Lake Howell Silverhawks: Rapidly approaching 500 career wins, Steve Kohn continues to develop great teams and talent at Lake Howell. The Silver Hawks will be very inexperienced this season with only 1 returner. That returner, Brandon Maxwell is a 2-year starter who will be well-recruited over the next 2 seasons and will put up big numbers this year.
Lake Region Thunder: Only 1 returner for the Thunder, but head coach Tyrhon Crawford (former head coach at Boone and Evans) is excited about his core of young players who he believes by the end of the year can make noise in their 7A district. As always, Crawford’s club will be aggressive defensively and uptempo offensively and the club’s depth will be a key for success.
Mainland Buccaneers: Mainland brings a young (only 3 seniors), but talented club to the Shootout. The leader for the Bucs is talented Cameron Hadley, an undersized scorer who is among the best small guards in central Florida. Juniors Turon Hough, Craig Wilmore, Greg Smith and Kendal Gaddy all will be counted on by coach Landis McCoy to have quality seasons.
Mount Dora Bible Bulldogs: Coming of a 20-6 record a year ago and returning their top 10 players, coach Steve Hayes’ club could have a monster season. The Bulldogs are led by highly touted junior Zac Ward, senior Josh Ellis both of whom averaged nearly 20 points per contest the past 2 seasons. They are joined by talented newcomer 6’5 Trey Hall. MDB opened their season Monday night with a 73-35 trouncing of Tavares.
Oak Ridge Pioneers: One of central Florida’s best stories, the 7A state runner-ups return 8 players including sensational junior Marquel Willis, one of the state’s best. Senior guards DaVante Lewis and Franklin Mendez are both being well-recruited as well, and coach Alex Jackson’s team will once again be one of the most intense, physical clubs in all of Florida.
Ocoee Knights: Last year’s rebuilding season for coach Rob Gordon and the Knights will pay dividends as every key member returns this season. Leading the way are multi-talented Lavius Rosemond, tough, undersized Aundre Carty and shooting guard Jon Romero. Great depth will help Ocoee, as David Efianayi, Tommy Kirkpatrick, Jamarcus James and Grant Riller all should be a part an Ocoee resurgence this year.
Olympia Titans: After graduating its top 6 players from a year ago, the Titans reload behind the talent of 6’7 senior forward Juan Rivas, and 6’1 senior guard Hamilton Hawkins, both of whom are in the eyes of college scouts. Coach Mark Griseck’s club will once again be a factor in District 8A-3 as he develops 8 talented underclassmen during the season.
Osceola Kowboys: 5 players return for Osceola from their club that went 15-9 a season ago. Josh Antoine and Alain Allard are both returning starters, while Tre Perry and Alex Forde also should shine for Coach Nathan Alexander and the Kowboys.
Rockledge Raiders: Perennial Brevard county power Rockledge brings back 5 returners from last season’s Sweet 16 berth. Leading the way for Coach Logan Keith’s club is senior Tymon Enwereama and junior Jonathan Johnson, while sophomore post player Sid Ferrell has great upside.
Timber Creek Wolves: Head coach Ron Schadegg seeks to put together another winning season for Timber Creek despite losing 7 seniors to graduation from a 19-9 season a year ago. Senior point guard Exor Torres and 6’4 senior Nick Sumter will be counted on as returning experienced players to help lead the way, while newcomers Steven Rodriguez, Donald Gilbert and Clint Lavardera are expected to have an impact this year.
University Cougars: Coach Billy Owens has been developing his Cougars for 4 years and this year’s club is one of central Florida’s best. Possessing one of Florida’s best group of perimeter players, seniors Deniro Mercurius and Elijah Mays, junior Tristan Owens and sophomore Joshua Raoul all are extremely dangerous shot-makers for a team that literally can shoot its way to Lakeland.
Wekiva Mustangs: Possessing a great blend of inside-outside talent, the Mustangs hope this is the year for their first extended postseason run. Senior shooter Joshua Filmore (Southeastern Louisiana) is joined by a pair of junior standouts, 6’8 Willie Carmichael and do-everything Nathan Powell, while senior guard Jabari Grant is an unknown weapon. Coach Scott Williams’ club has learned to compete with the big boys, but they now hope to be able to finally beat them!
West Orange Warriors: Already facing the loss of 4 starters from its Elite 8 team a year ago, the Warriors lost talented 6’6 Lucas Morales for at least part of the season (ACL) but will still possess great talent in offensive-rebounding monster Will Richardson, and shooters Jayr Perkins and Garrett Befera. Coach Eric Jones’ club will maintain its aggressive, exciting style of play again this year.
Winter Park Wildcats: Still seeking its identity after a historic run behind the play of NBA rookie Austin Rivers, the Wildcats believe they will be a playoff contender due to their collection of talented guards. Jay Wimbley, Kyle Brown, Will Ferrell and James McLean all will play valuable roles for coach David Bailey this year.
Buddy Collings is a senior sports writer covering high schools for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.