By Mike Ridaught
It’s up there.
I wouldn’t put it #1 on my list but it’s definitely up there – probably #2.
Kasey Hill of Montverde Academy put an exclamation point on this week’s Kingdom of the Sun with one of the best dunks I’ve ever seen in person in high school basketball.
Unfortunately, the basket didn’t count because Hill was called for a charge. But it didn’t matter. It was still nasty.
I’ve been fortunate to have broadcast a lot of games and I’ve seen some great players over the course of my 20 years of broadcasting. But the dunk by Hill in the championship game against Ely (Pompano Beach) was something I will remember for the rest of my life.
It was that good. Just ask anyone who saw it in person on Friday night. It was show time for Hill and on a big stage in Florida.
Hill, ESPN.com’s 16th-ranked junior prospect who just committed to Florida on New Year’s Eve, showcased his talents by scoring 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter as the top overall team in Florida and the #7 nationally-ranked Eagles (11-1) defeated the #2 overall team in Florida (according to Source Hoops), 67-53, to win the 38th annual Kingdom of the Sun at Vanguard (Ocala), Dec. 26-30.
Florida signee Michael Frazier led the way with 19 points for Montverde, while Ely (12-2) was led by former Eastside (Gainesville) guard Benji Bell with 23 points.
Hill earned MVP honors, while Frazier and teammate Landry Nnoko (Clemson) were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Also on the team was Chris Walker of Holmes County (Bonifay), whose reverse dunk was the second best of the tournament – and in my top five all-time. Walker, the #2 junior in the country, dominated at times, including a Kingdom record-tying nine blocked shots against Nease (Ponte Vedra Beach).
North Carolina signee Joell James set a Kingdom record by grabbing 23 rebounds against Williston, while sophomore guard Joel Berry of Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) showed why he is one of the top sophomores in the country. The silky smooth Berry had 33 points against defending 4A state champion Leesburg and 31 against #3 (8A) Olympia (Orlando).
Plus, there was a game-winning lay-up at the buzzer by Basha (Chandler, Arizona) junior Jaron Hopkins (Auburn, among 15 other offers) and the left-wing three-pointer at the buzzer that gave the host team Vanguard (Ocala) a 58-55 win over rival North Marion (Citra) in which sophomore Princeton McQuay got mobbed by his team after the shot.
Plenty of D-I talent, plenty of great plays and as Vanguard coach Phillip Small noted, ‘a lot of great coaches’ – like former Magic player and Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) coach Jeff Turner and first-year Montverde coach Kevin Boyle, who has an all Division-I starting five and a legitimate national championship contender.
Tournament director Jim Haley’s depth of talent in this year’s field may have been his best ever. If not, I bet it’s up there.
“This is the most size we’ve had in tournament history,” Haley noted.
Three of the top five teams in Florida were at the Kingdom and four of the top 10, as well as the #1 overall team in Arizona and several other state-ranked teams.
It all adds up to 26 games and five great days at the Kingdom of the Sun. It was nice to end it with such an awesome memory thanks to Hill, who along with Frazier, form the best backcourt in the country according to several recruiting services.
Oh, and the best dunk I’ve ever seen in person?
Former FSU football/basketball player Andre Cooper of Fletcher (Neptune Beach) made a dunk during a state playoff game that actually brought the fans on the floor to celebrate. Cooper jumped from the foul line, a la Michael Jordan, and made a thunderous dunk.
But Hill’s jam was up there.
TOURNAMENT CHAMPION: Montverde Academy
TOURNAMENT MVP: Kasey Hill, Montverde Academy
MR. HUSTLE: Patricio Garino, Montverde Academy
Michael Frazier, Montverde Academy
Landry Nnoko, Montverde Academy
Benji Bell, Ely (Pompano Beach)
Clide Geffrard, Ely (Pompano Beach)
Chris Walker, Holmes County (Bonifay)
Princeton McQuay, Vanguard (Ocala)
Torren Jones, Basha (Chandler, Ariz.)
Marc-Eddy Norelia, Olympia (Orlando)
Joel Berry, Orlando Lake Highland Prep
Joell James, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer