The High School season is fast approaching. We will be presenting are annual previews over the next couple of weeks. As is tradition, we’ve broken the regions down into the Panhandle, North Florida, Central Florida, Southwest Florida, and South Florida. We kick off our regional coverage with a look at the Panhandle, which we consider to be Tallahassee to Pensacola.
Top Five “Big” Schools (Class 7A-5A)
Pensacola Washington (Class 5A, Region 1, District 1): While this group is comparatively young, P’Cola Booker T. has great size and length. Jordyn Buchanann, a 6’6 junior, is a dynamic athlete that scores well on the break and around the basket. Alex Jasquith, another 6’6 junior, is a versatile wing with an accurate three-point shot as well as the ability to get to the rim and score through contact in a crowd. Yet another junior, 6’6 Logan Brown, provides another active body to chase rebounds and challenge shots on the interior. Tyler White, a 6’4 junior, and 5’10 senior Nicholas Hughes, provide a perimeter complement to the trio of juniors.
Cantonment Tate (Class 6A, Region 1, District 1)
Tate fell short of reaching the regional round of the playoffs last season but look to have enough coming back to make a run in 2023. Traveon Durant, a 6’1 senior averaged just over eleven points per game last season. Evan Bignell, a 6’3 junior, notched ten points a contest in 2021-2022. Both will look to up their contributions as well as lead some young teammates to success.
Pensacola Pine Forest (Class 5A, Region 1, District 1)
Pine Forest got all the way to the state semi-finals last season and were a last second put-back from being in the championship game. Though they lost some key pieces, expect Pine Forest to challenge once again come playoff time. Joshua Whitehurst, a 5’11 senior, is the team’s top returning scorer at thirteen points a game. Another senior, 6’0 Ozell Purifoy, contributed twelve points a contest last season. Just as in season’s past, expected Pine Forest to make up for any lack of size with a lot of athleticism and a ferocious intensity on the defensive end.
Crestview (Class 6A, Region 1, District 1)
Last year’s team reached the regional-semis before falling to state finalist Ponte Vedra. Don’t be surprised if Crestview is once again in the mix and a tough obstacle on the way to Lakeland. Obian Howard, a 5’10 senior, averaged twelve points a game last year and Makhi Jones, a 6’2 junior, will be looking to post a major increase to last year’s eleven points per game average.
Tallahassee Rickards (Class 5A, Region 1, District 2)
Rickards has a young group this season but from what we’ve seen at various events, those youngsters are quite talented and should help them get back to the playoffs. Edwin McCloud, a 6’2 junior, is a dynamic scorer that shoots the ball well. Travell Gallon, a 6’5 sophomore, is a very good athlete, an active slasher attacking the basket, and a guy that can defend multiple positions. B.J. Plummer, another sophomore at 6’3, plays bigger than his listed size and is an active rebounder at both ends.
Top Five “Small” Schools (Class 4A thru 1A)
Tallahassee Florida High (Class 3A, Region 1, District 1)
The reigning Class 3A champ, Florida High will miss Tre Donaldson, now at Auburn as a dual-sport athlete. While that knocks Florida High down a peg, there is still a lot left in the cupboard. Senior Anthony Robinson, 6’2, committed to Missouri, can play either guard position very effectively. 6’2 junior guard TJ Baker is starting to come into his own and Christian Johnson, a 6’8 senior, showed promise at various team camps and fall exposure events. Now a sophomore, 6’5 Tre Card, should make more of an impact with additional playing time.
Panama City Bay (Class 4A, Region 1, District 1): Bay may have the deepest squad in the panhandle and that is saying a lot. Deondrian Washington, a 6’6 senior, got plenty of notoriety this past spring and summer. An active and athletic bundle of energy, he consistently makes an impact at both ends of the floor. Albert McKinney, a 6’7 junior, runs the floor, challenges everything around the rim and attacks the basket at every opportunity. Tremello Carter, a 6’1 sophomore, is a crafty floor leader with good passing instincts and skills. He is also a very good catch and shoot guy from deep.
Tallahassee Maclay (Class 3A, Region 1, District 1)
Maclay will make rumblings in Class 3A come tournament time. They have a nice mix of size, outside shooting, and athleticism to make them a nightly problem for opponents. Blaise Wallace, a 6’6 senior, will be the focal point of the offense. He has become a very good shooter from distance while not sacrificing his ability to score inside. Wallace is a grab-and-go rebounder that can ignite the transition game on his own. Colin McAlister, a 5’10 senior, provides plenty of speed and poise at the point guard spot. The rest of the team has their respective roles to fill and do so to the best of their ability.
Quincy Crossroad Academy (Class 1A, Region 3, District 5)
With the re-classification done by the FHSAA this summer, Crossroad Academy got bounced down to Class 1A. The key piece is 6’8 senior Kris Parker, a high-major recruit that will see time at every position for the team. Markel Bradwell, a 6’4 senior, contributed double-figures in points last season and should have a chance to score in the mid-teens per game this time around. Forest Dudley, a 5’10 freshman, was impressive this past spring and summer playing up on the 15U level. He should contribute quickly. Crossroad will find getting to Lakeland to be a bit tougher this time around in 1A as the likes of Hawthorne and Madison County, traditionally strong programs, will pose obstacles to be overcome.
Tallahassee Godby (Class 4A, Region 1, District 2)
Another young but talented group from the state capital, it may take some time for Godby to find its basketball legs until re-enforcements come in from playing football. Until then, guys like 6’0 sophomore Mekhi Butler and 5’10 freshman Jaden Staten will keep Godby in contention.
TOP FIVE PLAYERS
Anthony Robinson, Tallahassee Florida High: The 6’3 senior seemingly always plays under control. His jumper is reliable out to the three-point line. Robinson has the speed, quickness, and ball-handling skills to slice thru defenses, get into the lane, and make plays for himself or teammates.
Kris Parker, Quincy Crossroad Academy: The 6’6 wing is highly athletic and very skilled. Parker can put the ball on the floor and score from just about anywhere. A solid rebounder at both ends and a defender that covers a lot of ground quickly, Parker already has several mid-major and above college offers.
Blaise Wallace, Tallahassee Maclay: The 6’6 senior has been on the radar since prior to his freshman season but his improvement was very noticeable this summer and fall at various events. Wallace has become a match-up problem with his ability to knock down shots from deep, drive the ball and score in traffic, and take advantage of mismatches in size down low.
Bryan Harris, Pensacola High: A 6’6 senior wing, Harris has the length, athleticism, and shooting ability from the perimeter that coaches now covet. He has the skills to be a grab-and-go rebounder, uses his length well on the defensive end, and can guard multiple positions. Harris is also a good athlete, finishes well above the rim, and gets to and converts from the foul line at a high rate of frequency.
Deondrian Washington, Panama City Bay: A 6’6 senior forward, Washington is a high-level athlete with length and versatility. He gets to the basket quickly and finishes well over the rim. Washington has a quick second and third leap and is active on the glass at both ends of the court. He can step out and defend on the perimeter as well as guard the post and challenge intruders in the paint.
#1 Senior: Anthony Robinson (see above)
#1 Junior: Alex Jasquith, Pensacola Washington: At 6’6, Jasquith is a good run/jump athlete that is quick to the ball coming off the rim. As mentioned earlier, he is a tough cover with his ability to shoot from the perimeter as well as score around the basket. Jasquith shows a lot of promise as a multi-position player and defender at the next level.
#1 Sophomore: Irayn Francis, Gadsden Monroe: At 6’6 with long arms and live legs, Francis gets a lot done around the basket. He has some solid if basic post moves and a soft touch inside. Francis gets to rebounds quickly at both ends and is fast down the floor in transition. Look for him to extend his shooting range and upgrade his ball-handlings skills to become more versatile on the offensive end in the near future.
#1 Freshman: Forest Dudley, Crossroad Academy: At 5’10, Dudley is strong with the ball, quick to the cup and scores well in a crowd around the basket. He is in the process of extending the range on his jumper but he manages to knock down enough threes to keep the defense honest.
Senior Sleeper: Tristan Watson, Jay: It only seems like the 6’5 senior has been at Jay since it opened. Playing on the varsity level while still in middle school, Watson is looking to finally make it to Lakeland after coming up short to the likes of an unbeaten Milton Central two years ago and an experienced Paxton team last year. Despite missing about one-third of the season last year, Watson still averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds. He is solid as an interior scorer and can also pull the defense away from the basket as he makes shots from the perimeter.