TAMPA — King senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick is a rare talent who can do a multitude of things with the ball in his hands.
This season, opponents have answered by trying to keep it out of the 6-foot-7 forward's hands — but the Lions keep finding ways to win.
On the court, King has beaten 10 of its 12 opponents, but had to forfeit its first four wins because senior starting point guard Eric Diggs was ruled ineligible. So the Lions (6-6) enter tonight's game against Wharton (8-4) behind the Wildcats in the standings despite the fact that they've been better between the baselines.
Still, King might be the team to beat in Class 5A, District 8. It handed Newsome its only loss and defeated Bloomingdale on Wednesday night. The Lions' only two losses came over the break in the Florida Hoops Classic. They lost in overtime to Chicago North Lawndale, the 42nd-ranked team in the country by ESPN Rise, and fell to Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, the eighth-ranked Class 5A team in the state.
"We've had a lot of different guys pick us up in different games," King coach Sam Lanier said. "We've had four, five different guys lead us in scoring."
They've had to. Fitzpatrick, a Georgia Southern signee who is averaging 12.7 points (three points below last season's average), has had to fight double- and triple-teaming all season, so teammates have had to pick up the slack.
Sophomore Chauncey Day assumed the point guard void and leads the team in steals. Reshard Brown sealed the win over Newsome, going 9-for-9 from the line. Seven players in King's eight-man rotation average at least five points.
"We can hurt teams in so many different ways," Fitzpatrick said. "I think most coaches go into the game thinking, 'We need to stop Fitzpatrick,' and for the most part they've been doing a good job. My teammates have been getting a lot better looks and taking advantage."
Fitzpatrick has been forced to grow his game as well. He has been held to single-digit points in three of the past four games. He scored just six points Wednesday, but added five blocks and four assists. Three teammates — Andrew Donaldson (13 points), Adrian Federick (11) and Antoine Gardner (10) — scored in double figures.
"As long as we're winning I'm satisfied," Fitzpatrick said. "I don't care how many points I score."