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Chargers off to their best start in history

SEFFNER — Strawberry Crest boys basketball coach Andre Davis may have opened his best Christmas present a couple of months ago.

Brandon Channer transferred into the Chargers' program before this season, altering the county's prep basketball landscape.

"Brandon's addition has been huge," Davis said. "We have some kinks to iron out, but he's a big piece to add."

The Chargers (6-3) are off to their best start in school history, including a 20-point thumping of area powerhouse Wharton.

They stumbled in the Berkeley Invitational Tournament last week, losing all three games, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Strawberry Crest can make a title run in Class 6A, District 11, which also includes Armwood, Jefferson, King, Leto and Sickles.

"We have a fast-breaking athletic team," Channer said. "We just need to put everything together in terms of chemistry."

Channer, who transferred in from Blake along with his brother Malik (Tampa Prep), has been as good as advertised. The 6-foot-3 swingman led the Yellow Jackets to a final four appearance last season before losing in the state semifinals, a game in which he recorded a double double (20 points, 14 rebounds) in a loss to Leesburg.

The Jacksonville University signee transferred to Strawberry Crest for family reasons. He said leaving the Yellow Jackets program was a difficult decision.

"It was tough because those guys were my friends and I still talk to them almost every day," he said. "But everything happens for a reason and I think this was the right thing to do."

Channer, who possesses a smooth left-handed jumper to go along with a powerful 220-pound frame, said learning from Davis has been a benefit. Davis, who started the Strawberry Crest program two seasons ago, played in the Continental Basketball Association and professionally in Germany

"(Davis) has helped me so much," Channer said. "He's been where I want to go."

Channer added his relationship with junior guard Devin Diggs helped ease his transition to Strawberry Crest. "Our families are very close," Channer said. "He's like a brother to me."

Channer also will provide leadership. He is one of only two seniors on the Chargers' roster.

"We didn't have any seniors when I took the job here two years ago," Davis said. "So most of these kids have been with me for two years and Brandon has done a good job in helping us to groom these young guys."

Channer chose Jacksonville over University of Texas El Paso, Loyola Marymount, Murray State and LaSalle, because of his immediate connection with the coaching staff.

"I want to not only impact the basketball program but the student community as well," Channer said. "The biggest thing was that I felt wanted there."

Davis said he is excited about what the second half of the season will bring. Using the Berkeley Invitational, as well as this week's Naples News Gulfshore Shootout, as a measuring stick, Davis believes the Chargers will be ready for a postseason run.

"The biggest thing is just getting these guys to understand the brand of basketball we want to play," he said. "There is a big difference between just playing and knowing the game. We want them to know it."

Chargers off to their best start in history 12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 3:30am]

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