Not only were there some great games at the 2021 Orlando Health Hoopfest, there were some outstanding individual performances that deserve mention.
Trey Lane, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic: We have seen the 6’1 senior St. Leo signee in the past and he had proven to be a very capable complimentary player. At the Hoopfest, Lane gave a sterling indication of what he can do when given the spotlight. He always plays hard and heady, and this combination gives him plenty of opportunities to fill the stat sheet. Lane has a surprisingly quick change of direction dribble and takes the ball hard to the hole, being more than happy to absorb contact and go to the line. He is a reliable shooter from deep with his feet set. On the defensive end, he is alert and active, getting numerous deflections, tips, or outright steals that he quickly converts into scores.
Sam Walters, The Villages Charter: The 6’8 junior is an inside/outside offensive threat. He saw a lot of face-guarding and double-teams on Saturday. It slowed him down for about a quarter but he finally was able to break out and show what he can do. He runs the floor and finishes at the basket, is active on the offensive glass and can score on short drives from the high post or short corners. Walters didn’t get many chances to shoot from the perimeter on Saturday but we’ve seen him enough to know that he can make those with consistency. As he gains strength and physical maturity, he will become even more impactful at both ends of the floor.
Sean Stewart, Windermere: We raved about the 6’8 junior in our report from the Breast Cancer Awareness Classic the week before and while his numbers weren’t as gaudy this weekend as last, his play still was. Stewart explodes out of the gate and gets a lot done in a short amount of time. In the contest against Lakewood Ranch, he accounted for six points, five rebounds, 1 assist and 1 blocked shot in the first quarter. He continues to show athleticism that we hadn’t seen before. He is very quick to the ball in or out of his area. Stewart is a solid scoring threat from fifteen feet and in and his ability to connect from behind the arc continues to improve. Maybe the most interesting thing has become the consistency of his intensity when on the floor. He goes hard every possession.
Chris Nurse, Windermere: The 6’5 senior is a bit undersized but he may be, inch-for-inch, the toughest player in Central Florida. Always a very good rebounder and defender, Nurse showed a bit more offensive skill on Saturday. He seemed more comfortable handling the basketball on the perimeter and his shot is much more reliable. Nurse made some tough finishes at the basket, both in transition and in half-court sets. He also did a fine job of beating the defense down the floor for easy baskets. He brings a lot of intangibles to the floor that equate to winning.
Moises Balonga, Jacksonville Bishop Snyder: The 6’5 wing did all of his damage at the rim on Saturday. Snyder runs a lot of sets that have him come off multiple ball-screens designed to have him attack the basket or kick the ball out to open perimeter shooters. Balonga can also just “bully-ball” his way to the basket if guarded by an undersized opponent. He gets to the line a bunch but needs to upgrade his success rate. The shot has good form and we think he’ll become a proficient perimeter shooter at some point on the next level. Balonga is also tough to stop in transition and keeping him off the offensive glass is a chore.
Ta’Veon Jones, Orlando Central Florida Christian Academy: The sophomore may only be 5’7, but man! Does he play big!! As one might expect, he is very quick with the ball and gets wherever he needs to go on the court. The lefty has a lot of crafty finishes in his arsenal when driving to the basket. Jones is a legit threat with his perimeter shot. He also does a great job of getting the ball to teammates for open shots. He is a one man press break and routinely notches assists against an out-numbered defense. Jones is also very alert for steals, double-teams, and post dig-downs, all with the thought in mind to strip the ball and go the other way. A super high basketball IQ, toughness, and solid skill set make him much better than many point guards 6’0 and over.
Brice Sensabaugh, Orlando Lake Highland Prep: OK, we’ve seen him drop 30+ in three straight games against high-caliber opponents (Dr. Phillips, Windermere, and Tallahassee Lincoln). If there is somebody else (most likely in South Florida) that has had this hot of a start to the season, please let us know. Sensabaugh missed his first five perimeter shots on Saturday and we thought he had come down to earth. By the end of the contest, he had dropped in eight in succession, all from Steph Curry-land. Maybe the most impressive shot was his one-hand dunk off an alley-oop lob that guys his size and shape just are not supposed to make. Sensabaugh has become a “must see” player this season.
Jayden Williams, Windermere Prep: The 6’5 senior and future Ivy Leaguer at Dartmouth was asked to pull double-duty on Saturday. Not only was he expected to supply much of the Lakers offense against a high powered Dr. Phillips squad, he was also given the unenviable task of having to defend 6’10 Ernest Udeh. He did get some help from his teammates and though Udeh finished with 16 points, it is fair to say that Williams acquitted himself well in both assignments. He did all he could to keep the Kansas signee from getting the ball inside, playing him physically without fouling. On offense, Williams led the way with 20 points, dropping a trio of three-point bombs in the first quarter when Windermere Prep was still in the contest. Williams had a couple of drives that ended in dunks that drew big cheers from the crowd. It was a very good outing for the senior.
Riley Kugel, Orlando Dr. Phillips: The 6’5 Mississippi State signee was the fourth of four double-figure scorers for the Panthers with 14 points. At times, Kugel looks like the most talented of the three high-major signees on the DP roster. He had one play where he received a long outlet pass and turned it into a no-look, behind the back touch pass to a streaking teammate for an easy bucket. Kugel also tallied 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in a little over three quarters worth of floor time. He dropped in threes off the dribble, scored in traffic, and got teammates easy baskets. Kugel does more than just get buckets.