Posted On: 03/12/19 10:05 PM

High school basketball in the Sunshine State continues to be on the rise.

Through Thursday’s play, nine of the first 12 programs to have locked in berths in the 2019 NCAA Tournament have Florida connections on their respective rosters. Only Iona, Fairleigh Dickinson and Colgate do not have a player with Florida ties.

Northeastern University (23-10), which features former Park Vista and Grandview Prep star guard Shawn Occeus (pictured), was one of five programs to make the Big Dance on Tuesday night. The Huskies punched their ticket by winning the Colonial championship.  

Occeus, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, helped Northeastern reach the NCAAs for the ninth time in school history. As a prep star, Occeus led Grandview Prep to a 34-0 season and state championship in 2015-16.

Also on the Northeastern roster is former Cardinal Gibbons and Westminster Academy standout Jason Strong. The 6-8 redshirt freshman won a state title his senior season at Westminster.

Gardner-Webb (23-11), the Big South champion, has the most Florida connections (4) of teams that have already qualified for the NCAAs.

Senior D.J. Laster, out of Pensacola Catholic, leads that list. The 6-6 senior scored a career-high 32 points vs. Radford to keep the Runnin’ Bulldogs alive. Gardner-Webb’s roster also includes 6-6 grad senior Brandon Miller (Orlando Christian Prep); 6-2 redshirt senior David Efianayi (Ocoee High); and 6-4 redshirt sophomore Nate Johnson (Hollywood McArthur).

More berths will be won and lost this week as we head toward Selection Sunday.

Other Florida connections that will be playing in the NCAA Tournament include:


Koch Bar (Jr.), West Oaks Academy/Jacksonville Arlington Country Day; Jayden Hodgson (Jr.) Arlington Country Day


Scottie James (R-Jr.), Tarpon Springs

Murray State

Brion Whitley (Soph.), Sarasota Riverview; Brion Sanchious (Sr.), Oakland Park Northeast

North Dakota State

Tyson Ward (Jr.), Tampa Prep

Northern Kentucky

Silas Adheke (R-Soph.), Eastern Florida State transfer 

St. Mary’s

Malik Fitts (R-Soph.) University of South Florida transfer


Fletcher Magee (Sr.), Orlando First Academy

If you have high school basketball news, you can reach Pat Lammer via text at 954-661-9671.