Not a FlaVarsity Premium subscriber? FlaVarsity costs just 27 cents a day and you get access to the entire Rivals.com network! To get a free seven-day trial, click here..
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.
California signee Sam Singer of Miami Ransom Everglades averages 27 points, 10 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game.
The 6-4 senior guard could make a big impression with a win over Berry and ensuing state title.
Then there's McDonald's All-American Chris Walker of Bonifay Holmes County in Class 1A. The 6-foot-9 Florida signee is one of the top power forwards in the nation.
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
West Gadsden (Quincy) vs. Union County (Lake Butler)
11:30 a.m. - Class 1A Semifinal
Hawthorne vs. Holmes County (Bonifay)
2:30 p.m. - Class 2A Semifinal
North Florida Educational Institute (Jax.) vs. Grandview Prep (Boca Raton)
4 p.m. - Class 2A Semifinal
Orlando Christian Prep vs. Westwood Christian (Miami)
7 p.m. - Class 4A Semifinal
Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) vs. Ransom Everglades (Miami)
8:30 p.m. - Class 4A Semifinal
East Gadsden (Havana) vs. St. Andrew's (Boca Raton)
Wednesday, Feb. 27
Noon - Class 3A Semifinal
Providence (Jacksonville) vs. Community School (Naples)
1:30 p.m. - Class 3A Semifinal
Florida Air (Melbourne) vs. Coral Springs Christian
4:35 p.m. - Class 1A Final
8:05 p.m. - Class 2A Final
Thursday, Feb. 28
Noon - Class 6A Semifinal
Gainesville vs. Miami Norland
1:30 p.m. - Class 6A Semifinal
Pine Forest (Pensacola) vs. Winter Haven
4:35 p.m. - Class 4A Final
8:05 p.m. - Class 3A Final
Friday, March 1
10:00 a.m. - Class 5A Semifinal
Palatka vs. American Heritage (Plantation)
11:30 a.m. - Class 5A Semifinal
Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) vs. Jesuit (Tampa)
2:30 p.m. - Class 7A Semifinal
Evans (Orlando) vs. Martin County (Stuart)
4:00 p.m. - Class 7A Semifinal
Bartow vs. Ely (Pompano Beach)
7:00 p.m. - Class 8A Semifinal
Wharton (Tampa) vs. South Miami
8:30 p.m. - Class 8A Semifinal
Hagerty (Oviedo) vs. Deerfield Beach
Saturday, March 2
10:05 a.m. - Class 5A Final
1:35 p.m. - Class 6A Final
5:05 p.m. - Class 7A Final
8:35 p.m. - Class 8A Final