Oak Ridge trio prom­ises to pro­duce

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Buddy Collings Or­lando Sen­tinel [email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com

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.

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