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Clearwater's Okaro White looks down on competition

Okaro White, guarding Venice’s Kyle Jutras, gives Clearwater a big advantage as one of the county’s tallest players.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Okaro White, guarding Venice’s Kyle Jutras, gives Clearwater a big advantage as one of the county’s tallest players.

At 6 feet 9, Clearwater forward Okaro White is a towering figure who is proficient around the basket, using his skill and savvy in the middle to help his team score down low.

When his team needs a rebound, White stakes out his spot, pushing and pressing until his opponent is out of the paint.

It is hard labor for the defender who draws the short straw and is assigned to guard him.

The county's most irresistible force, as well as its most immovable object, White treats defenders the way a wrecking ball treats a window pane. He bulls his way through opponents for prime post-up position then turns and drops the ball in the net as casually as if he were placing a book on a shelf.

White was the Times' county player of the year last season, when he averaged 20.8 points and 8.6 points in leading the Tornadoes to the Class 5A state championship.

He is the 14th-best power forward in the nation, according to Rivals.com and has committed to Florida State.

Since his return from an early season ankle injury, White is averaging 14.5 points in routs of Dunedin and Seminole.

White figures to put up even bigger numbers as the season progresses because the county has few players with the height or skill to match up with him.

Quality back-to-the-basket play was once a staple of every county team, some of which had multiple threats on the block. Countryside had Matt Geiger and Andrew DeClercq. Dixie Hollins had Demetri Hill. Largo had Erryol Bing. Lakewood had Mike Morrison.

But a noticeable change has occurred over the past few years as teams no longer are being built around guys in the low post.

Instead, smaller, quicker athletes who possess a variety of skills are en vogue.

The lilliputian revolution under way is based more out of necessity.

"I would love to have a big guy, but there's just not many out there," Largo coach Phil Price said.

"Our tallest guy right now is 6-5. And we're probably in the same boat as most teams around here."

Besides Clearwater, the top teams in the county — Boca Ciega, Lakewood, Largo and St. Petersburg — do not have a player taller than 6-6.

Advantage: White.

"We are very fortunate to have a player of Okaro's caliber," Tornadoes coach Allen Carden said. "Clearwater is a unique place where we have a lot of big guys come through here. But you also have to take the time to develop them."

White doesn't just play with his back to the basket. He can also drift back to shoot behind the 3-point line.

"Okaro can definitely play inside-out," Carden said.

That just leaves one more thing for defenders to worry about.

Clearwater's Okaro White looks down on competition 12/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:15pm]
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