Godby, Lincoln, Leon and Rickards all have good players, but which team emerges – or even another area team – to make a deep playoff run is impossible to figure out
No one knows how this boys basketball season will unfold. In the past several years, there were at least a few predictors.
Lincoln behind 6-foot-8 center Dwight Wilson made back-to-back trips to the state final four, finishing as 8A runner-up last year.
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Godby’s Class 4A state title in 2015 while going 31-0 came with a group of five seniors. Rickards had the requisite experience and leadership needed to make a 5A championship game that same season.
FAMU DRS has a couple 2A final fours mixed in during that time period.
And West Gadsden won a 1A state title last year, but it had to merge into one Gadsden County school this summer. Despite a combined roster with East Gadsden, that didn’t turn out to be a magical combination for Gadsden County’s football team this fall.
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“I think it will be wide open,” said Godby coach Andy Colville, whose team narrowly lost in the regional finals last year behind three crucial seniors. “Lincoln and Rickards are probably the two better teams, but people thought that last year early on.
“When people play us, they’ll have to play hard. We’ll make it a street fight so to speak. You’ll have to be tougher than us. If you are tougher, you’ll be successful. If not, we’ll be successful.”
The consensus seems to be everyone has a component to winning games but not all the puzzle pieces to make a deep playoff run.
Lincoln has a new coach, and Matt Anderson will be trying to bring the success he had while at 1A Malone to a much larger program.
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The Trojans return guards Tionne Rollins and Trinton Bryant, but their bigs are gone. Wilson, now at James Madison, was the All-Big Bend Player of the Year while averaging a double-double and controlling the paint.
Rollins is the only returning first-team All-Big Bend player, while Bryant is one of just three returning from the second team.
Rickards has shooting guard Vincent McCray and 6-7 small forward Alic Troutman – who prefers to operate in the high post rather than down low – but the Raiders will have to find other components.
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Leon has maybe the best returning post player in Jakari Gallon, but the Lions lost four very even guards. And Gallon, senior Jeffrey Perry and sophomore Sean Nettles still only run out there at 6-5.
“Whatever team is the most aggressive and tough (will emerge),” Leon coach Rick Davis said. “I have the advantage in bigs but not guards. Lincoln has guards but no bigs. Rickards doesn’t have someone to run the show. Godby will always play tough, but they don’t have experience.”
Experience counts for a lot, but it’s felt in different ways.
Leon senior guard T.J. Woolfolk saw the court a lot last year, and even as a reserve looked like a very dynamic player that could have started.
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Well, he’s starting now but without the benefit of having others to help him handle the ball-handling role. And in order to get the ball down low to its bigs, Leon will first have to handle the pressure brought by teams as it brings the ball up the court.
“If we limit turnovers, we can be the best team,” Davis said. “But we played Bay, their pressure wasn’t that much, and we had 23 turnovers.
“T.J. is the key. He has to be the man to handle the pressure and get it started. Last year, he was relaxed and better because it wasn’t all on him. Now it’s on him. T.J. is maturing into this year’s role.”
As for Godby, when Source Hoops did its preseason look at the Panhandle, there were plenty of mentions regarding everyone except for the Cougars.
All-Big Bend Co-Defensive Players of the Year twins Montre and Montreal Edwards are at Daytona State alongside 6-9 Corbin Merritt. That trio accounted for 38 points, 20 rebounds and 15 assists each game.
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No one knows what Godby has now except for 5-8 guard Tavaris King and shooter Trey Jones.
“Last year, Corbin and the twins hadn’t proven themselves much yet, but they stepped up,” Colville said. “And they became one of the best teams I’ve had as far as being cohesive. This year, I’m hoping for the same thing. Someone will step up.”
Both King and Jones started and came off the bench last year, though King logged big minutes late in the season, earning honorable mention All-Big Bend, and leading the Cougars with 17 points in the regional final loss.
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“We’re real young, maybe the youngest team I’ve had,” Colville said. “But they’ve won at all levels so far except varsity. They won at Griffin (Middle). They won on the JV level and went undefeated.
“We have some kids, but they just haven’t proven themselves yet. I know we’ll play hard. We might surprise some people.”
Look out for . . .
- Maclay brings back a versatile team led by 6-8 junior Zim Nwojeki, who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game last year. He has offers from FSU, Georgia Tech and others. With 6-2 sophomore Robert Parker-Crawford and Athens, Ga. transfer Jack Murrah, a top shooter, the Marauders have weapons for second-year coach Gene Granger.
- FAMU DRS junior guard Mekhi Yant and freshman guard A’drelin Robinsonshould have the Rattlers in the state conversation in Class 2A.
- Wakulla senior guard Chris Beverly averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game last year.
- While Franklin County graduated two big seniors from last year’s 22-8 group, the Seahawks still have left-handed guard Jan Lowe, who averaged 12.5 points per game as a sophomore.
- Out of the gate, NFC has been an even group of scorers, usually posting four in double digits with sophomore Vince Clark coming off an 11.2 ppg campaign as a freshman.
- Aucilla Christian senior Tima Finlayson averaged 15 points per game last season and will be asked to carry the scoring load this season for the Warriors.
- St. John Paul II junior Chosen Levarity, a 6-5 transfer from the Bahamas, has scored in double figures in the Panthers’ first four games, averaging 14.5 points per game.
- Off to a 2-0 start, Florida High’s 6-foot-5 freshmen Kai Farlin and Makai Willis have begun their high school careers averaging double figures.
- Jefferson County senior Jayshawn Francis averaged 15 points and 7 rebounds last year and will be counted on again to lead a young but athletic Tigers team.
- When football season is over for Madison County after competing in the 1A state championship, junior Dilan Lawson will have help from Travis Jay, Tre Adams and Ken Hawkins as the Cowboys look to better last year’s 23-4 season that ended in the regional finals.