Survey says! Area hoops players dish out answers on best teams, today’s issues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We’re past the midway point of the high school basketball season and now’s the perfect time to unveil what players said before the year began.

News4JAX handed out surveys in the preseason to select area players at media day and polled them on a number of questions. A total of 44 boys players and 51 girls turned in surveys.

Who is the best boys basketball player in the area?

8: G Josiah Sabino, Orange Park.

Thoughts: No surprise. Sabino has cracked the 1,000-career point mark and is the highest-rated local recruit in the class of 2022. He’s averaging 22.1 points per game for the Super 6 No. 6 Raiders (14-2) and has signed with Jacksonville University. The only other players to receive more than one vote were Episcopal G Mark Flakus, Baldwin G Bryant Foster, Paxon G Abraham Garjah and Nease F Logan Ryan.

Who has the best boys basketball team in the area?

6: Jackson; 3: Baldwin, Episcopal, Matanzas, Nease.

Thoughts: The Tigers (14-2) have gone to three consecutive state semifinals under coach James Collins and played for two championships. He’s built a consistent machine on Main Street. They’re ranked No. 1 in the News4JAX Super 6 and a good pick to once again play on down into Lakeland. At 13-4, Nease is the best among the four second-place teams.

What is the biggest issue facing high school athletes today?

9: Social media; 8: Grades; 6: Focusing on school and sports; 4: Lack of exposure and overconfidence/selfishness.

Thoughts: Social media has popped up throughout these surveys over the years and remains a blessing and a curse for high school athletes. The No. 2 and 3 answers almost a dovetail when talking about schoolwork and the ability to balance the sports and academic workload. Not making the top five, but an eye-opening response from three players was the topic of depression.

Which team that isn’t on your schedule would you like to face?

5: Paxon; 4: Bishop Snyder, Orange Park, Providence.

Thoughts: The Golden Eagles (15-1) broke in to the Super 6 this week and have lost just once this season. Private schools Snyder and Providence are very good teams, and the allure of facing Sabino landed the Raiders on the list.

Who are your favorite college and NBA teams, and a player who you look up to or model your game after?

College: 8: Duke; 6: Florida State; 5: Florida.

NBA: 10: Lakers; 4: Celtics; 3: Heat.

Player: 6: LeBron James; 4: Paul George; 3: Sharife Cooper, Kevin Durant.

Thoughts: The Blue Devils and Lakers are basketball royalty. LeBron is LeBron. A bit surprising that Kobe Bryant didn’t draw more interest, mentioned just twice by boys players, as many times as Larry Bird was.

Who is the best girls basketball player in the area?

19: G Taliah Scott, St. Johns Country Day; 3: G Ayanni Noisette, Westside.

Thoughts: I’ve been doing these surveys since 2012, always in football. I’ve never seen a margin this wide when asking for the area’s top player. Athletes pick themselves or a teammate. This speaks to the type of player Scott is. She’s averaging a robust 32.3 points per game and a consensus five-star recruit who is committed to Arkansas. Scott is only a junior and her ceiling is as high as any area player in recent history.

St. Johns Country Day's Taliah Scott (2) and Mary Kate Kent (15) at high school basketball media day. (News4JAX)

Who has the best girls basketball team in the area?

11: Oakleaf; 7: Orange Park; 6: Jackson.

Thoughts: The Knights played in the state semifinals a season ago. When we polled players, not many of them knew that Scott, voted the area’s best player, had transferred to St. Johns Country Day. Oakleaf is 5-9 this season. The Raiders, led by Eris Lester (19.9 ppg), are 14-5 and very good. The Tigers won the Gateway Conference on Friday night.

What is the biggest issue facing high school athletes today?

8: COVID-19; 6: Selfishness, Social media; 4: Girls basketball not being given the same treatment as boys.

Thoughts: The coronavirus pandemic is still cause for concern for area athletes. Game cancellations are still happening all over the place. Social media is once again mentioned. Selfishness is interesting. That was also mentioned by the boys. So, too, is the equity issue about girls basketball not being treated the same as boys. We saw that on a national scale during the last NCAA basketball tournament. Fewer girls trying out and playing the game was fifth with three votes. Depression was also mentioned once.

Which team that isn’t on your schedule would you like to face?

7: St. Johns Country Day; 5: Fleming Island, Orange Park; 4: Jackson.

Thoughts: The Spartans, a Class 2A program, get the nod here because of Scott. Teams want a shot at facing the area’s best player.

Who are your favorite college and NBA teams, and a player who you look up to or model your game after?

NBA: 5: Lakers; 4: Rockets, Warriors.

WNBA: 2: LA Sparks, Washington Mystics.

College: 9: South Carolina; 5: UConn

Player: 9: Candace Parker; 4: Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry; 3: Paige Bueckers.

Thoughts: The Lakers make it a clean sweep among boys and girls players. The Gamecocks are a runaway pick on the college ranks. And the iconic Parker was the easy choice here.

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.