HoopExchange Fall Festival Standouts Part 1

Jordan Davidsen

TAVARES, FL – With the high school regular season just over the horizon, coaches, players, and scouts alike flocked to The Big House in Tavares, FL for this year’s HoopExchange Fall Festival to get a look at the best teams in the state. With 9 bustling courts, and individual player showcase, and a wide selection of teams to choose from, the event provided showcase moments and high-energy basketball all weekend long. Some players made their mark and used this opportunity to its fullest potential. Here’s the first part of a two-part article series where we will break down some of the best and brightest players from this year’s event.

As leader on their teams, it makes sense that some of the best performers of the weekend would come from the senior class. One of the best performers of the weekend was Elyjah Freeman from Well Wolves (Wellington). The 6-6 G/W is a lanky, high-energy athlete with a lot of skill. He propelled Wellington to some impressive wins over high-level programs, all while demonstrating his improved jump shot and elite level feel. Grady Schwartz of Jax Eagles (Episcopal School of Jacksonville) made big plays all weekend for the Eagles, showing off his tenacious interior play and great motor. Schwartz has been offered by a host of D2 schools and showed why. Talen Caudell from Jupiter Jags (Jupiter) was an electric interior finisher with relentless effort going downhill and the strength to punish defenders who are a step behind. Chalier Torres, hot off an offer from Southeastern University, proved that he will be the main guard engine for X-Men (Windermere). He’s a smooth guard with a quick twitch in his handle and an automatic jumper that he is unafraid to take. SEPAration (Southeastern Prep)’s Nick Gunter is an intriguing interior finisher with great raw tools. A true 7-footer, Gunter has great size and athleticism for his position and will be worth tracking to see how his soft skills develop this year.

The class of 2025 is one of the most loaded classes in recent memory, and their representation in Florida proves that. Juniors comprised the majority of the best players in the entire event. TJ Drain of X-Men (Windermere) is one of the fastest trending players in the country, picking up a Division 1 offer recently from Jacksonville University. The 6-9 big has great touch around the basket and is a great rebounder and shot blocker. Add that to a developing jumper, and Drain has put together one of the most dynamic developments in the state. Bobby Crawford from Gladiators (Gibbs) has also shown immense growth. An athletic nightmare, Crawford has continued to develop moves on the low block and performed well against some of Florida’s best teams. He could be the best big man in Tampa this season. Elite athleticism defined a few of the best players in this group: such as Caleb Cameron from Georgia’s Wilson Academy. The hyper athletic and long guard is a relentless interior finisher with the tools to challenge defenders at the rim at every chance he gets. Ricky Liburd from Great Lion (Sagemont Prep) was another high-flying superstar that turned heads all weekend. Liburd’s athleticism is outstanding, and he adds a great knack for finishing and some high-level guard skills for his size. Knowah Cousins of SEPAration (Southeastern Prep) was another high-flier who had some stellar moments in the air. While not as athletic as these other guys, Anthony Knowles of Miami Bears (Mater Lakes) continued to show his mental and physical toughness as a high-octane point guard. He’s a perfect combination of strength and skill, making him a translatable point guard at the next level.

Getting to watch some of the state’s best young talent is one of the highlights of this event year over year. Kevin Thomas of Great Lion (Sagemont Prep) is one of Florida’s highest upside players, with some great athleticism and length to add to great instincts. He’s got a solid perimeter shot to add to his physical tools and relentless effort. Khanye Moss was a great energy-guy for Miami Bears (Mater Lakes), adding the needed hustle and toughness on the glass as well as a tight handle and effective downhill drive. WA Pride (Westminster Academy) boast two of the state’s best underclassmen. Despite being cut off due to injury early in the weekend, 7-foot sophomore Sinan Huan was doing things that nobody of his size should be doing on the floor. He’s a mobile and light-footed big with the ability to handle the ball and expand his range well for his size. He’s paired with Brandon Bass Jr., a dynamic and strong guard with a crafty handle and good size to finish at the basket. Stampede (The Villages) also boasts a pair of high-impact underclassmen in laser-quick guard Allen Britt and forward Jomar Barnard. Barnard is a great shooter to add to his 6-8 frame, and is an active and tough interior presence. Britt is a fast guard with a great handle who can shift players with ease and can score well in the half court and in transition.