The Sun's 2013 Boys Basketball Players of the Year
Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
SMALL SCHOOL CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
JOEL EMBIID, THE ROCK
The 7-foot senior center from Cameroon, who chose Kansas over Florida and Texas, helped The Rock to its first boys state title in the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association with a win at Jacksonville Arlington Day, the No. 2 overall ranked team in Florida behind Montverde Academy, according to MaxPreps. Embiid, who transferred from Montverde, averaged 13.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game for the Lions, who had their most successful season at 33-4. At the Mike Miller Classic, named after the former Gator and played in his hometown of Mitchell, S.D., Embiid had 27 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks against Our Saviour New American (N.Y.).
Embiid left Montverde, which has been the state's top boys basketball program the last two years behind the play of Michael Frazier II (UF) and Kasey Hill (UF signee), in order to get more game experience. Last year, in only his first season playing organized basketball in the U.S., he played mostly junior varsity at Montverde and some varsity. He felt a change was needed and came to The Rock to play in his senior season. “I gained a lot more game experience,” Embiid said. “I knew I would get better because those guys on our team are good.” And although he liked UF a lot, he loved the tradition at Kansas.
“We had a good group of guys and winning state for the first time in school history was great. I like to compete, and got better every day in practice. I liked everything about Kansas, all the fans, the school and coach (Bill) Self.” — Joel Embiid
ED PORTER, HAWTHORNE
The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward, who transferred from Gainesville after his freshman year, had a stellar first season with the Hornets (28-2), leading them to the state tournament for a second straight year. Porter, runner-up as the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1A Player of the Year, averaged nearly a double-double with 19.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per contest. He had 29 points and 14 rebounds in a regional semifinal win over Live Oak Melody Christian, and 16 points against UF signee Chris Walker of Holmes County in the 1A state semifinals. “He told me I had a bright future ahead of me and keep on working because everything is in front of me. He's a great guy,” Porter said of Walker.
Ranked among the top freshman basketball players by Source Hoops a year ago, Porter said he had no trouble fitting in at Hawthorne. “I felt like I was in a family,” he said. “Hawthorne is a great place to live in and a great place to go to school.” He wants to lead the Hornets back to Lakeland next season and to their first state title since 1987.
“It was a nice experience. We wanted to go deeper, but unfortunately we didn't. But throughout the season I had a great time. We bonded as a team.” — Ed Porter
BIG SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
ISAIAH JACKSON, GAINESVILLE
Runner-up as the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 6A Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 junior led the Hurricanes to Lakeland and the state tournament after pulling off back-to-back upset wins in the state playoffs. In its 74-66 upset at No. 2 Leesburg in the regional semifinals, Jackson scored a season-high 38 points, hitting on 24 of 28 free throws, to avenge a 32-point loss (91-59) to the Yellow Jackets in the district final. Four days later in Orlando, Jackson hit two free throws with nine second left to lift the ‘Canes over No. 1 Edgewater, 56-55, for a spot in the state semifinals. For the season, he averaged team-bests in points (15.4), rebounds (7.7) and assists (5.4) per game, and had a triple-double in a 22-point win over Lakeland McKeel Academy.
A year ago, 18 games into the season, Jackson took a nasty fall going up for a shot at Buchholz and broke his right leg. It was a huge loss for the Hurricanes and the first major injury for the promising sophomore. “Part of the hurdle he had to get over was the mental issue going through that and all the physical rehabilitation,” said GHS coach Kelly Beckham. “By the time we hit the playoffs, he was really close to 100 percent.”
“Beating Leesburg was a big one, they beat us three times during the regular season. To go back to their home court and play as well as we did is great. Going to Orlando Edgewater, we didn't know much about them, but knew they were a good team. We knew we had to come out and play. We found a way to win and went all the way to state.” — Isaiah Jackson