Preseason Top 5
1. Berkeley Prep: The Buccaneers were one win away from reaching the final four last year and return their top player, Texas Tech-bound guard/forward Justin Gray, along with Marshal Holmes, Craig Bowman and Jacob Mathis.
2. Tampa Catholic: TC opens the season against Montverde Academy, the No. 1 team in the nation, and the tough schedule it plays should prepare Chivarsky Corbett, Sam Harris and Thomas Dziagwa for a state title run.
3. Wharton: The Wildcats reached the Class 8A final four last year and though they lost their top player in CJ McGill, they return center Chase Litton with a trio of players — Jack Taylor, Scott Sollazzo and John Christian — primed for breakout seasons.
4. Tampa Prep: Terrapins graduated two Division I players from last year's region final team, but with Juwan Durham, Michael Fridella and Yoni Wasser, Tampa Prep could see itself back in the final four.
5. East Bay: Under coach Billy Teeden, East Bay is now a program with playoff experience and return junior guard Jon Jean along with seniors M.J. Williams and Anton Crutcher from last year's district championship team.Others to watch: Brandon, Chamberlain, Jefferson, Newsome, Sickles
SCHOOLS: Alonso, Bloomingdale, Newsome, Plant, Riverview and Wharton
OUTLOOK: The amount of height in this district is overwhelming. Bloomingdale features 6-foot-10 center George Brammeier, who has signed with Lipscomb; Wharton, which reached the 8A state semifinals last season, will miss point guard CJ McGill, now at the University of Mobile, but 6-6 center Chase Litton will lead a new pool of talent; and Plant has 6-10 junior center Tyler Beale, who will complement 6-5 wingman Andrew Sanders. Alonso will miss Malachi Christopher, but returns 6-3 wingman Jahkeal Samuel.
SCHOOLS: Brandon, Durant, East Bay, Plant City, Strawberry Crest and Tampa Bay Tech
OUTLOOK: East Bay and Brandon battled for the district title last year, which the Indians captured, and should be the same story this season. The Indians will be led by junior guard and Division I recruit Jon Jean, while Brandon will arguably have the top frontcourt in the county with Roderick Davis and Kiefer Jefferson-Grimes. Junior guard Malik Channer be the focal point at Strawberry Crest, as will Terrance McGee and Jesse Coker for Durant. Seniors Chris Collins, Giovanni Diaz and sophomore Tavares Chase will try to turn around Plant City's 6-16 record from a year ago.
SCHOOLS: Freedom, Gaither, Steinbrenner, Sickles, Wiregrass Ranch
OUTLOOK: Senior Bryce Nickels, a 6-8 center who has signed with Youngstown State, comes to Sickles from Steinbrenner, where he averaged 13.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. Steinbrenner will still be a tough opponent with senior guard Ke'Shawn Ingram, an All-Western Conference selection who averaged 21.5 points and 4.0 assists per game last season.
SCHOOLS: Armwood, Blake, Chamberlain, Hillsborough, Jefferson, King, Lennard, Leto
OUTLOOK: Chamberlain begins a new era without Reggie Hart, a four-year starter who scored more than 2,000 points in his career. The Chiefs return eight of their top 10 players from last year's region semifinal team, namely Rashawn Fredericks. High-scoring point guard Caelen Watts led Lennard to its first playoff appearance last year and returns for his senior season, along with fellow-guard and senior Gary Hector. Armwood graduated top scorer Marcus Hill, who took the team to the region playoffs last season, so the Hawks will look to junior Devonte Myles. Jefferson went from 3-13 in 2012 to 7-12 last year under first-year coach Eric Hayes. The Dragons will field a solid starting five led by Maurice Moore. Senior Rashad Green will lead the charge at King.
SCHOOLS: Jesuit, Middleton, Robinson, Spoto
OUTLOOK: Jesuit captured the 5A state championship last year, but graduated its entire starting five. Stepping into new roles this season will be Daniel Darst, Brent Fenlon, Kyle Sahlsten and Christian Whidden for the Tigers. Robinson guard Cody Brown tore his ACL in last year's district tournament, but returns at full strength as the Knights leading scorer, along with 6-6 junior Travis Forehand, who averaged 8.8 rebounds last season.
SCHOOLS: Berkeley Prep, Sarasota Booker, Sarasota Military Academy, Tampa Catholic
OUTLOOK: We should expect a four-meeting series between Berkeley Prep and Tampa Catholic this season, with the victor of the region semifinal probably advancing to the state final four. Berkeley Prep won the district championship and region playoff matchup last season.
SCHOOLS: Bishop McLaughlin, Brooks-DeBartolo, Carrollwood, Seffner Christian and Tampa Prep
OUTLOOK: Tampa Prep routinely wins district championships under longtime coach Joe Fenlon, who has amassed 643 career wins. Seffner Christian has made seven straight playoff appearances under Roger Duncan. Aikeem Sims and Michael Obi will be a duo for Brooks-DeBartolo, which finished 15-8 last season. Junior Will Potosky, who averaged around 10 points per game last season, will be the top player for Bishop McLaughlin.
SCHOOLS: Academy at the Lakes, Cambridge Christian, Tampa Bay HEAT and Universal Academy
OUTLOOK: Academy at the Lakes junior Ethan Haslam, the coach's son, is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 17 points and 4.9 rebounds per game to lead the team to the 2A region playoffs. Cambridge Christian finished 17-8 last season yet missed the playoffs. The Lancers backcourt with Garrett Young and Trevor Smith will be the team's strong point. Tampa Bay HEAT and Universal Academy are first-year full members of the FHSAA.
SCHOOLS: Bayshore Christian, Canterbury, Citrus Park Christian, Keswick Christian, Lakeside Christian, Odessa Christian
OUTLOOK: Canterbury advanced to the playoffs as district runner-up last season. Bayshore Christian hasn't made the playoffs since 2008 and is coming off a .500 season at 12-12. The Faith Warriors will be led by Greg Johnson, Matthew Eckermann and Eric Davis.
5 Players to Watch
Chivarsky Corbett, Tampa Cath., senior, forward
The 6-foot-6 small forward, who has signed with Delaware, averaged a near double-double last season with 22 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Justin Gray, Berkeley Prep, senior, forward
A 6-5 wingman, Gray, who will play for Tubby Smith at Texas Tech next year, averaged 15 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a junior with 56 blocks while leading the Buccaneers to the region final.
Roderick Davis, Brandon, senior, forward/center
The 6-8 forward, who has signed with Wright State, led the Eagles with 13.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game last season en route to a 18-9 record and the state region playoffs.
Jon Jean, East Bay, junior, guard
Highly recruited player guided the Indians to a 21-6 record as a sophomore while averaging 14.2 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Juwan Durham, Tampa Prep, soph., forward
A MaxPreps All-American as a freshman, the 6-9 forward averaged 14 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season to help lead the Terrapins to the region final.
Five More to Watch
George Brammeier, Bloomingdale; Malik Channer, Strawberry Crest; Chase Litton, Wharton; Bryce Nickels, Sickles; Caelen Watts, Lennard