Ft. Myers, Fla. – The City of Palms Classic tips off tomorrow afternoon at Bishop Verot High School in its 43rd year of existence and 22nd year with schools featured from outside of the state of Florida.
Five teams from Florida will take part in the 16-team Traditional Bracket and compete for a championship: Bartow, Lehigh, Montverde, Norland and First Academy. As part of the four-team Signature Series, Jacksonville’s Potter House Christian will compete while six other teams will play in the Sunshine Series with Tampa Catholic serving as the lone Tampa team and St. Pete High and Riverview, both squads from around the area.
The top 25 players were reviewed in-depth on Wednesday, here’s an inside look at all 16-teams in the Traditional Bracket including my favorite to win, broken down by contenders, middle of the pack and outsiders. Take a look below.
What to expect: Going 31-1 a season ago with star forward Ben Simmons leading the way, Montverde may look awfully different this year, but they are still the No. 1 team in the country, according to MaxPreps. With seasoned head coach Kevin Boyle, Montverde has won two City of Palms championships (2012, 2013) and is looking for another with Division-I senior commits, forward Micah Potter (Ohio State) and guard Howard Washington (Butler) along with four rising sophomores. They should be considered the favorite to win.
What to expect: Posting a 24-8 record last season, the No. 3 team in the country right now Chino Hills is led by a trio of Ball brothers, senior Lonzo, junior Li’Angelo and freshman LaMelo. All three are committed to UCLA and are much different players. Lonzo does it all at 6’6″ as he averaged 25 points and 11.2 rebounds last season. Li’Angelo is very crafty at 6’5″ and LaMelo is speedy and can shoot from anywhere on the court at 5’9″. Chino Hills is my pick to win the tournament even though Montverde is looked at as the top team to win by many media members and fans.
What to expect: Led by No. 2 prospect, forward and Duke commit Jayson Tatum, No. 13 Chaminade went 25-4 in 2014. Tatum is a force at 6’9″, averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds per game a season ago. He’s joined by Iowa commit forward Tyler Cook. Seniors, center Will Gladson and guard Mike Lewis bring plenty to the table for the Red Devils. Chaminade certainly has a fighting chance in this tourney.
What to expect: Ranked No. 17 in the country, Norland went 23-8 last season on the way to a 6A state title. With senior forward and Miami commit Dewan Huell, the Vikings should be able to hang around in most games in this tournament. Along with three other senior starters, guards David Jean-Baptiste (UT-Chattanooga) and Tyrik Waite and wing Jonathan Andre. Norland has ruled the ranks of Florida as of late and could make a deep run in this tournament.
What to expect: With three Division-I commits and one of the top junior big men in the country, the No. 20 ranked Celtics have a legitimate shot at winding up in the final four. Seniors, guard Bryce Aiken (Harvard) and forward Cyril Langevine (Rhode Island) are the bloodline of this team. Junior 7’0″ center Buay Koka (New Mexico State) and No. 13 ranked junior by ESPN, 6’11” Nick Richards. Richards is perhaps the most gifted shooter on this team. Size and speed is on Patrick School’s size.
What to expect: The sixth team ranked in the top 25, at 24, Westerville South has four senior starters and a junior forward Kaleb Wesson who has committed to play at Ohio State. He averaged nearly a double-double with 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore. His brother, senior Andre Wesson is an impressive wing at 6’6″. This team also has three other senior guards in Jordan Humphrey, Ennis Thomas and Jelani Rodgers.
What to expect: Even though High Point Christian went just 19-14 a season ago, this group has 6’8″ senior and Kentucky commit Edryce “Bam” Adebayo. The transfer from Pinetown Northside, Adebayo averaged an absurd 32.1 points and 21 rebounds per game as a junior. High Point also has three other senior Division-I commits in Ty Graves (Boston College), Ben Robertson (Bucknell) and Amidou Bamba (Coastal Carolina). This team has a underdog chance in this tourney.
What to expect: Four senior Division-I commits sit on this Wesleyan Christian team even after No. 1 prospect of the 2016 class, Harry Giles transferred to Oak Hill Academy. Senior guards Kwe Parker (Tennessee) and Brandon Childress (Wake Forest) make up a very talented backcourt while wings Jalen Johnson (Tennessee) and Mike Buckland (Lipscomb) are steady contributors. The Trojans can’t be ruled out just yet.
Middle of the Pack
What to expect: Finishing 25-3 in Class 3A ball in Missouri, Father Tolton has one of the top junior forwards in the entire country in 6’9″ Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. is ranked No. 2 in the 2017 class by HoopScoop and No. 3 by ESPN. Along with his younger brother Jontay, who is only a sophomore this team isn’t nearly complete but has a solid frontcourt duo. Jontay at 6’9″ has offers out from Washington, Kansas, Kentucky and Duke. This isn’t a complete enough team to make a far tourney push.
What to expect: Posting a 26-4 record a season ago, Thomas Jefferson is led by senior guard and St. Johns commit Shamorie Ponds. He does it all, averaging 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists last season. The Orange Wave also has senior guard Rasheen Dunn and wing Isiah Deas. This group is not ferocious enough to go all the way.
What to expect: Although star wing Jaylen Brown is off to college at Cal, Wheeler has put together a formidable group led by senior Georgia Tech commit Romello White. The 6’9″ senior transferred over from IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL). The Wildcats also have No. 58 ranked junior (ESPN), guard Darius Perry. Wheeler won’t win again this year, but they certainly aren’t as weak overall as you’d think without Brown.
What to expect: West Linn captured the Class 6A state title last season with a 25-4 record. 6’2″ point guard Payton Pritchard did it all for the Lions in 2014 with 22.1 points, 5.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals. The senior Oregon commit is one of the best free throw shooters in this tournament. Junior guard Braden Olsen is the next best thing on the roster. This team isn’t deep enough to win too many games here.
What to expect: Recording a 24-6 record last year, Spain Park has the No. 7 ranked junior (HoopScoop) in 6’10” big man Austin Wiley. Wiley averaged 19 points, 14 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game as a sophomore. He’s joined by Jamal Johnson, an athletic 6’4″ guard. The Jaguars should put up a challenge in this tournament, but much like many of these middle of the pack teams, they simply aren’t deep enough.
What to expect: Going 25-4 in Class 7A is no joke, Bartow was a region semifinalist a season ago. The feature piece on this team is lengthy 6’10” senior forward and North Carolina commit Tony Bradley. He’s ranked as the No. 26 player overall by ESPN. 6-foot junior guard T.J. Harvin is also a promising piece in the Yellow Jackets starting lineup. This team is not good enough to beat the contenders in this tourney.
What to expect: The departure of 6’7″ sophomore forward Emmitt Williams, the No. 11 ranked prospect of the 2018 class (ESPN), Lehigh is not nearly as potent as last season. The Lightning went 26-2, finishing as the regional runner-up under the tournament’s first female head coach Dawn McNew. 5’8″ junior point guard Stef’An Strawder is the leader on this undersized squad.
What to expect: The No. 2 ranked junior in Florida resides on First Academy. 6’6″ wing Chaundee Brown is the No. 57 prospect in his class (Scout). The Royals also have 6’7″ junior forward Malik William and junior guard Elijah Jordan. Despite going 26-5 last season, this Class 3A group isn’t ready for the spotlight that this tournament brings.
For the full schedule for the six-day tournament, click here.
Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
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