HomeTeam 25: Boys basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

Countryside's Troy Reeves (4, left) tries to stop St. Pete's Serrel Smith (10, right) as he prepares to shoot, during the Class 8A- District 10 boys basketball final,  Countryside vs. St. Petersburg at Seminole High School on Friday, 2/10/17. (Lance Rothstein, Special to the Times)
Countryside's Troy Reeves (4, left) tries to stop St. Pete's Serrel Smith (10, right) as he prepares to shoot, during the Class 8A- District 10 boys basketball final, Countryside vs. St. Petersburg at Seminole High School on Friday, 2/10/17. (Lance Rothstein, Special to the Times)

1. St. Petersburg (2-0)

This week: Tuesday at East Lake; Friday at Palm Harbor University

The buzz: Bolstered by the addition of Tampa Catholic guard Tai Strickland, the Green Devils have the scorers to make the region finals for a seventh straight season. Strickland teams with Ole Miss commit Serrel Smith to form perhaps the best guard combo in the area. Smith had 39 points in a win over Seminole last week. There's also Terell Strickland, a long-range shooter who had 20 points, including six 3-pointers, in a season-opening win over Northeast.

2. Countryside (2-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Seminole; Thursday vs. East Lake

The buzz: After making the playoffs for the first time since 2001 last season, the Cougars have bigger goals. Countryside has enough talent to contend with St. Petersburg for the Class 8A, District 10 title. CJ Williams is back at guard and the lineup got a boost with the addition of Matt Berry, a 6-foot-6 center who transferred from Oldsmar Christian. Berry had 27 points and 17 rebounds in a season-opening win over Palm Harbor University.

3. Tampa Bay Tech (1-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Strawberry Crest; Wednesday at Bloomingdale; Friday vs. Middleton

The buzz: The Titans made great strides last season with their first postseason win since 1999. The lineup took a blow with the loss of Tyrese Williams, who transferred to Oldsmar Christian, but this team still has plenty of playmakers. Tyrick Brascom had 19 points and six assists, and Jovan Dilworth added 18 points and four rebounds in a season-opening win over Jefferson.

4. Sickles (1-0)

This week: Tuesday at Gaither; Wednesday vs. Leto; Friday at Wharton

The buzz: The Gryphons were supposed to be in rebuilding mode after winning the school's first state title last season. Longtime coach Renaldo Garcia left to take over at Berkeley Prep, and Bryce Beamer and Marcus Cohen graduated. Former King coach Michael Weaving was hired and has the team playing well. Four scorers were in double figures in the season-opening win over Steinbrenner, led by Bryce Workman with 20.

5. Tampa Catholic (2-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Clearwater Central Catholic; Friday at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney

The buzz: Kevin Knox is now at Kentucky. That loss would seem to spell doom for the Crusaders. Devoid of megastars, Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said scoring would require a collective effort. But this team has more depth and might be more balanced. It also can win big games, as evidenced by the season-opening victory over Windermere Prep, a team many predicted to be a state title contender. Alijah Harrison is averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.

6. Admiral Farragut (1-1)

This week: Tuesday at Jesuit; Friday vs. St. Petersburg Catholic; Saturday at City of Orlando Shootout.

The buzz: Forget about the season-opening loss to IMG and their stacked lineup. The Blue Jackets are in good position to defend their Class 4A, District 4 title. Andreas Fuller, a 6-foot-6 forward who has already committed to UCF, is back and gives AFA a prolific scorer and rebounder. There are plenty of good tests this week, starting with Tuesday's game against Jesuit.

7. Jesuit (3-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Admiral Farragut; Friday vs. Robinson; Saturday vs. Brooks DeBartolo

The buzz: Three of the top four leading scorers from last season graduated. No matter. The Tigers are off to strong start with three straight wins, all by double digits. Nick Weir is averaging a team-high 15.3 points and Thierry Moliere has done a little bit of everything, averaging 13.7 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

8. Ridgewood (3-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Gulf; Friday vs. Wesley Chapel

The buzz: The Rams were good last season. They became even better in the offseason with the addition of two key transfers — Trey Reiser (Nature Coast) and Alec Sherman (Mitchell). They team with Ty Quiroz to give Ridgewood a trio of scorers — and balance — that is the envy of others on the North Suncoast. Quiroz is averaging a team-high 21.7 points and Sherman is averaging 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

9. Tampa Prep (1-0)

This week: Thursday vs. Bradenton Manatee; Friday at Northside Christian

The buzz: Last season, the Terrapins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004. That should not happen again. Nearly everyone is back for Tampa Prep, including Jaren Phillips, the state's sixth-best player in the 2019 class, according to ESPN. Phillips had 15 points and six rebounds in the Terrapins' season-opening win over IMG Academy Gray.

10. Gibbs (2-0)

This week: Tuesday at Bradenton Bayshore; Friday vs. Palmetto

The buzz: David Pierce, a Coastal Carolina commit, has been out since the preseason with a knee injury. He has a doctor's appointment Tuesday and the Gladiators are hoping he can return this week. Frank Gilliam, a dynamic guard, has provided the bulk of scoring in Pierce's absence. Gilliam is averaging 26 points, five assists and four steals.

11. Plant (1-0)

This week: Tuesday at Leto; Wednesday vs. Freedom; Friday at Wiregrass Ranch

The buzz: Joe Willis left Bloomingdale to take over the Panthers and has made significant progress. Plant won the summer league title and started the season with an impressive win over Wharton. Ronald Boyd had a team-high 24 points and Cambridge Christian transfer Chance Jackson added 17 against the Wildcats.

12. Berkeley Prep (2-0)

This week: Friday at Sarasota Military

The buzz: New coach Renaldo Garcia has plenty of size in the frontcourt with four players who are at least 6-6. The Bucs started the season with wins over Carrollwood Day and Cambridge. The schedule is light with just two games the next two weeks as Berkeley Prep prepares for tournaments later in the month.

13. Largo (2-0)

This week: Monday vs. Mitchell; Wednesday vs. Northeast; Wednesday at Osceola

The buzz: The Packers keep finding ways to win in the waning seconds. They have started the season with victories against Boca Ciega and Mitchell, both by two points. Zahidi Robinson is Largo's top all-around player and long-range shooter Amant Deliu is back from a foot injury that sidelined him in the playoffs last season.

14. East Lake (2-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. St. Petersburg; Thursday at Countryside; Friday at Pinellas Park

The buzz: Wins over Palm Harbor University and Mitchell to open the season give the Eagles some momentum heading into a tough stretch that includes games against Class 7A, District frontrunners St. Petersburg and Countryside. East Lake has four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Dionte Blanch and Jordan Hillmon at 14 each.

15. Wiregrass Ranch (3-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Steinbrenner; Wednesday at Wharton; Friday vs. Plant

The buzz: The Bulls cruised through the first week of the season, beating Land O'Lakes, Cypress Creek and Leto. Elijah Howell, a junior guard, is turning into one of the top scorers in the area. He had 39 points against the Gators and is averaging 21.3 points per game. The big tests come later this week with Class 8A, District 8 games against contenders Wharton and Plant.
16. Plant City (2-1)

This week: Tuesday vs. Bloomingdale; Wednesday at East Bay; Friday vs. Lennard

The buzz: Tarik Mckelphin, last season's leading scorer, graduated. But the Raiders still have Matt Simpson and Justyn King, who average double digits in points. After beating Gaither and Chamberlain to open the season, Plant City lost to defending state semifinalist Lakewood Ranch.

17. Hillsborough (2-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Robinson; Wednesday at Alonso; Friday vs. King

The buzz: The nucleus that helped the Terriers advance to the region final each of the past two seasons graduated. But there has not been much of a dropoff, at least through the first week of the season. Hillsborough beat Riverview and Durant soundly last week. Myles Cowart is averaging 24.5 points per game.

18. Newsome (2-0)

This week: Wednesday vs. Durant; Friday at Riverview

The buzz: The Wolves are finding ways to win close games, beating Armwood and Bloomingdale by five points each to open the season. Isaiah Islam is providing the points, scoring more than 20 in each of those wins. But he also has help. Jake Brazinski is averaging 13 points per game.

19. Lakewood (1-1)

This week: Tuesday vs. Dunedin; Friday at Bradenton Southeast

The buzz: It has been a tough for the Spartans, who lost both preseason games and had a 37-point loss to IMG last week. The good news is Lakewood has yet to play a district game and the lineup should be at full strength with the return of football players from the postseason.

20. Nature Coast (2-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Citrus; Wednesday vs. Fivay; Friday vs. Hernando

The buzz: Kaine McColley graduated and Trey Reiser transferred to Ridgewood, but the Sharks are still a postseason contender. Last week, Nature Coast opened the season with wins against Crystal River and Weeki Wachee.

21. Clearwater Central Catholic (2-0)

This week: Tuesday at Tampa Catholic; Thursday vs. Cypress Creek

The buzz: The Marauders bid farewell to nine seniors from last year's team. Still, CCC could again be in the mix for a playoff berth. Last week, the Marauders beat Calvary Christian and Sarasota Military Academy, both by 24 or more points. Tuesday's game against defending state finalist Tampa Catholic will be a good early-season gauge for CCC.

22. Boca Ciega (2-1)

This week: Wednesday at Clearwater; Thursday vs. Northeast

The buzz: The Pirates had a nice win over Berkeley Prep in the preseason and followed that up with victories over Palmetto and St. Petersburg Catholic before losing by two points to Largo in the opening week of the season. Jerroda Briscoe is the go-to player for Boca Ciega.

23. Wharton (0-1)

This week: Tuesday at Freedom; Wednesday vs. Wiregrass Ranch; Friday vs. Sickles

The buzz: After beating Alonso in the season opener, the Wildcats lost to Plant. Darin Green is one of the top prospects in the area, and DJ Henderson can provide scoring, too. This is a big week for Wharton with a string of Class 8A, District 8 games against other contenders.

24. Freedom (1-0)

This week: Tuesday vs. Wharton; Wednesday at Plant; Friday at Steinbrenner

The buzz: The Patriots have the talent — and the size — to stay competitive in Class 8A, District 8. They opened the season with a 17-point win over Gaither, a performance that could be a confidence builder heading into a tough stretch of district games.

25. Central (1-1)

This week: Tuesday vs. Lecanto; Thursday at River Ridge; Friday vs. Weeki WacheeThe buzz: The defending Class 6A, District 7 champion Bears still have Caleb Johnson, the team’s leading scorer from last season. Last week, Central lost to Mount Dora Bible, then bounced back to beat rival Hernando.

On the bubble: Brooks DeBartolo (2-0), Anclote (3-1), Seminole (2-1), Hudson (2-1).

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