Pasco Tribune boys basketball preview
New Districts Class 7A-District 9 – Chamberlain, Freedom, Gaither, Steinbrenner, Wiregrass Ranch Class 6A-10 – Land O' Lakes, Mitchell, River Ridge, Sunlake, Tarpon Springs Class 5A-8 – Anclote, Fivay, Gulf, Hudson, Pasco, Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel, ZephyrhillsClass 3A-8 – Bishop McLaughlin, Brooks-DeBartolo, Carrollwood Day, Seffner Christian, Tampa Prep Class 2A-8 – Academy at the Lakes, Bayshore Christian, Cambridge, Citrus Park Christian, Brooksville Hernando Christian, Tampa Bay Christian Top 5 1. Anclote: This may be the year of the Sharks. After advancing to the semifinals of the district tournament the past two seasons, this may be the year coach Jason Szymanski gets a shot at some hardware. The Sharks return 13 players from last year's 14-13 team, including Brandon McWhorter and has added Gulf transfer Chris Gregory. 2. Mitchell: The Mustangs move up a class this year but still looks like the team to beat in 6A-10. Led by senior Jake Driscoll, who led the county in scoring, coach Jared St. Charles is getting support for Driscoll by senior Freddie Jones and sophomore Cobi Johnson. Mitchell won its opener with a 107-101 shootout against Wiregrass Ranch. 3. Hudson: When it's all over, the Cobras should be right in the battle for the 5A-8 title but it might be a slow start. Senior Jamal Branco is out for a few weeks with a broken foot so the Cobras will be looking at SG James Simister and SG Albert Pari for points. Coach Jason Vetter has seven returning players from last year's 20-9 team. 4. Ridgewood: In Rams Country, an 18-8 record is expected. But a first-round loss to Pasco in the district tournament isn't. Coach Mike Bua has six returning players from last year and sees his Rams right there with Anclote and Hudson come tournament time. 5. Wiregrass Ranch: New district and a totally new team for coach Jeremy Calzone. The Bulls have been moved to 7A-9 with four Hillsborough County teams. Junior Rico Kerney is the only returning starter from last year's 22-8 team that advanced to the region semifinals. Wiregrass Ranch has added Wesley Chapel transfer Christian Parra and should compete with Chamberlain for the district title. Watch out for … Land O' Lakes: Coach David Puhalski begins his 23rd year as coach of the Gators and has four returning players – Justin Thomopalos, Jackson Cannon, Victor Obi and Ernest McClendon – from last year's 15-10 squad. Puhalski feels if some of the young players develop, Land O' Lakes can battle Mitchell for the 6A-10 title. Wesley Chapel: The Wildcats went 13-16 last year but managed to finish second in the district tournament and advanced to the region quarterfinals. Coach Doug Greseth has four returning starters with Erik Thomas, Stefan Bayne, Carson Emery and Marcus Hayne. A huge loss for Wesley Chapel was the transfer of Christian Parra to Wiregrass Ranch. Academy at the Lakes: While not in the same class with the big schools in the county, Wildcats coach Tom Haslam has put together a team that has the talent to win the 2A-8 title. Academy at the Lakes returns 11 players from last year's team, plus 3 transfers. Leading scorer Ethan Haslam, second leading scorer Jarrett Harvey and leading rebounder Evan Gordy are among those returning. Fresh faces Reilly Campbell, Bishop McLaughlin: Campbell becomes the fifth coach in five years for the Hurricanes. Last year, he was an assistant coach at Sarasota Out of Door Academy and the year before, an assistant at Oldsmar Christian. The Hurricanes return three players – Jordan Betancourt, Marcus Davis and Trevor Sanders. Jeff Shank, Gulf: The Buccaneers return four players from last year's 10-11 team but the loss of Chris Gregory, who averaged more than 18 points a game last season, to Anclote will be tough to fill. Rick Conn, River Ridge: Conn replaces longtime coach John Sedlack and only has four returning players from last year's 11-15 team. It may take a while for Conn to see what kind of season the Royal Knights can put together. Conn hasn't coached high school basketball since leaving Hudson in 1999. Players worth watching Jamal Branco, Hudson: Averaged 16.1 points last year and was part of a 1-2 scoring punch with Richey Williams. Broke his foot recently and will be sidelined for a few weeks. If Hudson's going to make a run, it will need him back and healthy. Jake Driscoll, Mitchell: Probably the best player in the county. Averaged 23.2 points last year and missed 12 games with mononucleosis. In the Mustangs season opener vs. Wiregrass Ranch, Driscoll scored 51 points in a 107-101 win to push his career total to 1,018 points. Trystan Ficarro, Ridgewood: Bua is expecting big things from the junior as he moves into the starting lineup. As a sophomore, Ficarro played in 24 of the Rams 26 games, averaging 4.8 points and is not afraid to shoot from behind the arc. Marcus Green, Ridgewood: Played in all 26 games last year, averaging 8.2 points a game and scored in double figures eight times. Will join Ficarro in the Rams backcourt. Chris Gregory, Anclote: Averaged more than 18 points a game for Gulf last season before transferring to Anclote. With Brandon McWhorter, should be the top 1-2 punch in the county. Tony Hays, Ridgewood: A senior, Hays averaged 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds last season. With the loss of forwards Scott Kujak and Mike Wood, Hays has big shoes to fill. Ethan Haslam, Academy at the Lakes: Only a freshman, Haslam led the Wildcats in scoring (11.9) as an eighth grader and coach-dad Tom Haslam expects him to pick up where he left off last season. Cobi Johnson, Mitchell: Only a sophomore, Johnson had a strong performance vs. Wiregrass Ranch and will be a big asset for the Mustangs offense. Rico Kerney, Wiregrass Ranch: Only returning starter from last year's regional semifinals team. Plays above the rim and opened the season with a 31-point performance vs. Mitchell. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.0 points and 7.8 rebounds. Brandon McWhorter, Anclote: The senior was the Sharks only player to average in double figures (17.9). With the addition of Gregory, he should get more open looks this season. Jackson Cannon, Land O' Lakes: Was second on the team in scoring (7.2) and rebounding (4.2) last season. Pedro Pabon, Sunlake: Led the Seahawks in almost every statistical category last year (13.6 points, 27 3-point goals, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals.) Christian Parra, Wiregrass Ranch: A transfer from Wesley Chapel, Parra will be expected to score to take the pressure off Kerney. Parra was the leading scorer (15.4) for Wesley Chapel as a sophomore. Tony Rangel, Gulf: With the departure of Gregory and Rohn Blackwood, Rangel will have to step up if the Bucs are going to be competitive. The senior averaged 9.6 points a game last season. Erik Thomas, Wesley Chapel: Was second in scoring (15.2) for the Wildcats, including seven 20-points-plus games. Also led Wesley Chapel in rebounds (8.5)
Pasco and Sunlake did not respond to requests for information on their team. Staff writer Rick Harmon can be reached at (813) 731-8135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at RickHPascoTrib.