The Oak Ridge Pioneers had a terrific season in 2017-18, taking home the FHSAA Class 9A state championship behind the leadership of LSU-bound big man Emmitt Williams. Senior superstar CJ Walker transfers in from Orlando Christian Prep joining five returners, and his addition turned Oak Ridge into the odds-on favorite to win another state title. They will be looking to top a 30-4 overall mark from a year ago, and they’ll have to do it against a very formidable schedule. Expect Oak Ridge to hover around the top 25 if they can get past their opening schedule.
Walker is new to town, and he’s accustomed to winning, evidenced by his back-to-back-to-back state championships with Orlando Christian Prep. Walker will be deciding between LSU, Miami, and Oregon, and the 6-foot-8 swingman will be a huge get for whichever program he picks. Walker averaged 16.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks for E1T1 in the 2018 NIKE EYBL, establishing himself as a five-star recruit according to 247 Sports. With his size, athleticism and non-stop motor, Walker is going to be a headache for every frontcourt he opposes. Walker is a prime contender for a McDonald’s All-American selection, and he should put up some monstrous numbers throughout the season.
The Pioneers’ supporting cast is a big reason why they have a great chance of repeating as Florida 9A state champions, and they played extremely well while winning the fall league. 6-foot-5 senior guard Niven Glover is a freak of an athlete, and he fits perfectly in coach Steve Reece’s uptempo style of play. Glover recently received an offer from SMU, and he should receive a lot more interest as the season progress. 6-foot-7 senior Kaleb Coleman returns in a starting role, and the Lipscomb commit should be super-productive alongside fellow senior, 6-foot-9 Emmanuel Adedoyin. Walker, Coleman, and Adedoyin make up a talented frontcourt, and when you throw in 6-foot-6 Louis Jones - an athletic freshman set to start - it starts to get scary. 6-foot-3 senior guard Zavian Smith joins Glover in the backcourt, as does Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who Reece claims is not only the shooter on the team but one of the best in his class. Guard Steven Burr rounds out the rotation, and the 6-foot sophomore should provide a nice spark off the bench.
Oak Ridge will test themselves nationally on multiple occasions, including a premier matchup with top-ten ranked Sierra Canyon in mid-December. Reece loves his squad this year, and while he knows his unit is ready for the national spotlight.
“When I say we are loaded, we are loaded,” Reece said. “We have five guys coming back, and we add CJ (Walker)? We are just as good as last year, if not better."
Reece continued, hinting at a less-than-desirable amount of depth on the roster.
“Only thing different is we will be about eight deep,” Reece said. “But I really like the rotation we have. We have to stay healthy and go through our studs.”