This year’s Sun Herald All-South Mississippi Players of the Year were unequaled in the post.
On the boys side, Bay High junior Tolu Smith had a breakout season as he helped lead the Tigers to a 25-6 record and a No. 1 ranking in the final Sun Herald Top 10.
The girls honoree is St. Martin junior Daphane White, who regularly flirted with triple-doubles and further cemented her reputation as a top Division I prospect.
While there have been plenty of talented post players come off the Coast, it’s been a while since there were players who had the combination of size, athleticism and strength that both Smith and White feature.
Smith stands 6-foot-9, 220 pounds while White checks in at a towering 6-foot-4.
Both players have received significant interest from Division I programs. White didn’t hesitate when she got her offer from Mississippi State in March. She verbally committed to Lady Bulldogs’ head coach Vic Schaefer, who led MSU to an appearance in this year’s NCAA title game.
White believes the pressure is off now that she has decided on her future destination.
“It feels like it’s going to be easier for this season,” White said. “It doesn’t feel like I’ll have to talk to a whole bunch of coaches.”
White was the most dominant girls player on the Coast this season, averaging 22.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 7.0 blocks.
White was also a member of the 2015-16 St. Martin girls squad that reached the Class 6A semifinals with Savannah Jones and Deona Morgan both helping lead the way.
Following the graduation of Jones and Morgan, more pressure fell on Jones to produce, and she delivered. She nearly doubled her scoring average of 11.7 points from the 2015-16 campaign.
“It was really good,” said of playing with Jones and Morgan. “They taught me a lot to stuff.”
White plans to spend the summer working on her ball-handling skills while competing on the AAU circuit.
While White already had a reputation as an up-and-coming post player, Smith was a somewhat unheralded big man entering his junior season. He flew under the radar as a sophomore, averaging 7.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.
The biggest difference for Smith is that he and his brother, 6-foot-7 senior wing man Galen Smith Jr., both grew four inches over the summer.
Tolu Smith is still growing and seems likely to at least hit 6-10.
With Galen Smith Jr. set to enroll at Xavier University in New Orleans to begin his college career, Tolu still has one year of high school left and he will transferring to Meridian High School.
While Tolu helped lead Bay High to a special season, he can’t help but remember how his junior year came to a surprising end — a 63-60 loss at home to Northeast Lauderdale in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“I have good feelings (about the 2016-17 season), but I know I could played better. Especially the last game,” Tolu said. “Me and my dad have watched the video numerous times.”
Tolu plans to work on his shot and do everything he can this summer to impress college coaches while playing with his AAU squad, the Mississippi Express.
“It’s a big opportunity to show my skills,” he said.
Southeastern Louisiana is the only program with a Division I offer on the table for Smith at the moment. BYU, UAB, Wichita State, Houston, Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech are among the schools that have shown interest.