Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Sports

Freshman gives St. Petersburg another weapon

ST. PETERSBURG — The pieces were already in place for St. Petersburg to make a championship run.

There was Dayon Griffin who can bring the ball up the court, pass to teammates or score himself.

There was Ben Clare, who can slash inside and grab rebounds.

And there was Terrell Burney who can make jumpers from 15, 20, 25 feet away.

The bonus came with the arrival of Darius Banks, a freshman sensation who averaged about 20 points as an eighth-grader at Academy Prep and shined on the AAU circuit.

Because of the number of playmakers, Banks did not have to be an every-night dynamo. But it was hard to ignore his ability, especially when he would receive passes, create a sliver of space and let effortless jump shots fly from beyond the 3-point arc.

His shooting touch has given St. Petersburg (22-3) an added dimension as it heads into Saturday's Class 8A region final against Winter Park (26-3).

"(Darius) has exceeded all expectations that I had for him this season," Green Devils coach Chris Blackwell said.

Banks, a 6-foot-5 guard, already has an offer from Florida International and has received interest from several other schools, including Florida, Louisville and Texas.

Still, Banks had a difficult transition to high school basketball.

He had to adjust to the speed of the game as well as a new role that did not require him to do everything.

In the regular-season opener against rival Seminole, Banks was out of rotation on a defensive assignment, allowing an easy basket in what turned out to be a tight game. During a timeout, Griffin laid into his new teammate for his defensive lapse.

"It was tough at first," Banks said. "I had to let the game come to me. I think I was trying to do too much when I got here because that's what I was used to."

The turning point, Banks said, came in December, when the Green Devils traveled to Tallahassee for a tournament. Playing in front of large, hostile crowds, Banks played a pivotal role as he helped St. Petersburg beat state-ranked Tallahassee Rickards and Tallahassee Leon.

"The gym was packed every night during that tournament," Banks said. "It was standing-room only. I was getting more comfortable and felt like I played well in that kind of atmosphere."

Banks' biggest game came a month later, when he scored 33 points, including a school-record nine 3-pointers, in a win against Palm Harbor University. Banks was hot early, scoring 25 by halftime before he started deferring to teammates.

"It took a little while for Darius to get comfortable, but he has really come on and played some big minutes for us," Blackwell said.

"The great thing about him is that he's humble. You'd never know he was this highly touted player being around him. He's just always looking to get better. In practice, he wants to guard Dayon to help him improve."

Banks is averaging 17 points per game. That kind of production will be needed Saturday to knock off a Winter Park team that is scoring 65 points per game.

"We're ready," Banks said. "We feel if we can win this game, we can go on and win it all."

.Fast facts

Lakewood at Cape Coral Mariner

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Outlook: The Spartans (18-11) are playing their best basketball of the season with nine straight wins, including 63-60 over rival Gibbs on Tuesday to reach the region final for the first time since 2010. Lakewood has a pair of dynamic scorers in Jacobi Boykins and Anthony Lawrence Jr. But the Spartans also have gotten a boost from Michael Clark, who finished with 23 points against the Gladiators. The Tritons (21-8) are in the playoffs for the fifth straight season and the region final for the third time during that span. In January, Gibbs beat Mariner 74-46, the Tritons' worst loss of the season. Mariner's top two scorers are Rodney Hunter (19.1 points per game) and Kaleb Darrett (14.4).

Comments
D’Ernest Johnson hopes to showcase versatility at East-West Shrine Game

D’Ernest Johnson hopes to showcase versatility at East-West Shrine Game

On a cloudless, brisk St. Petersburg afternoon, D'Ernest Johnson lined up deep in the backfield, darted to the right flat and snagged a short Riley Ferguson pass.Within a matter of minutes, he snagged another. Suddenly, it was 2016 all over again for...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight    Ted Williams museum inductions

Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight Ted Williams museum inductions

Hall of Famer Tony Perez and longtime Phillies/White Sox star Dick Allen will be inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame next month in Clearwater.Former Yankees Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry and longtime Astros ace J.R. Richard also wi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Warriors keep Cavaliers reeling

Warriors keep Cavaliers reeling

CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant scored 32, Stephen Curry added 23 and the Warriors won their 13th straight road game with a 118-108 Martin Luther King holiday victory Monday night over the Cavaliers, their struggling NBA Finals foes. Durant scored 16 in the...
Published: 01/15/18
Kerber continues to play well

Kerber continues to play well

MELBOURNE, Australia — Former champion Angelique Kerber continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam to reach the second round of the Australian Open early today. Kerber raced through the first set in 17 minut...
Published: 01/15/18
Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

CORAL GABLES — Gary Trent scored a season-high 30 and No. 5 Duke needed less than three minutes to erase a 13-point second-half deficit, scoring 18 consecutive points to overtake No. 25 Miami 83-75 on Monday night. The Blue Devils scored 15 in six po...
Published: 01/15/18
Seguin sends Stars past Bruins in OT

Seguin sends Stars past Bruins in OT

BOSTON — Former Bruins first-round draft pick Tyler Seguin, hearing it from his old fans, scored on a delayed penalty in overtime to lead the Stars to a 3-2 victory over Boston on Monday. Boston rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and earn a...
Published: 01/15/18
Hillsborough TE/LS Wilson Morse this year’s Bill Minahan scholarship recipient

Hillsborough TE/LS Wilson Morse this year’s Bill Minahan scholarship recipient

TAMPA — The fourth annual pick for the Bill Minahan Award was a tough choice indeed.It came down to five Hillsborough County football players — Hillsborough's Wilson Morse, Berkeley Prep's Nicholas Petit-Frere, Gaither's Camden Roth, Stei...
Published: 01/15/18

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWisconsin at Purdue7 p.m.ESPNLouisville at Notre Dame7 p.m.ESPN2Georgia at LSU7 p.m.ESPNUVanderbilt at Mississippi State7 p.m.SECClemson at North Carolina7 p.m.Fox SunCincinnati at UCF7 p.m.CBSSNWomen: Michigan at Ohio State7 p...
Published: 01/15/18

MAKING NEWSMCCUTCHEN JOINS LONGO IN SAN FRANCISCOAfter acquiring 3B Evan Longoria from the Rays, the Giants deal for another franchise face, getting Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen. 6CVikings’ kneel helps Saints coverVikings fans were celebrating, but in...
Published: 01/15/18

Sports in brief

BASEBALLGIANTS ACQUIRE PIRATES STAR MCCUTCHENSAN FRANCISCO — The Giants found the outfielder they were looking for this winter, acquiring Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates on Monday less than a month after dealing for Rays longtime 3B Evan Longoria. ...
Published: 01/15/18