The 2011 Kingdom of the Sun Tourney kicks off Monday December 26th and continues thru December 30th at Vanguard High School in Ocala. The tourney gives Gators fans a chance to see several high major 2012 signees such as Michael Frazier (Florida), Joel James (North Carolina), Derek Reese (Tennessee), Landry Nnoko (Clemson), Marcus Hunt (Georgia Tech) and others.
Gators fans that check out the action will also be able to check out Holmes County HS junior forward Chris Walker and Montverde Academy junior guard Kasey Hill.
As usual this event will feature talented players and well coached teams, and Inside the Gators will be on site with coverage. For now here's a preview of this year's Kingdom of the Sun Tourney:
Orlando - Olympia HS
The "Titans" return 5 starters off a 22-8 last season advancing to the regional semifinals. Coach Mark Griseck has been at the helm for 4 years compiling an 87-30 mark with an overall 11 year coaching mark of 241-88. This year's team is led by a senior laden group. 3 college signees will pave the way with 6'6" Marc-Eddy Noriela (Tulane University), 6'7" Derek Reese (University of Tennessee) and 6'5" Trey Griseck (University of Georgia). Solid guard play in returning veterans 5'11" TJ Johnson and 6'1" Jibril Smith round out the starting five. 6'7" Ramon Rivas adds depth to a tall frontline.
College Park, Georgia - North Clayton HS
The "Eagles" are coming into the Kingdom pre-season #6 in AAAA. The return 5 starters off a 26-4 quintet that advanced to the state tourney Elite 8. Coach Martisse Troup will rely heavily on 6'6" all-American Marcus Hunt who signed with the University of Georgia Tech and put up incredible stats averaging 26.2ppg and 13.2 rebounds. A balanced scoring attack with 4 other starters averaging double figures in 6'4" Jr. Devin Lewis (16.2ppg), 6' Jr. Stafan Bradley (15.2ppg), 6' Sr. Dionte' Agard (12.3 ppg)a transfer from Riverdale, and 6'5" Joseph Stevenson (10ppg). Depth comes from a senior laden bench.
Chandler, Arizona - Basha HS
The "Bears" are the first Arizona team to visit the Kingdom. Coach Brad Painter's quintet is ranked #2 in the state's Division 1 large school class. A trio of highly recruited juniors in 6'8" forward Torren Jones, 6'9" post Maurice Kirby, and 6'4" Jaron Hopkins. 6'1" Soph Nathan Markovich will be the floor general.
Tampa Catholic HS
The "Crusaders" are coming off a 4A state "final 4" appearance in Lakeland in 2011. They return 2 starters led by a pair of talented top 10 in the state sophomores in 6'5" (13 ppg - 5 rebounds) and 5'10" Isaiah Thomas (10 ppg - 8 assists). 6'2" Soph transfer Jio Molina will play the post. Coach Don Dziagwa enters his 21st year at TC compiling a 338-261. He just won his 400th game earlier this season. His high scoring up-tempo team defeated a good wiregrass ranch quintet 99-80. Team is very young with 5 sophomores in the top 8 players but possess a lot of speed and lack of height.
Orlando - Lake Highland Prep
Another 4A state power that is over loaded with youth and is coached by former Orlando Magic forward Jeff Turner. The "Highlander" finished 21-8 last season graduating five seniors, so they do lack varsity experience. They do have the state's #1 Soph sensation in 6'2" Joel Berry (14.5 ppg) and was named 1st team all-Central Florida as a Frosh. 6'8" Jr. Denzel Davis was injured most of last season but has raised his stock with the college coaches during summer. Another 6'5" Jr. in Lance Stokes adds depth to the front-line. 6'1" Jr. guard B.J. Simpson has been playing varsity since 8th grade and gives the team plenty of experience.
Ocala -Trinity Catholic HS
The 3A Celtics were 20-7 last season. Coach Matt Greathouse comes over from the Villages charter school to enter his first year at the helm. 6'5" Sr. Steve Sauey and 6'5" Sr. Robert Landt provide size on the front line with 6'3" Jr. Tim Sade.
Ocala - Lake Weir HS
Coach Mike Surber has been the head mentor of the "Hurricanes" for 18 seasons. His 2010-11 club went 18-9 capturing a district championship before losing in the state regional semifinals. The Canes will be led by Marion County's Player of the year 6'3" Sr. Diamante Lewis (21 ppg - 12 rebounds - 8.5 assists) A pair of upcoming sophomores in 6'4" Evans Moreau (5.5ppg) and 6'3" Eric Williams (9ppg - 8.5 rebounds) will be counted on heavily. 6' Sr. Matt Surber will run the offense.
The talented "Yellow Jackets" are coming off a 4A state championship run compiling a 28-4 record for first year coach Marcel Thomas. The Jackets return 6 of their top 9 players off the 2011 team led by Seniors 6'3" Joe Toolie and 6'4" D'Mauri Jones. 6'2" Jr. Undra Mitchem and 6'1" Trey Perry provide experience and new help comes in the form of 6'5" Soph transfer Troy Willis.
Montverde is ranked #10 in the nation pre-season by USA Today. Coach Kevin Boyle enters his 1st year as coach and has a powerhouse team led by the states' top guard tandem in 6' Jr. Kasey Hill who is a national rated the top underclassmen guard being recruited by all the college heavyweights and 6'4" Mike Frazier, who led the state in scoring as a sophomore and junior at Plant HS and signed with the University of Florida. The roster is highlighted by several D-1 signees loaded with size in 6'6" Patricio Garino, a top 5 wing shooter, heading to George Washington university, 6'9" Anthony Perez-Cortesia (University of Mississippi), and 6'10" Landry Nnoko (Clemson).
St. Augustine - Nease HS
The Panthers under Coach Scott Cooper will be making their 2nd appearance in the Kingdom. A trio of starters return led by 6'4" Sr. Jon Berens (11.5ppg), 5'8" Sr. Denzel Hayden (11 ppg-3 assists) and upcoming Soph 6'4" Blake McClain (8.3ppg - 6.6 rebounds).
Bonifay - Holmes County HS
This small school 1A power out of the Panhandle is a strong contender for a state title run. Coach Poe white has the #2 ranked Junior in the nation and top power forward in the sunshine state in 6'8" Chris Walker. 6' Sr. Jordan McAllister runs the show from the point guard. The "Blue Devils" will become stronger in January when 6'8" senior Jordan Tribble becomes eligible.
HS Citra - North Marion
The Colts under Coach Dave Waters are looking for another winning season after going 14-12 last season. 3 senior starters return in 5'8" floor general Travis Fletcher (13ppg - 3 assists) and the inside force of 6'4" Latrail Patterson (17.2 ppg - 15 rebounds) and 6'4" Javon Alexander (10ppg - 9 rebounds).
West Palm Beach - Dwyer HS
The Panthers not only captured the Kingdom title last season, but had an unbelievable run racing out to a 33-2 record capturing the 4A state title and being invited to the National "Elite 8" tourney losing in the national semifinals. Coach Fred Ross lost 56 points in senior offense that has to be replaced. The leader of the pack is 6'10" senior who signed with the University of North Carolina. Jones is a physical horse that averaged 8.3ppg and 6 rebounds. Joining Jones in the new lineup is a pair of seniors in 5'11" Delrionte Allen and 6'5" Tarus Heath plus a duo of juniors in 6'5" Daniel Decius and 6'3" Malik Brown.
The "Red Devils" make their 7th appearance in the tourney. This small school power from Levy County is coached by Steve Faulkner and will be led by 6'4" Jr. Trey Wilson and 6' Sr. Deterion Ross plus 6'3" Sr. Tamarick Thompson will add help inside and 6' Jr. Damien Strange adds firepower on the perimeter.
Pompano Beach - Ely
The Tigers come in as the #2 team overall in the state rankings by Source Hoops. Coach Melvin Randall's team is spearheaded by a vastly improved 6'5" Sr. Clide Geffrard and has some additional size in 6'7" Sr. Derek Walker and 6'7" Jr. Khalil Thomas. 6' Sr. Benji Bell will direct the offense
Ocala - Vanguard HS
The "Knights" under 3rd year Coach Phillip Small return only 4 players from last year's squad. The team will be led by super quick 5'8" senior point guard Marquee Lattimore, lone returning starter 6'3" junior scorer Raheem Freeman, and surprise newcomer 5'8" sophomore Princeton McQuay. Team quickness and chemistry plus defense and solid perimeter play are assets for this young quintet.