Berkeley Prep's 53-43 victory over Wharton in the Tampa Bay Basketball Coaches Association summer league tournament final brought an end to four weeks of intense action from 24 county teams - public and private - along with Pinellas' Clearwater Central Catholic. Here's what we learned this summer, with an eye toward the upcoming season (Note: class listed is for '07-08):
By Bryan Burns
Published June 30, 2007
Starting five (the Times' TBBCA all-league team):
Sheldon Cooley, Jr., Plant The engine that makes the Panthers go, Cooley again will be one of the county's top scorers.
Derrick Holmes, Sr., Wharton Doesn't put up huge point totals but has above-average skills in all facets of the game.
Zak Kazanski, Sr., Berkeley Prep His midrange scoring ability separates Kazanski from the rest of Berkeley Prep's scorers.
Adam Sollazzo, Sr., Armwood The 6-foot-5 point guard can drive to the basket and score from beyond the arc.
Tarron Stewart, Sr., Brandon Possibly the quickest player in the county.
Five things we learned:
1. Class 3A Berkeley Prep is the best county team across all classes entering the 2007-08 season. With five starters capable of scoring in double figures, the Bucs have the best shot of breaking the county's 12-year state title drought. The last team to win it all was Tampa Catholic in 1995.
2. Wharton, despite losing Times' player of the year Shawn Vanzant along with Anthony Gomez, Adam Noble and Leonard Simmons to graduation, should defend its de facto status as the best public school in the county. Time will tell whether the Wildcats have the goods to advance to the school's first state final four.
3. Sickles might not have a lot of household names, but the Gryphons did grind out eight wins in 13 games behind a solid defense. Sickles again will factor heavily in the Class 6A-7 district race and appears to be a solid pick to reach its fourth-straight playoff appearance.
4. While not quite as good as last year's state final four squad, Tampa Prep should be tough in Class 2A again. In its tournament quarterfinal against Plant, the Terrapins were missing three starters, including leading scorer David Waller, but trailed by just two points with possession of the ball in the closing seconds of a hard-fought 46-40 loss.
5. Brandon has a ton of talent. Guards Blake Allen and Stewart, along with forwards Evan Ravenel and Marcus Morrison could wind up playing on the next level. Whether that talent can come together and the Eagles can play within themselves will determine their fate.
Five teams on the rise:
Berkeley Prep Kind of hard to improve on a district championship and region semifinal appearance, but with its top four scorers returning, the Bucs will aim even higher this season.
Sickles The Gryphons looked like a team with plenty of potential in their 41-32 victory over Chamberlain in the tournament semifinals. Sickles' defense held the Chiefs scoreless in the first quarter of that game.
Armwood First-year coach Jeff Pafunda inherits a hard-working group with a couple of stars in Sollazzo and Jared Paul. Forward Cornelius Fowler gives the Hawks three legitimate scoring threats.
King Won eight games behind the play of junior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who should command plenty of attention from college recruiters this season and next.
Spoto The Spartans won just twice last season but doubled that total with four wins this summer.
Five underrated players:
Jared Paul, Sr., Armwood A part-time starter at Brandon who averaged 7.8 points a game last season for the Eagles, Paul transferred to Armwood for his final season, giving the Hawks an accurate, dependable outside shooter to complement Sollazzo.
Johnathan Gray, Jr., Berkeley Prep Overshadowed by prolific scorers like Kazanski and 6-5 guard/forward Austin Suarez, Gray, a terrific shooter himself from beyond the arc, always seems to hit buckets when the Bucs need them most.
Chris Jean-Louis, Sr., Wharton Talented point guard equally comfortable distributing and scoring, as evidenced by his team-high 17 points in Wharton's tournament final loss to Berkeley Prep.
Alex Doyle, Sr., Tampa Catholic Jesuit transfer can, at 6-8, get plenty of points in the post and also displays a soft shooting touch from 3-point range.
Callum Townsend, Jr., Bloomingdale Not shy about pulling the trigger, Townsend can score and score often, as seen in his 29-point effort against Tampa Catholic.