Broward County, which led Florida with three boys’ basketball state titles last season, has a parade of stars and top teams yet again.
The three reigning state champs from Broward are Dillard (7A), Calvary Christian (5A) and Westminster Academy (4A). Those programs plus University School, Ely and Coral Springs figure to be among those chasing a title this season.
But any list of individual stars must start with Vernon Carey Jr., the son of the former Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman and NFL first-round pick.
Carey Jr., a 6-10, 240-pound forward at University, is amazingly skilled for a player his size and is ranked the No. 1 junior in the nation.
University coach Adrian Sosa is relying on Carey even more this season now that 7-1 center Balsa Koprivica has transferred four hours north to Windermere (Lake Butler).
Without Koprivica, who is the ninth-ranked junior in the nation, University will run more and could be even more dangerous.
“Losing Balsa hurts — it’s changed our style,” Sosa said. “With Balsa, we could just pound the ball inside.
“Without Balsa, it allows Vernon more space. Vernon is not your prototypical [big man]. We have him initiate pick-and-rolls. We’ve given Vernon the freedom to play point forward.”
Carey, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, recently tweeted out his eight college finalists: Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami, Michigan State, North Carolina and UCLA.
This past summer, Carey was named the MVP of the FIBA Americas Under-16 championships in Argentina as he led Team USA to the gold medal.
Carey led the Americans in scoring (14.0). Even more impressively, he did this in just 15.4 minutes per game while shooting 75.7 percent from the floor. He was also eighth in the tournament with 6.2 rebounds per game.
In the title game, Carey posted 19 points, five rebounds and four assists in a win over Canada.
Carey, who aspires to be like his favorite player, NBA star Kevin Durant, averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks for University last season.
University won its first district title since 2013 last season and won 20 games (20-7), but the Sharks could not get past Calvary, losing 51-46 in a 5A regional semifinal. Koprivica had a game-high 18 points, but Carey was held to 11 points and nine rebounds.
“It was a slow-tempo game,” Sosa said.
This season could be different.
First of all, Calvary graduated guard Jerald Butler, who signed, neatly enough, with Butler University; and 6-11 center Victor Uyaelunmo, who signed with Southern Cal. (Solomon Uyaelunmo, a 6-8 senior and Victor’s brother, is back for Calvary this season.)
University, meanwhile, has added talent. Yes, the Sharks lost Koprivica, but they have newcomers such as 6-3 senior guard Trey Doomes, who is a West Virginia recruit; 6-0 senior point guard Drue Drinnon, who signed with New Mexico, and 6-7 forward Scottie Barnes, the nation’s No. 8 sophomore who holds scholarship offers from LSU, Kansas, Miami, Oregon and Florida.
On Tuesday night, at the third annual HoopHall Invitational at AmericanAirlines Arena, University defeated talent-rich Gulliver Prep, 89-74.
Another team that looked good at Tuesday’s HoopHall event was Westminster Academy, which beat North Miami 72-69 in double overtime on a 60-foot shot at the buzzer by Zach Scott.
Westminster returns three starters from the team that finished 29-4 and won the 2017 Class 4A title: 6-4 senior point guard Zach Scott, 6-1 junior shooting guard Chase Johnston and 6-5 sophomore wing Dudley Blackwell.
Scott, who averaged 17.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.2 assists last season, signed with Florida Gulf Coast, which will graduate both its starting guards after this season.
Johnston made 103 three-pointers last season and could break state records for shooting before his career is over, according to WA coach Ehren Wallhoff.
Blackwell, who is top-60 in the nation in his class, already has an offer from Oklahoma State.
“Dudley is a special kid,” Wallhoff said. “He has raw athletic talent that separates him from the pack.”
AT a glance
Dec. 7-9: A-Rod Classic at Columbus. Dec. 23-30: Holiday tournaments. Dec. 28-30: Junior Orange Bowl Classic. Jan. 12-14: TOC MLK Classic. Feb. 6-10: GMAC and BCAA championships. Feb. 12-14, 16-17: Districts. Class 9A-5A Regional quarterfinals; 4A-1A regional semifinals. Class 9A-5A Regional semifinals; 4A-1A regional finals. March 2: Class 9A-5A regional finals. State final four at The Lakeland Center
2016-17 STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 9A: Kissimmee Osceola; 8A: Tampa Sickles; 7A: Dillard; 6A: Leesburg; 5A: Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian; 4A: Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy; 3A: Orlando Christian Prep; 2A: Miami Christian; 1A: Greensboro West Gadsden.
1. University School; 2. Calvary Christian; 3. Westminster Academy; 4. Dillard; 5. Blanche Ely; 6. Coral Springs; 7. McArthur; 8. Miramar; 9. Deerfield Beach; 10. American Heritage; Under consideration: Boyd Anderson, Cypress Bay, Pines Charter, Northeast, St. Thomas Aquinas.
NOTE: For complete team previews, click on the online version of this article at www.miamiherald.com/high-school
DEERFIELD BEACH (Coach Kenny Brown, 12th year at DB, 19th overall, 357-170). Last year: 21-9 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: G Lutelson Jerome, 6-5, Sr.; G Hansley Senatus, 6-2, Sr.; G Michael Johnson, 6-2, Jr.; PG Faizon Francis, 5-11, Jr.; G Jonathan Lemy, 6-1, Sr.; PG Corey Carpenter, 5-11, Sr.
WEST BROWARD (Coach Mike Bentivegna, 3rd year at WB, 24th overall). Last year: 14-11. Top players: N/A.
TARAVELLA (Coach Jerald Burley, 1st year). Last year: 9-13. Top players: G Donshay Christian, 6-0, Sr.; F Tyler McMillon, 6-5, Sr.; G Nicholas Chen, 6-3, Jr.; G Jordan Greene, 5-11, Jr.; G Kearney Robinson, 6-0, Jr.
SOUTH PLANTATION (Coach Cecil Avant, 4th year). Last year: 8-11. Top players: G Justin Canizares, 5-10, Sr.; G Travis Howard, 5-11, Jr.; F Dwight Harrison, 6-5, Sr.; G Montrez Thomas, 5-7, So.
PLANTATION (Coach Reginald Abaya, 2nd year, 1-18). Last year: 1-18. Top players: G Isaiah Coote, 5-11, Jr.; G Tayshawn Simeon, 5-10, Sr.; G-F Lleyton Kimbrough, 6-4, Jr.; G Christian Abaya, 5-9, Jr.; F-C Jayson Doricent, 6-4, So.
MCARTHUR (Coach Warren Gale, 6th year, 103-45). Last year: 20-12 (Regional finalist). Top players: G Jacob Narvaez, 6-3, Sr.; G-F Dave Francois, 6-5, Sr.; G Michael Labastille, 6-3, Sr.; G Isaiah Woodstock, 6-0, Sr.; F Nicholas Choi, 6-7, Sr.; F Jaden Lindsey, 6-8, Jr.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach Steve Strand, 22nd year, 389-163). Last year: 13-10. Top players: C-F Todd Novacek, 6-7, Sr.; G Lenny Ruca, 6-2, Jr.; F Joey Talbella, 6-5, Sr.; F Shane Hunter, 6-8, Jr.; G Joel Martinez, 5-11, Sr.; G AJ Taylor, 6-0, Jr.
AMERICAN HERITAGE (Coach Brent Maffett). Last year: 15-5. Top players: PG Samir Stewart, 6-0, Sr.; SG Damari Monsanto, 6-6, Jr.; SG Nick Backer, 6-1, Sr.; F-C Nate Johnson, 6-8, Sr.; PG Michael McBean, 5-7, Sr.
ARCHBISHOP MCCARTHY (Coach Michael Alvarez, 4th year, 52-27). Last year: 18-11 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: G Marquis James, 6-3, Sr.; G Christian Avila, 6-0, Sr.; PG Carlos Sone, 6-3, Sr.; G Remington Jean-Charles, 6-0, Sr.; F Bradley Aleime, 6-7, So.; G Daniel Enriquez, 6-1, Sr.
NSU UNIVERSITY SCHOOL (Coach Adrian Sosa, 6th year, 80-44). Last year: 20-7 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: F Vernon Carey, Jr., 6-10, Jr.; G-F Scottie Barnes, 6-8, So.; G Trey Doomes, 6-3, Sr.; G Drue Drinnon, 6-0, Sr.
CALVARY CHRISTIAN (Coach Cilk McSweeney, ). Last year: 24-6 (State champions). Top players: F Solomon Uyaelunmo, 6-8, Sr.; G Mick Lynott, 6-3, Sr.; F Tim Dalger, 6-6, Jr.; G Dexter Hamilton, 5-10, Jr.; G Alex Doane, 6-1, Jr.; .
PINE CREST (Coach Barry Connors, 3rd year at PC, 14th overall, 230-84). Last year: 17-8. Top players: F Mike Egozi, 6-4, Sr.; G Miles Polley, 5-10, Sr.; G Brian Anderson, 5-10, Jr.
CORAL SPRINGS CHARTER (Coach Alex Groothuis, 9th year, 93-77). Last year: 13-11. Top players: G Ivan Reynolds, 6-3, So.; F Ian Tajalli, 6-5, So.; G Justin Allen, 6-1, So.; G Thomas Quintero, 6-1, Jr.; G Nate Harvey, 6-0, Sr.
POSNACK (Coach Keith Feit, 1st year). Last year: 14-11. Top players: SG Joey Levy, 5-11, Sr.; F Joel Brandwein, 6-2, Jr.; C Bryce Daub, 6-5, Sr.; G Seth Wasserstrom, 5-9, Sr.
NOTE: Schools not listed did not return preseason forms to the Miami Herald.