Friday, January 19, 2018

Times' all-Suncoast basketball teams

Boys player of the year | F Juwan Durham, So., Tampa Prep

For once, Juwan Durham wasn't sure what to expect on the basketball court.

The Tampa Prep sophomore was in Colorado Springs, Colo., working out at the USA Basketball combine in October with some of the country's top U17 players.

"I was really (unsure) of what I was getting myself into," Durham said. "When I went there, I felt I didn't perform the best that I could." • He spent the next few months taking any frustration out on the rest of Tampa Bay.

The 6-foot-10 forward with the 7-foot-2 wingspan tore through his opponents, averaging 21.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.7 blocks for the Terrapins. He exploded for 35 points and 21 rebounds against Tampa Catholic, a playoff team. He flirted with a triple double (24 points, 21 rebounds, nine blocks) against Lennard, a Class 6A state semifinalist.

His turning point came against Berkeley Prep. He finished with 24 points, 17 rebounds and 15 blocks — one of his four triple doubles — and dunked so hard that he popped a blood vessel in a 22-point drubbing of the 4A state semifinalists.

"From that game, everything escalated," Durham said.

Durham boosted his performance in the playoffs, averaging 25 points and 6.4 blocks to help take the Terrapins (27-4) to the 3A state title game.

He plans to spend his offseason eating oatmeal to pack on pounds and working on his perimeter skills in the gym. The results will likely end in a college future at Florida, North Carolina or one of the many other Division I schools recruiting him. More immediately, he wants to make a better impression in this summer's workouts in Colorado to land a spot on the national team.

"Hopefully when I go back out there in July, I'll go out and make a better appearance," Durham said.

Coach of the year: Danny Gaddis, Lennard

Gaddis has been coaching at the school since it opened in 2006. Finally, after years of struggles and close calls, the former Longhorns assistant turned head coach got to savor success. Gaddis led a senior-laden team to a 25-5 record and the best run in program history. Lennard topped Jefferson for the Class 6A, District 9 title — the first ever for the school — then worked through Mitchell, Largo and Lehigh for its only playoff victories. The Longhorns' historic season ended with a trip to Lakeland and a loss in the state semifinals.

First team

G Carlos Clemente, Sr., Nature Coast: Clemente stepped up for a team riddled with injuries in the regular season, averaging 16.2 points to propel the Sharks to the elite eight.

G Jacobi Boykins, Sr., Lakewood: Louisiana Tech recruit led his team in scoring with 22 points per game and helped the Spartans reach the Class 5A state title game.

G Justin Gray, Sr., Berkeley Prep: Texas Tech recruit led the Buccaneers to the Class 4A state semifinals by averaging 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

G Barry Brown, Jr., Gibbs: Despite a number of injuries, Brown carried the Gladiators to the 5A region semifinals by averaging 20.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 steals.

F Chivarsky Corbett, Sr., Tampa Catholic: Delaware signee averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds, and poured in 33 points in a victory over Tampa Prep.

Second team

G Anthony Lawrence Jr., Jr., Lakewood

G Caelen Watts, Sr., Lennard

G Marco Behori, Jr., Seminole

G Keshawn Ingram, Sr., Steinbrenner

C John Childs, Sr., River Ridge

Honorable mention

Academy at the Lakes: Ethan Haslam, Malik Hall; Berkeley Prep: Craig Bowman; Central: Sinjin Blaha; East Bay: Jonathan Jean; Gulf: James Grubb; Hudson: Luke Calleja; Jesuit: Christian Whidden; Largo: Donavan Hale, Brandon Jones; Mitchell: Lawrence Watt; Pasco: C.J. Brown; Plant: Andrew Sanders; Shorecrest: Brady Grimm, Jay Joyer; St. Petersburg: Ben Clare, Dayon Griffin; Strawberry Crest: Malik Channer; Tarpon Springs: Trai Halton; Wesley Chapel: Marcus Hayne; Wharton: Chase Litton; Wiregrass Ranch: DJ Ward

Girls Player of the year: SG Meagan Thomas, Sr., Dixie Hollins

Thomas started her freshman season for the Rebels, averaging 24.1 points per game. She never stopped scoring.

By her senior year, Thomas averaged 26.4 points despite facing double and sometimes triple teams. "It was crazy," she said.

She ends her four-year career with a school-record 2,385 points and helped lead the Rebels to 19 wins this season — and first district championship. In the district final against Mitchell, she scored 39 in a 58-36 win.

"We talked all year long that teams were going to focus on Meagan so the rest of the team had to step up," coach Kelley Jones said. "It can't just be Meagan. She knew that. She knew that she had to keep her teammates involved and she was good at doing that."

This season, Thomas had 657 points, just more than 51 percent of her team's total. She also averaged 4.4 assists. Though she is only 5 feet 7, Thomas had a knack of getting to the basket. And if the triple teams made that impossible, she could also shoot the 3-pointer. She made 32 percent of her 3s (88-of-277).

"I'm very hard on myself," Thomas said. "I've never played a perfect game. It doesn't matter how I played, I always think I can play better. That will never change."

But that doesn't mean she wasn't proud of helping the Rebels nab that first district title.

Thomas said she would like to play basketball in college but has not yet committed. Some schools of interest are Daytona State, Charleston Southern, Prairie View A&M and St. Petersburg College.

"I plan to keep playing," Thomas said. "I'm going to keep practicing and I have a trainer that I work with to stay in shape."

Coach of the year: Phyllis Crain, Land O'Lakes

Land O'Lakes didn't seem like it would be much of a threat after going 11-10 in the 2012-13 season. That changed as the postseason approached. Crain didn't have stars to carry her Gators, so she had to create a team dynamic successful enough to carry them through the Class 5A playoffs. They did better than anyone expected, finishing with the school's first final four appearance — where they lost to eventual state champion Bradenton Southeast.

First team

PG Brianca Roberts, Sr., Pasco: Roberts rallied her team to several key wins and averaged 18.4 points per game.

F Peyton Walker, Jr., Seffner Christian: Walker led the Crusaders to the 2A state final and scored 50 points and grabbed 36 rebounds during the final four; she averaged 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds.

G Aliyah Gregory, Sr., Strawberry Crest: UCF signee scored more than 2,000 career points and helped lead the Chargers to their first district title, averaging 20.7 points and 6.6 steals.

G Rita Jarque, Jr., Nature Coast: Jarque was both an offensive and defensive threat, averaging 17.7 points and 16.3 rebounds.

G Savannah Plentovich, So., Calvary Christian: Formed a dangerous back court with her twin, Carley; averaged 16.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

Second team

G Taylor Emery, Jr., Freedom

G Leah Ford, Jr., River Ridge

G Carley Plentovich, So., Calvary Christian

G Sabrina Whiting, Sr., Seffner Christian

F Brianna Thomas, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech

Honorable mention

Academy at the Lakes: Audra Leipold, Imani Thomas; Armwood: Kiana King; Bishop McLaughlin: Brielle Downing; Boca Ciega: Niaya White; Clearwater: Alex Alford; East Lake: Emily Dine; Freedom: Nari Garner; Gulf: Kayla Kivinski; Lakewood: Siyana Allen; Land O'Lakes: Jhade Hayes; Mitchell: Ashley Lewis; Osceola: Katie Horan; Palm Harbor University: Amber Jennings; Riverview: Kierra Haywood; Sickles: Cierra Wheatley; Springstead: Hailey Enjeneski; Steinbrenner: Rachel Briere; St. Petersburg: Jordan Berenbaum, Lazasha Baskins; Strawberry Crest: Maiya Trigg; Wiregrass Ranch: Amanda Melosky.

The all-Suncoast team is comprised of the top players in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.

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