Girls Player of YearEris Lester, Guard, Orange Park (24-6), SophomoreOne of the toughest competitors on the hardwood when “stuff” needs to happen. Lester put the Lady Raiders resurgent …
Girls Player of Year
Eris Lester, Guard, Orange Park (24-6), Sophomore
One of the toughest competitors on the hardwood when “stuff” needs to happen. Lester put the Lady Raiders resurgent program (24-6, region final finish) on her shoulders and played point man on a team that did not back down from hard competition. The schedule made Lester the great leader; 6A-Nease (25-5. Final Four, lost to St. Thomas Aquinas 6A champion), 6A-Ponte Vedra (19-8, lost to Nease region quarters), 4A-Andrew Jackson (16-11, region semis), 2A-University Christian (18-12, Final Four), 5A-Rickards (14-6, lost in region semis to Orange Park), 2A-Florida A&M (15-4, region finals), 3A-Elizabethtown (TN) (23-7, lost in state quarters to eventual state champion), 1A-Trenton (17-10, region playoffs, 2021 Final Four), 4A-Cocoa (17-9, lost region semis to state champ Lake Highland Prep) and Oakleaf (Final Four 8A 2021) all major programs. Lester did her thing in region loss to Pine Forest with 15 points. Lester had numbers like 20 ponts per game, eight rebounds per game; as a guard?, three steals, two assists.
Taliah Scott, Guard, St. Johns Country Day School, Junior
Talia Scott, the Dairy Farmer Class 2A player of the year was a scoring machine for the Lady Spartans (near 32 points per game) on a team that turned from good 2A program to dangerous program that could put up 80 points between Scott’s prowess and a team concept under coach Yolando Bronston that had solid overall play that centered around Scott getting open. High games included 56, 50 and 43 points.
In the Dairy Farmer ranks, more impressively, Scott was the lone player in all classes player of year scores that was not a championship game player.
Fantasia James, Guard, Oakleaf, Junior
Fantasia James was the “driving” force behind the Lady Knights attempt to repeat as a Final Four finisher, but a rugged season of illness that shutdown the Knights program for two critical weeks slowed the roll of the high-flying Oakleaf attack with a final stop in the region semifinals. James put the burden of points on her shoulder with a finishing week of 20, 30, 20, 25, 22 as she and teammate Kaylah Turner were heroic in their chase of a second Final Four spot. James, with seven reb ounds per game and two steals also snagged five games of double digit rebounds.
Kaylah Turner, Guard, Oakleaf, Junior
In her sophomore season, Turner was the noted defensive specialist of the Lady Knights attack, but 2022 put the ball in Turner’s hands and the fast-thinking and fast-moving technician raised her scoring game to 14.2 per game with spurts of 27, 24 and 23 with double digits throughout the Knights’ playoff run. With 121 steals on the season; best of 14, 9 and 8 in several games, Turner maintained her defensive prowess with nearly all turning to layups; 71 buckets off 121 steals. Turner had a way of lulling dribbling point guards to a sense of security before striking like a viper just inside the halfcourt line; a tactic exciting to watch.
Kiley Channell, Guard, Keystone Heights (19-6), Junior
Need a scrappy, chair-clearing diving player that doesn’t shy from a shoulder smash in the paint? Keystone Heights guard Kiley Channell is the daredevil on the floor that put the Lady Indians back in coach Jessica Sykes’ wheelhouse; Sykes a Keystone Heights state champion guard that knows top drawer play.
Channell led the Lady Indians in points; 12.2 ppg (top games 24, 21 17), second in rebounds, 7.3 steals (Top nights 12, 11, 9); and assists 4.3pg (Top nights 10, 7, 6). FYI, Channell also dives with fervor as shortstop on Keystone Heights softball team.
Nia Blocton, Center, Ridgeview (16-11), Sophomore
A second great sophomore player that will emerge as a major force in next two years. Blocton became that “player off the bus” that made opposing coaches cringe. A bruising rebounder, with downcourt break athleticism and a team-first player that pushed her game to big numbers when needed. Blocton’s leadership will bode well for coach Gussie Solomon who loses just one senior to next year. That’s a scary thought with the way the Lady Panthers bumped up against area talent. Blocton had a 15.6 scoring average (all but three games in double figures; top nights of 26, 23 and 22), two assists, an astounding 12 rebounds (top nights of 21, 17 (v. OPHS), 16 grabs), two steals and a block per game. That’s a pretty versatile stat package.
Boys Player of Year
Ahman Greenidge, Center, Fleming Island, Senior
To say the game is not over when 20 points down, then to deliver the winning surge is what Ahman Greenidge will be revered for. Greenidge’s uncanny big play aura kept a shell-shocked Golden Eagle team that was torn by a player investigation near midseason on point to surge on despite a nearly revamped game plan because of the elimination of a key player. Greenidge will be hailed as the player that would not let the team fall on the sword and use the obstacle as a crutch for sub-par play. On the court, Greenidge led with fervor for his 12 points; top nights of 22 (in 83-60 blowout win over 19-9 Seminole team that finished as a 7A Final Four), 20 in comeback mode vs. Buchholz (71-68 district semifinal win with early gap of 20 points), nine rebounds (Top nights of 13 twice and an astounding 10 grabs in 10 games), three assists and two steals per game.
David Compere, Guard, Oakleaf, Senior
David Compere was the ultimate guy to keep an eye on because of his catlike speed across the floor. Compere, while being a wicked corner three point shooter and thus someone to not let alone on defense, was also the Knights’ playmaker away from the ball with slashes into the paint and dishes to teammates for layups. At 19 points per game, Compere hit for a third of his three pointers; 59 total, with 2-3 steals, assists and rebounds per game.
Josiah Sabino, Guard, Orange Park, Senior
Josiah Sabino had the ability to single-handedly take a game away from the Raiders opponents in a flash of a three minute span of a game with his lightning drives and power under the basket. The Raiders acceleration was directly connected to Sabino’s shooting wrist and, as he went, so did the Raiders. Sabino had a 21 points per game average; just one single digit game (first game) with top nights of 34, 31, and 29 twice; 6-7 rebounds; top nights of 14 and 13 twice; 2-3 assists; two nights of five dishes; 27 threes and a couple of steals per game; whatever was needed.
Colton Zapp, Guard, Fleming Island, Senior
Colton Zapp spent untold hours shooting baskets in his driveway before school (I was his next door neighbor) and the dividend was his pinpoint accuracy with arms hanging on him as he too had to answer the shift of attack from the Golden Eagles midseason fiasco off the court. Zapp was a shadow player in the early part of the season with the Golden Eagles attack focused off the exploits of exited guard Bennie McDuffie who pushed the Golden Eagles to a 9-0 spot before his release from the team. From there, Zapp took command and orchestrated the Golden Eagles attack with a little bit of backcourt savvy rather than full head-on take the wind out mode. The result was a region final finish and a near takedown of the eventual state champion Ponte Vedra Sharks. Zapp’s court creativity scored 13 points per game; top nights of 21, 19 twice and 18 three times, 69 three pointers (45% shooting/5 vs. Miami Norland and Riverside, four four times); 6-7 rebounds, 3-4 assists; top night of eight dishes vs. Tampa Durant, five vs. New Hampstead (GA), and 2-3 steals per game.
Eddie Whipple, Forward, Ridgeview, Senior
Eddie Whipple and Ridgeview coach Jerome Clyburn, a standout Orange Park High and collegiate basketballer, had similar looks on the court with the top drawer football athlete able to convert to top drawer hardwood athlete with the same instinct for ball attack, steals to layups and forceful defense. Whipple molded his game to give his best performances at the end of the season with a final game of 28 points against a solid Clay team coming after a string of double digit finishes that included a 27 point effort in a string of 10 games of 11 with the double digit finish. Clyburn slowly unleashed Whipple to show out his stuff at the end of the season as his Ridgeview team became very dangerous despite the season record. Was ironic that Whipple had his best games when matched with our number six guy, Clay’s Brandon Peavy. Whipple finished at 13.5 points per game; 8-9 rebounds per game (top nights of 14 twice and 12 twice with two 11s), 75 assists (top nights of seven twice, 6 twice and five twice) and 47 steals (top nights of four four times) plus 68 blocked shots (top nights of seven and six four times).
Keyshaun Riley, Junior, Oakleaf, Center
I’m known for my liking of lunchpail guys in sports and Keyshaun Riley is that guy. He showed up and played with reckless, spirited abandon and let his team know that he would carry them if needed. Not flashy, not a precision shooter, but a guy who knew how to get the ball to the rim in tough battles in the paint.
His 9-10 rebounds per game were often times pivotal to swing games with his 5-6 points per game the same critical when needed. Clutch maybe, but more just a blue collar guy. If he works his offensive game over the summer, could be force to reckon with next season.
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