City of Palms Classic: Meet the teams in the 46th annual high school basketball tournament

Photo: Aguallo Studios

City of Palms Classic: Meet the teams in the 46th annual high school basketball tournament

Boys Basketball

City of Palms Classic: Meet the teams in the 46th annual high school basketball tournament


(Last season’s records in parenthesis)



LOCATION: Punta Gorda

HEAD COACH: Tom Massolio


6-4 SR Ahmad Johnson

6-3 SR Makai Reaves

6-9 JR Faustin Phanor

6-6 SO Tre Carroll

TARPONS AT A GLANCE: Coach Tom Massolio (422-190, with ten 20-win seasons) enters his 22nd year in Punta Gorda with one of his more intriguing rosters, a tantalizing combination of experience – 6-4 SR Ahmad Johnson (18.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and 6-3 SR Makai Reaves (9.8 ppg) – blended with the young size of 6-6 SOPH Tre Carroll (7.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-9 JR Faustin Phanor. Charlotte, coming off a first-round playoff exit, is hoping the experience of playing in the City of Palms Classic, the Premiere and a trip to Tennessee last weekend will pay off come playoff time.


LOCATION: West Columbia, South Carolina

HEAD COACH: Dion Bethea


6-0 SR Tommy Brunner

6-0 SR Khalil Robinson

WAR EAGLES AT A GLANCE: Gray Collegiate has become a perennial power in South Carolina, and should be favored again in 2A (the Eagles are defending champions) despite the summer transfer of Juwan Gary. That’s because coach Dion Bethea returns eight of his top 10 players, an unselfish group led by 6-0 SR Tommy Brunner (14.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.6 apg) and 6-0 SR Khalil Robinson (11.6 ppg, 5.9 apg). The rebounding committee includes 6-7 SR Dallaz Corbitt.

Jan 15, 2018; Springfield, MA, USA; IMG Varsity National Ascenders guard Josh Green (0) attempts a free throw during a game against the Westtown School Moose at Springfield College. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports


LOCATION: Bradenton, Florida

HEAD COACH: Sean McAloon


6-6 SR Josh Green (ARIZONA)

6-8 SR Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (VILLANOVA)

6-10 SR Armando Bacot (NORTH CAROLINA)

6-4 JR Jaden Springer

6-1 JR Noah Farrakhan

6-9 SOPH Brandon Huntley-Hatfield

6-3 FRESH Dior Johnson

ASCENDERS AT A GLANCE: IMG was as good as anyone in the country last year, tied with Oak Hill in the waning seconds, before Silvio DeSousa’s midseason departure to Kansas. Now, former St. John’s (D.C.) coach Sean McAloon, in his second year with the Ascenders, finds himself with an even more talented roster from top to bottom after the recent addition of transfers 6-10 SR Armando Bacot (a North Carolina commit and MVP of the Nike Peach Jam in July), 6-8 SR Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and smooth guard 6-4 JR Jaden Springer. Throw in returning high-major 6-6 SR Josh Green, and IMG has four players who are ranked among the top 20 players nationally in their classes.


LOCATION: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

HEAD COACH: Andre Noble


6-4 SR Dahmir Bishop (XAVIER)

6-6 SR Donta Scott (MARYLAND)

6-6 SR Jamil Riggins (BINGHAMTON)

PANTHERS AT A GLANCE: There’s something about the balanced, athletic defending Class 4A state champions that could lead one to call coach Andre Noble’s Panthers the most dangerous opponent at this year’s City of Palms. Many of the sophomores who handed Montverde Academy its only home loss in six-plus years are now seniors, a group that features high D-I commits 6-4 SR Dahmir Bishop and 6-6 SR Donta Scott. Wings 6-6 SR Jamil Riggins and 6-6 SR Chereef Knox are joined by another ultra-quick guard, 5-8 SR Fatayn Wesley. Oh … and some folks think the most recruited player could ultimately be 6-8 JR Elijah Taylor.


LOCATION: Montclair, New Jersey

HEAD COACH: Jimmy Salmon


6-10 JR Elijah Hutchins-Everett

6-3 JR Zion Bethea

6-3 SO Amar’e Marshall

LIONS AT A GLANCE: A late addition to this year’s City of Palms, Jimmy Salmon’s young team has already made some noise when it eliminated Patrick School and Hudson Catholic in back-to-back Non-Public B North playoff games last spring. Talented 6-10 JR Elijah Hutchins-Everett will quickly become familiar to COP fans who will also get to see Immaculate Conception in 2019. This will be Salmon’s fourth tournament appearance, but his first in 23 years – he brought Tim Thomas’ Paterson Catholic crew here three consecutive times from 1993-95.

McEACHERN (26-3)

LOCATION: Powder Springs, Georgia

HEAD COACH: Mike Thompson


6-5 SR Isaac Okoro (AUBURN)

6-0 JR Sharife Cooper

6-9 SR Jared Jones (NORTHWESTERN)

INDIANS AT A GLANCE: McEachern is taking direct aim at a City of Palms Classic championship after an impressive third-place finish in 2017 that included wins over Ranney School, Hudson Catholic and Chicago Simeon. All of the Indians’ familiar faces – who played together as “Athletes of Tomorrow” on Nike’s EYBL circuit – are back, led by wily, high-scoring guard 6-2 JR Sharife Cooper and a pair of intimidating big men – 6-5 SR Isaac Okoro and 6-9 SR Jared Jones. Cooper exploded for 42 points in an overtime victory over Hudson Catholic in last year’s City of Palms quarterfinals.



HEAD COACH: Juan Cardona


6-1 SR Diego Rivera

6-0 SR Algenis Quintana

6-7 JR Nick Silva

6-9 JR Miguel Santos

6-5 SR Alvaro Pimintel

VICTORS AT A GLANCE: Miami Christian’s latest influx of talent might rival its 2002 City of Palms team that produced 13-year Dallas Mavericks guard Jose Juan Barea, with 10 talented new arrivals joining the lone returner, 6-1 SR Diego Rivera (13.3 ppg as a junior) and hyperactive coach Juan Cardona. The two-time defending Class 2A state champions boast at least six players taller than 6-5, and the rotation could potentially include all 11 guys. Rivera’s backcourt mate, 6-0 SR Algenis Quintana, might be the best of the newcomers.

MOUNTAIN BROOK (34-4)           

LOCATION: Mountain Brook, Alabama

HEAD COACH: Bucky McMillan


6-9 SR Trendon Watford

6-5 JR Colby Jones

SPARTANS AT A GLANCE: Mountain Brook was one of the most entertaining teams at last year’s City of Palms Classic, winning three of five games, and coach Bucky McMillan’s two-time defending Class 7A state champions are back for more. Their star, 6-9 SR Trendon Watford (23.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.2 blocks, 1.7 steals), became the third junior to win Alabama’s “Mr. Basketball” award and was named Birmingham Male Athlete of the Year in June. The Spartans lost a lot Watford’s supporting cast, but 6-4 SR Lior Berman (8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and 6-2 SR Alex Washington (5.2 ppg) should play important roles.

From left to right: Daniel Scott, B.J. Mack and Evan Johnson of Oak Hill Academy. (Photo: Aguallo Studios)


LOCATION:  Mouth of Wilson, Virginia

HEAD COACH: Steve Smith


6-3 SR Cole Anthony

6-11 SR Kofi Cockburn

6-6 SR Christian Brown


6-3 JR Cam Thomas

6-0 JR Evan Johnson

WARRIORS AT A GLANCE: Easily the nation’s premier program with nine national titles since 1993, legendary coach Steve Smith (1,073 wins, 69 losses over a 33-year span) brings his Warriors to Fort Myers for only the second time. Unlike the first (in 1991), Oak Hill is an obvious contender for a national No. 1 finish with four players – 6-3 SR Cole Anthony, 6-11 SR Kofi Cockburn, 6-3 JR Cam Thomas and 6-6 SR Christian Brown – ranked among the top recruits in their classes. Smith has been named USA Today National Coach of the Year four times (1994, ’99, 2004, 2012), has coached 28 McDonald’s All-Americans and had 17 players go on to be drafted by NBA teams. So he’s pretty good.


LOCATION: Olive Branch, Mississippi

HEAD COACH: Eric Rombaugh


6-8 SR D.J. Jeffries (MEMPHIS)

CONQUISTADORS AT A GLANCE: The Class 5A state champion Quistors are absolutely lethal in transition, and return 13 of 14 players, led by one-time Kentucky pledge 6-8 SR D.J. Jeffries (20.8 ppg) whose back-to-back 20-point games ignited routs of Callaway and Forest Hill at the 5A Final Four. But it’s Olive Branch’s depth that makes it a such a dangerous up-tempo opponent – 6-0 SR Joe Cooper (8.7 ppg) and 6-6 JR Cameron Matthews (7.5 ppg) combined for 35 points last January in a stunning 73-70 upset of Memphis East. Others, like 6-5 SR Shamar Brown (7.8 ppg), 6-2 SR Josh Stevenson (6.1 ppg) and 5-11 SR C.J. Owens (6.0 ppg) also can make their presence felt.

OSCEOLA (23-7)

LOCATION: Kissimmee

HEAD COACH: Nathan Alexander


6-5 SR Isaiah Palermo


6-6 SR Jaduhkiss Soto

KOWBOYS AT A GLANCE: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Florida school with a resume that matches Osceola’s (92-23) over a four-year span that includes a state title (2017), runner-up finish (2015) and last year’s heartbreaking loss to Oak Ridge in the regional final. Coach Nathan Alexander has everyone back in 2018-19, minus big man Omar Payne (transferred to Montverde). That means entertaining guard 5-9 SR Josh Marte (16 ppg) will be shooting it from the parking lot and the duo of 6-5 SR Isaiah Palermo (14 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and 6-6 SR Jaduhkiss Soto (9 rpg) will be doing work in the paint. Those three, plus 6-3 JR Armani Thomas, started every game last season.

PAUL VI (33-4)

LOCATION: Fairfax, Virginia

HEAD COACH: Glenn Farello


6-3 JR Josiah Freeman

5-10 FR Knasir “Dug” McDaniel

6-3 SOPH Trevor Keels

PANTHERS AT A GLANCE: Surely, Paul VI didn’t want to become a crowd favorite this way. The Panthers’ two best guards, 6-3 SR Anthony Harris (Virginia Tech) and 6-4 JR Jeremy Roach – are both out for the season with ACL injuries, yet they led Montverde Academy by 10 at the half in a 57-50 loss last weekend. Coach Glenn Farello’s depth, notably, 6-3 JR Josiah Freeman and breakout 5-10 FR Knasir “Dug” McDaniel, will keep the defending VISAA Division I state champions relevant nationally. Paul VI participated in three consecutive City of Palms (2012-14) and played in the “Slippery Floor Game” in the 2013 final. Roach has his choice of colleges and could still wind up as the nation’s No. 1 2020 point guard recruit.


LOCATION: Sarasota



6-4 JR Malachi Wideman

6-6 SOPH Jayven Millien

6-3 SR Tyrus Jackson

6-4 JR Zach Mobley

6-3 JR Marquel Bryant

RAMS AT A GLANCE: In his 10 years on the job, coach B.J. Ivey has built Riverview into arguably West Florida’s top program, reaching the Class 8A state final in 2016. Now, he has a prized recruit in 6-4 JR Malachi Wideman (think Deion Sanders), who brought pals LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to their feet at this summer’s Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas while playing on the same travel team as Wade’s son. The lone senior in the rotation, 6-4 SR Tyrus Jackson, is a four-year varsity letterman, and shot 43 percent from 3-point range as a junior. An ultra-talented 2021 class includes 6-6 SO Jayven Millien, 6-8 SO John Solomon and 6-4 SO David Mazon.

3/31/18 12:03:11 PM — NSU University School Scottie Barnes (0) defended by Montverde Academy forward Filip Petrusev (13) during the first quarter in Brooklyn, NY, U.S.A — GEICO High School Nationals Tournament features some of the top basketball teams in the country. — Photo by Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports Images, Gannett ORG XMIT: US 137086 GEICO HOOPS 3/30/2018 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]


LOCATION: Fort Lauderdale



6-10 SR Vernon Carey, Jr. (DUKE)

6-1 SR Logan Alters (CALIFORNIA)

6-7 JR Scottie Barnes

6-4 JR Roger McFarlane

SHARKS AT A GLANCE: As long as 6-10 SR Vernon Carey, Jr. and 6-7 JR Scottie Barnes are wearing U-School uniforms, the Sharks could become only the third team since 1985 to repeat as City of Palms champions. Arguably the No. 1 players in their classes nationally, they ignited a historic Class 5A state-title run – the 75-point margin of victory in two Finals games was a record – and earned a national No. 2 ranking and runner-up finish at the GEICO Nationals in New York. Longtime Rutgers and Rhode Island assistant Jim Carr replaces Adrian Sosa, Jr. (103-45 in seven years) as head coach. He’ll need contributions from 6-1 SR Logan Alters, 6-6 JR Jace Howard, 6-1 JR David Perez-Miralles and highly-touted 6-3 FR Jett Howard.

VASHON (21-6)

LOCATION: St. Louis, Missouri

HEAD COACH: Tony Irons


6-2 SR Mario McKinney (MISSOURI)

6-6 JR Cam’Ron Fletcher

WOLVERINES AT A GLANCE: One of the Midwest’s “old-school” powerhouse programs, Vashon stormed back into the limelight with back-to-back state titles in 2016 and ’17 in Tony Irons’ first two seasons as head coach. The Wolverines have an elite recruit in 6-6 JR Cam’Ron Fletcher and an electric guard to pair him with, in 6-2 SR Mario McKinney, who erupted for 30 points against St. Benedict’s (N.J.) in January. Together, they took down some Midwest heavyweights last season, including Class 5 champion Webster Groves, and Illinois powers Whitney Young and Champaign Central.


LOCATION: Washington, D.C.

HEAD COACH: Angelo Hernandez


6-9 SR Makhel Mitchell (MARYLAND)

6-9 SR Makhi Mitchell (MARYLAND)


6-5 JR Dimingus Stevens

TIGERS AT A GLANCE: Woodrow Wilson has won 62 of 75 games over the past two seasons under coach Angelo Hernandez, going undefeated in the Public League and making a historic run to the DCSAA “state” title last spring. Two high-major recruits, 6-3 SR Jay Heath and 6-5 JR Dimingus Stevens, were significant contributors on that team and are joined by two more in transfers 6-9 SR Makhel Mitchell and 6-9 SR Makhi Mitchell, making the Tigers a team to watch at the City of Palms. The twins spent a year at Montverde Academy before returning to the D.C. area.



LOCATION: Brunswick, Georgia

HEAD COACH: Chris Turner


6-7 FR Joyful Hawkins

6-3 SR Kelon Walker

6-0 SR Sheydan Baggs

PIRATES AT A GLANCE: Coach Chris Turner has won a state championship (2015) and narrowly missed a second (2017) in his first 10 seasons at Brunswick (population 16,346), but could have his best player ever in prized 6-7 FR Joyful Hawkins, who joins a talented core of returnees led by 6-3 SR Kelon Walker (9 ppg) and 6-0 SR Sheydan Baggs (8 ppg). The Pirates have also benefitted from the return of 6-0 SR Jaden Dunham.


LOCATION: Glens Falls, New York

HEAD COACH: Rob Girard


6-1 SR Joe Girard III (SYRACUSE)

5-6 SR Trent Girard

6-0 JR David Barclay

INDIANS AT A GLANCE: The Jimmer Fredette/Joe Girard III comparisons are alive and well at Glens Falls (population 14,700), which has produced both small-town legends in less than two decades. The 6-1 SR Girard averaged a stunning 50.0 points per game as a junior – making 179 3-pointers in just 23 games – and already is New York’s all-time career scoring leader (3,306 points), drawing offers from the likes of Duke, Syracuse, Michigan and Notre Dame before picking the Orange. Since quarterbacking the Indians to a state title in football three weeks ago, Girard already has 57- and 53-point outbursts.


LOCATION: La Crosse, Wisconsin

HEAD COACH: Todd Fergot


6-0 JR Jonathan Davis

6-5 JR Johnny Davis

6-8 JR Terrance Thompson

RED RAIDERS AT A GLANCE: Wisconsin schools are no longer permitted to play in 16-team tournaments, which is why the 2016 WIAA Division 2 state champions are mingling with the “Small Town” Signature Series crowd at this year’s City of Palms. La Crosse Central has three players – 6-0 JR point guard Jonathan Davis, 6-5 JR Johnny Davis (his brother) and 6-8 JR Terrance Thompson – with multiple Division I offers, and didn’t lose a single senior from last season’s state semifinalist. It would be an upset if the Red Raiders lost in Fort Myers.

PETAL (17-6)

LOCATION: Petal, Mississippi

HEAD COACH: Todd Kimball


6-5 JR Treylan Smith

6-5 JR Caleb McGill

6-2 SR Don Avilla

PANTHERS AT A GLANCE: Petal (population 10,454) reached the Class 6A Sweet 16 in head coach Todd Kimball’s first year with the program, losing only to state powers Meridian (three times) and Biloxi (twice) during the regular season. There’s plenty of firepower back, too, led by a pair of athletic 6-5 JR forwards, Treylan Smith (15.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg) – a slasher who erupted for 29 points in a win over rival Oak Grove – Caleb McGill (15.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and 6-2 SR guard Don Avilla.

Tournament Schedule


11 a.m. (Game 5): Consolation: Gm 4 loser (Oak Hill-Riverview) vs. Gm 1 loser (Wilson-Olive Branch)

12:45 p.m. (Game 6): West Columbia Gray Collegiate (S.C.) vs. IMG Academy 

2:30 p.m. (Game 7): Philadelphia Imhotep Charter (Pa.) vs. Osceola

4:15 p.m. (Game 8-SUNSHINE SERIES): Sarasota Booker vs. Orlando West Oaks 

6 p.m. (Game 9): St. Louis Vashon (Mo.) vs. University School

7:45 p.m. (Game 10): Powder Springs McEachern (Ga.) vs. Miami Christian 

9:30 p.m. (Game 11): Montclair Immaculate Conception (N.J.) vs. Fairfax Paul VI (Va.)


2:30 p.m. (Game 12): Consolation: Gm 3 loser (Charlotte-Mountain Brook) vs. Gm 11 loser (Imm Conceptn-Paul VI)

4:15 p.m. (Game 13): Quarterfinal: Gm 4 winner (Oak Hill-Riverview) vs. Gm 3 winner (Charlotte-Mountain Brook)

6 p.m. (Game 14): Quarterfinal: Gm 11 winner (Imm Conceptn-Paul VI) vs. Gm 10 winner (McEachern-Miami Chr)

7:25 p.m.: Bahama Breeze 45-second Challenge 7:30 p.m.: Joe North THREE-POINT SHOOTOUT

8:15 p.m.: Edison National Bank SLAM DUNK CHAMPIONSHIP


10:30 a.m. (Game 15): Consolation: Gm 7 loser (Imhotep-Osceola) vs. Gm 9 loser (Vashon-University)

12:15 p.m. (Game 16): Consolation: Gm 10 loser (McEachern-Miami Chr) vs. Gm 6 loser (Gray Collegiate-IMG)

2 p.m. (Game 17-SIGNATURE SERIES): La Crosse Central (Wis.) vs. Brunswick (Ga.)

3:45 p.m. (Game 18-SUNSHINE SERIES): Lakeland vs. Miami Palmetto 

5:30 p.m. (Game 19-SIGNATURE SERIES): Glens Falls (N.Y.) vs. Petal (Miss.)

7:15 p.m. (Game 20): Quarterfinal: Gm 7 winner (Imhotep-Osceola) vs. Gm 9 winner (Vashon-University)

9 p.m. (Game 21): Quarterfinal: Gm 6 winner (Gray Collegiate-IMG) vs. Gm 11 winner (Wilson-Olive Branch)


9 a.m. (Game 22): Challenge-round game: 0-2 teams to be determined

10:40 a.m. (Game 23): Consolation semifinal: Gm 16 winner vs. Gm 12 winner

12:20 p.m. (Game 24): Consolation semifinal: Gm 5 winner vs. Gm 15 winner

2 p.m. (Game 25): Fifth-place semifinal: Gm 13 loser vs. Gm 14 loser

3:45 p.m. (Game 26): Fifth-place semifinal: Gm 21 loser vs. Gm 20 loser

5:30 p.m. (Game 27): Challenge-round game: 0-2 teams to be determined

7:15 p.m. (Game 28): Semifinal: Gm 13 winner vs. Gm 20 winner

9 p.m. (Game 29): Semifinal: Gm 14 winner vs. Gm 21 winner


11 a.m. (Game 30-SIGNATURE SERIES THIRD-PLACE): Gm 17 loser vs. Gm 19 loser

12:40 p.m. (Game 31): Consolation championship: Gm 24 winner vs. Gm 23 winner

2:20 p.m. (Game 32): Fifth-place championship: Gm 25 winner vs. Gm 26 winner

4:00 p.m. (Game 33): SIGNATURE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP) Gm 17 winner vs. Gm 19 winner

5:45 p.m. (Game 34): THIRD-PLACE FINAL Gm 28 loser vs. Gm 29 loser

7:30 p.m. (Game 35): CITY OF PALMS CHAMPIONSHIP Gm 28 winner vs. Gm 29 winner


More USA TODAY High School Sports