CITRUS PARK — Football season is another five months away, but that isn't stopping Sickles High School running back Ray Ray McCloud from making news.
The sophomore stood out at a Rivals regional camp in Lakeland last weekend, earning offensive skill MVP honors.
McCloud, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder who is expected to anchor the Gryphons' backfield this fall, impressed scouts with his versatility, lining up at running back, wide receiver and defensive back.
According to Rivals.com, scouts noted that McCloud "has good hands and runs clean routes."
The scouting service also highlighted McCloud's ability to move in space and that he presents mismatches against linebackers.
McCloud was a key cog in Sickles' offensive machine last season. He ran for 1,319 yards and scored 12 touchdowns while averaging 8.1 yards per carry. The Gryphons posted a 7-3 mark, went 4-2 in the tough Class 6A, District 8 (with powers Armwood and Hillsborough) and narrowly missed out on a playoff bid.
McCloud told Rivals he thinks his performance at the camp and the recent Underclassman Challenge camp in Texas will help him gain the attention of college programs.
"It would be great," McCloud said. "I want to keep getting bigger and stronger. I think that will help. Hopefully, I can keep improving and have schools take notice."
McCloud wasn't the only North of Tampa area running back to get noticed. Alonso senior-to-be Ish Witter participated at the Rivals camp as well.
The scouting service said Witter, who has interest from Missouri and Rutgers, has a great burst and plenty of acceleration. Witter ran for 902 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Wharton's McGill leads way
Wharton's C.J. McGill earned MVP honors during last week's Hillsborough versus Pinellas Senior All-Star basketball game at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.
McGill, fresh off of leading the Wildcats to the Class 8A boys state final four, scored 26 points for the Hillsborough team in a 110-102 victory. McGill nailed four three-pointers in the win.
On the girls side, Freedom's Whitney Ivy scored 12 points, but the Hillsborough All-Stars came up shy, losing 83-73 to Pinellas.
Big week for area softball
Wharton, Chamberlain and Freedom are all jockeying for position as the softball regular season nears its end and district tournaments loom.
Wharton, which is trailing Durant and Bloomingdale in the Class 8A, District 7 race, faces both rivals next week. Wharton plays at Bloomingdale on Tuesday and hosts Durant on Friday.
Meanwhile, in Class 7A, District 9, Freedom is trying to hold off Chamberlain for the top seed heading into the district tournament. Freedom hosts Steinbrenner, which it defeated 8-0 on March 19, next Friday. It may be a tough week for Steinbrenner, currently third in 7A-9, as the Warriors also face Chamberlain on Tuesday.
Sickles hoops represents well
Two former Sickles basketball players made splashes last week on national stages.
Sickles senior forward Malcolm Johnson earned MVP honors at the 4th Annual Elite Showcase Basketball Classic at Trinity University in Washington, D.C., which featured players from across the country. Johnson tipped in the winning basket for the North team in an 89-87 victory.
This past season, Johnson helped lead Sickles to a 25-5 record and a Class 6A region semifinal appearance. Johnson has committed to Navy.
Ex-Sickles and current College of Central Florida starting guard Jordan Davis helped lead his team to the National Junior College national championship. Davis, a sophomore who began his college career at Monmouth University in New Jersey, scored four points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists in a 74-69 win against Northwest Florida State.
Davis led Sickles to a state runner-up finish as a senior in 2010.