For the first time in the 25-year history of the annual Junior Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, there will be a European high school competing.
This year’s tournament, set for Friday, Saturday and Monday at Doral’s Reagan High, also features teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The European school is Gimnazija Bezigrad from Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the team boasts three top seniors – 6-3 point guard Jure Span, 6-4 shooting guard Jan Novak and 6-8 power forward Jan Dolensek. All three played for the Slovenia U-18 national team.
Two other players – 6-3 junior shooting guard Sandi Grubelic and 6-7 junior small forward Matej Kavas – played on the U-16 national team. In addition, the team has a promising young center in 6-10 junior Luka Pirc.
Among the teams expected to challenge the Slovenian side is South Miami (10-1), which is led by Winthrop recruit Joseph Lopez, a 6-6 forward. Lopez averaged 11.3 points and 10.1 rebounds last season, helping South Miami reach the Class 8A state final with a 28-3 record.
Some other noteworthy boys’ teams in the tournament:• Pembroke Pines Charter (8-1) is led by 6-5 junior shooting guard Haanif Cheatham, who has offers from Miami, FIU, Pitt, Alabama and others.
• Gonzaga (Washington D.C. ) is off to a poor start at 2-5 but is led by 6-7 senior forward Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof, who is a Cornell recruit, and 6-2 junior point guard Bryant Crawford, who has offers from UConn, Georgetown, Indiana and others.
• Bartow is also off to a slow start at 4-6 but is led by 6-1 senior point guard Derrick Brooks, who is a Wofford recruit, and 6-8 sophomore forward Tony Bradley, who has a dozen offers, including Miami, Tennessee and Auburn. Last season, Bartow made it to the state semifinals in Class 7A.
• Putnam City West (Oklahoma City, Okla.) is led by 6-2 senior point guard Omega Harris, who is a Texas-El Paso recruit. Putnam City West is off to a 4-2 start.
The boys’ schedule begins Friday at noon with Putnam City West against Mater Academy (9-1). The rest of Friday’s schedule has South Miami playing the Slovenian team at 1:30 p.m.; Bartow vs. Pembroke Pines Charter at 6:30 p.m.; and Gonzaga against American (6-4) at 8 p.m.
Among the girls’ team in the tournament, it may be tough to beat Miami High (15-0). The Stings return all five starters from the team that made it to last season’s Class 8A state final, including 6-3 junior center Beatrice Mompremier.
ESPN ranks Mompremier the nation’s fifth-best center in the Class of 2015.
Other girls’ teams of note:• Nova (11-2) is led by 5-7 senior guard Bernadette Devaney, a Lehigh recruit who averaged 15.2 points last season. Nova finished second in last season’s Class 7A state final.
MORE BOYS’ BASKETBALL• Palmetto 71, Miami Christian 64: PAL (6-4): Pubchara 23, Stewart 19, Wasser 12, Ehlies 10, Miller 4, Woodall 2, Molinares 1. MC: Vargas 25, Rodriguez 15, A. Lopez 8, Castellanos 7, Hicks 6, J. Lopez 2. Rebounds: Ehlies 9, Stewart 9. Assists: Wasser 5, Pubchara 5. Steals: Stewart 4. Blocks: Ehlies 2.
MORE GIRLS’ BASKETBALL
• Miami Country Day 68, Potter's House Christian 60: MCD (10-1): Mackenzie 1, Anyagaligbo 12, Lewis 21, Minott 29, Alvarez 2, Edwards 3. PHC: Norlan 1, Marcus 2, Thomas 8, Martin 20, Garrs 2, Swan 5, Jarrison 2, Boothe 20. Assists: Mackenzie 4, Lewis 4. Rebounds: Minott 12. Steals: Lewis 8.