Posted: 5:39 pm Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Boys’ hoops: Narrowing down the Player of the Year races 

By Jeff Greer

We’re nearing the close of the 2011-12 boys’ basketball season, which means it’s almost awards season. Let’s run down the players in the running for the large schools and small schools players of the year awards.

Large schools

Joel James, Dwyer. The obvious frontrunner before the season started, James has lived up to the hype surrounding the North Carolina signee. At 6-foot-11, he’s dominated in the paint and started becoming more and more assertive on offense. He averages 14.6 points and 13 rebounds a game, and his consistency has been a mainstay for Dwyer as his young teammates mature around him.

Chris Hall, John I. Leonard. The headstrong guard for the Lancers is second in the area in scoring among large schools players and first in Palm Beach County, toting a 20.5-note clip. He’s made 44 three-pointers, good for fourth in the area. And his team has really come around after a slow start. Hall’s success has been a huge part of that. He’s had much more help than Dwyer’s James — Zeke Bennett and Aaron Horne are solid players — but it’s hard to ignore his status as one of the best guards around.

Evan Kupferberg, Spanish River. Honestly, Dante Scholl and Reggie Love have good arguments to be included, too. The 6-6 Kupferberg averages 16.3 points and 13.9 rebounds — the area’s best — as Spanish River’s go-to big guy. Right now, River is the top big school in the area, though Hall’s Leonard has a chance this Friday to beat River for a second time this season.

Bobby Hain, Jupiter. The 6-foot-9 wing player averages 18.9 points a game and may be the best shooter in the area. He’s certainly among the best scorers. But he also gets involved down low — he’s second of his team in rebounding, behind 6-foot-10 junior Grant Pelchen. Hain is the go-to guy for a good Jupiter team, and even with exotic coverages employed to slow him, he still produces.

Jonathan Smith and Jonathan Odjo, Suncoast. The Amazing Jonathans have put on quite the show this season, leading Suncoast to a 14-4 record. Smith (14.6 ppg) leads the team in scoring, but he’s had several box-score-stuffing efforts. Odjo (12.1 ppg) is the best shooter on the team. Combined, they’ve helped the Chargers become relevant again. Unfortunately, they probably split each other’s votes.

Quinn Cole, Palm Beach Lakes. For some reason, his name gets twisted around in box scores and writeups, so he’s sometimes listed as Cole Quinn. But I know who he is. Cole is a do-everything glue guy for Lakes, with long enough arms to negate his 6-2 frame. He can score from anywhere, plays good defense and is Lakes’ best rebounder. He averages 14.7 points and 7.5 rebounds a game for the resurgent Rams, who are 11-3.

SMALL SCHOOLS

Farad Cobb, Summit Christian. The preseason favorite is in a dead heat with teammate Brandon Williams, Berean Christian’s Ryan Lantz and Wellington Christian’s Charles Brown for the most impressive stat lines among small schools guys. Cobb, who has missed seven games this year because of ankle injuries, leads all players (large and small schools) in scoring, averaging 26.3 a game. He also dishes out 6.5 assists, and is fourth in the area in three-pointers made. He’s the key piece to Summit Christian’s title defense.

Brandon Williams, Summit Christian. The 6-foot-8 senior forward needed to step into a more dominant role this season with the departure of do-it-all beast Jean Prophete. Williams has answered the call, averaging 13.1 points and 12.2 rebounds a game. He’s had to carry Summit at times while Cobb nursed his injuries. Both he and Cobb will play huge roles in the Saints’ postseason run, so keep an eye on the big guy.

Ivan Canete, Grandview Prep. Charged with taking the reins of Grandview’s talented team with the graduation of 6-9 center Ismaila Dauda, the 6-3 Canete has done pretty well for himself, despite getting a late start to the season. He pulls all the strings for the Pride and is the best all-around player on the team. He’s unselfish with the basketball and makes good decisions. Grandview doesn’t call in its statistics, so I don’t have numbers for Canete, but following his box scores and seeing him play, it’s clear how big of an impact he has on Grandview.

Ryan Lantz, Berean Christian. Call him an outsider darkhorse, playing for a team that doesn’t get a whole lot of love because of its stature in the basketball world. Lantz is third in the area in scoring (22.1 ppg) and first in the area in dimes (7 apg). He’s the leading three-point shooter around here, too. Not bad. If anything, he’s proven he can carry his team.