Using the physical dribble-drive that even got the better of NBA star John Wall at the Reebok U camp, Miami Norland High guard Zach Johnson has few equals getting to the rim.
Coral Springs Christian 6-7 star power forward Nura Zanna uses his quick leaping ability, nifty footwork and strength to exert his dominance around the basket.
Johnson and Zanna, two of the most explosive players inside the paint, will be front and center when reigning Class 6A state champion and FABC/Sourcehoops No. 1 Norland (15-3) meets Class 3A No. 9 Coral Springs Christian (13-6) in a marquee Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys’ Basketball Classic matchup at Miami Central on Saturday.
Lawton Williams, Norland’s three-time state champion coach, said that while Johnson (team-leading 13.5 points per game) gets a crash course in the point guard position since transferring from Miramar, Johnson’s lethal dribble-drive game will keep opponents on their heels.
“Most teams play us zone because of Zach’s explosiveness,” Williams said. “He has a knack to take a foul and still finish around the rim.
“You can’t teach that. When he gets out in the open court, it is scary. He is easily one of the best athletes I have ever coached.”
Norland will try to cool down a red-hot Zanna with a deep frontcourt led by 6-9 Dewan Huell, 6-7 Tyrell Williams and 6-6 Maljhum McCrea.
In a loud answer to the state individual rankings, which incredulously has Zanna the No.24 senior prospect in Florida, the Long Island University-bound Zanna is playing with a chip on his shoulder and has emerged as a leading Class 3A Player of the Year candidate.
Perhaps no stat showed Zanna’s willingness to mix it up inside than the 28 free-throw attempts he had in a career-high 40-point, 12-rebound performance against Class 8A No. 5 Orlando Dr. Phillips at the Kingdom of the Sun Tournament.
Zanna made believers out of Class 3A No.2 Sagemont on Wednesday, fueling a 50-49 come-from-behind overtime victory with a game-high 26 points and 15 rebounds, including the winning three-point play with 4.6 seconds left.
“Most players don’t like contact,” Zanna said. “That is what separates me. I like doing the dirty work and drawing contact. I’m more serious this season. I want people to know I’m here to dominate and play this game. I’m not here to mess around and make jokes.”