There will be no drama next season as to where St. Thomas Aquinas linebacker Drew White is going.
White, who will be a senior in the fall, announced on Monday night on Twitter that he will take his football talents in the next level to Notre Dame. He spoke with the Miami Herald on Tuesday afternoon about the decision at a gathering at the Aquinas gym to announce the football team will travel to Las Vegas to play against defending national champion Bishop Gorman in September.
“When I visited there, it really felt like home,” said White, a 6-1, 225-pound three-star prospect. “The campus was beautiful and I toured all of the facilities. I got to meet with every coach and I just really felt like I would fit in well in every aspect. It was the total package between football and academics it really was a no-brainer.”
White, who will be looking to help the Raiders win a third consecutive state title next fall, said that committing early wasn’t something he felt he necessarily had to do but just felt like he didn’t need to wait any longer because his mind was made up -- as was Notre Dame’s.
“It wasn’t necessarily a thing where I wanted to get it out of the way early but Notre Dame has always been the school I’ve loved since I was a kid,” said White. “I grew up watching them on TV every week so I really didn’t see any reason for me to wait any longer because I knew that was the school I wanted to go to. Now I can start getting to know all the coaches and building relationships early.”
**Make sure to check the Herald's high school sports page later for the full story on Aquinas' announcement on the big game.
The top high school senior basketball players in South Florida gathered at SLAM Academy's Little Havana gym for the HoopMIA All-Star Game. Photo: David Furones.
The HoopMIA All-Star Game presented by the Junior Orange Bowl on Sunday at SLAM Academy was a tremendous display of the hoops talent South Florida possesses.
A pair of stacked rosters of high school seniors, headlined by Miami Norland's five-star McDonald's All-American power forward and UM signee Dewan Huell (make sure to also read my full post on him), congregated to put on a show at SLAM's beautiful seventh-floor gym in Little Havana with scenic views of downtown Miami/Brickell through the windows on the east side and a glance at Marlins Park to the west.
The entertaining all-star game, which was preceded by a slam dunk contest and three-point shootout, played two 20-minute halves of high-flying, fast-paced action and even provided some free basketball with the grey and white teams tied at the end of regulation.
In overtime, McArthur's Nate Johnson sank a corner three for the white team to tie it at 133 with 11 seconds remaining. Pines Charter's Matt Johnson was then fouled with 2.3 seconds left and hit the game-winning second free throw for the grey squad. The white team could just throw up a halfcourt shot that missed at the buzzer and grey won 134-133.
Miami Central's Anthony Wilson sent it into overtime with a basket with 30 seconds remaining in regulation while Mater Academy point guard Dylan Frye held for the last shot and missed on a three.
Frye won the MVP for the winning grey team while PJ Hall of Coral Gables took the award for the white team.
As I watched Frye, who is signed to Bowling Green, I couldn't help but think of "White Chocolate" Jason Williams with the way he ran the floor in the all-star game setting. He was flashy while always making the right pass and anticipating teammate cuts before the passing lane was even open (particularly impressive considering he doesn't usually play alongside a lot of his all-star companions). Whenever he was running point, it was alley-oops aplenty for his cutters.
I was pleased to learn postgame that my J-Will assessment was correct as he told me Williams is one of the players he likes to model his game after.
"Jason Williams, Steve Nash are my favorite there," Frye said. "I try to look at things they do, practice them and put it into my game."
Frye touched on what made him decide on Bowling Green.
"I like the campus, the school's great, the teammates," he said. "The offense, I like. It's a lot of screen and rolls, and that's where my favorite part of my game is."
With that being the case, I also recommended some John Stockton to Karl Malone film on top of Williams and Nash before he arrives in Bowling Green, although Nash was very proficient at the pick and roll with Amar'e Stoudemire in Phoenix as well.
**Nate Johnson, like he does for his Mustangs, was able to score in a multitude of ways inside and out.
He said postgame that he's good friends with Frye and was glad to get to go up against him one final time after they met in Class 7A regional semifinals when Johnson got the best of that matchup with his clutch free throws after getting fouled on a last-second three.
Johnson holds offers from Delaware, Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern and has also begun to hear from Kansas State and Boise State. He takes a visit to Delaware on Thursday and Gardner-Webb on April 8 and also hopes to take a trip to K-State.
"I'm looking for the style of play, coaching and just the atmosphere of the college," he says.
**Coral Springs guard Myron Dewar, after winning a Class 8A player of the year award and leading his Colts to their first state championship this season, showed an array of his on-ball moves and his instincts defensively to cut off passing lanes and get steals.
He noticed the intensity in the mostly free-flowing all-star game pick up as the game was close late.
"At the end everybody just had to tighten up because nobody likes to lose -- whether it's an all-star game, regular game -- so at the end you see everyone getting competitive," he said.
Dewar is currently undecided and had his recruitment pick up after leading Coral Springs' state run. He is getting interest from Bowling Green, Murray State, Akron and New Orleans University while also holding junior college and Division-II offers.
"I just look for somewhere I'm going to play and somewhere I'm going to be comfortable, somewhere where I like the coaching staff and the players around me," Dewar says.
**Wilson, an athletic wing, was a strong defender and distributed to teammates. He exhibited his closing speed defensively when he stole a long outlook pass to an opponent that appeared to be wide open.
Kennesaw State and FIU are schools that have offered Wilson while College of Charleston has also been recruiting him. He plans to visit Kennesaw State on Friday. FIU will be easy for him to visit whenever.
"I just want to go to a team that fits my offensive play and where I feel like I can play," Wilson says.
The offensive style he wants to play in involves running in transition and a lot of off-ball cuts in the halfcourt.
SLAM DUNK CONTEST & THREE-POINT SHOOTOUT
**Boyd Anderson's Brian Patrick won the slam dunk contest with a 47 in the final with windmill alley-oop off a bounce pass to beat out Huell. Even more impressive was when he jumped over Dewar sitting in a chair for a perfect 50.
Wellington's Alex Dieudonne was equally impressive but may have used his best dunks too early. He scored a 49 and a 50 in the first round, going between his legs in the air with one of them and nearly jumping over someone standing in front of the basket but going to the side of him.
**Hall won the three-point shootout by hitting 11 of 15 three-pointers in the final and beating out Frye by one. Chaminade's Leandro Allende hit that same 11 mark but in the first round.
MORE ASG OBSERVATIONS
**Westminster Christian guard Justin Brown drew oohs and ahs from the crowd as he elevated for some of the more thunderous dunks of the afternoon. He has a knack for timely cuts.
**South Miami power forward Keith Stewart is adroit in the post and able to quickly get the ball up and in through tight spaces on the low block if a team doubles him.
**Champagnat 6-8 center Denzel Jenoure has the ability to muscle through contact and finish inside. Krop guard Karl Jeanty is able to do the same.
**Florida Christian forward Gabriel Perez is dangerous when open for three -- not only as a shooter but he can counter an aggressive close-out with a pump fake and penetrate to create a better shot for himself or someone else.
**Miami High forward Marlon Sierra has a nice mid-range game.
**I definitely missed a number of players in this recap, but go ahead and watch this great video Hoop Journey put together on the day's events to see for yourself what I'm talking about or anything I didn't include. I put rosters underneath it so you can match numbers to names.
0- Justin Brown, 6-2 G, Westminster Christian
0- Mark Emmanuel Jr., 6-6 F, Calusa Prep
00- Karl Jeanty, 6-4 G, Krop
1- Matt Johnson, 6-0 PG, Pines Charter
1- Marc Syle, 6-9 C, Miami Christian
2- Alex Dieudonne, 6-4 SG, Wellington
4- PJ Hall, 6-2 G, Coral Gables
4- Ian Cruz, 5-11 PG, LaSalle
5- Dylan Frye, 6-1 PG, Mater Academy
10- Leandro Allende, 6-5 SG, Chaminade
10- Jonathan Andre, 6-6 F, Norland
14- Shaq Carter, 6-8 PF, Zion Lutheran
20- Dewan Huell, 6-10 PF, Norland
23- Jon Brown, 6-5 SG, SLAM
32- Gabriel Perez, 6-5 F, Florida Christian
1- Nate Johnson, 6-4 G, McArthur
1- Marcus Cassesa, 6-4 G, Taravella
1- Keith Stewart, 6-7 PF, South Miami
2- Brian Patrick, 6-4 SG, Boyd Anderson
4- Ralph Diaz, 6-6 W, Mater Academy
5- David Jean Baptiste, 6-2 SG, Norland
10- Jesus Cruz, 6-4 SG, LaSalle
12- Malik Harper, 6-8 PF, Pines Charter
13-Anthony Wilson, 6-6 W, Miami Central
21- Marlon Sierra, 6-6 PF, Miami High
23- Luwan Tyler, 6-0 G, SLAM
23- Denzel Jenoure, 6-8 C, Champagnat
32- Myron Dewar, 6-3 G, Coral Springs
45- Levi Cook, 6-10 C, Elev8 Academy
*Chaminade's 6-5 SG Darius Allen was on the roster but did not attend as he was on a college visit.
Al Blades Jr. at The Opening Miami Regionals on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Photo: David Furones.
Al Blades Jr., the highly-sought 2018 cornerback who transferred this offseason from University School to St. Thomas Aquinas, went in depth with the Miami Herald on the move.
"My development," Blades (6-0, 170 pounds) says. "I basically just want to get better and be ready for college.
"[Aquinas] pushes you as a student, which is great so when you go into college you're not going into the deep end. It also pushes you as a player because you're surrounded by people just like you. If you have a man next to you on the same level as you, that just makes you want to work even harder."
A prime example would be five-star senior wide receiver Trevon Grimes, whom he'll now get a chance to go up against on a consistent basis in practice.
"That's really a blessing to go up against someone like that every day," Blades says. "If you can go against the No. 1 player in the nation, you should fear no man -- no matter what. That just helps you with your confidence going into games."
In the Rivals Camp, Blades says Grimes beat him one-on-one quite a bit, but he learned from the experience.
Recruiting-wise, Blades says that since decommitting from UM, he doesn't have any top schools.
He does say Florida State, UCLA and UM are recruiting him a little harder than other schools -- the Bruins from which he is still awaiting an offer. He adds that he likes the Hurricanes combination of head coach Mark Richt and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph.
He has also received recent offers from Georgia and Mississippi State.
Blades went back to the day he became the second player invited to the 2018 Under Armour All-America game, receiving the invitation in person from Deion Sanders.
"I was on my A-game that day," he recalled. "I played really well that day at the Deion camp and he saw the potential in me and we just got together."
Blades recently debuted his recruit diary. If you missed that, make sure you check it out.
James Cook after 2015 Class 6A state championship game. Photo: Manny Navarro.
One thing star 2019 Miami Central running back James Cook always points to when talking about Florida State is that the Seminoles feel like family to him.
The figurative notion is accurate in a quite literal sense considering his older brother, Dalvin Cook, is at FSU and one of the elite running backs in the nation.
Although he still has three more high school years between now and any kind of enrollment, James decided to announce he would be following Dalvin's footsteps to FSU with a tweet Friday morning that had -- guess who -- Dalvin's picture in it.
"When I went up, they showed me love. That gives them an edge," James Cook (5-11, 182 pounds) told the Miami Herald on Sunday before announcing any commitment. "They treat me like I'm their family. They show everybody the same amount of love."
Cook first started receiving college scholarship offers before he played a down of high school football in the spring of his eighth grade year.
"It feels great, but you can't just let that go to your head because it'll all be gone in a matter of time if you don't keep working," Cook says. "I approach it like keep working hard and I'm going to keep grinding."
On the gridiron, Cook proved his worth with the early scholarship offers. He spearheaded the Rockets rushing attack in the Class 6A state championship victory with 178 yards and three touchdowns.
Cook would become the third Central Rocket in recent memory to head to Florida State with Devonta Freeman, now with the Atlanta Falcons, preceding the Cook brothers in this pipeline that has developed.
At The Opening Miami Regionals on Sunday, where Cook won running back MVP, he said he had UM, Ohio State and Alabama alongside the Seminoles in his top.
Cook says he runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash and hopes to get it down to a 4.4.
Since decommitting from Miami, St. Thomas Aquinas four-star linebacker Tyler Dunning has had a new list of suitors he's surveying.
LSU, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kentucky and Syracuse comprise his top five of schools he currently has offers from.
"I'm looking at LSU a lot," Dunning says. "I've always liked LSU. LSU has always been that school to me, that type of school that I like."
Alabama has also begun to show interest since Dunning decomitted and coaches have told him they will swing by to check him out in the spring. Dunning says an offer from Alabama could catapult the Crimson Tide to the top of his list.
On the field, Dunning hopes to improve on his pass coverage. The 7-on-7 season will present him with the right opportunity to do that.
He likes what the Aquinas defense will be able to do next season.
"Our defense is going to be crazy," he says. "We might have cheat codes over there."
He's especially thankful for the transfer of defensive end Lashawn Paulino from Coconut Creek.
"That's my boy. He's going to make sure the O-line stays off my knees," he says.
Last season Dunning was effective on the defensive line (as seen in his highlights) from the time five-star Ohio State-bound defensive end Joey Bosa went down. He will return to his natural linebacker position for his senior season.
Jerry Jeudy at The Opening Miami on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Photo: David Furones.
Deerfield Beach will once again have one of the most formidable wide receiver tandems in South Florida with four-star Under-Armour All-American Jerry Jeudy and three-star Lavarus Tigner.
Jeudy (6-1, 180 pounds) told the Miami Herald at The Opening Miami Regional on Sunday (where he qualified for The Opening in Oregon) "all my top is equal."
But Bud Elliott of SB Nation and Peter Ariz of CanesInsight have reported that it's Alabama and Miami at the top for Jeudy, who also noted to Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country that he doesn't have a leader (when previously listing the Crimson Tide as his favorite) and "all of the schools are equal right now."
Couple other notes I didn't get time to tweet out.
While Jeudy is giving off some mixed signals, one thing that's clear is that UM has boosted itself immensely in recruiting him since the new coaching staff has taken over.
"They have a nice coaching staff," Jeudy said of the Canes. "They moved up a lot. It was just cool [taking an unofficial visit last week]. I like the way the coaches were talking to me. We were just going over what I'd be doing in their offense."
The Hurricanes stand in a much better position with Jeudy now than they did in December when he tweeted out this top 10 that made no mention of them.
Jeudy feels his speed and ability to get open is what makes him elite. He says his two favorite things to do as a receiver are either to take a screen and go all the way with it or blow the top off a defense with a deep route.
**Tigner (6-0, 180.5) has Florida and Auburn a his top two schools with the Gators in the lead.
"Florida I just feel like is another home. Academic-wise, I like both schools, but I just feel more comfortable at Florida," Tigner says. "If I had [to go with] any other option, I'd go with Auburn."
Also helping UF is that Tigner considers himself good friends with St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback and Gators commit Jake Allen.
Last season Tigner wasn't able to be as impactful as he wanted to be playing behind Jeudy and Riley Ridley, now at Georgia. He's excited about what he can do either opposite of Jeudy or alongside him.
"This year is my year," Tigner says. "Two great receivers on the same side of the ball, nobody can [handle] that."
Tigner is a player with the ideal confidence and attitude for a receiver that is bound for success.
"I come out here to prove a point. I'm the best," he says.
He was impressive when seen at the South Florida Express tryouts in late January, winning virtually every one-on-one matchup.
Marco Wilson at The Opening Regionals at Plantation American Heritage on Sunday, March 6. Photo by David Furones.
Four-star American Heritage cornerback Marco Wilson sat out his entire junior season recovering from surgery on a torn ACL.
Now saying he is 100-percent complete in his recovery, the limits the injury put on his legs helped him make strides in other areas.
"I gained a lot of upper-body strength. Also, mentally, I paid attention to more things throughout the game. Watching my teammates play, I learned how offenses line up, how to watch receivers," says Wilson, who is now 5-11, 180 pounds.
"I think everything happens for a reason, so it just makes me more hungry because I really miss the game of football. It makes me play harder."
Wilson listed Ohio State, UM, UF, Tennessee and Oklahoma as schools he is highest on at Nike's The Opening Regionals on Sunday at his high school, an event he didn't participate in but was present to watch.
If he chooses the Hurricanes, his position coach in Coral Gables would be his former high school coach in Mike Rumph.
"It helps a little bit because I'm comfortable with him. I know how much of a great coach he is. I know what he can do on and off the field for a player," Wilson said. "I think he'll develop those guys that he's coaching."
What did Rumph teach Wilson during his time at American Heritage?
"He just helped me with basic technique things. When I came in here as a young guy, I didn't really know that much -- although I also got coaching from my dad (former Miami Hurricane Chad Wilson) -- but he would help me with small things that would make me perform better on the field," Wilson added. "He's always going to be looking out for you and making sure you're doing the right things in school and not just on the field."
While Wilson did not participate in the Miami Regionals of The Opening, he says he will instead opt for the one on May 1 in New Jersey.
"I hope I get invited to The Opening (in Oregon). I heard it's a great experience. My brother (current UF defensive back Quincy Wilson) went there. He told me how good it is," Wilson said. "And I know I'm the best corner in 2017. That's how I look at it."
Marco Wilson was quoted in a 247 Sports article as saying that Miami and Florida -- the two programs he has family ties with -- are recruiting him the hardest.
"I'm not going to anywhere just because of my dad or my brother," Wilson said, however. "I want to play early. I want to make sure I start my career on the right track to get to the next level. Also, I don't want to come in to a college and leave as the same player. I want to make sure that I learn new things and become a better player."
As far as offers he doesn't have that he hopes to get at some point, he goes cross country with USC and UCLA. Distance is not a factor for him.
Before Wilson sat out his junior season, he was last seen making insane highlight catches in practice (like this backflip catch).
"I could still do all that," Wilson says. "I don't know what I'd do without doing that because I'm very athletic and I like to show it."
He says he is yet to come up with any new tricks but will be back at it.
Trevon Grimes at The Opening Regionals at Plantation American Heritage on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Photo: David Furones.
Ohio State and Florida remain the two schools in the lead for five-star St. Thomas Aquinas wide receiver Trevon Grimes -- with OSU at the top.
The Buckeyes have been known to be the top choice for the Midwesterner from Indiana who grew up an Ohio State fan for some time.
"Since I was a freshman, they just treated me like a son," said Grimes at Nike's The Opening Regionals on Sunday at Plantation American Heritage -- where he earned a spot at The Opening in Oregon. "They didn't look at me as a recruit. They looked at me as more of a family member."
Grimes added that having Hall of Fame wide receiver and former Buckeye Cris Carter as his position coach as a freshman only added to his feelings toward the program.
Despite everything that has pointed toward Ohio State for Grimes' services, he's still taking a good look elsewhere to assure he makes the best decision.
"Now that I have the opportunity to go there [OSU], it's like, 'Why not?' But as time has gone on, I've had a chance to look at other colleges -- Florida, Miami," Grimes says. "I know that it's a tough decision, but there are other schools in the running too."
You'll notice Grimes included UM on his own. He wasn't asked specifically about the Hurricanes. He clarified, though, that the Gators are No. 2 for him and the Canes are just one of the schools in the mix after the top two.
He first moved UF into that second spot when he took a Junior Day visit to Gainesville. The UF momentum remains since the trip in late January, which allowed him to see first-hand what his quarterback teammate, UF commit Jake Allen, means when he talks up the Gators.
"All he does is, 'Florida this, Florida that.' Now that I get a chance to actually know what he's talking about, I understand why he says the things that he does," Grimes notes. "He just says Florida has an amazing atmosphere, has amazing coaches, great facilities. Once I got up there, I walked through the doors to get there and right once I stepped in I felt love... I just felt welcome."
Of the Hurricanes, Grimes says he likes wide receivers coach Ron Dugans.
"He's a great man," Grimes says. "We sat down in his office and he didn't talk to me like a recruit, he talked to me like life lessons."
How hard will it ultimately be for any other school to beat out Ohio State?
"Pretty hard," Grimes says. "They have the lead, but nothing is impossible."
Grimes is uncertain of when he will make a final decision.
**Grimes and Allen say he will be the newly-minted No. 1 overall player in the nation in the Rivals rankings next time they are updated. As of now, he's ranked third and the nation's top receiver. He was alerted of the news on Saturday.
"I woke up, saw it and I was just amazed," Grimes says. "Hard work has paid off. I'm still speechless. It's a dream come true."
**A 6-4 receiver, Grimes models his game after someone similar in stature -- Calvin Johnson.
"Why not him? Growing up, I loved everything about his game. He's a big, tall receiver, stretches the field, deep threat guy -- huge and he's fast," Grimes says.
**While receivers like Miami-bound Sam Bruce and Michael Irvin and Illinois-bound Dominic Thieman are moving on from Aquinas, the Raiders will be reloaded once again with returning producers like Michael Harley and up-and-coming talent, including a transfer from Western in 2018 receiver Elijah Moore, a close friend to Grimes.
"I'm just looking at bringing him in, embracing him, getting him acclimated, showing him the little things," Grimes says. "I just feel me and Jake Allen's connection -- we all have an amazing bond.
"We look at each other like brothers, not teammates."
In addition, the Aquinas offense received a big transfer at running back from four-star senior Kyshaun Bryan.
Since putting his skills on display at the South Florida Express tryouts in January, Coral Gables 2018 defensive back Gilbert Frierson has seen his recruitment erupt with major programs from across the country offering him scholarships.
On Saturday at UM's Junior Day, Frierson got the one he was apparently looking for the whole time as it turned out to be the offer he would commit to on Tuesday -- the Miami Hurricanes.
"I was truly blessed to receive an offer from my hometown team," said Frierson, who is the cousin of another Coral Gables Cavalier turned Miami Hurricane in Frank Gore. "It felt like home.
"On Junior Day when I was out there, [defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz told me [I had an offer]. It was a great feeling."
Although early for the sophomore that measures up at 6-1 and 170 pounds, Frierson adds that "so far" he is certain UM is the school he'll sign with in nearly two years.
"Real long limbs, long arms, very rangy at that safety position or at corner. Just very instinctive," say Coral Gables coach Roger Pollard. "He's working on his speed right now running track."
In the past month, Frierson has received other offers from Alabama, Georgia, USC, LSU and Oklahoma among his 10 in total.
"The attention and all of the offers from all over the country I think is a tribute to the caliber of player he's going to be and really that he is right now" Pollard says. "I'm excited that I've got him for two more seasons."
Mark Richt has been able to recruit Coral Gables in the past with wide receiver Shaquery Wilson currently a Georgia Bulldog.
On top of being Gore's cousin, Frierson's brother is senior Gables linebacker Shakur Cooper, who signed with FIU.
"He's the youngest of a lot of talented guys to play football," Pollard said. "His football knowledge is through the ceiling."
Frierson is now one of five prospects committed in UM's 2018 recruiting class -- four of which are fellow defensive backs.
Despite the decommitment of St. Thomas Aquinas linebacker Tyler Dunning -- one that was a foregone conclusion anyway -- new UM football coach Mark Richt's first Junior Day with the Hurricanes received rave reviews on social media from recruits.
We begin with committed four-star defensive lineman out of Fort Lauderdale Dillard, a former teammate of Dunning's in Jon Ford.
Ford wasn't the only one posing with new defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski on Saturday as he endured quite the photo shoot in front of the big U on campus based on the frequency of tweets from other recruits that took pictures with him.
Below we see Mobile (Alabama) St. Paul's Episcopal defensive lineman Ryan Johnson and Miami Carol City defensive tackle Rashad Colson with the man they call Coach Kool.
A top priority in four-star outside linebacker/defensive end out of Carol City, De'Andre Wilder, who currently lists UM as his leader, is seen here in this post by Hialeah Champagnat Catholic linebacker Donovan Georges, a 2018 prospect.
Junior Day isn't only for juniors, of course -- you already saw the high-profile Georges. Another key development on Saturday was that 2018 Coral Gables defensive back Gilbert Frierson, who lists numerous other offers from major programs got his hometown scholarship offer.
Below we see reaction from one prospect who's certain to be a top 2019 recruit in Loganville (Georgia) Grayson outside linebacker OwenPappoe, who is throwing up the U with co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Brown.
Apopka 2018 athlete Steven Billings-Larson Jr., someone with incredible credentials on the field and in the classroom, said he "got to know the entire staff and received encouraging feedback from the coaches." Because he's so ahead academically, he may be able to reclassify to 2017 and would look into it if he gets a UM offer.