FORT MEYERS, FLORIDA – The 43rd Annual City of Palms Classic will once again be a 16 team showcase of the best high school basketball players that the nation has to offer starting tomorrow Friday Dec 18th – Wednesday Dec 23rdat Bishop Verot High School. For two very determined young men, this is also a time of second chances, as all appeared to take a dismal turn for them prior to last year’s 2014 City of Palms tournament.
Last season Florida Air Academy starters, five-star sophomore Sean Mobley (6’9”, SF/2017) and four-star junior Davonta Jordan (6’ PG/2016), entered their second season with a seemingly stacked team including Nike 100 big man senior Ted Kapita (6’9”), sharp shooter Julius Johnson (Richmond), dunking machine Darius Allen, and upcoming shooting guard Elijah Weaver. Florida Air Academy (FAA), the state’s 3A powerhouse which has won several titles spanning the last 15 years, with one of the most winning coaches, Aubin Goporo, received its first invitation to the City of Palms event in 2014.
Favorites to win the 3A Florida State championship and projected spoilers headed to the nation’s biggest event, bad news struck FAA a few days into the season when information surfaced that center Ted Kapita had simply disappeared and was reported a few days later to have transferred suddenly to Huntington Prep. FAA was thin on big man talent, leaving Goporo with no options but to shift Sean Mobley, a prominent wing, to the big man role.
FAA moved through the season undefeated with Mobley and Jordan stepping up and supporting senior Johnson, leading up to the City of Palms Classic. Much press coverage had shifted away from FAA due to the departure of Kapita, setting the stage for opening game 1 with Riverside. Not expected by many to win any games, Mobley and Jordan connected several times and pulled out the upset win with just seconds to go. The media once again took notice of Mobley and Jordan, while FFA advanced for the right to play St. Francis with Malik Beasley and Kobi Simmons considered the best backcourt in the country.
Mobley and Jordan pushed FAA out to a 15 point lead on St. Francis before a 45 minute delay was called for Darius Allen’s thunderous dunk in the 3rd period which put out the lights. Julius Johnson pulled up on a hurt ankle, and St. Francis eventually clawed back in the final minutes of the game to win, ending FFA’s run and next game shot at Ben Simmons and the defending national champions: Montverde Academy.
Following the 2014 City of Palms and a last second season ending loss to Sagemont (Prince Ali) in the state semi-final, bad news struck again. Florida Air Academy (after 50 years) announced that it was changing its name to Florida Prep and reducing its emphasis on major sports participation. Goporo was asked to step away, along with his legacy of 5 State Championships and history of top players such as Sasha Kaun (Kansas/Cavaliers), Walter Hodge (Florida/Zenit St Pete), Jerome Jordan (Tulsa/Nets), Will Yeguete (Florida/Parle France), and numerous others. Julius Johnson is off to Richmond leaving Sean Mobley and Davonta Jordan without clear direction and the coach who had mentored them.
Following advice of Coach Goporo, Mobley and Jordan worked very hard to change their bad luck and eventually transferred to Montverde Academy this season to play under Coach Kevin Boyle. Montverde Academy is loaded with talent including; Micha Potter (Ohio State), Howard Washington (Butler), EJ Montgomery, Silvio De Souza, Bruno Fernando, Simi Shittu, and others. However, no two players are more grateful and eager to get back to the City of Palms than Sean Mobley and Davonta Jordan.
Life is ironic that way, last year two players who fought hard through obstacles to play against the best team in the country are now members of that team heading into tomorrow’s City of Palms Classic. What a difference a year can make.
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