Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Classic Win For Lakewood Ranch

Lakewood Ranch’s 25-24 victory over Taravella in the Sarasota Baseball Classic has to go down as a classic all of its own in the annals of the school’s baseball program.

We can’t call it the most important or most exciting because the 2003 team that won a state championship gave its fans some memorable, breathtaking moments.

When the Mustangs were on their way to winning the Class 5A State Title in ‘03 there were some come from behind wins, including a game where they had to score two runs in their last at-bat to earn a 6-5 region first round victory over Naples Gulf Coast that would’ve been a major upset.

It was the only close game Lakewood Ranch had in the post season until it reached the state championship game when it defeated Tallahassee Lincoln 6-5.

This Lakewood Ranch team is a lot different than the 2003 group. It is young and there are no super stars to match the likes of Lastings Milledge, Ryan Kennedy and Larry Cobb.

The best prospect on this year’s club is freshman Brett Hanewich, a 6-2, 185 pound switch hitting shortstop. The best player is Dylan Horn, a lefty pitcher with three solid pitches who does remind one of Ryan LaCross and Brent Solich, the two standout pitchers on the ’03 team.

Horn can throw hard and has mastered the art of throwing the change-up, which has become a lethal weapon in his pitching arsenal.

There are eight sophomores and Hanewich, who play key roles on this team, which makes for a bright future. To say they might equal that ’03 team would be a reach. That group was special, maybe a once in a lifetime team that comes through a high school every 20 years or so and they had the perfect person to lead them in head coach Dave Moates.

Lakewood Ranch didn’t have to share players with Braden River High in those days, which makes it even more difficult to match that talent again.

Today, if we could take the top players from Braden River and Lakewood Ranch and put them on one team you might have the makings of something very special.

Don’t want to put too much pressure on Hanewich, who is only 15 years old. But right now he is the leading candidate to become a player in the mold of someone like a Lastings Milledge, Mike Ohlman, Ryan Kennedy or Larry Cobb. Take your pick, but that’s some pretty good company.

So if Ranch and Braden River combined its baseball teams right now who would be the eight position starters and who would be the two top starting pitchers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brian Alexander plans to transfer

Former Southeast High basketball standout Brian Alexander had a highly successful season for the University of Maine at Machias finishing second in the nation in NAIA Division II in assists.

However the 5-8 guard, who has two years of eligibility left, said he is transferring and hopes to land at a school in Florida. He averaged 6.6 assists per game with a total of 171 and was sixth nationally in steals (2.8 per game).

Alexander said Mike Vazquez and Peter Mirinyi, who came to Machias with him from Southeast, are also leaving, though they will likely stay up north.

Alexander led Machias in minutes played per game (28.5), but says among other things he was not happy under the system used by head coach Brac Brady, who formerly coached at then Manatee Community College

“You get homesick and the weather up there is pretty cold,” Alexander said. “I also want to play under a different offense. I feel the system there is too restrictive and doesn’t allow me to reach my full potential as a player.

“The competition up there wasn’t bad, but it’s not like Florida. There is not a lot of height, but there are a lot of good shooters. We would get about 70 to 100 people in the gym, but they were real loud.”

Alexander said he would be looking at Webber International, an NAIA school in Babson Park. He also wants to see if there are some possibilities at some of the Division II schools in Florida such as Eckerd, Saint Leo and Florida Southern.

“I learned some things this year, like how to run an offense and did a better job of getting my teammates more involved,” Alexander said. “I also learned college basketball is a real business and at the end of the day you have to do what you have to do to make your organization better.”

Alexander graduated Southeast in 2007 where he started for three years and was the sixth man during his freshman season. He averaged 9.5 points per game this past season. Vazquez averaged 3.6 ppg in 14.6 minutes per game and Mirinyi averaged 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Love and Raymond top Holtz first depth chart

USF new head football coach Skip Holtz unveiled his first depth chart on Monday and there were some surprises, but for the most part it went as kind of expected.

Southeast High grad A.J. Love, who is entering his senior season, is listed as a starting receiver at the Z slot. It means they will use him in a lot of ways, but are looking at the 6-2, 205 pounder to go deep and be able to handle those one on situations.

Holtz has had nothing but praise for Love, complimenting him on his work ethic, maturity and leadership skills while impressed with his athletic ability.

“A.J. is a great young man, who has been working extremely hard and wants to get better. He is definitely one of the leaders on the team and definitely a guy we are going to rely heavily on,” Holtz said.

Palmetto High graduate Mistral Raymond is listed as the starter at free safety, which really shouldn’t a surprise, but is a tribute to his work ethic. The 6-1, 185 pound senior joined the team last year and worked his way up the depth chart from third string to starter.

There was a little good news for Faron Hornes, another Southeast High grad, who joined the Bulls from junior college last year. He was the starting punt returner last season for former head coach Jim Leavitt.

Hornes is listed as the third team receiver at the Z position behind Love and Lindsey Lamar. Moving Lamar from running back was perhaps the biggest surprise. He is a shifty, speedster but his size (5-9, 160) has raised questions about his ability to handle full time duties at running back.

Holtz did not put up anyone for punt returner. Hornes felt he didn’t get into the mix at receiver last year because he joined the team late and hopes to make his presence felt this season.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jan Brady waiting for honor

The move to rename the Bayshore High gym after former head coach Jan Brady has reached its final stage, according to Bruins current head coach Warren Bell.

Bell, who initiated the move, which was approved by the Bayshore administration and faculty, says the only thing left is for the Manatee County school board to put its stamp of approval on it and he doesn’t feel that will be a problem.

Bell wants the facility to be named the Jan C Brady Gym. He coached the Bruins boys basketball program from 1977 through the 1990-1991 season.

“I feel there is not enough history to the basketball program at the school and this would help,” Bell said. “Also, the Brady family deserves this honor. Jan’s son Brac is the school career scoring leader and his other son Chris was the head coach and is now athletic director.

“I took the petition to staff members at the school and they signed and then it was approved by the school advisory committee. Now, it just has to be approved by the school board,” Bell said.

The 65 year-old Brady was on the original staff at the school. He was JV coach for three years before he took over the boys basketball program.

“It’s quite an honor. It’s overwhelming and surprising to me,” Jan Brady said. “I would really like it to be for the Brady family, but I don’t think they can do it that way. I don’t think the honor is for my record. It’s just that there has been a Brady at the school since it began and I was on the original staff.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hanna and Bobelis selected for All-Star Game

Bianca Hanna from Southeast and Casey Bobelis from Braden River will be participating in the boys and girls FACA North-South All-Star basketball games this Saturday at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach.

The players will be representing FACA District 15, which includes all the schools in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. They are one of 12 players selected to play for the South in their respective game.

At 6-7, Bobelis and Kyle Lindbergh are the two tallest players on the South team. Bobelis averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The 5-9 Hanna averaged 20.9 points and 7 rebounds per game.

The girls’ game will tip off at 12 noon and the boys will play at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vitale says Jones should stay at USF

The big question surrounding the USF basketball team these days is whether star player Dominique Jones should come back for his senior year or make himself available for the NBA Draft.

NBADraft.Net has Jones as the 20th overall pick going to the San Antonio Spurs, listing him as the fourth best shooting guard in this year’s draft behind Evan Turner, Xavier Henry and James Anderson.

But ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale doesn’t agree and says the choice is simple for the 6-4 guard. He should stay.

“No, he should absolutely not come out,” Vitale said. “He should build off this year. A good recruiting class comes in, which will help him get his stock even higher. I’ve seen ratings where he is not in the first round at all, where he is maybe even late second round.

“My feeling is he would be wiser to see his stock elevate and really build off what he achieved this season. He needs to defend better and improve his shot selection. He is a volume shooter, shoots a lot of shots and he needs to get a better understanding of that. From the beginning of the year to the end, he is a much improved player.”

In 33 games this season, Jones averaged 21.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game shooting 45 percent from the field and 74.1 on free throws. In conference games, he was the Big East’s top scorer (23.2 ppg).

Scouting reports say his best attributes are his strength and ability to create his own shot particularly at taking it to the basket. The biggest criticism has been inconsistency in his long range shooting (31% on 3-point attempts).


Vitale is impressed with USF and head coach Stan Heath, who guided the Bulls to the second biggest turnaround of the six major conferences going from 9-22 (4-14 Big East) to 20-13 (9-9). He says Heath has one of the toughest coaching jobs in America, but his vote for Big East Conference Coach of The Year is Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.

“I think coach Heath did a fantastic job to win nine games in the toughest conference in America,” Vitale said. “He can build off of that and next year they are going to have a multi-million dollar complex for practice, which will play another role in recruiting,” Vitale said. “I think coach Boeheim is the Big East

Coach of the Year. Syracuse was predicted to finish sixth in the Big East and finished in the top five in America.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

USF faces N.C. State in NIT

With its invitation to the NIT Sunday night, the USF men’s basketball team will play in the post season for the first time since 2002. The Bulls (20-12) will face North Carolina State (19-15) Tuesday night at 8 pm in the Sun Dome.

The Wolfpack was 5-11 in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season, but finished strong reaching the ACC tournament semifinals and winning five of their last seven games. USF finished ninth in the Big East Conference with a 9-9 record and defeated DePaul in its conference tournament opener before losing to Georgetown.

This will be the eighth NIT appearance for the USF and the 11th for N.C. State, which reached the NIT Quarterfinals in 2007. The Bulls last NIT appearance ended in a first round 98-92 loss on the road at Ball State from the Mid American Conference.

The Bulls last NIT appearance was the final game in the career of Altron Jackson, the Sarasota Riverview High graduate, who is USF's number two career scorer. The 6-6 swingman scored 30 points in that game, which enabled Jackson to go over the 2,000 point mark and finish his career with 2,017 points.

The only time USF and N.C. State met on the basketball court was in 1972 when the Wolfpack won 125-88.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NIT Good Fit For USF

The University of South Florida men’s basketball team won’t be joining the NCAA dance, but the Bulls are still in a good place.

They will get a bid to the NIT and before supporters start bowing their heads in disappointment they need to ask themselves a question.

For a program that hasn’t been to any post season tournament in eight years, would you rather go a remote venue where no fans could travel and lose a first round game or play in the NIT and get a chance to create some ripples in the college basketball world.

USF (20-12) will likely get one or two home games in the NIT and the Bulls have a chance to gain some very nice notoriety, especially if they make it to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals.

This is a program that has been in the Big East infirmary since it joined the conference five years ago. It’s just starting to gain its health and the NIT is the perfect remedy.

Let’s not forget USF went 11-54 in its first four years of Big East play before compiling a 9-9 record this season. The Bulls are two victories away from tying the school single season record for wins (22) and wouldn’t it be nice to do it at the Sun Dome.

USF is projected as being a one through three seed in the NIT, which means at least one home game and a very good chance to reach that 22.
The USF women won the NIT last year and it brought them a nice bunch of plaudits plus the biggest honor the program has ever received.

This would also give the younger Bulls a chance to get more playing time and experience, which will be needed next year especially if Dominique Jones comes out for the draft and leaves along with departing seniors Chris Howard and Mike Mercer.

An NIT championship might even convince Jones to stick around for another year and that in itself is worth its weight in gold.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Purvis named Braden River head coach

Don Purvis, who was on the coaching staff of Bayshore High’s best football team, has been named Braden River’s new head football coach.

Purvis was an assistant under Ray Woodie in 2003 when the Bruins went 10-2 and reached the second round of the playoffs for the only time in school history. He left to take an assistant’s job at First Assembly Christian School just outside of Memphis where he played college football.

For the past three seasons, Purvis has been the head coach at First Assembly and reached the playoffs each year, including two trips to the state semis.

The 34 year old is slated to assume his new job on April 5th. He replaces Ed Volz, who quit after one year to take the head job at Sarasota High. Purvis was selected from 98 candidates who submitted resumes.

One of the most impressive things about Purvis is that in three years at First Assembly his team was never assessed a personal foul and he compiled a 24-12 record.

For a complete story see Bradenton Herald on Friday.