“Radar Contact” SOUTH – Florida’s Dylan James

By: Keith Agran

WINTER HAVEN, FL – Continuing with our looks at top Florida prospects, Radar Contact “South” spent some time talking with 6-8 2023 forward Dylan James out of Winter Haven HS and the 1Family AAU program.

All signs point to a what was a blow-up of a spring/summer season, one which hasn’t abated at all in Fall Showcases, and he’s racked up an impressive offer list off those performances (at bottom).

James will be playing his ball with Winter Haven this coming winter after spending his entire sophomore campaign with prep school The Rock of Gainesville, Florida. But in addition to his lofty and very attainable college basketball goals, this is a young man with high academic standards for himself as well, as he is enrolled in a special program for his junior year.

“(At the end of my sophomore year at The Rock) I signed up to do a collegiate program at Polk State College, which is about 10 minutes away, and my entire schedule now is college classes.”

I was very curious about how available something like that is, and how someone qualifies for a program of that nature.

“They look at your grades first, but you have to take a PERT test (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test), they look at your score, and that’s how they determine if you can get in or not.”

With his impressive slate of academic rigors set to go this fall, we turn the clock back a bit to the summer of 2020 before his sophomore year, our first set of months having to deal with Covid-19, and even with shutdowns and restrictions much like in Georgia, James and his 1Family mates were able to get a few tournaments in that summer, a common refrain as circuits scrambled to put together whatever they could for players. And to stay sharp and not lose an edge, he did like most prospects were forced to do during those early Covid months, got in strength work, individual work with trainers, and work on his own when he wasn’t playing with 1Family.

Fast forward to the end of that abbreviated AAU campaign, and he was set to go to The Rock in Gainesville for his sophomore season. But like much of the country, it was not a guarantee that sports were going to be able to play full seasons or even get started if outbreaks became a factor, yet The Rock offered him a unique opportunity amidst all that uncertainty – In-person learning and a full basketball slate.

“We weren’t entirely sure if public schools were going to have a season. The Rock is a private prep school, and the program they have over there has great competition, the skill development is just different from regular schools.”

So now at The Rock and able to get his sophomore season in, even a rising talent at near 6-8 had to pay his dues on what was clearly a deep Rock roster. He reflected on how his role as sixth man helped him get better.

“I definitely improved that season. That’s probably my biggest jump. My role on that team was first man off the bench, so I was getting good minutes, my role was bigger than it was my freshman year (here) at Winter Haven.”

A full season of strong competition and notable development now under his belt, he set his sights this past spring on his work with the highly-respected independent 1Family program, and preparing to make a push with his exposure profile.

“This past 1Family season was great for me, and I think it was also great for the team because we won a lot of games. Everybody came together, even though a lot of us hadn’t played together before. My role became even bigger, and my coach (Lee Loper) put a lot of trust in me. He gave me a lot more room to be versatile. He was telling me this was my time to make myself one of the biggest prospects in Florida.”

But it wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch for James to become the main man, after being unselfish and a team guy leading up to that point both with 1Family and early high school.

“It took a little time for me to accept the role because I’ve never been ‘the man’ of a team. I’ve always been a post player mostly, a secondary option. But now I was the first option, I extended (my game) to the 3-point line, became more of a shooter, constantly working on the 3-ball with and without my trainer and finding spots in the mid-range.”

Now Back at Winter Haven as the official opening of practice looms and with a more confident James as the feature guy, he likes what he sees for the Blue and Gold.

“We got a little bit of a preview this summer, we went to Florida Gulf Coast Camp and Florida St Camp, and we have a lot of potential. We have two other D1 prospects in the 2024 class, so it’s sort of a Big 3 over here. We just to want to win as many games as we can, and our main goal is to make it to the state championship.”

His offer list certainly reflects the kind of game he has been developing, and top schools have noticed. Working backward from the most recent, he’s pocketed offers from – VCU, Alabama, Florida, Dayton, USF, Florida Gulf Coast, Appalachian St, Georgotweon, Virginia Tech, Creighton, Hofstra, Florida Atlantic, Mississippi St, Siena, Stetson and Cleveland State

With his whole junior year ahead, another big spring/summer season with 1Family and then his senior year to hone his skills further and go get that state championship, it’s easy to see why he’s made such a monster jump and his progress and successes should be fascinating to watch down there in Central Florida.

Keith Agran has lived in Georgia since 2011 and joined OTR as a National Evaluator in 2021. He previously scouted for Prep Hoops dating back to 2019 and has both a championship-coaching background on the HS-level and daily newspaper writing experience, both from New Jersey. You can reach him at keithagran1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @BracketSage.