By Rick Staudt, 08/11/17, 5:45PM CDT
With three shoe-sponsored travel circuit plus a countless number of independent teams and events, it is quite difficult to compare teams across the different platforms. Another challenge is that all too often teams face (or force) roster turnover and a team that might have looked great in April may look mediocre in July. We’ve done our best to wade thru the clutter to come up with the best teams from the spring and summer.
We’ve yet to see a team from Florida go thru a shoe-sponsored “league” undefeated. It is just very difficult to face top level talent, playing four games in just two or three days, and not come out unscathed. However, Team Breakdown came very close to going undefeated in the Under Armor Association this year.
Going an impressive 11-1 thru three sessions, Team Breakdown showcased not just talent but also depth and chemistry. Maybe their biggest statement was going 4-0 in Los Angeles during the final UAA session without their top player, Anfernee Simons.
While other teams might boast a backcourt or a frontcourt on par with Team Breakdown, it doesn’t appear (at least on paper) that there is a team that could do both. Their interior was solid with 6’11 Emmanuel Dowouna protecting the rim, Solomon Uyaelunmo providing solid play inside and out, and Shaquan Jules coming off the bench to grab lobs or block shots. On the perimeter, the trio of Simons, Elijah Weaver, and PJ Person could score in bunches as well as lock teams up defensively. Players such as Bryce Beamer and Cordrayius Graham excelled in their prescribed roles.
While the team wasn’t able to finish off the UAA season with the title in the Under Armor finals, it doesn’t diminish what they achieved over the course of twelve games.
From our point of view, Breakdown arguably had the best roster of teams in the state and accomplished a great deal with it.
Last year at this time, we lamented the lack of a “powerhouse” 16U team from Florida on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit. That wasn’t a problem this year, as CP25 put together a talented group and proceeded to win at a high rate.
CP25 won the 16U division at the Atlanta Gauntlet event, securing their place in the Gauntlet Finale in July. They also played up in the Gold Super Showcase in July, taking on some of the best teams from around the country. They played the DC Blue Devils, considered one of the top teams in the country in the 16U age group, into triple-OT before falling in the Showcase.
While it didn’t happen often, CP25’s rotation of bigs was something most teams in that age group didn’t have. 6’9 Omar Payne, 6’9 Akol Mein, 6’8 James Pursely, and 6’7 Dakota Rivers took turns tag-teaming to grab rebounds and change shots in the paint. Payne especially improved his stock and is now considered a top fifty player nationally in the class.
On the perimeter, Josh Marte ran the club awhile wings Isaiah Palermo, Sam Griffin, Seth Coleman, and Darrin Green scored in a wide variety of ways. Defensively, they could be aggressive, knowing that the basket was protected by their teammates.
Should they stay together the next couple of travel seasons, the future is bright for Thunderstruck, an independent squad (for how long?) out of Central Florida.
The team played in both 15U and 16U events and were quite successful at each level. Opening the season with the 15U title at Indi-Hoops, the team took off from there, culminating with title in the 16U division at The Best of the South event in Atlanta in July. Many thought they would have fared well in the 17U division.
The team has a bevy of talent and size with players such as Scottie Barnes, Leonard Manuel, Gervon Dexter, Antwan Burnett, Lance Erving and Jordan Smith all contributing and getting notice by national scouts for their play during the course of the spring and summer.