The moment that set the stage for what figures to be a wide-open boys basketball season began with the opening of a car door. ¶ When Clearwater forward Okaro White graduated and drove off to Tallahassee to begin workouts with Florida State this summer, that gave the rest of the county a chance. ¶ After all, White was the county’s player of the year the past two seasons and helped the Tornadoes to district titles the past two seasons. ¶ His absence comes at a time when there is more balance than ever. As many as five teams could be contending for top honors as the county No. 1 team. Here is the season breakdown.
Top 12 public school players (alphabetical order)
G C.J. Bargman, Sr., Tarpon Springs: A passer and scorer, Bargman will help the Spongers try to make the playoffs in what has become a tough district in 5A-11.
F Breon Bostic, Sr., Largo: The first-team, all-county selection averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds last season.
G Corey Edwards, Jr., Pinellas Park: After becoming a reliable scoring option last season, Edwards becomes even more of a go-to player this year.
G Quincy Ford, Sr., Gibbs: He has all the tools to have a breakout season and is one of the leaders of a team that lost some starters to graduation.
F Blake Grimm, Jr., East Lake: Played well down the stretch to help the Eagles make the playoffs as a district runnerup.
F John Hogan, Sr., Clearwater: A versatile big man, Hogan is the top inside scoring threat now that Okaro White is gone.
F C.J. Mackey, Sr., Tarpon Springs: The Spongers will make sure to feed the ball inside to their best option down low.
G Joey Nungester, Sr., Clearwater: A quick guard, Nungester becomes even more valuable with his passing and shooting since Cory Carden’s graduation.
F Andres Sanchez, Sr., Northeast: The county’s leading rebounder the past two seasons also is a big-time scorer for the Vikings.
G Mike Singleton, Sr., Lakewood: The Spartans rely on balance, but they’ll look to Singleton first whenever they need a clutch basket.
G Kenny Smith, Sr., Boca Ciega: Known for his speed, Smith is one of the most experienced guards in the county.
G David White, So., Boca Ciega: After getting noticed by many colleges during the summer AAU circuit, White is ready to have an bigger role with the Pirates.
Top private school players
G Luke Blume, Sr., Shorecrest: His leadership was key as the Chargers advanced to the playoffs and won in the first round last season.
F Sean Culkin, Sr., Indian Rocks Chr.: A solid receiver who led the county in touchdown receptions, Culkin now will focus on scoring on the basketball court.
G Alvin Cunningham, Jr., Admiral Farragut: The transfer from Lakewood should provide immediate dividends for the Blue Jackets.
F Kyle Keck, Sr., Northside Chr.: The Mustangs’ big man should thrive even more on a team that will be experienced this season.
G Ricky Quiroz, Sr., Shorecrest: He teams with Blume to provide the Chargers with the best 1-2 scoring punch among the county’s private schools.
F Kyle Wiedinger, Sr., Calvary Chr.: A tall inside presence, Wiedinger is a solid defender and reliable scorer.
G Tanner Wozniak, Sr., Keswick Chr.: The guard, who is a scoring machine, has received interest from several Division I schools.
1. Boca Ciega: Despite some players transferring, the Pirates are one of the deepest teams in the county and have enough to make a run at a district title after missing the playoffs last season.
2. Clearwater: Though the Tornadoes lose two stars in Okaro White and Cory Carden, they still have enough to be in the mix. The strength could be the frontcourt, which will be one of the tallest in the county.
3. Lakewood: The Spartans once again will be lacking in height, but they still have the athletes to press and run.
4. Gibbs: On paper, this is the most talented team with a frontcourt that averages 6-foot-6. But it needs big wins to move up.
5. East Lake: The Eagles were playing as well as any team at the end of last season and should continue to improve.
6. Largo: The Packers were hit hard by transfers, but they still have one of the county’s best players in Breon Bostic.
7. St. Petersburg: The Green Devils, though young, will still be in the mix for top honors among south county teams.
For the fans
Admission: Most schools charge $4 for regular-season games. District games are $5, regionals $6 and state tournament games $7.
Regular season: Schools play 25 games maximum, including all regular-season tournament games.
Playoffs: District champions and runnersup advance to regions.
Class 6A-7: Countryside, North Port, Sarasota Riverview, St. Petersburg, Sarasota
Class 5A-11: Clearwater, Dunedin, East Lake, Seminole, Tarpon Springs
Class 5A-12: Boca Ciega, Gibbs, Largo, Northeast, Pinellas Park
Class 4A-10: Bradenton Bayshore, Braden River, Dixie Hollins, Lakewood, Lakewood Ranch, Osceola, Palmetto
Class 3A-10: Berkeley Prep, Clearwater Central Catholic, St. Petersburg Catholic, Tampa Catholic
Class 2A-10: Bishop McLaughlin, Calvary Christian, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep
Class 2A-11:Admiral Farragut, Northside Christian, Sarasota Out-of-Door, Shorecrest
Class A-9: Academy of the Lakes, Berean Academy, Cambridge, Canterbury, Carrollwood Day, Keswick Christian, Lakeside Christian, Tampa Bay Christian