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Hillsborough: News and notes

Sickles rising junior Amber Henson is ranked the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2011 ESPNU HoopGurlz Terrific 25.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Sickles rising junior Amber Henson is ranked the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2011 ESPNU HoopGurlz Terrific 25.

Everyone's talking about Amber Henson.

Whether it's the constant buzz that the rising junior Sickles star center is transferring to Jefferson (not true) or that she has committed to join big brother John at North Carolina (also not true) or her steady ascension up the nation's list of top juniors, Henson is all the buzz.

After a summer in which she shined in several tournaments with her Orlando Comets club team, Henson is ranked the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2011 ESPNU HoopGurlz Terrific 25.

"Henson's game almost appears to be evolving right in front of everyone this summer, and, just for good measure, she appears to be growing just as fast," ESPN's Mark Lewis wrote after Henson competed in the U.S. Junior Nationals last month.

"Now standing almost 6-5, she has become one of the most versatile players on the floor, effectively scoring both inside and out. Her range and touch make it difficult for defenders. Leave her open and she can hit with uncanny accuracy, but close out too tight and she's going to use her athleticism and quickness to penetrate."

Her father, Matt Henson, said that ranking could climb.

"From what the coaches recruiting her are saying, she could be ranked No. 1 in the nation soon," he said.

Regarding the rumor that Henson is transferring to Jefferson, her father says it's not true.

"Being at Sickles is a great situation with her," he said. "Coach (Mark) Key and I get along great, and I might even help out as a volunteer assistant coach there. Maybe that will stop the rumors. If I'm going to coach at Sickles, why would we move her somewhere else."

And last month, the Roanoke Times reported that Henson gave UNC an oral commitment, something her father says is also not true. He said Amber plans to make her college choice by the end of this season and maybe as soon as December.

Among the schools that have offered Henson: North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Baylor, Florida and Florida State.

Martin picks Liberty: Jesuit rising senior pitcher Willi Martin orally committed to Liberty, Jesuit coach Richie Warren said Thursday via text message.

Martin was a Times All-Hillsborough County second-team selection, winning his first nine decisions of the season and going 10-1 with a 2.22 ERA for Jesuit, which spent most of the season as the nation's consensus No. 1 team.

With a variety of pitches he can throw for strikes, Martin was one of the county's top control pitchers, striking out 55 and walking 14 in 63 innings.

Liberty, a Division I program, went 33-21 last year and 17-9 in the Big South Conference.

Martin is the third Jesuit senior to commit to a D-I school, joining pitcher Daniel Gibson (Boston College) and 1B Chris Pagliarulo (Boston College).

Givens at the Trop: Former Plant star SS/pitcher Mychal Givens admitted that the past week has been a bit tough on his nerves, including signing with the Orioles late Monday just before the midnight deadline. The second-round pick got a deal worth $800,000, according to Baseball America.

Givens, at Tropicana Field on Thursday to watch the Orioles face the Rays, said it has been a "relief" to put all that behind him and start to live his dream of playing professional baseball. Givens said he will report to Sarasota today to work out with some Orioles minor-leaguers then get ready for the instructional league, where the club will develop him as a shortstop.

"It was nerve-wrecking, but it's a business," he said. "You have to sit there, stay calm and hope for the best situation, however it goes. I looked at it as, I'm not making a wrong decision. I'm going to start my pro career and hopefully get there quickly to the big leagues and be out there on the field and playing in front of thousands of fans."

Givens will get a chance to meet those fans for the first time this season, when he'll take batting practice at Camden Yards.

"That's my home city now."

Alumni update: Former Jesuit WR Erick McGriff, son of baseball player and Tampa native Fred McGriff, surprised many when he signed with Kansas over schools such as Auburn and Georgia.

Apparently he knew what he was doing.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound freshman already is turning heads at practice.

Said teammate Dezmon Briscoe: "He's got great hands, know what I'm saying? I don't think I've seen him drop a ball in practice."

The Journal-World also was complimentary.

"His father, Fred McGriff, nicknamed 'Crime Dog' (after the cartoon McGruff the Crime Dog), was known as one of baseball's good guys during a 19-year career (1986-2004) in which he slugged 493 home runs. He used his hands to scoop up errant throws to first base. His son also knows how to corral throws, errant and accurate."

The word is, McGriff could get playing time this fall.

Little league: South Tampa (3-1) beat La Grange, Texas, 3-0 at the Junior Softball World Series in Kirkland, Wash. Pitcher Sarah Miller picked up the win. With the victory, the team reached the semifinals and will face Elyria, Ohio, (4-0) today.

Times staff writers Keith Niebuhr and Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Video series

Our preseason football video series continues Monday with our look at the top bay area quarterbacks. Check out past videos, including Plant as our No. 1 team in the area, at highschool.tampabay.com.

Hillsborough: News and notes 08/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 21, 2009 12:23am]

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