Almost tipoff time: Sabino, Scott and Kenny’s new look headline hoops preseason talk

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Camorie Washington and Keshawn Porter of Westside at High School 9:12 basketball media day at the Riverside YMCA on Tuesday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – High school basketball season is closing in.

The High School 9:12 basketball media day at the Riverside YMCA is one of the stops on the calendar that signal hoops season is right around the corner. Girls teams can begin practicing on Oct. 25, while boys teams open on Nov. 1.

Here are some of the sights and sounds from Tuesday’s event.

Great, Scott!

One of the big stories from media day was five-star girls guard Taliah Scott’s new threads.

As in, a new team.

After leading Oakleaf to the Class 7A state semifinals last season, she’s now at St. Johns Country Day. Talk about a big move for the Spartans, who now vault from a perhaps a one-round-deep playoff squad to an immediate state championship contender. Package Scott with a solid scorer in Mary Kate Kent and the Spartans have some significant scoring power.

Scott is ranked the ninth-best player in the country by HoopGurlz/ESPNW in the Class of 2023. She is rated the top overall player in Florida. For comparison on how strong of a ranking that is, consider that Ribault star Rennia Davis, the top area player of this era and first-round pick in the WNBA draft earlier this year, was a five-star who ranked 12th in the Class of 2017.

“I just like the fit. What the coaches view match what I view, our values were the same, so I just felt like it was a way better fit for me. And then just being over for the past month working out with the girls, I just get a great feeling being able to compete with them building all that chemistry,” Scott said. “It’s been really, really fun being over there.”

Scott averaged 23.4 points and 5 rebounds per game last season and also eclipsed the 1,000-career point barrier with the Knights. She’s got two more seasons in high school and then it’s on to college. A five-star prospect by ESPN, Scott has already committed to Arkansas. She said that decision came easy after seeing how the program was invested in her and laid out a plan for her to accomplish her goals in college and beyond.

“Every single game they [Arkansas’ coaching staff] were able to come to, the head coaches that always went to my games in the summer. Their playing style, how they viewed me and how they were going to use me. And they had a whole bunch of evidence that I could be great there, I could go to the WNBA, I can reach all my dreams just going there,” she said.

OP’s Sabino likes the thought of players staying local

Josiah Sabino, one of the top area recruits in the Class of 2022 and the only returning All-News4Jax first-team selection, said that he loved receiving an offer from Jacksonville University.

Sabino, a 6-4 guard, is coming off a season where he averaged 21 points and 7 rebounds a game.

“I feel that’s really, really, really important [to have local players stay in town]. A lot of these colleges around in Jacksonville don’t really pick up these Jacksonville kids,” Sabino said. “Jacksonville kids leave Jacksonville, some of the top, best players. I just feel like it’s really amazing that they’re coming back around to get some of the top players in Jacksonville.”

UNF has done a much better job under coach Matthew Driscoll at bringing in local players, but that could even out some.

New Dolphins coach Jordan Mincy stressed the importance of keeping the top talent in town — and bringing it back — when it comes to college. Mincy also added former Bishop Snyder star Gyasi Powell via transfer. Powell played his freshman season at Davis & Elkins College.

Same expectations for BK girls

The two-time All-News4Jax girls basketball player of the year is now in college at Miami.

The two-star system at Bishop Kenny of Maddie Millar and Jasmyne Roberts is down to one. Roberts graduated and Millar (12.9 career ppg, 39% 3-point shooter) is back for new coach Will Mayer. How will things change for the Crusaders, who have won four straight district titles and reached the state semifinals the last three seasons? Millar says don’t expect the results to look much different than they have in the past.

“It will be different. But I mean, besides Jas being gone, going to a new system like, whereas the past couple of years we always had plays to go to, this year we’re more of a run and gun team, we’re playing the dribble drive,” she said. “So, we’re going to be getting downhill a lot more and sharing the ball. So, I think it’ll be a different offense, but I think we’re just as strong this year as we were last year, so it should be fun.”

Pandemic in the rearview, but lessons learned

The 2020-21 season fell under the cloud cover of the pandemic and that remained a big topic of conversation on Tuesday.

This season feels a lot more normal. Masks were fewer, but still noticeable among players and coaches, but the COVID conversation had far more to do with what they learned after that season.

Put your head down and keep working, no matter what, said Stanton guard Andrew Anton.

Don’t take any game or even a practice for granted, said Ponte Vedra girls player Parker Peverley.

Fleming Island’s Serina Alderson said that COVID affected so much in sports that players just had to learn how to adjust and adapt. That mindset applies so much to daily life, too.

No Deebo, but ...

For the first time in four years, there’s only one Coleman on the West Nassau sideline.

That’s Warriors head coach Ran Coleman. His son, Deebo, the second-leading scorer in area basketball history and last year’s Mr. Basketball winner, is now at Georgia Tech.

Ran Coleman said that there’s a system in place to keep things flowing, even without Deebo in the lineup. The Warriors went 20-12 last season and reached the state semifinals before losing on a heartbreaking, last-second shot to Santa Fe.

Good trash talking

Of course, it wouldn’t be media day without some of the good-natured trash talking. One of the questions posed frequently to players was, “what team that isn’t on your schedule would you like to face?” The Orange Park boys and St. Johns Country Day girls were two popular answers, but West Nassau’s Jye Thompson gave a great answer.

“Ed White,” he said.

Why Ed White?

“Because they right there talking trash.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.