Florida High School Basketball is Nothing to be Messed With
J Squared Hoops is all about getting out and interacting with diverse basketball communities outside of the NBA’s 30 teams. And thankfully, J Squared Hoops is based in Ocala, Florida, right in the middle of Florida’s basketball scene in cities like Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Miami. We feature nationally recognized teams like Montverde, IMG Academy, and the University School, all within a few hours of our headquarter city.
And beyond our location, we have another great resource in Florida that makes us such a great place to cover basketball: his name is Jake Perper. Jake Perper is a scout and a leader of the Florida division of Prep Hoops, the nation’s largest scouting service. He’s put together great events such as the FLPrepHoops Top 250 Expo and the SunBash Tournament, which is currently in its third year. Perper highlights players and is an amazing tool for basketball players in Florida, so we were excited to be invited to the Clearwater portion of the PrepHoops SunBash Tournament at Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, Florida. Here’s what we took away from our time at the SunBash!
To open the day, we were able to watch the IMG Academy Varsity Roster do their thing against the host school, Calvary Christian Academy.
This team isn’t the National Team that so frequently makes headlines for their insane dunks and college-level performances, instead, this was IMG’s second team, filled with more traditional high school players. But this is still IMG, so when we say traditional, we don’t mean your average 6’0″ Forward, we mean IMG traditional.
The team featured players like Eric Dailey Jr., Joey Murga, and Jahzarre Jackson, three superpower players who are making a name for themselves despite being on the National level.
Dailey Jr., whose father is Eric Dailey Sr., the owner of Dailey International training, is a 6’7″ sophomore who is beyond bouncy and is a skilled scorer, averaging well over 20 points throughout the tournament. He’s seen minutes on the National Team this season, mainly in the City of Palms tournament, where IMG’s National Squad made it all the way to the championship. In addition, he’s got offers from prestigious programs like Michigan and Florida, despite being only a sophomore. Murga is a senior at IMG, where he’s been featured on House of Highlights for his quiet bounce and nice feel for the game.
And then, there was Jahzarre “Jah” Jackson, the big fella who blew up this summer after playing AAU Basketball with Mikey Williams and Bronny James. As if playing with those players wasn’t enough, Jackson made headlines by announcing that he would begin his high school basketball career playing with the Ascenders at IMG, one of the nation’s best schools for developing raw talent like Jah’s.
Jackson is 7’0″ as a freshman and a casual friend of two of high school basketball’s most talked about freshmen. But while his former teammates are on ESPN and dropping 77 (we see you, Mikey), Jah has been putting in quiet work at IMG.
“This season is all about getting better,” Jackson said in an interview with J Squared Hoops, “sometimes you just have to block out all the noise and get better. That’s why I chose IMG and that’s what I want to do this season.”
And if he keeps up the work at IMG, he is on his way to getting much better.
But it wasn’t just the Ascenders that showed out on the tournament’s final day.
The two-bracket tournament style gave us a great opportunity to see two finals games, but one of them stood out in particular. The Bash Bracket finals matchup of Paxon (Jacksonville) and East Lake (Tarpon Springs). Both teams are the Eagles, and more importantly, both teams are top 20 teams in the state (19 and 6, respectively). With the stage set for a big game, we knew it was going to be a movie.
And it was, the Paxon Eagles came out strong behind some scoring from 6’6″ Forward Isaiah Adams, a UCF Commit whose athleticism was very obvious right from the jump.
But one man doesn’t win a game, and although Adams had some great help (think Michael Caswell’s poster), the East Lake Eagles were too well balanced to handle. They were led by Dionte Blanch, a Murray State commit whose 16 points were just a small showing of his fantastic scoring ability and leadership on the court. In the end, the East Lake Eagles took home the championship, winning 58-57 over Paxon.
Thank you to FLPrepHoops, Calvary Christian, and J Squared Hoops Photographer Efren Vasquez for all of their assistance with this event, and we hope to be present for the next one!