Basketball season is upon us, ladies and gentlemen, and with it comes the Observer basketball preview.
The girls season tipped off a week ago, and some teams — such as Brian Rizo’s West Orange squad — already are winning early and often. Meanwhile, many boys teams around the area got their regular season going this week at the inaugural Metro Hoops Fest in Apopka.
The following is a look at the upcoming season and what to look out for when it comes to the area’s talented programs.
Head coach: Andrew Gustafson
2019-20 record: 22-8
Key players: Nick Rodriguez, Imanuel Zorgvol
Key losses: Riley Kugel, Jajuan Preaster, Nicolas Silva
Quick hit: CFCA lost its most talented player — Riley Kugel — to transfer (Dr. Phillips), and will have a largely new lineup this season. The region runner-up will have talent, though, especially in senior 7-footer Manuel Zorgvol.
Head coach: Blessing Freeman
2019-20 record: 9-9
Key players: Talia Kemp, Aubrey Satterfield
Key losses: N/A
Quick hit: First-year head coach Blessing Freeman made the move from Legacy to CFCA this year and is looking to lead the Eagles to a successful 2020-21 season.
Head coach: Ben Witherspoon
2019-20 record: 20-8
Key players: Riley Kugel, Ernest Udeh, Denzel Aberdeen
Key losses: Abdoulaye Thiam, Juneau Anicette
Quick hit: Last year, the Panthers won the Class 7A, District 3 title and made a deep run into the state playoffs in head coach Ben Witherspoon’s first year. Now, DP enters the season a favorite in Class 7A thanks to a loaded group of players who have everything in place to make it a special season.
Head coach: Anthony Jones
2019-20 record: 14-13
Key players: Mykiah Presley, Skylar Thompson
Key losses: N/A
Quick hit: Dr. Phillips’ girls team was a young team last year (the team had no seniors), which means the Panthers return their core lineup — allowing head coach Anthony Jones to have some consistency to improve on last season’s 14-13 record.
Head coach: Nathaniel Hughes
2019-20 record: 10-17
Key players: Braden Holcomb, Danny Stutsman
Key losses: Joshneil Orys, Parrell Ittai
Quick hit: It was an up-and-down 2019-20 season for the Lions, but the good news is they return a big chunk of their talent from last season, as multi-sport standouts Braden Holcomb (13.7 points per game) and Danny Stutsman (11.3 points per game) return to the court.
Head coach: Krystal Thomas-Smith
2019-20 record: 14-5
Key players: Chelsey Bryant, Zoe Sedo, Landry Wolverton
Key losses: Aliyah Perry
Quick hit: Former head coach Deborah Pinnick has handed over the program’s reins over to former WNBA player Krystal Thomas-Smith, and she has inherited a talented team that won the district title last year. Through two games so far, Zoe Sedo leads the team with 16.5 points per game, while Chelsey Bryant has 13.5.
Head coach: Russell Hunt
2019-20 record: 7-13
Key players: Noah Velasquez
Key losses: Jacob Worley, Eli Post
Quick hit: The Eagles lose their top two scorers in Jacob Worley and Eli Post but do return senior Noah Velasquez — who last year year averaged about 13 points per game.
Head coach: Patrina Freeman
2019-20 record: Did not field a team
Quick hit: Last season, Legacy failed to field a girls team, but this year, the Eagles look to take off under first-year head coach Patrina Freeman.
Head coach: John “Sarge” Siers
2019-20 record: 22-8
Key players: Johnny Taylor Jr., Christian Chambers
Key losses: Kordell Brown, David Green, Sadeem Blake
Quick hit: Ocoee had its best season in school history last year as the Knights made a run to the Region 1 final — where they lost to eventual state runner-up Seminole. This year John “Sarge” Siers is without a lot of the talent from last season’s team, but has a squad of juniors and seniors looking to leave their mark at the school.
Head coach: Marcus Spencer
2019-20 record: 10-12
Key players: Reese Bellamy, Daisha Christie, Bethlehem Ruttell
Key losses: Jahnecia Charles, Chakiya Scott
Quick hit: Longtime Ocoee Middle girls coach Marcus Spencer takes over a program that has been looking for stability for a good while now, and he will have girls such as Reese Bellamy and Bethlehem Ruttell to help him rebuild the program.
Head coach: Rob Gordon
2019-20 record: 15-11
Key players: Tyeree Bryan, Jackson Dillon
Key losses: Julian Fletcher, Edgerrin James Jr.
Quick hit: After finishing 6-21 in the 2018-19 season, last year was a big improvement for the Titans — they finished with a winning record (15-11). Now, head coach Rob Gordon hopes to continue improving on last season’s progress and make some noise at the Class 7A level.
Head coach: Gina Solano
2019-20 record: 10-14
Key players: Danielle Dupuis, Aysia Collins
Key losses: Chenoa Johnson, Deaira Keaton
Quick hit: Olympia has not recorded a winning record since the 2016-17 season, but the Titans are looking to make some progress in Year Two under head coach Gina Solano in what she called a rebuilding year for the Titans.
Head coach: Chris Mayberry
2019-20 record: 15-12
Key players: Jayden Battle, Sean Johnson
Key losses: Kam Summers, Alex Shields
Quick hit: TFA lost two of its top three scorers from last season but return leading scorer Jayden Battle — who last year averaged 15.6 points per game for the Royals.
Head coach: Matt Grant
2019-20 record: 13-8
Key players: Sariah Johnson
Key losses: Alexis Martin, ShaRiya Davis, McKenzi Neal
Quick hit: For the fifth consecutive year, the Royals finished above .500, but this season, TFA will play without its top scorer and rebounder on the court. Luckily, the Royals return a talented eighth-grader in Sariah Johnson.
Head coach: Eric Jones
2019-20 record: 17-12
Key players: Mike McCalister, EJ Yorke, Jalen Debose
Key losses: Garrison Smith
Quick hit: West Orange looks to progress this season after going 17-12 in the 2019-20 season, and it’s easy to believe the Warriors will do just that behind leading scorer and rebounder Mike McCalister (17.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG) and Windermere transfer EJ Yorke — who led the Wolverines last year in scoring with 19.4 points per game.
Head coach: Brian Rizo
2019-20 record: 16-11
Key players: Ajalon Gillard, Lakada Bryant
Key losses: Camryn Siemer, Paris Pickett
Quick hit: West Orange may have lost its leading scorer and assist woman in Camryn Siemer, as well as Paris Pickett, but the Warriors still return talent this season — especially in senior co-captain Lakada Bryant.
Head coach: Mark Griseck
2019-20 record: 21-9
Key players: Trey Moss, Kanye Jones
Key losses: EJ Yorke, Darrel Armstrong Jr.
Quick hit: The Windermere basketball program has been a consistent power since the school opened in 2017, and that trend will continue this year as the Wolverines return two Division I signees in the talented Trey Moss and Kanye Jones. Last season, Windermere finished as region runner-up, but expect another big year from the Wolverines.
Head coach: Misty Cox
2019-20 record: 19-6
Key players: Abigail Crain, Ashley Vargas
Key losses: Kayla Green
Quick hit: Last season, the Windermere girls team was the best in the area, thanks in large part to point guard Abigail Crain — who led the team in points per game (16.3) and steals per game (3.6).
Head coach: Brian Hoff
2019-20 record: 27-4
Key players: Elijah Hulsewe, Zavien Williams, Gabriel Ferguson
Key losses: Fanbo Zeng, Jouldan Velez
Quick hit: Leading scorer and recent Gonzaga commit Fanbo Zeng won’t be making it back to the states to play this season; the ongoing pandemic will keep him stuck in his homeland of China for the time being. Regardless, the Lakers will have plenty of big talent — literally — in Elijah Hulsewe (6-11) and Lake Highland Prep transfer Gabe Ferguson (6-7).
Head coach: Radhika Miller
2019-20 record: 7-9
Key players: Madison Workman, Olivia Ikeda, Grace Anderson
Key losses: N/A
Quick hit: First-year head coach Radhika Miller takes over a program that returns its entire core of players, including senior combo guard Madison Workman — who led the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game.