Column: Jesuit's Joey Galvis the mane event

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Sat. March 2, 2013 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: Jesuit's Joey Galvis the mane event

LAKELAND — Let’s start with the hair.

The ladies, he says (jokingly, we presume), love it.

But not all of them.

“Hate it,’’ said Sheila Galvis, the MVP’s mom.

Curly, floppy, unruly even. But untouchable.

Samson had his mane.  Joey Galvis has his mop.

“Once we started the season, and were winning, no way I was cutting it,’’ he said.

A simple superstition, and since it’s doubtful the fresh-faced Tiger senior could ever grow a playoff beard, why not a title tuft, even if it’s perilously close to pushing the allowable limits of a Jesuit school.

“He’s fine,’’ said Fr. Richard Hermes, flicking a thumb towards Galvis’ ear Friday afternoon. “It’s not at the ear lobes. Not at the collar.”

“There might be some school rules against it on Monday,’’ he joked, “but not now,”

Galvis’ coiffure grew this season at about the same rate as the Jesuit boys basketball team’s legend, culminating Saturday in a brilliant performance that brought the Tigers the Class 5A boys basketball state championship.

How about this: Thirty-one wins in 32 games, all but one by double-digits. There is little argument any team in Tampa Bay has ever been so consistently dominant over the course of an entire season, without so much as an off night.

It was a virtuoso performance, starring a number of guys you won’t find on anyone’s top 100 list: Jack Fleming couldn’t miss, Devin Harris couldn’t be slowed and Travis Johnson couldn’t be corralled.

Oh, and Galvis?

Couldn’t be stopped.

Galvis did a little bit of everything with a whole lot of excellence in the semifinals and final, deservedly winning most valuable player honors after 16 points, four blocked shots, three steals, three assists and two rebounds in the title game.

“Any one of us could have been MVP,’’ Galvis said.

But the most regular guy did. He’s not a flashy point guard like Harris, or a big burly body with a college football scholarship like Johnson, and he doesn’t look like he could play Captain America, like Fleming.

He’s 6-foot-1 and change, 165 pounds on a slender frame and long arms that his parents, when he was younger, just hoped he would grow into.

“The wingspan of a freak,” said his coach, Neal Goldman.

Those arms, mixed with fantastic anticipation, made him Jesuit’s best defender this season. He blocked — blocked —  seven shots in two days at state. While most of those blocks came on the perimeter, Galvis came out of nowhere to swat one out from under the basket late in the first half, like, you know, a 7-foot center might.

“Oh yeah, that was a good one,’’ he said. “It felt amazing. I don’t know how high I was, but it felt high.”

And he’s clutch —- he hit a twisting lay-up to break a 40-40 tie in the third quarter, followed almost immediately by a steal at midcourt and pass to Johnson for a three-point play.

That stunted an American Heritage rally. From there, Jesuit cruised.

“That was amazing. That was amazing. Amazing,’’ said Goldman, who could have added another amazing and still been within the acceptable limits of hyperbole.

“That’s just him stepping up and realizing we needed something to happen. He always does it.”

He didn’t always do it. Through fourth grade, he was a soccer player in Texas. Then his parents moved to Florida, and on his first day of fifth grade at Nativity Catholic School in Brandon he met Fleming, who asked the new kid if he wanted to play a game of hoops.

“He destroyed me,’’ Galvis said. But afterward, Fleming asked his new buddy if he wanted to join his dad’s AAU team.

Soccer faded from view.

“I think it was a good choice,’’ Sheila said.

The hair? Not so much.

But Sheila and Chris Galvis let it grow. And mom noted with irony Saturday that the last time her son won a championship with Fleming and J.J. Weir -— Catholic Youth Athletic Association champs, eighth-grade year — his hair was a hot mess.

“Probably worse than this,’’ he confessed.

Back then, he was just a kid trying to get out of a haircut. This season, he said he had no choice. The team was winning. You don’t just get a haircut in the middle of all that, right?

But now that it’s over, and the Tigers are champs, and the kid with the curly thatch atop his noggin has a state title and his basketball career has ended in the most perfect of fashions, this MVP is not headed to Disney.

“Tomorrow,’’ said his dad, “he’s going to the barber shop.”

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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