High school boys basketball season for 2022-23 gets underway this week for many teams. But in the preseason Prep Zone Boys Basketball Power Poll, some of the usual suspects are starting this season at the top.
Providence (Jacksonville) starts the new season at the top. The Stallions were 25-5 a year ago and finished No. 3 in the final 2021-22 rankings, despite coming up one game short of the Final Four with a loss to eventual 3A state champion Florida High (Tallahassee) in the Region 1 final.
Providence returns their top three starters from 2021-22 in guards Chris Arias and Mason Lee, as well as forward Jaylen Robinson and added guard Caleb McAbee from Creekside (St. Johns). Providence received only three of the eight first-place votes, but outpointed Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) for the top spot.
Speaking of Andrew Jackson, the Tigers (29-3 in 2021-22) advanced to the 4A state championship game last March for the third time in four seasons. Unfortunately, they were also state runner-up for the third time in four years. This year Andrew Jackson must replace most of the team that has made four straight Final Fours.
Despite that, the Tigers received five of the eight first-place votes but finished behind Providence in total points. Andrew Jackson was the No. 1 team in last year's final power poll.
Ponte Vedra and Paxon (Jacksonville) are tied at No. 3.
Ponte Vedra finished as the 6A state runner-up a year ago, losing to Martin County (Stuart) 53-49 in the state title game. The Sharks (27-4 in 21-22) lose most of their team from last year but did add a transfer from California in Tyler Cowan.
Paxon had it's streak of Final Fours ended at two last February, as they were knocked out in the Region 1-4A semifinal by Bay (Panama City). The Golden Eagles (25-4 in 21-22) are expected to challenge for the Gateway Conference title this season.
Rounding out the top five is Riverside (Jacksonville). The Generals (24-5 in 21-22) came up short of a trip to Lakeland, losing in the Region 1-5A final for the second year in a row. Riverside returns plenty of talent this season and is expected to be a contender to get to the Final Four once again.
Class 2A state semifinalist North Florida Educational Institute (Jacksonville) starts off the second five. The Eagles, who have made the Final Four the last three years and return guard Isaac Taveras, who scored 44 points and added 16 rebounds in the state semifinal against Sagemont (Weston).
Leesburg is at No. 7. The Yellow Jackets advanced to the Region 2-5A final a year ago before losing to King (Tampa).
Fleming Island (Orange Park) comes in at No. 8. The Golden Eagles advanced all the way to the Region 1-6A final before being knocked out by eventual state runner-up Ponte Vedra. Fleming Island finished with a 16-14 record officially last season but had to forfeit nine games due to an ineligible player.
Orange Park is at No. 9. The Raiders (23-5) in 21-22 had one of their best seasons in school history but were stunned in the opening round of the 5A playoffs by unranked Ribault (Jacksonville). Orange Park moves up to 6A and into a loaded District 3 with state runner-up Ponte Vedra, Fletcher (Neptune Beach), Fleming Island, and Nease (Ponte Vedra). All four of these teams are ranked in the top 20 of this power poll.
The Villages rounds out the top 10. The Buffalo had another successful season at 21-8 with a district title but were edged in the opening round of the 4A playoffs by Satellite.
Among the highlights of the second 10 is Bradford (Starke), who won the 1A state championship last year for their first title in program history. The Tornadoes are No. 11 and are moving up to 3A with a district that includes Trinity Catholic (Ocala) and P.K Yonge (Gainesville).
Santa Fe (16-8 in 2021-22) is ranked at No. 11 after two deep playoff runs. In 2020-21, the Raiders came within a double overtime loss of claiming the Class 4A state championship.
Last year, Santa Fe won its second consecutive District 4-4A title and had a dominating playoff win over Gadsden County (Havana) before being eliminated by eventual 4A state runner-up Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) in the region semifinal round. The Raiders return Mainstreet Daily News All Area first team guard Don’trell Jenkins.
Columbia (Lake City) and Ribault (Jacksonville) are tied for 14th. The Tigers missed the postseason a year ago with a 13-13 record, while Ribault was only 16-10 but won their first-round playoff game at Orange Park before losing to Pine Forest (Pensacola) in the 5A region semifinals. Both teams are expected to be contenders in 2022-23.
Last year's 1A state semifinalist Hawthorne is No. 16. The Hornets only played 16 games last season due to COVID and football season going long, but they advanced to Lakeland for the sixth time in 11 years. The Hornets (11-5 in 21-22) lost to eventual state champion Bradford in the state semifinal round. Hawthorne won the 1A state title in 2020.
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, girls basketball, boys basketball, softball & baseball teams (regardless of FHSAA classification) across 26 counties in North Florida (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, Sumter, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union & Volusia counties). It is voted on weekly by sportswriters and sportscasters and it is powered by Anytime Fitness of Gainesville.
PREP ZONE 2022-23 BOYS BASKETBALL POLL #1 (PRESEASON POLL)
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final 2021-22 record, and total points)
Teams in bold are inside the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area.
1. Providence (Jacksonville) (3A) (3) (25-5) - 151
2. Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) (4A) (5) (29-3) - 135
3T. Paxon (Jacksonville) (4A) (25-4) - 128
3T. Ponte Vedra (6A) (27-4) - 128
5. Riverside (Jacksonville) (24-5) - 121
6. North Florida Educational Institute (Jacksonville) (2A) (24-8) - 120
7. Leesburg (5A) (19-8) - 90
8. Fleming Island (Orange Park) (6A) (16-14) - 84
9. Orange Park (6A) (23-5) - 82
10. The Villages (21-8) - 64
11. Bradford (Starke) (3A) (16-10) - 62
12. Santa Fe (Alachua) (4A) (16-8) - 56
13. Fletcher (Neptune Beach) (6A) (19-11) - 53
14T. Columbia (Lake City) (5A) (13-13) - 49
14T. Ribault (Jacksonville) (4A) (16-10) - 49
16. Hawthorne (1A) (11-5) - 45
17. Nease (Ponte Vedra) (6A) (19-8) - 40
18. Mount Dora Christian Academy (2A) (26-2) - 33
19. DeLand (7A) (21-7) - 32
20. Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (3A) (21-6) - 21
Also receiving votes: Gainesville (6A) (17-10) - 13; Mainland (Daytona Beach) (5A) (15-10) - 13; Creekside (St. Johns) (7A) (18-6) - 12; St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) (2A) (21-8) - 12; Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) (3A) (14-13) - 10; Deltona (5A) (13-11) - 8; Central (Brooksville) (4A) (25-5) - 7; Lecanto (5A) (21-5) - 7; Pine Ridge (Deltona) (5A) (19-8) - 6; Trenton (1A) (18-11) - 3; Forest (Ocala) (6A) (18-8) - 2; Yulee (4A) (19-8) - 2; Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (4A) (16-12) - 1; P. K. Yonge (Gainesville) (3A) (18-10) - 1.