Of all the burning questions surrounding the upcoming boys’ basketball season, few loom larger than Miami Norland’s bid for a state title three-peat and who will become Sagemont’s go to player after the addition of high profile transfers Prince Ali and Lance Crawford.
Some of those answers should come at the Tournament of Champions/R.M.F Magazine Back 2 School Classic which tips off Friday at Miami Central High School.
When it comes to star power look no further than Ali, a high flying 6-3 swingman and Norland’s Zach Johnson, an explosive 6-2 combo guard who was named 2012-13 Class 6A State Final Four MVP.
With Johnson, the R.M.F Magazine Class of 2014 No. 1 prospect, and 6-10 forward Dewn Huell, the RMF 2016 No. 1 prospect headlining five returning starters, Norland appears a virtual lock for a return trip to the State Final Four where coach Lawton Williams boasts a perfect 8-0 record in four appearances.
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Johnson, who worked out for LaSalle and FSU on Thursday, said he will take on a more vocal leadership role after being fully acclimated to Williams’ system which stresses defense, maximizing possessions and structure.
“I am much more comfortable this season,’’ Johnson said. “I was learning a new system last year. I just want to pick up what I did last year and keep it going. Everybody is improved. I think this team can be a beast defensively. We should have a good shot at repeating.”
Johnson and the Vikings take center stage Saturday at 7 when they face a Dillard team expected to close the gap on playoff nemesis American Heritage this season. Dillard, led by 6-6 forward Cedric Wright, appears reinvigorated by added backcourt depth and the high energy play of 6-5 Bahamian transfer Keion Farrington.
Ali’s high wire act will be on display Saturday at 3 against Miami Beach and then at 9 p.m. against the host Rockets.
Zion Lutheran, one of the biggest surprises last season with a run to its first Class 2A Regional Finals, steps into the spotlight Friday at 7 when 6-8 All-state forward Keith Stone displays his unique ability to play all five positions against perennial state power South Miami.
An intriguing matchup unfolds Saturday at 1 when Palm Beach Dwyer, led by 6-6 bookends Alex Davis and Cedric Quince faces 4A power Gulliver Prep. The Raiders are excited about surrounding 6-11 newcomer Chinedu Vincent Uyaelunmo, R.M.F. No. 2 in 2017, with key returnees Enrique LaFuent, Antiono Ralat and Marc Chasin.