We finalize our regional previews with a look into South Florida.
TOP FIVE “BIG” SCHOOLS (CLASS 7A thru 5A)
Miami Christopher Columbus (Class 7A, Region 4, District 16)
The Explorers stunned many when they took home the Class 7A state title last season, quite a feat for a team that started three freshmen and a sophomore. Now this group will be every opponent’s biggest game of the year. Cameron Boozer, a 6’9 sophomore, has received a bunch of accolades for his play this spring and summer. Some consider him the top high school prospect regardless of class. Cayden Boozer, at 6’4 sophomore, is nationally recognized in his own right. He is already considered a high-major point guard prospect. Fellow sophomore Benny Fragella, is a 6’2 sniper on the perimeter that stretches the defense. Malik Abdullahi, a 6’7 junior, is long, bouncy, defensively versatile, and play with a motor that revs high. Nikola Djapa, a 6’10 senior from Serbia, is perimeter-oriented but will help out on the glass. Toss in backcourt performers such as 6’2 senior Garyn Bess, 5’9 senior, Kevin Noriega, and 6’3 junior Angelo Miranda, and Columbus looks set for the see foreseeable future.
Lake Worth (Class 7A, Region 2, District 8)
The Trojans made it to the Class 7A semi-finals last season and nearly every one of consequence returns. It starts with the lethal combination of the “In’vin’cibles”: 5’9 senior Calvin Sirmans and 6’5 senior Marvin Golf. Sirmans is a dynamic point guard that orchestrates every one on the floor but can also get his own points. Golf is versatile, an excellent scorer and passer, and makes the game look easy. Anthony Coby, a 6’1 senior, is a crafty lefty with a deadly accurate three-point shot. A pair of juniors, 6’5 Hedrens Bartelus and 6’8 Jeremy Vincent, control the boards and score in the point. Youngsters Ryan Coby (6’1 sophomore), Chaison Wilson (6’4 sophomore), and Tyriq McLeod (6’2 freshman) will get their chance to shine.
Riviera Beach Suncoast (Class 5A, Region 4, District 14)
The Chargers have been knocking on the Class 5A door the past couple of years with a young squad. It looks like their window of opportunity is wide open this season. Ian Smickle, a 6’8 junior, seemingly improves every time he steps on the floor. He has a good frame, an improving post game, and locks down the lane on defense. Stone Bureau, a 6’1 junior, runs the show at the point guard position. He’s scores and distributes with great success and is a feisty defender. Nate Sasser, a 6’4 senior, is a versatile player that can get on a roll and score in bunches. Jeremiah Police, a 6’4 junior, is another athletic perimeter threat that can also get on the glass. A beefed up schedule should get Suncoast more than ready come playoff time.
Miami Southridge (Class 6A, Region 4, District 16)
After watching Southridge at a couple of team camp events in June, we came away believing they will be a factor in the Class 6A title chase. Koree Cotton, a 6’6 senior, may well be the best in his class in Miami-Dade. He is a proven commodity when it comes to putting the ball in the basket, whether with a jumper from the perimeter or scoring on forays to the hoop. Anthony Dozier, a 6’1 senior, can also get buckets in bunches. He is dynamic in the open floor and finishes creatively in a crowd. Jamari Dean, a 6’0 senior, is a speedy penetrator that pushes the pace. A pair of junior, 6’9 Kas Williams and 6’8 Lee Flenor, will be counted on to protect the rim and control the glass.
Coral Springs Coral Glades (Class 7A, Region 4, District 14)
Coral Glades has little (if any) basketball history but a talented group of transfers is looking to change that. Ramez Zayed, a 6’1 junior, is solid at the point guard spot. He will push the pace, get the ball to teammates where they can score easily and quickly, and make the most of his shot opportunities. Tahir Boyd, a 6’3 junior, is very athletic, likes to play above the rim, and plays with great energy on both sides of the floor. Dylan Burrowes, a 6’7 junior, has good post skills but also the ability to step away from the paint and score from fifteen feet. Dom Smith, a 6’4 senior, does a little bit of everything: rebounding, getting the ball to open teammates, or challenging the defense with drives to the basket.
TOP FIVE “SMALL” SCHOOLS (CLASS 4A thru 1A)
Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy (Class 3A, Region 4, District 14)
This program doesn’t rebuild; it re-loads. 6’8 junior Jaylan Carey simply dominates inside at both ends of the floor. He is too big and strong to be single covered in the paint. He catches everything thrown his way, seemingly gets every rebound, and strikes fear into those opponents that dare try to penetrate the lane. Alex Lloyd at 6’3 is one of the better sophomores in the country, not just Florida. He plays a lot of point guard and plays it well but he is dynamic in the open court, is a consistent perimeter shooter, and scores well thru contact in a crowd at the basket. Dwyane Wimbley, a 6’6 senior, comes over from Dillard and will take some of the scoring pressure off of Carey and Lloyd. Wimbley averaged double-figures as a freshman and should contribute at least that. Alexander Constanza, a 6’8 freshman, gained national notice with his play this fall. Athletic and skilled, he runs the floor, grabs rebounds, and makes perimeter shots. Randy Livingston, a 6’0 point guard, will team with Lloyd at the point. He likes to play fast, get into the paint, and force the defense to make decisions. Enrico Borio, a 6’7 junior, will help out on the inside.
Hialeah Mater Lakes (Class 4A, Region 4, District 14)
This group plays at a fast pace and if teams aren’t ready, they will find themselves in a hole early in the contest. Anthony Knowles, a 6’0 sophomore point guard ignites the attack with his ability to penetrate, make good reads and great decisions with the ball, and either knock down shots if the defense plays off or get to the rim and finish in a crowd. Michael Bradley, a 6’1 senior (finally!) benefits greatly from the system of play. He is an excellent catch-and-shoot artist but that is not his sole forte. Bradley is quick to rotate, trap, and recover on the defensive end. Gabriel Fajardo, a 6’3 senior, is another dangerous scorer for Mater Lakes. He is tough with the ball, strong to the basket, and gets a lot of “and one” opportunities. Fajardo will also make the defense pay from deep if they don’t get to him and close out in time. Clarence Burts, a 6’3 junior, is another player that will put points up quickly. Aside from his scoring ability, he is valuable on the defensive end with his ability to steer the opposing ball-handler and disrupt the passing lanes. Christian Reid, a 6’5 junior, may be under-sized in the traditional since but he is actually quite overpowering. Using strength, aggression, and relentless energy, he scores well in a crowd around the basket, chases down rebounds and loose balls at both ends of the floor, and more than holds his own when defending bigger players inside. Ian Pascal, a 6’4 junior, has the ability to finish on the break, rebound the ball at both ends, and cover a lot of ground quickly on defense.
Miami Riviera Prep (Class 3A, Region 4, District 16)
Riviera Prep lost a one-point heartbreaker in the 3A title game this past season. Despite some graduation losses, the team has an excellent chance to get back to Lakeland for another try. Dante Allen is a 6’4 sophomore that can play and defend multiple positions, is physically tough, and can score in different ways. Joe Ametepe, a 6’6 senior, is a long and strong bundle of energy that is fast up and down the court, quick to rebounds and loose balls, and does a lot of little things that lead to wins. Cooper Josefsburg, a 6’3 senior, excels at spotting up and knocking down open shots off of teammates’ penetration or coming off ball-screens. Cheikh Ndiaye, a 6’10 senior, has good footwork in the post, a soft touch around the basket, and a nose for blocks and boards on the defensive end. Gustevo Guimaraes, a 7’0 sophomore, is a work-in-progress, but he does a solid job protecting the basket and grabbing missed shots in his area. Mason Fuentes, a 6’1 freshman, and Myles Fuentes, a 6’0 eighth grader, shoot the ball well and play with a great deal of confidence.
Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons (Class 4A, Region 4, District 14)
Gibbons plays in a tough district and might take some lumps before the football season ends, but they will be dangerous when it matters most. One of those football players is 6’3 junior Casey Etienne. While labeled a point guard, Etienne is a player and produces wherever he is put on the floor. He’ll run the show for Gibbons and will major headaches for the opposition. Caleb Alceus, a 6’5 senior, is an effective scorer in the paint as well as on the perimeter. His versatility at both ends of the floor causes a lot of problems. Marcus Pierre, a 6’3 sophomore, is aggressive and confident in taking the ball to the basket, as is 6’0 junior Sam Vil. Gibbons annually faces a difficult schedule and this year will be no different.
Weston Sagemont (Class 2A, Region 4, District 15)
Sagemont finished runner-up in last year’s Class 2A state tournament and it won’t surprise if they make a return trip to Lakeland in 2023. Ashton Smith, a 6’1 senior, runs the show for the Lions. A pass-first but not a pass-only point guard, Smith can drain shots from deep or use his speed and quickness with the ball to get into the paint and finish in traffic. Max Martinez, a 6’4 senior, scores a lot of easy baskets on putbacks, gets ahead of the defense for scores, and is quick to move the ball on offense. Tynan Decker, a 6’7 senior, can shoot it, but is at his best when he is aggressive to the basket. He is also a good ball-handler, passer, and is quite active in the passing lanes on defense. Danikos Kaspares, a 6’8 senior, holds down the interior for the Lions. Strong with a solid frame, he doesn’t hesitate to play “bully ball” in the paint at either end of the floor.
Top Five Players
Cameron Boozer, Miami Christopher Columbus: As mentioned earlier, the 6’9 sophomore is considered by some to be the best prospect in high school basketball regardless of class. He has an abundance of skills, smarts and athleticism. It won’t surprise if he is a three-time Mr. Basketball as well as an NBA draft pick right out of high school.
Jaylen Carey, Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian: When Carey decides to go down on the block and go to work, there is little the opposition can do to stop him. With his wide frame and strength, he creates space for himself just slightly nudging defenders out of the way as he pivots, and scores well with a soft touch.
Koree Cotton, Miami Southridge: A smooth 6’6 wing, the lefty is a prolific scorer. He’s very accurate behind the arc in catch-and-shoot situations, can put the ball on the floor and score with a minimum of dribbles, and is swift to change ends in transition and score on the break. Cotton’s length and leaping ability allow him to cover a lot of ground quickly on defense and pursue rebounds out of his area.
Elijah Duval, Stuart Martin County: The 6’3 junior had a very good run in the EYBL’s 16U division, averaging close to 12 points and four assists a contest. Duval has a smooth jumper from deep but also the burst and athleticism to finish in a crowd above the rim. Whether running the show from the point or being the primary scorer off the ball, Duval makes a lot of good things happen for his team.
Calvin Sirmans, Lake Worth: We admit to generously listing Sirmans at 5’9, but he plays soooo much better than the majority of bigger guards. Sirmans excels at moving the defense to get his teammates good opportunities to score. He is also a reliable three-point shooter, free throw shooter, and a guy that collapses the defense on drives and makes good decisions with the ball. Dismiss him because of his size at your own peril.
#1 SR: Jaylen Carey (see above)
#1 JR: Elijah Duval (see above)
#1 SO: Cameron Boozer (see above)
#1 FR: Alex Constanza, Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy: It is very rare to see a freshman of his size and skill level. Constanza casually drains three point shots, elevates quickly for rebounds at both ends of the court, and covers a lot of ground quickly on the defensive end. He will score on one and two-dribble straight line drives, finishing over the rim if given the opportunity.
Senior Sleeper: Matthew Mairena, Miami Palmetto: The 6’0 senior is comfortable playing both on and off the ball, scores from all three levels, and plays very hard at both ends of the court. He has a very reliable shot from three off the catch and he also gets points in the mid-range area. A solid ball-handler, Mairena probes the defense looking for openings and will attack the basket once he finds one. He garners a lot of tips, deflections, and steals and is quick to get the ball ahead to teammates after a turnover.