50 States in 50 Days: Florida
With legendary coach Kevin Boyle, Montverde Academy is Florida's team to beat
Dwyer, Arlington Country Day and Winter Park also remain poised for big seasons
Joel James may be the state's brightest recruit, with unparalleled size and strength
As the high school basketball season draws nearer, anticipation grows. Five-Star plans to add to that fever pitch. It's unveiling an all-encompassing new preview package: 50 States in 50 Days. Until Nov. 23, it will examine a different basketball state, breaking down its top teams, players and rivalries.
Which schools are title favorites? Which players are flying under the radar? All the answers are yet to come. The package -- which can be found in its entirety here -- continues today with Florida.
Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
Montverde Academy, without question, enters 2011 as Florida's preseason favorite. Expectations have always surrounded the Eagles, but hype was elevated to unprecedented levels this spring with the addition of legendary St. Patrick (N.J.) coach Kevin Boyle. Boyle will lead a team that includes Florida commit Michael Frazier, 6-11 center Landry Nnonko and elite point guard Kasey Hill, devastating both on the inside and around the perimeter. Montverde should be even better than last year, when it finished 22-4.
Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)
Last season, coach Fred Ross led the Panthers to a 33-2 (10-0) mark, good enough to best Montverde atop the Florida state rankings. This season, that task becomes significantly tougher. Dwyer enters a period of transition following the graduation of Victor Adams, Jacoby Brissett and Gregory Louis, but all is not lost. Joel James, the North Carolina-committed 6-10, 260-pound big man, returns to wreak havoc in the paint.
Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville)
The Apaches were remarkably consistent last season, finishing 22-2 with their only losses coming to Montrose Christian (Md.) and Oak Hill Academy (Va.), a pair of national powers. They'll look to replicate that success in 2011. Though Michael Javes, Arlington's blue-collar post presence, departs, Division-I commits Carlos Morris (South Carolina) and Jordan Goodman (Texas Tech) return to spearhead coach Rex Morgan's squad.
Winter Park (Winter Park, Fla.)
The question is obvious: How will Winter Park deal with the loss of Austin Rivers, last year's top overall recruit? The answer: rebuild and refocus. Rivers' stat-stuffing ability will be sorely missed (29 points, six rebounds, two assists per game), but don't count out this year's Wildcats. They still have a strong anchor in forward BillyDee Williams (9.6 points, six rebounds per game as a junior), and have a budding star in sophomore Spencer Rivers, Austin's brother. The youngest member of the Rivers' clan, Spencer could play a pivotal role for the Panthers while following in his brother's oversized footsteps.
Dillard (Fort Lauderdale)
After registering a 23-4 campaign last season, coach Darryl Burrows will look to keep Dillard's momentum rolling. With the graduation of Fred Landers and Jeremiah Eason, his formula should be simple: Keep the ball in the hands of center Staphon Blair. A physical, three-star prospect, Blair has drawn interest from programs such as Georgetown, Miami, Ohio State and Texas.
PG Kasey Hill
Junior, Montverde Academy (Montverde)
Like Solomon Alabi and Luc Mbah a Moute before him, Hill is another Montverde star with NBA aspirations. He's a silky smooth combo guard, possessing great handles, blazing speed and lights-out shooting ability. He also boasts wiry strength for his size, allowing him to muscle his way to the basket. Though early, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri and Florida State are among schools bidding for his services.
PF Chris Walker
Junior, Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.)
Long, lean and tremendously athletic, Walker is a prospect with enormous upside. Listed as a power forward, he's skilled enough to play on the wing, owning impressive handles and a polished jumper. Colleges are taking notice: Ohio State, Florida and Georgia have offered scholarships, and Duke, UNC and Kansas remain in the recruiting picture.
PG Solomon Poole
Junior, Parker (Jacksonville)
The younger brother of Kentucky forward Stacey Poole, Solomon is a freakishly athletic point guard with talent to boot. Unlike his brother (6-5, 200), Solomon can't rely on sheer physicality, but his precocious scoring more than makes up for it. His offensive arsenal includes a well-developed three point shot, a maddening inside floater and phenomenal court vision. Solomon is currently weighing offers from Louisville, Memphis, and UCLA, among others.
C Joel James
Senior, Dwyer (Fort Lauderdale)
Arguably the brightest prospect in the Sunshine State, James will take his talents to North Carolina next year. At 6-10, 260, he's a massive presence, and can run the floor, execute the pick-and-roll and knock down 15-foot jumpers with relative ease. His size and strength are unparalleled in the high school circuit. He averaged just seven points and seven boards last season, but look for those numbers to spike with the departure of Dwyer's leading scorer, Victor Adams.
PF Demetrius Henry
Senior, Northeast (Miami)
Despite his immense talent, Henry has flown relatively under the radar on many recruiting boards. Look for that to change by the end of his senior year. A high-energy guy, Henry plays with a sense of urgency and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. His terrific athleticism, tenacious rebounding ability and mid-range jumper are college ready, and he'll look to build off a junior year when the Hurricanes went 19-8.
Brendan Potocki is a contributor at Five-Star Basketball.