Sweet 16: Bay area boys basketball players to watch



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Wed. November 20, 2013 | Times Staff

Sweet 16: Bay area boys basketball players to watch

Competition for the best boys basketball player in Tampa Bay is stiff this season. And truthfully, you could probably make a really good argument for a handful, from Tampa to St. Petersburg to Largo to Gibsonton. After all, we love the silkiness of Tampa Catholic’s Chivarsky Corbett’s game, the floor generalship of East Bay’s Jonathan Jean, the explosiveness of St. Petersburg’s Dayon Griffin, the inside-outside skills of Largo’s Donavan Hale, the put-the-ball-in-the-hoop mind-set of Oldsmar Christian’s Troy Holston and the all-around game of Berkeley Prep’s Justin Gray. But Tampa Prep’s Juwan Durham seems to have a little bit of everything — shooting, rebounding, shot-blocking — and it all fits so neatly into his 6-foot-8 frame. With what some see as unlimited potential, Durham has evolved from a raw freshman last season to a refined high-major recruit.   •   And he’s only getting better.

Here’s our boys basketball sweet 16:

1 Juwan Durham, 6-9, C, So., Tampa Prep: A buzz preceded Durham into high school, and he delivered on the expectations. As a freshman, he averaged 14 points, scored in double figures in every game but five, pulled down nine rebounds a game, shot 56 percent and blocked 72 shots. And a big offseason netted him offers from schools like defending national champion Louisville, Texas, Texas A&M and all the major Florida schools. He has been invited to join the 2013-14 USA developmental national team program, where he could play on the 16U national team.

2 Justin Gray, 6-5, Sr., F, Berkeley Prep: The Texas Tech signee might be the area’s best all-around player, with a soft touch on the mid-range jumper while also a threat to drive to the basket. Gray averaged 15 points along with 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.1 blocks.

3 Troy Holston, 6-4, G, Sr., Oldsmar Christian: Had a huge summer, collecting offers like buckets and developing into a nationally ranked shooter before signing with USF. Holston is regarded as a long-range bomber, but he’s excellent at running the court and slashing to the hoop as well.

4 Dayon Griffin, 6-4, G, Sr., St. Petersburg: The three-year starter averaged 21 points, six rebounds and four steals last season and watched his stock soar in the summer with offers from several Division I schools. Last week he signed with Louisiana Tech, a decision he said he wanted to make to focus on his senior season.

5 Donavan Hale, 6-4, G, Jr., Largo: The multitalented athlete recently returned from football, where he led the Packers to a district title as a first-year starting quarterback. He is better known for his basketball skills, especially after averaging 17 points and nine rebounds last season and nearly guiding Largo to the state semifinals.

6 Chivarsky Corbett, 6-6, F, Sr., Tampa Catholic: Corbett, who scored 50 in a game last season, is a University of Delaware signee and one of Tampa Bay’s most consistent performers. He averaged 22 points, scored in double figures every game and only twice scored fewer than 15, numbers unmatched by any other player.

7 Jonathan Jean, 5-10, PG, Jr., East Bay: Averaged 14 points and 4.4 assists a game last year, and has developed into arguably the best floor general in Tampa Bay. A big-time summer in which he picked up eight offers should lead to a breakout year. Opened up the season with 22 points, nine assists and five steals in a victory.

8 Eric Hester, 6-3, G, So., Oldsmar Christian: Started to emerge late last year while at Clearwater by scoring 19 against Lakewood, and grew over the summer into a top 2016 prospect. He has picked up offers from defending national champion Louisville, Ole Miss, Miami, USF and others.

9 Anthony Lawrence Jr., 6-7, G, Jr., Lakewood: Rated a three-star recruit by ESPN, Lawrence was committed to Central Florida until this week, when he backed off of the decision. He already is coveted by several top-tier schools and should rank as one of the area’s top scorers after averaging 21 points last season. Scored a team-high 31 in Tuesday’s season opener against Pinellas Park.

10 Jacobi Boykins, 6-5, WF, Sr., Lakewood: The Louisiana Tech signee missed nearly all of his junior season after breaking his neck in a car accident. His performance at camps and showcases over the summer helped him get noticed by college coaches. The long-range shooter can score points in bunches, as evidenced by his 30 against St. Petersburg in last week’s tipoff classic.

11 Barry Brown, 6-3, G, Jr., Gibbs: The undisputed leader of a state championship-caliber team, Brown developed into an all-around player last season when he averaged 13 points, four rebounds and two steals. He already has offers from Florida Gulf Coast, Florida International and Saint Peter’s University.

12 Rohan Blackwood, 6-5, F, Sr., Nature Coast: In his first year as the Sharks’ go-to guy, the Wisconsin football commitment led Hernando County in rebounding (11) and averaged 15.4 points while manning the middle with brute force.

13 Roderick Davis, 6-8, F, Sr., Brandon: Underrated Wright State signee should average a double double but is a big-time contributor in the paint with his physical style.

14 John Childs, 6-9, C, Sr., River Ridge: The 220-pounder is a force in the middle. He may still be a little raw, but averaged 18 points last year and no one blocks shots quite like he does. His 5.9 swats led Tampa Bay and led to a few unconventional triple doubles.

15 Sajon Ford, 6-11, F, Jr., Gibbs: Despite not starting the second half of last season, Ford has become a major prospect, due mostly to his size. He holds offers from several schools, including Auburn, Butler, George Mason, Georgia and Xavier.

16 Marshall Holmes, 6-3, F, Sr., Berkeley Prep: Averaged 14.7 points last year and is a perfect complement to Gray on the other wing or at guard.

Others on the radar

Darius Banks, Fr., G, St. Petersburg: Heralded freshman already is getting interest from several big-time schools and will get plenty of playing time on a team filled with veterans.

Craig Bowman, Sr., G, Berkeley Prep: Unsung contributor for the Bucs, who scores, rebounds, plays solid defense and does things that don’t always show up in the box score.

George Brammeier, Sr., C, Bloomingdale: The Lipscomb signee averaged 10.8 points and 6.8 rebounds and can be a force in the middle, as evidenced by his 23 points to open the season.

Cody Brown, Sr., Robinson: Averaged 16 points per game but tore ACL in final game of season last year. Coach says he is 100 percent, and judging by the 24 he dropped in the season opener, we’ll go with that.

Marco Behori, Jr., Seminole: Became more of a scoring threat at the end of last season and will be counted on to provide even more points for a young team.

George Campbell, F, Jr, East Lake: The Michigan football recruit decided to continue playing basketball and gives the Eagles the athleticism they need in the frontcourt.

Malik Channer, Sr., PG, Strawberry Crest: Any conversations about the best point guard in Tampa Bay have to include Channer, a smooth ball handler who averaged 12.1 points and 5.0 assists last year. If his shooting improves from beyond the arc, he could have a breakout season in 2013-14.

Ben Clare, Sr., F, St. Petersburg: Unsung hero for the Green Devils is one of the area’s best low-post players and signed last week with Colorado School of Mines.

Michael Clark, Sr., G, Lakewood: The St. Francis signee transferred from Boca Ciega last spring and gives the Spartans a trio of stars.

Carlos Clemente, Sr., PG, Nature Coast Tech: Averaged 12 points, but shot 80 percent from free throw line and 47 percent from 3-point range.

Bernie Conley, Sr., G, Mitchell: 3-point shooter for Mustangs averaged 12 points last year, and is effective creating points off turnovers.

Jonathan Crawford, Jr., G, Largo: Known more as a top-notch defensive back, the two-sport star teams with Donavan Hale to form one of the best guard duos in the bay area.

Anton Crutcher, Sr., F, East Bay: One of those glue guys who holds a team together with his all-around play, the athletic Crutcher averaged 13.9 last year and can rebound and block shots, too.

Thomas Dziagwa, So., PG, Tampa Catholic: Inherits starting job at the point, and can shoot; he hit multiple 3-pointers in 18 games last year.

Reshawn Fredericks, Jr., F, Chamberlain: Reggie Hart’s career was just a few seconds over when coach Chris Snyder started talking up Fredericks, who should break out this season in an expanded role.

Mike Fridella, Jr., G, Tampa Prep: St. Petersburg Catholic's leading scorer last year, Fridella has a strong all-around game.

Rashad Green, Sr., G, King: Green can shoot, is aggressive and gets to the line, and he can fill it up. He averaged 19 a game last year, and dropped 27 of his team’s 42 in the season opener.

Hayden Harkins, Sr., F, Newsome: Not much returns for the Wolves, but Harkins should be able to bump up his numbers and lead Newsome to some wins.

Sam Harris, Sr., G, Tampa Catholic: Scored 54 in a summer league game. Primed for breakout season.

Ethan Haslam, Jr., SG, Academy at the Lakes: Shot 44 percent from 3-point range last year, averaged 17 points and is back to filling it up;  through two games, Haslam is scoring 27 per contest.

Marcus Hayne, Sr., F, Wesley Chapel: With the departure of Player of the Year Erik Thomas, Hayne will be counted on to replace some of the inside firepower for the Wildcats. He scored 14 and grabbed 12 rebounds in a season-opening win.

Kent Hegarty, Jr., G, Seffner Christian: Shot 45 percent from 3-point range last year and should reach 1,000 career points this season.

Gary Hector, Sr., G, Lennard: Hector has averaged 11.7 points each of past two seasons, but a strong summer campaign appears to have him primed for more.

Brenden Huynh, 5-11, G, Brooks DeBartolo: Led Sunlake in scoring last year with over 16 a game, added 3.8 assists and came on late, scoring 20 or more in four of the last five games.

Ke’Shawn Ingram, Sr., G, Steinbrenner: Averaged 21.5 and 4.0 assists last season, solid all-around game (shot 80 percent from FT line) and is expected to carry on his strong finish from last year.

Brandon Jones, Sr., F, Largo: The Pinellas Park transfer already is drawing rave reviews as an intimidating force in the middle for the Packers.

Kiefer Jefferson-Grimes, Sr., F, Brandon: At 230 pounds, Jefferson-Grimes is a load who should at least repeat his average of 8.0 points and rebounds from last season.

Jay Joyer, Sr., C, Shorecrest: Veteran of 2012 final four team and one of the best small-school big men in Tampa Bay.

Tyler Knight, Fr., F, Calvary Christian: In his high school debut on Tuesday, he had 10 points and 12 rebounds to lead Warriors to a win over Countryside.

Chase Litton, Sr., F, Wharton: Two-sport standout will be the Wildcats’ inside presence this season and counted on for leadership.

Jacob Mathis, So., F, Berkeley Prep: Young Buc may be a better football prospect than basketball, but he's very good at each.

Kyle Mogged, Sr., G, East Lake: Eagles’ top scorer averaged 15.5 points last season to go along with 4.4 assists.

Jio Molina, Sr., G, Brooks DeBartolo: Up-and-down season last year for Tampa Catholic, but Molina has the skills to make an impact.

Bryce Nickels, Sr., F/C, Sickles: Steinbrenner transfer and Youngstown State signee averaged 13.1 and 7.7 rebounds, and gives Gryphons an inside presence.

Michael Obi, Jr., F, Brooks DeBartolo: Led Land O’Lakes in points and assists last season.

Isaiah Omoregie, Sr., F, Oldsmar Christian: Was a key contributor on Jesuit's state title team last year.

Nick Preradovic, Sr., G, Pinellas Park: The Patriots’ top all-around player will provide leadership as well as points for a team in transition.

Jahkeal Samuel, Sr., F, Alonso: Has some of his best games last year against playoff teams, and scored 21 in season opener for Ravens.

Andrew Sanders, Sr., F, Plant: Solid wing player can drive to the hoop and is busy around the basket with a good nose for the ball. Comes off a season where he scored 16.6 and pulled down 11 rebounds a contest.

Aikeem Sims, So., F, Brooks DeBartolo: Averaged close to 15 a game last year, but coach has bigger expectations for this season.

Shaq Speights, Sr., G, Gibbs: Averaged a team-high 15 points per game last season.

Jack Taylor, Sr., PG, Wharton: Inherits job from C.J. McGill, but great offseason shows he’s ready for it.

Isiah Thomas, Sr., G, Oldsmar Christian: Tampa Catholic’s second-leading scorer and averaged 7.4 assists; playing alongside Hester and Holston should keep him among area leaders in that category.

Grant Townsend, Sr., F, Bloomingdale: Led the Bulls wtih 13.3 points a game last year, has to bounce back from injury.

Lawrence Watt, Jr., F, Mitchell: All-North Suncoast first-teamer averaged 14 ppg, one of the Mustangs best defenders as well.

Caelen Watts, Sr., G, Lennard: One of Hillsborough County’s top scorers, Watts can also play defense (69 steals), and if he can finish stronger this season, could be in the mix for top player honors.

Tyler Wiley, 6-3, Sr., G, Weeki Wachee: Two-sport standout averaged 20 points last year on a 4-19 team.

John C. Cotey and Bob Putnam, Times staff writers


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