Players on the brink of a breakthrough

More than likely, you've seen at least one of them this summer without realizing it. They're all around, really, from seven-on-seven to summer leagues to soccer camps: fledgling prep stars poised to burst from their cocoon of obscurity. These are the athletes who will break through in the 2010-11 school year. They arrive annually, as sure as heavy storms hail from the Caribbean. Think about it: Who really knew about Plant City's Jordan Prestwood or Berkeley Prep's Nelson Agholor before last fall? And who will follow with breakthrough years of their own in the coming months? Here are a few who may not sound familiar now, but we suspect soon will:

Charlotte Hill, libero, Plant (volleyball)

Hill steps in to replace the most important position on the court for the four-time defending state champs. The 5-foot-6 senior has been on the varsity since she was a sophomore, but played behind Under Armour second-team All-American Ali McCurdy. With McCurdy, who averaged 6.3 digs, now at Duke, this is Hill's chance to play a key role for the Panthers. "She's learned from watching Ali all these years," Plant coach Leanna Taylor said. "She's going to be important because of the position she plays."

Xavier Owens, F, Wharton (boys basketball)

A 6-foot-4 rising senior, Owens has been nothing short of dominant this summer. Before helping guide the Wildcats to the finals of the 22-team SEBA summer league tournament, he led all local players with 21 points in a junior-senior state all-star game at Ocala Vanguard. With complementary players such as rangy swingman A.J. Astroth and point guard C.J. McGill, Owens could flourish for a team projected to contend for a state tournament berth.

Scott Greacen, WR, Plant (football)

Someone has to catch Phillip Ely's passes, right? We like this cerebral senior who knows the intricacies of Plant's offense as well as Ely. In the spring jamboree against Jefferson, Greacen had three catches (for 37 yards) on Plant's first 11 plays, and reminded us a little of ex-Panther great Derek Winter with his soft hands and ability to find a seam in the secondary. "He's leaps and bounds coming on," coach Robert Weiner said. "He has become one of our really, really, really reliable players."

Travis Johnson, WR, Jesuit (football)

Barring injury or other unforeseen catastrophe, this 6-foot-4, 200-pound rising sophomore will evolve into Jesuit's next football legend. The fleetness and physical upside are there, as are the hands. Last season, Johnson was among four Tigers with at least 23 catches. We suspect new offensive coordinator Chris Taylor will find creative methods of getting Johnson the ball even more often in the fall. As for the winter? Well, Johnson's just as promising in basketball.

Mackenzie Audas, P, Plant City (softball)

This rising Raiders senior is coming off a splendid season (13-6, 1.05 ERA, 228 strikeouts). So why is she on this list? She pitched in the shadow of East Bay all-galaxy ace Kayla Cox. With Cox gone, Audas, who has committed to the University of Central Florida, could emerge as the county's top pitcher in 2011. What's more, virtually the entire Raiders lineup returns to support her.

Adrian Jenkins, WR, Jefferson/Aaron Jenkins, WR, Jefferson (football)

There's no shortage of wideout talent at Jefferson, especially with receivers Andre Davis and Chris Moore emerging as the bay area's top receiving recruits. But Dragons offensive coordinator Jeremy Earle said the Jenkins brothers "will be the next great wideouts to come out of here." They combined for only 12 catches last year, but look for Adrian and Aaron — 6-3 junior and 6-4 sophomore, respectively — to play a bigger role in Jefferson's air attack. Aaron might be the backup quarterback, too.

Michael Bajza, MF, Sickles (boys soccer)

As a freshman last winter, Bajza was the wunderkind on a Gryphons team loaded with veterans. He ranked second on the team in goals (12) and points (34) despite missing the final two playoff games while competing in Costa Rica with the U.S. Soccer Olympic Development Program. With him, Sickles just might have snuck into the state tournament.

Spencer Trayner, P/SS, Jesuit (baseball)

With the Tigers losing their top two starters — Daniel Gibson and Willi Martin — Trayner is suddenly Jesuit's most experienced starter. He was 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in 10 appearances as a freshman last season. "He doesn't pitch like a 15-year-old," pitching coach Geoff Goetz said. Even though the Tigers' staff will be young this season, Jesuit will have at least six arms — headlined by junior phenom closer Lance McCullers — who will throw in the mid-to-high 80s.

Players on the brink of a breakthrough 07/06/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 10:53pm]

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