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February 25, 2013
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The FHSAA Boys Basketball Finals begins on Tuesday and once again the field is not lacking in talent.
Defending Mr. Basketball, Joel Berry of Orlando Lake Highland Prep, is back. He helped lead the Highlanders to the state championship game last year.
Now, his top-ranked team is back with some unfinished business. And a state title could help propel Berry to back-to-back individual honors which would make him the fifth in the 31-year history of the award to do so. He would join Brandon Knight, Nick Calathes, Steve Edwards and Chris Corchiani as repeat winners.
"I get to see him every day, so the biggest thing for me is that he makes everyone around him better," said head coach Jeff Turner, who starred at Vanderbilt and played for the Orlando Magic. "Obviously he scores, but he is second on our team in charges taken which to me is a great indication of his selflessness."
The junior, who became the first sophomore to win the award for Florida's best boys' high school basketball player, was injured midway through the season and missed eight games. His team went 3-5 without him. With him in the lineup, the Highlanders (22-5) were 19-0.
He is a true point guard and team leader. He can play defense, he can distribute (3.8 assists per game) and he can score (26.1 ppg).
"He has such a high basketball IQ and plays with great poise and confidence," said Turner.
As Sade would say, he's a "smooth operator."
The North Carolina commit will try to become the first player to win the award three years in a row.
A sleeper for the award could be playing against Berry in the 4A semifinals.
The 6-4 senior guard could make a big impression with a win over Berry and ensuing state title.
They play for the #2 team in the country and they were both selected to play in the McDonald's All-American game this year too. They are also ranked among the top players in the country.
However, Hill (Florida signee) and Johnson (Kentucky signee) don't have the numbers that Berry has put up because they play on such a good team where the balance of power is shared. Plus, Montverde Academy is not an FHSAA member school, so the pair won't be on display this week in Lakeland.
While Hill, Johnson or Orlando Dr. Phillips senior Rashawn Powell could win the Mr. Basketball award, there are many who feel that Berry is most deserving.
"Other coaches have told us that you can't really appreciate how fast and explosive he is until you see him in person," added Turner. "Several have marveled at the fact that he never forces shots."
2013 FHSAA Boys Basketball Finals
Tuesday, Feb. 26
10 a.m. - Class 1A Semifinal
11:30 a.m. - Class 1A Semifinal
2:30 p.m. - Class 2A Semifinal
4 p.m. - Class 2A Semifinal
7 p.m. - Class 4A Semifinal
8:30 p.m. - Class 4A Semifinal
Wednesday, Feb. 27
Noon - Class 3A Semifinal
1:30 p.m. - Class 3A Semifinal
4:35 p.m. - Class 1A Final
Thursday, Feb. 28
Noon - Class 6A Semifinal
1:30 p.m. - Class 6A Semifinal
4:35 p.m. - Class 4A Final
Friday, March 1
10:00 a.m. - Class 5A Semifinal
11:30 a.m. - Class 5A Semifinal
2:30 p.m. - Class 7A Semifinal
4:00 p.m. - Class 7A Semifinal
7:00 p.m. - Class 8A Semifinal
8:30 p.m. - Class 8A Semifinal
Saturday, March 2
10:05 a.m. - Class 5A Final