WESLEY CHAPEL — Wesley Chapel landed a pair of star transfers this week that could instantly transform the girls basketball team into a state title contender.
Shanel Sweet and Briahanna Jackson both enrolled Tuesday, running into each other inside the school. The girls, who transferred from Gaither and Lecanto, each led their teams in scoring and several other statistical categories and will be seniors this fall.
The transfers have created a buzz in the local girls basketball community, leading to speculation that the move could signal the return of Warren Jones to the Wildcats’ bench after a two-year hiatus. Jones coached both girls in his Amateur Athletic Union program, and Florida High School Athletic Association spokeswoman Laurel Ring said there is no bylaw precluding Jones from coaching the girls at Wesley Chapel next season because he currently has no affiliation with the school.
Of course, Wesley Chapel’s current coach is Karim Nohra, the Times’ two-time North Suncoast Coach of the Year. In two years, he has guided the Wildcats to a pair of region finals.
Wesley Chapel principal Carin Nettles, however, has plans to open all supplemental positions, asking incumbents to reapply.
Nettles did not immediately respond to a Times’ request seeking comment.
Jones works at Anclote, but lives in Wesley Chapel’s district and said though extremely happy at Anclote, he would like to find something closer to home.
Jones said he recently became Jackson’s legal guardian, at the request of her mother, to help Jackson improve academically and graduate on time. Jones said he enrolled Jackson at Wesley Chapel because he is familiar with the staff and trusts she will be in good hands.
“When I decided to take Briahanna I knew people would have something to say about it,” Jones said. “They are people that don’t know. They are assuming something that’s not true. Every time someone doubts your character you get upset.
“Now it’s to the point I know I didn’t do anything shady. I know I didn’t do anything illegal as far as recruiting. I don’t understand how I can recruit when I’m not working at the school? Everyone that knows me is telling me to relax.”
Jones said he expected to be bombarded with questions when he enrolled Jackson and saw Sweet in the office at the same time. Jones said Sweet’s transfer was coincidental and that she wanted to return to her home zone in Pasco County. Jones said he did not know if Sweet is zoned for Wesley Chapel.
Messages left by the Times with Lecanto coach Jack Hall and Gaither coach J.D. Barreda were not immediately returned.
“It looks crazy,” Jones said. “If I was on the outside looking in I would think the same thing.”
Nohra, who teaches civil and environmental engineering at USF, declined comment.
Both girls play for Jones’ AAU program, Suncoast Basketball Club, which he co-runs with River Ridge coach Joeyn Dearsman. The program has roughly 40 players from various Suncoast schools including Gulf, Nature Coast and Wiregrass Ranch.
Jones said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to return to high school coaching, and that this recent development has cut him deep.
“A lot of people have been doubting my character or intentions,” Jones said. “Anyone that knows me, I’ve always stayed pure to girls basketball and to people. This case with Briahanna, they’re looking into it too much. I’m helping her get her academics in order.”
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.