Player of the year: F Juwan Durham, So., Tampa Prep
Why we picked him: There’s a reason recruiting services rank Durham as one of the country’s top prospects for the class of 2016. Even as a sophomore, the 6-foot-10 Durham dominated nearly every game, averaging 21.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.7 blocks. His presence and leadership lifted a team that lost seven seniors all the way to a 27-4 record and a trip to the Class 3A state title game. “I kind of knew I had to step up, but I didn’t expect it to be this way,” Durham said. “I just hope for more next year.”
Most impressive accomplishment: Durham scored in double figures in every game and recorded 19 double doubles and four triple doubles. He exploded for a season-high 35 points in a 75-73 loss to Tampa Catholic and its Division I-bound forward, Chivarsky Corbett. Durham said that close game showed him that his Terrapins would be able to compete for a trip to state. “I was kind of like, ‘Yeah, I see my teammates are ready,’ ” Durham said. In their rematch with the Crusaders, Durham scored 29 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a 58-48 Tampa Prep win.
Future plans: Durham visited Florida a few days before the No. 1 Gators opened the NCAA Tournament with a win over Albany. He talked with Tampa native Michael Frazier, and Gators coaches showed him clips of what he might be able to do at UF. Durham said that Florida is one of the many schools he’s considering; he plans to visit Florida State soon and also holds offers from Louisville and Indiana, among others.
Did you know? Basketball has helped Durham travel the country, giving him the first plane rides of his life and taking him to events in Colorado, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Pennsylvania. The downside: He was on the road so much over the summer that he didn’t have time to pick out a car for his 16th birthday, which he celebrated in December. …Durham hopes to become a sports broadcaster, and his favorite subject in school is English. His favorite book is Monster, a Walter Dean Myers novel about a teenager falsely accused of murder.
Coach of the Year
Danny Gaddis, Lennard. The Longhorns had only one playoff appearance — a first-round exit — entering the season. Gaddis turned a growing program into a county power. His Longhorns won 25 games and the Class 6A, District 9 title on their way to the state semifinals.
G Justin Gray, Sr., Berkeley Prep: Texas Tech recruit averaged 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds to take the Bucs back to the final four.
G Caelen Watts, Sr., Lennard: Longhorns’ top scorer (18.3 ppg) took Lennard to its first district title, first playoff victories and a trip to the Class 6A state semifinals.
G Keshawn Ingram, Sr., Steinbrenner: Smooth shooter led the county in scoring (29.7 ppg) while averaging five assists.
F Chivarsky Corbett, Sr., Tampa Catholic: Delaware signee put up 20 points and 10 rebounds a night for the 4A region quarterfinalists.
F Andrew Sanders, Sr., Plant: State all-star averaged a double double (17 points, 11 rebounds).
G Jonathan Jean, Jr., East Bay
G Malik Channer, Sr., Strawberry Crest
G Craig Bowman, Sr., Berkeley Prep
F Chase Litton, Sr., Wharton
F Christian Whidden, Jr., Jesuit
Alonso: Jahkeal Samuel; Armwood: Devonte Myles; Bayshore Christian: Eric Davis, Matthew Eckermann; Berkeley Prep: Marshall Holmes, N’Namdi Green; Blake: D’Shea Williams; Bloomingdale: George Brammeier, Logan Crouse; Brandon: Roderick Davis, Khevin Wilson; Brooks DeBartolo: Mike Obi, Brenden Huynh; Cambridge Christian: Garrett Young; Carrollwood Day: Nick Rogers; Chamberlain: Rashawn Fredericks; Durant: Jesse Coker; East Bay: Anton Crutcher, Marwan Williams; Freedom: Miguel Rojas, Sheldon Odunna; Gaither: Adev Aarons; Hillsborough: Marcum Sapp; Jefferson: Tamir Blackshear, Maurice Moore, Vernon Jackson; Jesuit: Daniel Darst; King: Rashad Green; Lennard: Gary Hector, Diontae Johnson, Robert Gant; Middleton: Dontez Hardy Jr.; Newsome: Anthony Gamble, Hayden Harkins; Plant City: Chris Collins; Plant: Jalen Williams; Robinson: Cody Brown, Travis Forehand; Sickles: Bryce Nickels, Jaaron Barrett; Steinbrenner: Jack Frank; Strawberry Crest: Austin Griffin, Shelton Faison; Tampa Bay Tech: Payton Wilson; Tampa Catholic: Thomas Dziagwa, Sam Harris; Tampa Prep: Michael Fridella, Yoni Wasser; Wharton: Jack Taylor, Auden Tate
Player of the year: F Peyton Walker, Jr., Seffner Christian
Why we picked her: Seffner Christian prided itself on playing one of the toughest schedules around, and Walker was unflappable through it all. The 5-foot-10 forward averaged 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, leading the Crusaders to their third final four appearance in four years. Walker totaled 50 points and 36 rebounds in Seffner Christian's Class 3A state semifinal and final games, which earned her team MVP honors for the state championship game, despite the fact that the Crusaders lost to Miami Country Day. Walker had double-digit points in every game — she had at least 25 six times — and she recorded 13 double doubles.
Her proudest accomplishment: Walker might be the Crusaders' statistical leader, but its the relationships she's formed that Walker said she's most proud of. It's the tight unit she and the other Crusaders have become, she said, that made Seffner Christian victorious on the road this season — they played all but eight of their 32 games away from home — and earned them the right to play on high school basketball's biggest stage. "For a while, we were close, but we weren't like a family. I think now we've become like sisters," Walker said. "I think that's why we go so far, because we've become so close."
Future plans: Walker has one more high school season left, but the junior already has offers to play at the next level from La Salle and Tennessee State. Walker, who said she'd like to make a decision by November so she can sign during the early signing period, plans to explore more college opportunities this summer while competing with her travel team, the East Tampa Thunder. "I want to feel at home, but it doesn't have to be close to home," she said about her future school.
Did you know? Walker's father, Rob, was in the military, so growing up, she spent eight years in Europe, moving there from Hawaii when she was 5 years old. Walker lived in Germany before moving to Belgium, where she played club basketball and began getting serious about the sport.
Coach of the Year
Patrick Kelly, Armwood. Just three seasons ago the Hawks went 9-15, But this season, Kelly led Armwood to a district title, a 26-5 record and a regional final, which it lost by just seven points. Four of the Hawks' five losses were by seven points or fewer, and they entered the playoffs on a nine-game win streak, capped by a Class 6A, District 9 championship win against Hillsborough.
G Taylor Emery, Jr., Freedom: The 5-foot-10 guard led all scorers in Hillsborough County, averaging nearly 26 points per game.
G Aliyah Gregory, Sr., Strawberry Crest: A UCF commit who scored more than 2,000 for Strawberry Crest, she led the way for the Chargers as they won their first district title; averaged 20.7 points and 6.6 steals.
F Kierra Haywood, Sr., Riverview: Haywood averaged nearly 20 points and 14 rebounds, leading the Sharks to a district championship.
F Brianna Thomas, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: The 6-foot-2 center scored 17.9 points and grabbed 12.4 rebounds per game, anchoring a Titan team that made the quarterfinals.
G Sabrina Whiting, Sr., Seffner Christian: Whiting shot nearly 40 percent from behind the arc and averaged 16 points per game for the Crusaders, who made their third final four appearance in four years.
F Rachel Briere, Jr., Steinbrenner
G Nari Garner, So., Freedom
G Kiana King, Sr., Armwood
G Maiya Trigg, Jr., Strawberry Crest
G Cierra Wheatley, Sr., Sickles
Alonso: Angel Golden; Armwood: Alyssa Nieves; Academy of the Holy Names: Ashley McWilliams, Cristina Snyder; Berkeley Prep: Allison Callen, Isabella Moreno; Bloomingdale: Serena Grant; Brandon: Amaya Morgan, Marjorie Rivera; Brooks DeBartolo: Mariah Grossman; Durant: Tahira Rodriguez; East Bay: Deja Campbell; Freedom: Bianca Igwe; Gaither: Kashari James; Hillsborough: Khoi Wilson; Lennard: Brey Waters; Newsome: Chandlar Walton; Plant City: Shayna Lawrence; Plant: Madelyn Carey, Payton Paro; Riverview: Asia Royster; Robinson: Aaliyah Gordon; Seffner Christian: Sara Denny, Ally Parimore; Sickles: Kassidy Girdler; Steinbrenner: Taylor Thigpen; Strawberry Crest: Nandi Jorden; Tampa Bay Tech: Kirtisha Nelson; Tampa Catholic: Mia Blocker, Alise Davis; Tampa Prep: Isa Cura, Daniella Reina; Wharton: Carlena Eugene