Five teams, five players to watch in 2022-23

The high school boys’ basketball scene in the Gainesville area enjoyed tremendous success last season as a handful of programs made deep runs in the state playoffs—and a local team won a state title.

Looking at the talent some of the area’s programs will be putting on the hardwood this season, it looks like another exciting season is coming.

Last year’s big school all-area team: Santa Fe’s Don’Trell Jenkins is Major School Player of the Year

Last year’s small school all-area team: Hawthorne’s CJ Ingram is Little School Player of the Year

But before the season gets into full swing, here are five teams and five players to watch.

Teams to watch

Gainesville hurricanes

LAST SEASON: 17-10, second place district

COACH: Mike Barnes

DISTRICT CLASSIFICATION: 2-6A

WHAT TO CHECK FOR: The Hurricanes will be on top form as they speak this season. Gainesville returns its top five leading scorers as Theo Stephens (17.7 PPG), SJ Westbrooks (8.7 PPG), Seth Childers (8.2 PPG), Vontrell Hankison (5.6 PPG) and Jordan Bodie (5.4 PPG ) all back as seniors. As the ‘Canes graduated RJ Hines, they added senior Appalachian State signer Josh Haynes to the mix. Stretching 6-foot-9, Haynes will give Gainesville a huge boost in paint — an area where hurricanes struggled last winter.

Hawthorne hornets

LAST SEASON: 11-5, district champions, state semifinalist

COACH: Greg Bowie

DISTRICT CLASSIFICATION: 6-1A

WHAT TO CHECK FOR: Like Gainesville, Hawthorne will be in good form at the start of the season as the Hornets bring back their top three scorers, including the Gainesville Sun’s Small School Player of the Year, sophomore CJ Ingram. Ingram, who has been busy helping Hawthorne’s football team through the playoffs as quarterback, plays an equally important role on the basketball team. Last season, Ingram led Hawthorne to the 1A title game with averages of 14.7 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game and 5.7 assists per game. Hawthorne is also looking for senior Jailen Ruth, who stretches 6-3, and serves as the Hornets’ strength in the paint, averaging 9.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG last season.

PK Yonge Blue Wave

LAST SEASON: 18-10, second in the district

COACH: Boderick Johnson

DISTRICT CLASSIFICATION: 2-3A

WHAT TO CHECK FOR: The Blue Wave took a hard hit when Al Pinkins, a former Florida men’s basketball assistant and the father of Patton Pinkins, got a new gig at Texas Tech and his son came with him. As a freshman last season, Pinkins led the Blue Wave with 18.3 PPG. PK Yonge will also have to do without last season’s second top scorer, Jordan Richardson, who moved to Buchholz. But not all hope is lost for the Blue Wave, which brought in some new faces to make up for the losses. PK Yonge added senior Moses Horne, who moved over from The Rock, where he averaged 11.3 PPG and shot 37% from 3-point range. Meanwhile, senior Randall Robinson also returns after a junior campaign in which he racked up 6.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG.

Santa Fe Raiders

LAST SEASON: 16-8, District Champions

COACH: Glen Banks

DISTRICT CLASSIFICATION: 5-4A

WHAT TO CHECK FOR: The Raiders return an important piece as senior Don’Trell Jenkins is back for his senior year. Jenkins, who is the Gainesville Suns reigning Big School Player of the Year, averaging 17 PPG and 3.6 assists per game. Makhi Lewis joins Jenkins as a returner, a threat from outside the arc with an 8.1 PPG average. Senior Kyren Washington and junior Braydon Guyden are two names returning to the Santa Fe lineup, which took a hit when Mason Brown moved to Palm Beach Gardens in the off-season. Last season, Brown, who goes 6-7, averaged 10.8 PPG.

The Rock Lions

LAST SEASON: 25-8, SIAA state champion

COACH: Justin Harden

DISTRICT CLASSIFICATION: Sunshine Independent Athletic Association

WHAT TO CHECK FOR: The Rock consistently brings in some of the best basketball talent in the state and 2022-23 will be no different. Junior Sammie Yeanay will lead The Rock after a second campaign in which he averaged 18.9 PPG and 11.7 RPG. In addition to Yeanay, senior Dallas Jones and junior Kameren Wright return. Last winter, Jones averaged 14.2 PPG and 5.2 RPG. Meanwhile, Wright has added 11.4 PPG and 5.2 RPG. While The Rock lost a handful of returners, like Josh Hayes, who moved to Gainesville, the Lions always reload their roster and will be fine this season.

Players to watch

CJ Ingram, sophomore, Hawthorne

As a rookie, Ingram was instrumental in helping the Hornets reach their second title game in three seasons. And while Hawthorne fell short of Bradford, Ingram left little to be desired. Ingram finished the season with an average of 14.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 5.7 APG, making him the Gainesville Sun’s Sshopping center School player of the year.

Don’Trell Jenkins, Sr., Santa Fe

It’s the last round for Jenkins and the Raiders, who are poised for a successful season. Expectations are high for Jenkins, who is the Gainesville Suns reigning Big School Player of the Year after a junior campaign in which he averaged 17 PPG and 3.6 APG.

Greg Maxwell, senior, Williston

The Red Devils, who finished 16-11 last season and made the state playoffs, got a boost when Maxwell joined their roster after spending last winter with Ocala Trinity Catholic. With the Celtics, Maxwell averaged 14.8 PPG, 2.0 steals per game and 3.0 RPG.

Theo Stephens, elder, Gainesville

Few had a season like Stephen’s last winter. As a junior, Stephens led the way for the Hurricanes with 17.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 2.5 APG. And as it is his last season with the Hurricanes, another strong performance is expected.

Sammie Yeanay, junior, The Rock School

Yeanay, arguably the biggest college candidate in the area, has already racked up offers from Florida and Alabama, among others. As a sophomore, Yeanay averaged a double-double and led The Rock Lions with 18.9 PPG, 11.7 RPG and 2.2 APGme.

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