Nike Team Florida had an up-and-down 2018 spring, finishing with an 8-8 record behind a talented nine-man rotation. On paper, Nike Team Florida is absolutely loaded. They feature four top 100 players, as juniors Vernon Carey Jr and Kyle Sturdivant partner with sophomores Scott Barnes and Noah Farrakhan to form one of the better rotations in the country. All four average in double-figures, and their combined production is the majority of NTF’s output as a whole. They’re 3-6 against Peach Jam competition, and suffered a few head-scratching blowout losses, including a 25-point drubbing to last-place Nike Phamily. That loss came without Carey, proving how vital he is to their chances in mid-July.
Carey (247 No. 3) is the star of the group, and NTF will need him to be super-productive in mid-July. The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 17.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 14 EYBL games, missing some time due to a mid-season injury. Carey is an absolute bully down low, and his mere presence on the court is crucial to NTF’s success. While his rebounding rate leaves a bit to be desired, Carey does attract a lot of attention, thereby opening things up for his teammates. One on one, there are only a handful of players in the 2019 or 2020 class that can realistically hang with Carey in the paint. He’s simply too strong and too powerful for most teams to contend with, and while Carey is more than capable of stretching the floor, he’d be better off beating the pulp out of Peach Jam opponents in the paint.
Sturdivant (247 No. 71) is NTF’s point guard, and the EYBL veteran helped lift Nike Team Florida to a wildcard win over Team Final at last year’s Peach Jam. That experience should be very valuable for Sturdivant, who just enjoyed a terrific spring, averaging 16.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 16 games. Sturdivant is best when facilitating with the ball in his hands, and NTF’s floor leader does a great job of pacing his squad. Farrakhan, a combo guard, is instant offense for Sosa and company, and the 6-foot-3 sophomore showed flashes of brilliance during the regular season. Farrakhan (247 Composite No. 34) plays for IMG during the high school season, and after a year in the EYBL as an underclassman, he should be plenty battle-tested heading into Peach Jam. NTF lacks ideal depth and will need to stay out of foul trouble if they wish to advance out of pool play. Juniors Malcolm Farrington, Logan Alters, Isaiah Kirby and Byron Smith round out the backcourt for Nike Team Florida.
Carey and Barnes (247 No. 7) won’t leave the court very often. Barnes is Mr. Versatile for Nike Team Florida, putting up averages of 15 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 12 games. Barnes is well-beyond his years as a rebounder, and is capable beating you in a variety of ways offensively. He plays with a killer motor, and rarely takes his foot off the gas pedal. The same can be said for power forward DeAntoni Gordon. Verbally-committed to Wichita State, Gordon (247 3-star) had a breakout spring for NTF, averaging 11.5 points and 4.9 rebounds while landing an All-Breakout performance during the third session. Gordon does the majority of his work without having a play called for him, and he’s turned into a weapon in transition. Gordon is arguably NTF’s best interior defender, and is going to make Shockers’ fans very happy next year.
Carey and Barnes are currently playing for Team USA U17 at the FIBA World Cup in Argentina. While this may seem like terrific experience – which is most definitely is – it may lead to a pair of fatigued stars. Both players will be running on fumes by the time the Peach Jam rolls around, but if they can find their second wind, Nike Team Florida is capable of beating anyone in the field. Consider NTF to be one of the more likely lower-seeded teams to advance.