Oak Ridge trio promises to produce
For most high school basketball teams, Emmanuel Adedoyin, Kaleb Coleman and Niven Glover would have been go-to-guys and potential leading scorers as juniors last season.
But on an Oak Ridge state-title team that saw five seniors sign with colleges, including current LSU rebounding leader Emmitt Williams and Memphis signee Antwaan Jones, they were role players. All three came off the bench when the Pioneers prevailed 71-60 against previously unbeaten Wellington in the FHSAA Class 9A championship game.
Now, it’s their turn to shine for a squad that is again loaded with athleticism, depth and confidence.
“I’m sure Emmitt and Antwaan might disagree, but I feel like this team can be at least as good, if not even better,” Glover said of a team that opens Monday night with a home game against 8A contender Edgewater.
Oak Ridge is not a national top-25 team in any major preseason poll. PrepCircuit.com pegs the Pioneers at No. 30.
Second-year head coach Steve Reece believes Ridge can rise in the rankings and claim a repeat state championship with a roster that added a big piece in 6-foot-8 C.J. Walker, a five-star prospect. He switched schools for his senior season after helping Orlando Christian Prep win back-to-back 3A state titles and then excelling for the Each 1 Teach 1 travel team Reece directs. Walker signed with Oregon last week.
The Pioneers also added sophomore shooter Jalen Smith, a transfer from Faith Christian, and Louis Jones, a promising 6-5 freshman.
Oak Ridge was 23-1 against Florida foes last season, falling only to Boone in a 78-76 homecourt stunner just before the playoffs began. Its other losses were in December games against Maryland private school champ DeMatha Catholic, Virginia independents state champ Paul VI, and Tennessee state champ Memphis East. All three of those teams finished in the national top five.
This season’s schedule has more home dates and doesn’t look as daunting. The Pioneers will make several out-of-state trips, including joining national No. 1 Montverde Academy at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii.
“We’re trying to win a national championship,” Adedoyin said. “We have to be undefeated to do that.”
That bravado willl be tested right away. Oak Ridge hosts its Breast Cancer Awareness Classic this weekend. The Pioneers will play Downey Christian and state scoring leader Julian Newman (31.5 points per game as a sophomore) on Friday night and then top off Saturday’s slate of six games with a rematch of memorable region finals of the past two years against Kissimmee Osceola.
“If we share the ball and play the right way, we can be unstoppable,” said Coleman, a 6-foot-6 Libscomb signee who carries a 4.3 weighted grade point average.
State tourney teams reload: Leesburg (29-1) has won back-toback 6A state titles and 45 of its past 46 games. But the Yellow Jackets graduated their two leading scorers in Cordrayius Graham and Keon Ellis. Louisiana Tech signee Lance Erving (6-2) is a proven point producer for a team that opens at home vs. Wildwood on Tuesday.
Orlando Christian Prep (21-9) won its seventh state championship in 11 years in dominant fashion but returns nobody who played serious minutes. The Warriors graduated five college signees, including current North Carolina starter Nassir Little. Another elite prospect, 6-10 Kai Jones, is now playing for Brewster Academy, a New Hampshire prep school.
OCP did gain a talented transfer in Eric Butler (6-3, Jr.), a movein from Alabama.
“Obviously, it’s not the topheavy talent [as in past years], but I think it’s a talented group that can have some success,” said Warriors coach Treig Burke.
Central Florida Christian Academy (27-4), last season’s 2A state runner-up to Miami Christian, will miss stellar guard Dante Treacy but has just about everything else back. That includes 6-5 wing Jordan Preaster, who averaged 17.3 points.
Master’s Academy (23-8) graduated its five leading scorers from a 4A state runner-up season. But the Eagles have re-stocked with transfers Sam Ihekowoaba (6-4, Jr.) from East River, Blaize Darlington (6-2, Sr.) from Lake Mary Prep and Jouldan Valez (5-7, Jr.) from OCP.
competition: Osceola (23-7) beat Oak Ridge by three points in a 9A, Region 2 final two years ago on its way to the state championship, then lost by three to the Pioneers in the same round last season.
The Kowboys return five of their top six players but will be a different team without 6-9 Omar Payne protecting the rim. The FSU recruit transferred as a senior to Montverde, the Lake County boarding school that has been dominant on the national level. The speed level revs up with cat-quick sophomore Josh Velasquez joining senior standout Josh Marte as a tiny but talented guard duo.
Apopka (17-10) beat West Orange to claim its first district tournament title since 1979 and aims higher with a group led by fouryear starter Nathan Louis (6-4, Sr.) and junior D-1 prospect Zach Anderson (6-6). West Orange (17-14), which rebounded to win Region 1, again has the depth to be dangerous.
Seminole (23-6), which was the region runner-up, has a veteran cast and go-to junior guard O’Shae Baker. Twin ninth-graders Damari Henderson and JaCari Henderson join the ‘Noles after participating in a USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp last month.
Oviedo went 21-8 with a young team and will challenge Seminole in 9A, District 2. The return of 6-6 football quarterback Morgan Mitchell to basketball adds size to go with an arsenal of 3-point shooters.
More challengers: Windermere High went 16-10 in its debut season and returned everybody. Florida Gulf Coast signee Dakota Rivers (6-8, Sr.) averaged 16.6 points and 13.7 rebounds as a junior. Dr. Phillips transfer Dante Love (6-0, Sr.) adds to a deep backcourt that includes sophomore prospect Tre Moss (6-2).
Edgewater (24-6), a region finalist last season, stands in the Wolverines’ way in 8A and has 6-5 junior Michael Eads back from an offseason injury. The Eagles face Lake Highland Prep in Winter Park’s Rotary Tip-Off Classic on Thursday. That tournament, which tips off Wednesday and concludes Saturday, has four more 2017-18 region playoff programs in Apopka, Seminole, Boone and Daytona Beach Mainland.
Class 6A Bishop Moore (23-5) follows up its first region appearance in 11 years with a seniorheavy lineup led by Hunter Cattoor (6-3), a Wofford signee.
Lake Highland (22-7) graduated 2,000-point scorer Nick Honor from a district-title team but gained another point guard prospect in ninth-grader Jared Berry (5-7), younger brother to former Highlanders great Joel Berry II, now a G-League rookie.
The Highlanders’ 5A competition includes Jones (15-12), with FAU signee Kenan Blackshear (6-5, Sr.), and Windermere Prep (13-15), which has arguably the area’s most intriguing prospect in Chinese National Team player Fanbo Zengo. He’s a 6-9 ninthgrader already holding major-college scholarship offers.
Oak Ridge seniors Emmanuel Adedoyin (3), Niven Glover (2) and Kaleb Coleman (24) all say they are ready to step into major roles as the Pioneers seek to repeat their 2017-18 state championship and rise in the national rankings.