One of the best high school basketball tournaments if not the best is set to begin on Friday afternoon in Ft. Myers, Florida. The City of Palms Classic which is in its 43rd and final year at Bishop Verot High School before moving to a brand new and much bigger facility next winter. This is the 22nd year that it has included teams from outside of Florida.
Over 530 players that have participated in the City of Palms Classic have gone onto to play at the Division-I level. More than 60 of those players went onto to the NBA. Nine players in this year’s NBA draft played in the City of Palms including six first round picks led by No. 2 pick De’Angelo Russell and No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor. A year prior, four of the first eight picks were participants from the City of Palms, No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, No. 3 pick Joel Embiid, No. 7 pick Julius Randle and No. 8 pick Nik Stauskas.
There’s a reason over 100 coaches and scouts attend this tournament to recruit the players that intrigue them. Just last year North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was there. Expect plenty more coaches and scouts this year. The No. 1 recruit Ben Simmons and No. 2 recruit Jaylen Brown of the 2015 class went head-to-head in last year’s championship game, who knows if this year’s City of Palms can top that.
With that in mind, here are the top 25 players to watch at the City of Palms Classic (Dec. 18-Dec. 23).
Forward Jayson Tatum (Chaminade College Prep – St. Louis, Missouri)
What to expect: The 6’9″ senior Duke commit is the No. 2 prospect in the country for a reason. He has all the tools to be a successful power forward in college and should be in line to be a lottery selection as early as 2017. Expect him to dominate this tournament.
Forward Michael Porter Jr. (Father Tolton Catholic – Columbia, Missouri)
What to expect: Only a junior, the 6’9″ forward is ranked as the No. 2 player in the 2017 class by HoopScoop and No. 3 by ESPN. The five-star prospect is compared often to a young Kevin Durant. He can put up points at will (28 PPG as both a sophomore and freshman). It would be great to see Tatum and Porter go head-to-head.
Forward Edryce “Bam” Adebayo (High Point Christian – High Point, North Carolina)
What to expect: The five-star Kentucky commit stands at 6’8″ and is as physical as they come as an inside presence and scorer. The senior averaged 31 points and 21 rebounds per game last season at Pinetown Northside. Adebayo is perhaps the most intriguing pure big man in this tourney.
Forward Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills – Chino Hills, California)
What to expect: Ball is one of three brothers that Chino Hill features in their starting lineup. The trio has committed to UCLA while Lonzo, a senior is the best. He averaged 25 points, 11.2 rebounds and 9.1 assists a season ago. This should be a fun team to watch.
Forward Tyler Cook (Chaminade – St. Louis, Missouri)
What to expect: The senior power forward has committed to play at Iowa. At 6’7″, Cook is a four-star recruit and ranks as the No. 51 player in the 2016 class by ESPN. Expect him to complement his star frontcourt mate Tatum well in this tournament.
Guard LaMelo Ball (Chino Hills – Chino Hills, California)
What to expect: Just a freshman, LaMelo is the youngest of three Ball brothers at Chino Hills. At 5’10”, he has a ton of raw speed and energy. Along with his oldest brother Lonzo (see above) and junior Li’Angelo, the trio added 93 points in a travel game this summer in Las Vegas. The smallest Ball should be fun to see play.
Guard Shamorie “Slic” Ponds (Thomas Jefferson – Brooklyn, New York)
What to expect: The Senior is a St. Johns commit. Ranked as the No. 41 overall prospect in the 2016 class by ESPN, Ponds is one of the best point guards in New York. He averaged 25 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists last season. Expect him to be solid in this tournament.
Center Tony Bradley (Bartow – Bartow, Florida)
What to expect: A 6’10” senior is committed to North Carolina. Bradley is ESPN’s No. 26 overall prospect in the 2016 class. He helped his squad finish 25-4 last season on the way to the Class 7A semifinals. Bartow hails from Polk County.
Forward Micah Potter (Montverde – Montverde, Florida)
What to expect: The leader of the new-look Montverde squad that will look a whole lot different without Ben Simmons, this 6’9″ senior Ohio State commit will be watched closely. Ranked as the No. 97 overall prospect of the 2016 class, Potter is a big reason why Montverde is still No. 1 in the country, per MaxPreps. Keep an eye on Potter as Montverde looks to make another deep tournament run.
Forward Jontay Porter (Father Tolton Catholic – Columbia, Missouri)
What to expect: Only a sophomore, Jontay Porter is the younger brother of Michael Porter Jr. (see above). Committed to Washington already, Jontay is the No. 41 prospect of the 2018 class ranked by Future150. He averaged 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as a freshman.
Forward Dewan Huell (Norland – Miami, Florida)
What to expect: A 6’9″ senior, Huell will stay local to play college ball at Miami. He had two huge performances on the way to a Class 6A State Title last year: (40 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks against Pines Charter) and (23 points, 17 rebounds and 7 blocks against Tampa Jefferson).
Guard Howard Washington (Montverde – Montverde, Florida)
What to expect: The 6’3″ senior Butler commit is the No. 112 prospect in this year’s class ranked by HoopScoop. He’s the leader of the Montverde backcourt and should be early and often in games.
Forward Nick Richards (Patrick School – Elizabeth, New Jersey)
What to expect: Ranked as the No. 13 junior by both ESPN and Rivals.com, Richards is a load in the paint at 6’11”. Along with guard Bryce Aiken, a Harvard commit, Patrick School is returning to the tournament for the first time since 2010.
Center Austin Wiley (Spain Park – Hoover, Alabama)
What to expect: A 6’10” junior, Wiley is ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2017 class by HoopScoop. He averaged 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks per game last season.
Forward Romello White (Wheeler – Marietta, Georgia)
What to expect: A senior transfer from IMG, White is a Georgia Tech commit. Along with guards Darius Perry and Cam Jordan, the 6’9″ White will look to help Wheeler defend its City of Palms title.
Forward Kaleb Wesson (Westerville South – Westerville, Ohio)
What to expect: A junior Ohio State commit stands at 6’9″ and is ranked as the No. 46 prospect in his class by HoopScoop. He averaged 11.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game last season.
Guard Payton Pritchard (West Linn – West Linn, Oregon)
What to expect: The 6’2″ senior point guard has been named the 6A State Player of The Year for two straight years. An Oregon commit, Pritchard averaged 22.1 points, 5.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals as a junior.
Guard Kwe Parker (Wesleyan Christian – High Point, North Carolina)
What to expect: Parker is the top player on a Wesleyan Christian that has four senior Division-I commits. The 6’2″ guard is attending Tennessee.
Guard Brandon Childress (Wesleyan Christian – High Point, North Carolina)
What to expect: Parker’s backcourt mate, Childress is set to go to Wake Forest. The point guard gives his team plenty of juice.
Forward Jalen Johnson (Wesleyan Christian – High Point, North Carolina)
What to expect: The 6’6″ wing is committed to play at Tennessee alongside his teammate Parker. Johnson is an all-around player.
Center Udoka Azubuike (Potter’s House Christian – Jacksonville, Florida)
What to expect: The Nigerian-born big man is a ton at 6’10”, 280 lbs and is gaining confidence with each game. Even though, he’s still raw at the game of basketball, he managed 16.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as a junior. He’s simply too big and too athletic to slow down.
Center Thon Maker (Athlete Institute – Orangeville, Ontario)
What to expect: The 7’1″ senior center is ranked No. 1 in his class by HoopScoop. Born and raised in South Sudan, he and his younger brother, 6’9″ junior Matur have gone from their hometown to Australia to Canada to play ball. Thon averaged 22 points, 14 boards, 4.5 assists, 5 blocks and 3 steals per game in his first season at Athlete Institute in 2014.
Center Abdulhakim Ado (Hamilton Heights Christian – Chattanooga, Tennessee)
What to expect: A 6’10”, 250-pound senior center, Ado is committed to play at Mississippi State. He’s the No. 34 center in his class ranked by HoopScoop. Ado averaged 10 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game as a junior.
Guard Thomas Dziagwa (Tampa Catholic – Tampa, Florida)
What to expect: The 6’4″ senior point guard can shoot with the best of them. An Oklahoma State, Dziagwa averaged nearly 27 points per game as a junior and is posting a 22-point average through six games this season.
Forward Kevin Knox (Tampa Catholic – Tampa, Florida)
What to expect: Ranked as the No. 16 junior by ESPN, Knox already has offers from Duke and North Carolina. He’s often ranked as the No. 1 prospect in all of Florida and rightfully so. At 6’6″, he’s a dangerous force inside, averaging 30.1 points and 10 rebounds per game this season.
Note: Tampa Catholic plays Charlotte on Friday at 6 p.m. on the first day of the tournament. It will be the lone game for the Crusaders as they are not a part of the traditional bracket.
Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.