in the low post.  Bigs running alongside him this past weekend were 6’9 senior Omar Payne, a Florida commit, and 6’11 junior Pavel Zakharov from Russia.  Payne’s ability to beat defenders down the floor for scores, shot blocking skills and rebounding prowess are well-documented.  He may not get a lot of plays run for him but Payne will certainly find ways to score.  Zakharov is much like Kaprovica in that he is skilled and mobile.  He was quite impressive with his passing skills and finishing ability in traffic around the basket.  In his debut for the Eagles, 6’4 senior Harold Beverley set the gym buzzing with is explosive exploits in transition.  Whether it was pushing the ball on the break after rebounds or coming up with a loose ball in the open floor, Beverly routinely finished above the rim in ferocious fashion.  He didn’t display (and didn’t need to) a jump shot this weekend.  If he has one of those, watch out!

Orlando Oakridge

A favorite to repeat as champions in Class 9A, Oakridge played this weekend without top forty prospect, 6’8 senior C.J. Walker.  That’s okay as Oakridge had more than enough talent to compensate this weekend.  Kaleb Coleman, a 6’7 senior forward, put in work in the rebounding department at both ends while offensively he stretched the floor with his perimeter shooting.  Niven Glover, a 6’4 senior, looks to be improved as a shooter from distance.  His top shelf athleticism serves the team well in terms of rebounding, transition scoring, and defense.  Emmanuel Adedoyin and Zavien Smith, both 6’3 senior guards, provide a steady hand in the backcourt.  Adedoyin is an attacking scorer while Smith is a confident ball-handler, passer, and shot maker from deep.  Add in contributions from sophomore guards Jalen Smith and Stephen Burr along with impact freshman 6’5 Lewis Jones and the Pioneers look like a lock to get back to the final four in the state’s largest classification.

Pompano Beach Ely

Until another program proves otherwise, the Tigers should begin the season as the top ranked team in whatever classification they are in (currently 8A).  A program in the ultimate sense of the word, Coach Melvin Randall’s squad is always up for a challenge.  The names and faces may change but the results speak for themselves.  This year’s crop of Tigers features 6’5 do-it-all senior wing Joshua Scott.  His contributions aren’t limited to the scoring column.  Rebounds, assists, defense, leadership and other intangibles are all part of his tool kit.  Lamont Evans, a 6’0 junior came up with big with timely three pointers in the two games that we watched.  Another junior, 5’11 Tyrecke Francois, was another notable two-way player with his ability to make shots and force turnovers.  6’4 junior wing Aderes James Stanton-McCray was an excellent complement to Scott.  With a quick release on his jumper that proved to be accurate to the arc as well as a strong drive game, he was able to effectively get points.  Lance Rainer, a 6’4 senior, was a big help on the glass as well as defending the paint.

Daytona Beach Mainland

Long a football powerhouse, the alma mater of Vince Carter is one of a handful of favorites heading into the season in Class 7A.  It all starts at the point guard position with 5’11 junior Jordan Sears.  A catalyst at both ends of the court, he’s a facilitator and scorer on offense and disruptive when guarding the ball on the defensive end.  He does a good job of pushing the pace and finding open teammates on the move.  Though listed at 6’9, Johnny Brown prefers to play on the perimeter.  A dangerous pick-and-pop guy, the lefty has range to the arc.  He’ll post up and score if not played physically.  Brown will challenge guys at the basket on defense and force opponents to alter their shot.  Rodney Rhoden, a 6’5 senior, is an athletic slasher that makes a living finishing above the basket.  Whether in transition or throwing down lobs off of set plays, Rhoden makes a highlight level play every game.  His quick leaping ability allows him to play bigger than his size when it comes to rebounding.

Orlando West Oaks Academy

One of the top teams in the SIAA, the Flames don’t have an abundance of size but their perimeter talent will burn defenses and get buckets.  Tyrell Jones, a 6’1 senior, is mulling over several high-major offers.  Wired to score from all three levels, he’s become a solid decision maker on the drive and routinely finds teammates for easy scores.  Jordan Smith, a 6’0 senior guard, is quick and fast with the ball, is tenacious in harassing opposing ball-handlers, and does a great job of pushing the tempo.  Senior Linton Brown, at 6’5, has the perimeter game to open up the floor but is also strong enough to defend bigger opponents.  Alic Troutman, a 6’7 senior, is a tough interior defender.  He’s a scoring threat as a receiver coming off of ball-screens as he has good hands and a soft touch around the basket.  Selton Miguel, a 6’5 junior wing, is effective as both a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter and when driving the ball to the basket.  He’s also an active and disruptive defender.  Young gun sophomores J.J. Harris and A.J. Neal will have their moments as well.  The 6’4 Harris is an effective scorer when driving to the basket and a voracious rebounder.  At 6’0, Neal has deep range on a quick release jumper and routinely starts scoring runs by hitting multiple shots behind the arc in succession.

2018 Fall Festival – Fresh Faces

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The Hoop Exchange Fall Festival took place this past weekend at the Cooper Palms Sportsplex in Apopka.  An event that combines a high school team “camp” type setting as well as an individual exposure event, there is no shortage of talent.  In this first look at the individual exposure event, we’ll focus on some fresh faces that grabbed our attention.

Whenever we come across a player from the Panhandle region of the state, we always want to get a look.  Adrian Walker, a lithe 6’4 senior wing from Milton earned notice with his speed, quickness, and athleticism.  He gets quickly to and finishes well above the rim both in transition and against set defenses.  Despite his thin frame, he consistently scored thru contact and converted three point plays.  His length and defensive awareness garnered him many steals and deflections.

Jimel Lane, a 6’4 junior wing out of Coral Reef in Homestead was a pleasant surprise.  He started the game with high-flying dunk in transition and continued rolling from there.  Lane showed he can get to the basket off the dribble and score in traffic as well as get to offensive rebounds and quickly put back missed shots.  Just when we thought he might be more athlete than basketball player, he drilled a smooth three-pointer off the dribble over a contesting defender.

Arguably one of the most intriguing and exciting long-term prospects in the event was 6’7 sophomore forward Jayven Millien from Sarasota Riverview.  He already checks the boxes in terms of size, length, and athleticism and Millien also plays with a lot of effort and energy.  His skills are adequate at this stage as he showed an ability to score with a couple of dribbles from the wing, grab rebounds and go end-to-end and deliver passes to cutters for easy opportunities.  Millien will need to re-fine his shooting form and become a more consistent threat from the perimeter to become a high-major prospect but he has all the tools to do so.

Without question the most impressive individual performance of the event was put on by 6’4 senior guard Chase Wilson out of Lithonia, Georgia’s The Wilson Academy.  First and foremost, he’s strong, a solid athlete, and is communicative at both ends of the floor.  Skill-wise, he doesn’t lack in any area.  By our count, he was 9-9 on perimeter jump shots combined off the catch and the dribble, all coming outside of fifteen feet.  When he did attack the basket, he finished thru contact.  While not a point guard, he had a couple of nice passes for assists against set defenses.  Wilson also showed to be a capable rebounder and defender.

The living embodiment of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”, Michael Gavin, a 6’0 senior guard out of Lake Mary Prep absolutely torched various defenders that took him lightly on Sunday.  Combing crafty ball-handling with changes in speed and/or direction, Gavin often left defenders grasping at air as he got to the basket and either scored or found open teammates for uncontested shots.  He also nailed daggers from deep, both off the catch and the dribble.  Gavin is one of those players that is simply wired to score.

If University School in Fort Lauderdale hopes to repeat the success they had last season (City of Palms Champion, Class 5A state champion, 2nd-ranked nationally behind Montverde) then they will need all the help they can get from junior 6’4 wing Roger McFarlane.  From what we saw on Sunday, he’s more scorer than shooter right now as most of his points came on drives, putbacks, or in transition.  McFarlane did drain his one three point attempt in the game we watched.  If he can be consistent from the perimeter then his game goes to another level.  A solid ball-handler, passer, rebounder, and overall athlete, McFarlane will be the X-Factor for University this upcoming season.

Forest Hill in West Palm Beach is on the rise and coach Tony Watson expects 6’4 sophomore guard Donovan Draper to be the catalyst for the next few seasons.  Playing with a savvy beyond his years, Draper has excellent court vision, anticipates well at the defensive end, and is seemingly one play ahead of the other nine guys on the floor.  He missed the only jumper he took in the contest, but it has good form.  He got most of his points in transition or on drives to the basket.  More than once the rebounded the ball and fired a quick outlet down the court for an easy score.  Draper looks like he could still grow some more so with his skills and size he is certainly one to watch.

Talk about fresh faces, Christian Flores, a 5’10 junior guard at Lakeland Victory Christian, just arrived in the states from Puerto Rico a month ago.  It’s pretty telling when a coach for the team with four D-I caliber players on it raves not about them but the “pitbull from P.R.” after his first game on Sunday.  Flores didn’t score a ton but his aggressiveness on the defensive end, ability to create and come up with 50/50 balls, and deliver the ball to the right place at the right time did not go unnoticed.  While he was 1-2 from beyond the arc over the course of the two games we watched his team play, Flores’s scoring ability from the perimeter is something we want to get a better feel for.

23rd Annual Dodge Florida Shootout: Rpt II

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In this report on the 23rd Annual Dodge Florida Shootout held at IMG Academy in Bradenton this past Saturday, we focus on those players in the Red Division that caught our attention.

Many of the non-D-I coaches in attendance came to see Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas’ 6’4 senior Lenny Roca.  His play more than justified their expense vouchers this coming week.  Roca is an ideal “swing man” for schools outside of the D-I arena.  He’s a good athlete, a guy that can score in different ways, and a reliable shooter from distance.  Legendary STA Head Coach Steve Strand gave him the ultimate coach’s compliment: “Lenny may be the most competitive kid I’ve ever coached.  He absolutely hates to lose at anything”.

While Ky’Ode Walters, a 6’0 senior guard from Okeechobee, didn’t register on our radar during drill work, once the five-on-five sessions began, he quickly asserted himself as a team leader and productive point guard.  Walters excelled at pushing the ball up the floor via both the pass and the dribble as well as finding teammates for easy scores in transition.  While he didn’t look to score, Walters made the most of his opportunities, connecting on some open perimeter jumpers and scoring on drives to the basket.  Defensively he was solid in guarding the ball as well as alert for errant passes into his area when playing off the ball.

Sean Shore, a 6’5 junior forward out of Fort Myers Evangelical Christian School, made observers sit up and take note in the first five-on-five session of the event.  He opened the game with a three, scored in transition soon thereafter and then produced a nifty assist off of an offensive rebound.  Shore has a good frame and better than expected athleticism.  Hopefully over the next year or so he can improve his ability to create with the dribble to get to the basket and finish in traffic, as well as become a more consistent three-point shooter.

Tyler Krivitzkin, a 5’10 senior out of Weston Cypress Bay, will have a lot on his shoulders this coming season.  Judging by his play on Saturday, he should be able to handle the expectations.  Solidly built, “T.K.” had little trouble over-powering various defenders to get into the lane and either score at the rim or take and make shots from the free throw line.  He proved adept at finding teammates for open looks after penetration and also showed a consistent shot past the college three-point line.  Solid defensively, he does a good job of using both his upper-body strength and lateral quickness to keep the opposing ball-handler under control.

A 6’0 senior at St. Thomas Aquinas, R.J. Taylor looks like he could be a solid starting point guard for the Raiders this coming season.  He won’t blow by people with the dribble or wow the crowd with fancy ball-handling, but Taylor showed a penchant for getting the ball where it needs to go in a quick and efficient manner.  On Saturday, he did a good job of getting the ball to teammates ahead of the defense as well as to teammates cutting into the lane or posting up.  A converted “two guard”, Taylor can make the defense pay for sagging off of him with an accurate perimeter shot.  He’ll be challenged defensively but his play Saturday suggests he is smart enough to compensate for any lack of athleticism.

It took a while, but the play of Daniel Darby, a 6’2 junior wing from Canterbury School in Fort Myers, eventually grabbed our attention.  He played with passion and effort every possession he was on the floor.  Darby wasn’t hesitant about attacking the defense when in possession of the basketball.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but the defense always had to be aware to help when Darby had the ball.  Despite a bit of an unorthodox shot, he made a couple of threes during the game we watched.  Darby also showed a knack for grabbing long rebounds and 50/50 balls.

One of the youngest players at the event, 5’7 freshman Freddie Williams from Bradenton Lakewood Ranch, looked very comfortable competing against older, stronger, and more experienced competition.  He shot the ball with confidence from distance, made good decisions with the ball, and looked to make the easy play rather than the spectacular one.  He definitely put his name on the list of ones to watch in the 2022 Class.

23rd Annual Dodge Florida Shootout: Rpt I

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The longest running event of its kind in the state, the Dodge Shootout took place this past weekend at IMG Academy in Bradenton.  Players were split into eight teams, four in the Black Division and four in the Red Division.  We’ll focus on the players in the Black Division in this report.

Without question, the player with the greatest potential at the event was Jemal Davis, a 6’8 senior forward from Okeechobee.  Davis was the tallest, longest, and bounciest player at the Dodge and was quickly noticed by the bevy of coaches in attendance.  He gets a lot done in transition and in the lane thanks to his physical gifts.  Davis showed some offensive potential in terms of perimeter shooting and ball-handling but to make a move full time to the wing will require upgrading those skills.  Defensively he has the wing span and lateral quickness to step out and defend smaller players in ball-screen situations.  At a lean 175lbs, Davis needs to add size and strength to his frame to maximize his impact at the next level.

During the five-on-five sessions, all eyes were glued to 6’0 sophomore Jonathan Renois out of Somerset Prep in Pembrooke Pines.  He consistently got into the lane on offense and made good things happen for his team.  Renois had some pretty sweet moves and finishes coming off ball-screens, in particular a behind-the-back dribble to split the defenders and finishing with a finger roll at the rim.  A good athlete with a surprising vertical, Renois plays bigger than his size when going after rebounds or challenging defenders at the basket.  While he made enough perimeter shots to be a threat, his shot lacks rotation and he came away empty a bit too often at the foul line.  While not a crafty or creative ball-handler and distributor, he doesn’t try to do too much and generally made good decisions with the ball on Saturday.

One of the better scorers in attendance was David Graham-Swift, a 6’2 senior at IMG Academy.  Wired to score, he found ways to get the ball in the basket from all three levels.  DGS has a solid frame and knows how to use it to over-power defenders on the way to the basket and score thru contact.  Despite a somewhat low release on his jumper, he gets the shot off quickly and found the target consistently from mid-range and beyond the arc.  A solid ball-handler in the open court and on straight-line drives to the basket, Graham-Swift is more likely score and/or get to the foul line than look for an open teammate.  He did, however, have moments where he delivered passes to open cutters for points. Defensively, DGS has active hands and feet and isn’t afraid to get physical with his opponent.

Another senior from IMG, 6’2 Max Williams, also had his moments.  At a solid 185lbs, Williams is another guard that can power past most defenders.  On Saturday, he did a nice job of using change of direction/change of pace dribbles to attack the basket.  Once the defender is on Williams’ hip, more often than not it was a bucket or a trip to the foul line.  Williams has a text book shooting stroke and he buried a few step-up threes during five-on-five competition.  In general, he took good care of the ball and didn’t make mistakes trying to do too much.  Still, Williams is more of a scoring point guard than a traditional set-up man.

We liked the play of 6’0 sophomore Rodney Bryant out of Mount Dora Christian on Saturday.  He’s quite fast with the ball, and did a good job of pushing the pace in Saturday’s five-on-five action.  If Bryant got ahead of the defense in transition, no one was going to catch up to him.  More than once he was able to grab long rebounds and score, going coast to coast.  He knocked down a couple of threes with good form in our time watching Bryant and defensively he was active and turned some steals into points.  With three more years of high school, he’s one to monitor, especially when it comes to growth in his offensive skill set.

Another sophomore of note was 6’2 Landon Howard out of Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers.  Seemingly never taking a play off, he always seemed to be around the basketball.  Howard always seemed to be in the mix for a rebound at either end or chasing down 50/50 balls.  He showed some skill as well, draining a pair of threes and completing a couple of drives in traffic during out time watching his team.  He doesn’t yet have a defined position, and that may not be a bad thing.  Keeping his aggressiveness at both ends of the court along with developing into a consistent three-point threat will give him a chance to play at the next level.

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