By Mike Ridaught
I recently submitted my ballot for Mr. Basketball and Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year. It was a tough decision one through eight. I had to mark one (1) for my first choice, two (2) for second, etc. all the way through eight (8) for my last choice.
In the Mr. Basketball voting, it’s tough not to vote junior guard Joel Berry of Class 4A Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) No. 1 out of the eight classification winners. Last year, he became the first sophomore to win the award for the state’s best boys’ basketball player. Despite missing eight games due to injury, the Highlanders (24-5) won every game with him in the line-up, including their first state title in school history. Berry, a North Carolina commit, averaged 25.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.1 steals a game.
Then there’s McDonald’s All-America forward/center Chris Walker of Holmes County (Bonifay), who was the 1A Player-of-the-Year and led the Blue Devils (20-8) to their first state title. The Florida signee had a huge state tournament, averaging a triple-double (24 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks) in their two Final Four games. But was he consistent enough to consider him second based on the ‘entire body of work?’
There were certainly a couple of others who were worthy of finishing at least second.
Guard Grayson Allen, rated the #32 junior in the country by Rivals, averaged 19.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game during the season. He also stepped it up at the state tournament by shooting 48% from the floor, 81% from the free throw line, and totaling 58 points in their two 3A Final Four games as Providence (Jacksonville) won the state title.
I was impressed with what I saw of RaShawn Powell of Orlando Dr. Phillips, who plays in Florida’s largest classification (8A). I got the opportunity to broadcast his games at the Kingdom of the Sun in December and the Memphis signee had a couple of big games, including 33 points against 3A state runners-up Coral Springs Christian. The senior averaged 27.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game. He had 89 3-pointers this year for the Panthers (20-8), but they lost in the regional finals.
So, assuming I voted those players in my top four, here’s the challenge picking 5-8 based on who was left. Here are the other four finalists:
Chris Perry, Bartow, Senior, Forward, Class 7A Player of the Year
Perry, a 6-8 power forward who has signed with South Florida, averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds a game in leading the Yellow Jackets to the state semifinals. He was chosen to play for the U.S. 22-and-under Elite Team.
Zachary Johnson, Miami Norland, Junior, Guard, Class 6A Player of the Year
Johnson, an athletic 6-2 junior, averaged 13.3 points, 4.1 assists, 2.7 steals and 2.2 rebounds per game and made 115 3-pointers in leading the Vikings to their second straight state championship.
Erik Thomas, Wesley Chapel, Senior, Forward, Class 5A Player of the Year
The 6-5 Thomas was one of the state’s most prolific scorers, averaging 32.7 points and adding 16.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.9 steals per game while connecting on 56% from the field for the Wildcats.
Ivan Canete, Boca Raton Grandview Prep, Senior, Guard, Class 2A Player of the Year
Canete, a 6-4 guard, averaged 24 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks in leading the Pride to their first state title. He shot 62% from the field, 46% from 3-point range and 84% from the foul line.
See what I mean?
And if you thought voting for Mr. Basketball was tough. Where do I begin for Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year? Here are the eight finalists.
Josh Kohn, Oviedo Hagerty, Class 8A Coach of the Year
After guiding the Huskies to a state runner-up finish in 2012, Kohn, who is in his eighth season at Hagerty, led them to a school-record 27-5 mark and their first state championship.
Melvin Randall, Pompano Beach Ely, Class 7A Coach of the Year
Randall, the reigning Class 7A COY, led the Tigers to a 28-1 season that was capped by their second straight state championship, the third state title in his tenure (2007) and fourth overall for the program.
Lawton Williams III, Miami Norland, Class 6A Coach of the Year
Williams, who is the reigning Class 6A COY, guided the Vikings to a 26-5 record and their second straight state title, the program’s fourth state championship in the last eight years.
Neal Goldman, Tampa Jesuit, Class 5A Coach of the Year
Goldman, a veteran coach of 26 years, led the Tigers to their best season in history as Jesuit posted a 31-1 record en route to winning the program’s first state championship.
Jeff Turner, Orlando Lake Highland Prep, Class 4A Coach of the Year
In his eighth and final season as head coach at LHP, Turner, the school’s new Associate Athletic Director, guided the Highlanders, who were the 2012 state runner-up, to a 24-5 record and their first state title.
Jim Martin, Providence School of Jacksonville, Class 3A Coach of the Year
Martin, a 13-year coaching veteran at Providence, led the Stallions to a 31-1 season and the state title, their second state championship under his direction (2009).
Joe Dawson, Boca Raton Grandview Prep, Class 2A Coach of the Year
Seven was the lucky number for Dawson, a repeat winner as Class 2A COY who led the Pride to their seventh consecutive Final Four appearance, a 30-2 record and their first state championship.
Poe White, Bonifay Holmes County, Class 1A Coach of the Year
In his eighth year, White led the Blue Devils to their first state title by guiding them to a 20-8 record and ending the season on a 10-game winning streak that included wins over the state’s top three ranked teams.
The deadline to submit the ballots is Friday, April 5, so we should know by next week who the winners are. It will be interesting and well-deserve