The City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla. officially starts on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET. The Classic serves as one of the best high school basketball tournaments if not the best in the entire country. 16 all-around teams will take part in the traditional bracket with four other solid squads participating in the signature series. Six of the team’s in MaxPrep’s Xcellent 25 are in the tourney.
It’s time to take an in-depth look at the top five teams in the 2015 City of Palms Classic.
Background: The No. 1 ranked team in the country and in this tournament is Ben Simmons’ old squad, Montverde Academy. The Eagles continue to recruit well year after year and with senior forward Micah Potter (Ohio State) and point guard Howard Washington (Butler) there is still a sense of stability left. Montverde is made up of a young nucleus of athletes with sophomore forwards Silvio De Souza and E.J. Montgomery leading the way. Also, sophomore forward Simisola Shittu and sophomore wing R.J. Barrett bring plenty to the table.
Outlook: This is a different looking group than year’s past, but Montverde should be considered the front-runner for yet another year of the tournament. The Eagles won in 2012 and 2013, and finished as the second place team last year after losing to Jaylen Brown’s Wheeler squad.
Background: Currently the No. 3 team in the country, Chino Hills boasts three brothers, all Balls. Senior Lonzo, junior Li’Angelo and freshman LaMelo. The three are committed to UCLA and Lonzo averaged 25 points, 11.2 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocks as a junior. In their first appearance in the City of Palms Classic, the Huskies have an all-around player in Lonzo, an impressive wing in Li’Angelo and a speedy long ranged shooter LaMelo. Chino Hills also has the No. 24 player in California in 6’4″ guard Eli Scott.
Outlook: Perhaps my favorite team overall, Chino Hills may not have the most talent in their frontcourt, but the top three positions are loaded and the trio of Ball brothers can do it all. I wouldn’t be shocked if they won the tournament this year.
Background: Ranked No. 13 overall in the country, Chaminade is led by the No. 2 recruit of the 2016 class, according to ESPN, Duke commit Jayson Tatum. The 6’9″ forward is beyond athletic. He averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds and three assists last season. Named Missouri’s Gatorade Player of The Year for two straight years, Tatum will have to do it all and then some for this team to hang around with the big boys. The Red Devils also have 6’9″ senior and Iowa commit Tyler Cook, and senior guard and Duquesne commit Mike Lewis.
Outlook: Chaminade is not as deep as the other teams, but they’re a group led by perhaps the best player in the country and that in itself should let them be successful in this tournament. Think Austin Rivers when he was at Orlando-Winter Park, Tatum can do it all.
Background: The No. 19 ranked senior, forward Dewan Huell leads a No. 17 Norland squad that has a seasoned lineup and an overall steady team. The 6’9″ Huell is a Miami commit and he’s joined by 6’11” senior guard David Jean-Baptiste (UT-Chattanooga), 6-foot senior guard Tyrik Waite and 6’5″ senior wing Jonathan Andre. Norland certainly will have to muscle its way to victories, but the experience level is there with this group.
Outlook: It won’t be easy, but Norland has a chance to wind up in the final push to the championship with Huell and the rest of this senior class. Don’t count out the Vikings just yet.
Background: Ranked No. 20 in the country, Patrick School returns to the City of Palms Classic for the first time since its title win in 2010 under now Montverde head coach Kevin Boyle. The Celtics have three Division-I commits led by senior guard Bryce Aiken, who is set to go to Harvard, senior forward Cyril Langevine (Rhode Island) and junior center Buay Koka (New Mexico State). The most intriguing prospect on this team is junior big man Nick Richards. The 6’11” forward is the No. 13 player in the 2017 class. He can shoot from anywhere on the court.
Outlook: With three Division-I commits and the lengthy Richards, Patrick School has a fighting chance in this tournament. The Celtics have both the size and speed to compete until the end. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them wind up in the tournament final next Wednesday.