Friday, June 29, 2012

Newcomers help Southeast finish runner-up in prestigous girls hoop tourney

Southeast POY DeAngela Mathis
It’s always been John Harder’s dream to take his Southeast High girls basketball team to Tobacco Road to his players could personally see one of the country’s basketball hotbeds.
The Hall of Fame coach was able to do that this week and his players rewarded him with a 7-1 record that gave the Seminoles the runner-up spot in the prestigious girls’ high school tournament on the North Carolina University of campus. Harder said the program raised $5,000 to make the trip possible.

“I was able to take them to Duke for a tour on Sunday and then play in the North Carolina tournament Monday through Wednesday,” Harder said. “Seeing the Dean Dome and all of the history at UNC was a great experience. I went to a Dean Smith workshop when I was a young coach and to go there and see of its basketball tradition and its tributes to Michael Jordan was special.”
The MVP of the North Carolina tournament for Southeast was Desante Jordan. She joined fellow senior (class of 2013) Bre Nice. Both enrolled at Southeast last year from Manatee, but were unable to play because of transfer rules.

 “I haven’t had a team in the last couple of years who I thought could play in tournament like this until now,” Harder said. “Those two seniors should fit in nice with three junior starters I have coming back from last year (including Bradenton Herald Player of the Year DeAngela Mathis).”

The Southeast girls won four games by two points and one in overtime, they lost in the championship game to a state champion from Ohio, Harder said.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

USF men's basketball has attractive Big East home schedule

Coming off its best season in school history, things won't get any easier for the USF men's basketball team in 2012-13.

The Big East Conference released its scheduled and it has the Bulls playing host to NCAA Final Four Louisville along with five other teams that made the tournament last year: Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Connecticut.

 Each Big East team will play 18 conference games featuring 10 opponents once and four teams twice. USF will face Louisville, Marquette, UConn and Villanova in home and away games.

The Bulls willl face a tough schedule away from the Sun Dome facing Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati, UConn, Rutgers, St. Johns and Villanova on the road.

The Big East schedule with game dates will be announced at a later date.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Draper named head volleyball coach at USF

The University of South Florida has named Courtney Draper its new head volleyball coach.
Courtney Draper
Draper brings nine years of head coaching experience at the Division I and II levels and 12 years of overall coaching experience. She served as head coach at Eckerd College for the last eight years.

Draper guided Eckerd to five NCAA DII Tournament appearances in eight seasons, including a second-round appearance in 2009 and reached the third-round in ’11, marking the school’s deepest run in program history. She brings a 160-118 overall career record
During her tenure at Eckerd, she produced 18 All-Conference players and coached 44 Commissioner’s Honor Roll student-athletes.

“I’m overjoyed at the opportunity to lead the Bulls volleyball program,” Draper said. “I’ve always had such respect for the program and people at USF and it’s been a dream of mine to work at one of the best Universities in the state.
“The administration at USF has shown great support for their volleyball program, and I believe that gives us the opportunity to achieve new levels of success. I’ve had an unbelievable time working at tremendous places like Eckerd and Florida State, but I can’t wait to start this new journey with USF.”

In 2011, Draper guided Eckerd to a 27-5 record and earned Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year honors, while being named the American Volleyball Coaches Association South Region Coach of the Year. She also mentored sophomore Lindsay Biggs to AVCA All-America honors.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Brian Poole gets highest rating among recent local football grads

Bucs new running back Doug Martin
Friday's column in the Bradenton Herald sports section referenced Phil Steele's college preview publication and how he evaluated Tampa Bay Bucs first round draft pick and running back Doug Martin when he came out of high school five years ago.

Here is a look at how he rated some local products to come out of Manatee County the  last couple of years.

His highest rating went to 2012 Southeast graduate and University of Florida bound Brian Poole, who is ranked the #7 best defensive back in the country by Steele.

Some other familiar names that received a high rating from Steele in the class of 2011 include Manatee High running back Mike Blakely (#11 ) and Punta Gorda Charlotte standout Mike Bellamy (#5). In the Class of 2010, Steele had Southeast defensive back Jon Dowling at #19.
Ironically none of the last three are at the college they attended out of high school. Dowling went from Florida to Western Kentucky, Blakely from Florida to Auburn and after a season at Clemson, Bellamy became an academic casualty and is in junior college.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mirabella makes it official: She is returning to Braden River next season

Courtney Mirabella says she will be back
Braden River softball fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Courtney Mirabella has made it official. She is coming back for her senior year.

The phenom pitcher had been debating whether to graduate school early next winter and head to North Carolina State. The coaching staff there had been urging her to enroll early and promised to put her in the pitching rotation.

After months of deliberations with her family, the right hander decided to return to Braden River. She said it was more about her pitching career than missing out on her senior year of high school and all that comes with it.

"The idea of pitching against 22 and 23 year-olds right now didn't appeal to me," Mirabella said. "I didn't feel comfortable with that and decided against it. I would also like to win a state championship next season. We didn't make it to states this year and I was disappointed."

Mirabella continued to be one of the ace strikeout pitchers in the state last season. She finished fifth with 241 strikeouts, but was first in strikeouts per inning averaging 1.96 per inning.

Monday, June 18, 2012

USF men's basketball non-conference sked includes trip to Oklahoma State

TAMPA – The University of South Florida men’s basketball team will host nine non-conference opponents while facing a challenging road schedule in 2012-13 highlighted by a trip to Oklahoma State. The Bulls, who played at three different arenas while the Sun Dome was undergoing renovations during the 2011-12 season, will open the building with a match-up against future BIG EAST opponent UCF on Nov. 10.
“This is possibly one of our best non-conference schedules especially when you look at the amount of attractive home games on the schedule,” said head coach Stan Heath. “Our fans are going to get a great chance to see exciting basketball games during the non-conference slate heading into conference play. The schools we’ll face will certainly prepare us for our BIG EAST season especially when you look at what Oklahoma State, UCF, Georgia, George Mason and the rest of the field bring to the table.”
Following the opener against the Knights, USF will host a three-game tournament Nov. 16-18 facing Maryland Eastern Shore, Western Michigan and Loyola-Chicago. The Bulls round out a five-game home-stand to open the season as they face Bradley on Nov. 20.
USF then heads to Stetson on Nov. 26 before coming back to the Sun Dome to face the Georgia Bulldogs on Nov. 30 as part of the BIG EAST-SEC Challenge. The Bulls take their second road trip of the year when they head to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State on Dec. 5.
Three home games vs. Youngstown State (Dec.18), Bowling Green (Dec. 21) and George Mason (Dec. 29) followed by a rematch at UCF (Jan. 2) rounds out the Bulls’ non-conference slate.
Game times along with the Big East schedule will be announced at a later date.
USF 2012-13 non-conference schedule
Saturday, Nov. 10 vs. UCF
Friday, Nov. 16 vs. Maryland Eastern Shore
Saturday, Nov. 17 vs. Western Michigan
Sunday, Nov. 18 vs. Loyola-Chicago
Tuesday, Nov. 20 vs. Bradley
Monday, Nov. 26 at Stetson
Friday, Nov. 30 vs. Georgia
Wednesday, Dec. 5 at Oklahoma State
Tuesday, Dec. 18 vs. Youngstown State
Friday, Dec. 21 vs. Bowling Green
Saturday, Dec. 29 vs. George Mason
Wednesday, Jan. 2 at UCF


Friday, June 15, 2012

Highly touted QB recommits to USF

First you do then you don’t then you. College football recruitingcan often be fickle, but suitors are never swayed by a potential rejection or change of  heart.
And so as of now heralded quarterback Asiantii Woulard from Winter Park High is committed to the USF football program for the second time in four months.

 Woulard committed back in April and then changed his mind. He announced on AM 1010 radio Friday that he has recommitted to USF giving the Bulls their first four star prospect of the 2013 class (

 The 6-3, 205 pounder is rated the 13th best dual threat quarterback in the country in the Class of 2013 by and the 24th best by has him rated at three stars.

 After transferring from Freedom High last season, Woulard threw for more than 1,600 yards and rushed for another 600 plus yards while throwing 15 touchdown passes. He led the Wildcats to a 6-5 record and runner-up spot in Class 8A-District 3.

 Woulard reportedly has offers from nearly 20 major college programs including USF Big East Conference rivals Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Connecticut and UCF, which is scheduled to join the conference for the 2013-14 school year.

 With B.J. Daniels heading into this senor season, the quarterback position could be wide open by the time the spring of 2013 rolls around.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Could DRC lead the NFL in interceptions

The Philadelphia Eagles are predicting a breakout season for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie now that he is back covering outside receivers after laboring as a slot corner last season. The Eagles feel so confident about DRC they unloaded Asante Samuel . The Eagles believe DRC has top end closing speed that will enable the Lakewood Ranch product to stay with the fleet of speed merchant receivers of the NFL. With Nnamdi Asugha on the other corner using his ability to jam receivers a lot of people see DRC being among the league leaders in interceptions .

USF will break in "new" Sun Dome against arch rival UCF

The University of South Florida men's basketball team will break in its glittering rennovated Sun Dome next season taking on I-4 Rival Central Florida.

Coming off its best season in history, the Bulls will take on UCF November 10th returning to its campus after a year of being a basketball vagabond as the Sun Dome underwent a rennovation.

"What an exciting way to open a brand new building with a future Big East opponent in UCF," said Bulls head coach Stan Heath. "This should be an exciting game that will feature great talent. We expect our fans to fill the seats and give us the energy to provide an electric memorable season opener."

Despite playing its home games in three different arenas last season, USF went 22-14 matching its school record for victories in a season and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years reaching the third round. Heath was also named Big East Conference Coach of The Year.

UCF went to the NIT and finished with a 22-11 record. The Knights are slated to join the Big East Conference for the 2013-14 season. The teams will face each other a second time on January 2nd in Orlando.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jenkins should exercise patience and good things will happen

Mike Jenkins looking for big payday
Mike Jenkins has to turn what seems to be a tough situation in a potential good one that could leave him with a whole lot of greenbacks flowing into his pockets.

The Dallas Cowboys cornerback has been all over the Internet with stories that he is disgruntled because team owner Jerry Jones drafted Morris Claiborne and picked up free agent Brandon Carr thus relegating Jenkins to a backup as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

But it doesn't have to be that way for the USF All-American who learned his trade at Southeast High.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan says Jenkins might see a lot of time covering the slot receivers and that he wanted all his cornerback to be versatile in that way.

If Mike does a good job there it just adds to his value at the end of next season when he can shop himself on the free market. He isn't going to lose that sub 4.3 speed anytime soon.

But here is another thing to consider. Who is to say Claiborne is better than Mike and can beat Jenkins out despite the fact he will have a bigger contract.

So the best advice for Jenkins is stay quiet, stay cooperative, be the best player you can be and good things should happen.

As he promised, Jenkins showed up at Dallas' minicamp today after missing all of the OTA. Ryan calls Mike a talented guy who return to his All Pro form covering the slot and noted that the Boys will be utilizing three cornerbacks about 65 percent of the time.

Brac Brady new head coach at Tennesee Temple University

Brady takes over at TTU
Brac Brady, who starrred at Bayshore and was head basketball coach at Manatee Community College for six years, will take over the mens' basketball program at Tennesee Temple University in Chatanooga.

Brady was head coach at the University of Maine-Machias for the past seven years where he compiled a 119-77 record. It was an NAIA program when he took over the reigns and two years ago went to an NCAA Division II program.

It is the second time Brady is replacing Randy Lee, who was the coach at Maine-Machias before Brady took over and was the TTU head coach this past season before he resigned to what he said was to pursue other interests. TTU competes in the National Christian College Athletic Association.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Final numbers in: Vitale Gala hits the jackpot

With the final numbers in, the Dick Vitale Gala hit the jackpot breaking the $2 million barrier for the first time since its inception seven years ago in raising money for pediatric cancer research in conjunction with the Jimmy V Foundation.

It took in a record $2.1 million following its fund raising finale at the May 18th Dick Vitale Gala. Net proceeds from the event will benefit All Children’s Hospital and provide memorial grants to the University of Florida Shands Hospital in memory of Caleb Jacobbe and the Moffitt Cancer Center in memory of David Heard.

“This year’s gala certainly would bring a smile to the face of Jimmy V as we lived by his motto that every day should be filled with laughter, thought and tears,” Vitale said. “There was no doubt that was achieved by our sold-out crowd of over 800 (at the Gala). Words cannot describe the feeling to know that we more than reached our goal.

“This year we were able to raise more than $2.1 million. There’s nothing we can do to bring back the precious children who lost their lives to this terrible disease, but with your help, we will work to fight cancer for future generations. I simply would like to thank everyone who made this possible. You are all AWESOME BABY WITH A CAPITAL A!”

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN commentator.

Since 1993, The Foundation has raised more than $120 million to fund cancer research grants nationwide. It awards 100 percent of all direct cash donations and net proceeds of events directly to cancer research and related programs. Administrative and fundraising expenses are paid by the Foundation's endowment.

The Foundation said it awards grants through a competitive awards process strictly supervised by a Scientific Advisory Board. For more information on The V Foundation or to make a donation, please visit

“The record proceeds from this year’s Gala is a testament to the incredible work Dick has done for The V Foundation and pediatric cancer research,” said Nick Valvano, CEO of The V Foundation and Jim Valvano’s brother. “The Gala’s success over the past seven years has been truly outstanding.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lakewood Ranch's Larson drafted by Twins now has to decide

Zach Larson called it a long three days, seemingly longer than the dream he has been carrying since he was old enough to understand the game of baseball.

But everything ended well for the Lakewood Ranch outfielder today (Wednesday) when he was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 20th round (610th overall pick) of the Major League Baseball Draft.

“I am very excited. It has always been my dream to play major league baseball and the day is finally here,” Larson said. “I was hearing that I was going to be selected in the early round, but you never know in the draft. You never know who is interested. I wasn’t disappointed when my name wasn’t called earlier because I knew there were a lot of rounds left.”

Larson was a little surprised that he was chosen by the Twins though they called him early in the morning Wednesday and scout Billy Corrigan spoke to him at the FACA All-Star game last week in Sebring.

“The Rays, Phillies and Oakland showed the most interest. I didn’t talk to Minnesota a lot during the season,” Larson said. “Their scout (Corrigan) called after they picked me and I told him allright lets get my baseball career started. I like Billy and I like Minnesota. They are a great franchise and I am happy with them.”

Larson has signed with State College of Florida and says he is not sure which route he will take. He can play next season with SCF and put his name back in the draft next year.

“I’ve got to sit down and talk with my family,” the 18 year-old said.  “The Twins said they would call me in a few days and we will see. My family has been helping me out a lot on this. I don’t know (about the money). Whatever makes me or my family happy that is what we are going to do.”

The right handed hitting and throwing centerfielder led the state final four Mustangs in numerous categories over his 31 game season including: batting average (.426), on base pct (.516), RBIs (32), hits (43) and runs scored (41). He showed great range in the outfield and made only one error all season.

“We are excited. Zach has a huge upside and I thought he would be drafted earlier,” Lakewood Ranch head baseball coach Mike Mullen said. “With the draft you never know. A lot of it is whether a scout thinks they can sign a kid. I feel confident Zach is a top 10 round draft pick just based on his talent and upside. You look at this size (6-2, 185) and the size of his dad.
(watch Zach Larson take batting practice)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A.J. Love signs with Minnesota Vikings

A.J. Love catches pass against Miami
A.J. Love, coming off a litany of injuries and setbacks of various kinds since his high school days at Southeast, may have pulled off another coup when he signed a contract with the Minnesota Vikiings today.

The undrafted wide receiever out of the University of South Florida becomes the 12th receiver on the Vikings 90 man roster and joins former USF teammate Mistral Raymond, a defensive back from Palmetto, a sixth round pick in 2011.

The 6-2, 208 pound Love caught 74 passes for 1,092 yards and eight touchdowns during his career at USF.  But those stats could areleading misleads becuase of the time he missed due to injury.

A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) caused Love to miss all of the 2010 season. He returned in 2011 and after getting back to his old form suffered some nagging injuries that included a sprained ankle and missed signficant playing time.

His best season came during his junior year when he averaged 18.8 yards per reception and showed his big play capabilities with 26 recepions for 489 yards and four touchdowns.

Before his ACL injurty, he was being touted as one of the top receivers in the Big East Conference and a likely NFL draft pick.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lakewood Ranch's Slowik has solid year Grabiak ends career at FIU

Rachel Slowik
Former Lakewood Ranch standout Rachel Slowik had some notable achievements this past season for the FIU softball team.

The sophomore outfielder showed her ability on the base paths and in the field in leading the Panthers in stolen bases and putouts. Talk about warriors, she also topped FIU in hit by pitches getting dinged a team high five times.

Slowik stole 10 bases in 11 attempts and had 174 putouts and 217 chances, starting 45 games while finishing with a .235 batting average. She also led FIU in triples with three.
Her high school teammate Kelsey Grabiak ended her FIU career finishing the season with a .224 batting average. Grabiak was honored before the Panthers last regular season game against Florida Atlantic.

The Panthers ended their season at 28-27 losing their final game to North Texas in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

Martin inks pact with Bucs, only Mark Barron remains unsigned

With Doug Martin (right) under contract,
only Mark Barron (left) remains unsigned
from Bucs 2012 draft list

And now they are down to one.
The Tampa Bay Bucs today signed the Boise State running back Doug Martin to a five year deal, leaving only one of the players it drafted in 2012 unsigned.

Martin was a person the Bucs coveted. They moved up into the first round to get him (31st overall pick) as their number two pick after indirectly giving up a chance to take heralded cornerback Morris Claiborne.

The Bucs have now signed six of their seven draft picks leaving only top pick, safety Mark Barron (7th overall pick) from Alabama as the only one who has not put his name on a contract. He has been working out with the team, but unsigned draft picks are not allowed to report to regular camp without a signed contract.
New Tampa head coach Greg Schiano has repeatedly stated he wants to improve the Bucs running game and considers Martin essential. LeGarrette Blount, last year’s featured back, has been a disappointment with his fumbling and inability to play on third downs because of deficiencies in blocking and understanding the plays.

Martin ended his college career with 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns (5.6 avg). Last season he ran for 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns. The only questions marks with him regard Boise’s weak schedule, which allowed the Broncos and Martin to put up numbers that might have more to do with a poor quality opponents than anything else.