TAMPA — He couldn't touch the scoring averages, all-conference recognition or rebounds per game of the 28 other players honored Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Basketball Coaches Association.
But for one moving night, Michael Coffey led them all in applause.
An Alonso senior who evolved into the Ravens' top practice player despite being ineligible all season, Coffey was presented the Heart of a Champion Award at the TBBCA's annual awards banquet at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
"He was the energy in practice," coach Todd Price said. "The kid never, ever got to put a high school uniform on except for our picture day."
A 5-foot-8 guard, Coffey arrived last July from Virginia Beach, Va., with a 1.1 GPA — a direct result of what he said was laziness. When he asked about the requirements for joining the Ravens basketball team, Price laid them out in certain, stringent terms. If he complied with all of them, Price told him, Coffey might be eligible for Alonso's final three regular-season games.
"Usually, you tell that to a kid and you don't see him again," Price said.
But Coffey obliged, practicing with the Ravens while working to improve his grades. In the first two nine-week grading periods, he earned straight A's but fell a few "quality points" shy of eligibility. Nonetheless, Coffey practiced until season's end.
"I love the sport," said Coffey, who now holds a 2.0 GPA and soon will be honored as Alonso's turnaround student of the year. "I wanted to help my teammates be the best they could be."
Other honorees Wednesday included Blake junior point guard Andre Smith (19.2 ppg, 5.0 assists), who won the Paul Straub Player of the Year Award; and Class 5A state runnerup Sickles, named team of the year.
Gryphons coach Renaldo Garcia, whose club finished 29-3, won the Doug Walker Coach of the Year Award. Wharton's Tommy Tonelli, who returned to the Wildcats bench after a two-year stint at USF and led his team to a 27-2 mark, received the William Bethel Award, which also recognizes coaching excellence.
A complete list of honorees can be found at tampabay.com/hometeam.