Pinellas County has produced its share of big-time college basketball centers in recent years. They include Mike Brittain, Clearwater High, the University of South Carolina and the San Antonio Spurs; Dwayne Davis, Dixie Hollins High and the University of Florida, Class of '91; and current starters Matt Geiger, Countryside/Georgia Tech; Dave Degitz, Clearwater Catholic/Penn State; and Andy DeClerc, Countryside/Florida.
St. Petersburg High graduate Adam Palmer, a three-year starting center at 6-8, 225, is carrying on that tradition but in a less visible way. He plays the low post for Newberry College, an NAIA Division I school in Newberry, S.C.
Palmer, whose last name was Talfourd when he played for coach Jamie Baby at St. Peterburg High, responded to a pressure sitution last Saturday night against Central Wesleyan. With the score tied at 71 with 11 seconds to go, he went to the foul line in a 1-and-1 situation. He sank both to seal the win, moving Newberry to a 8-13 record.
"His first two years Adam played more of a perimeter game," said Tom Quinn, the head coach at Newberry. "This year he has to play more inside and he's adapting to his new role. He's still developing. For a big man, Adam runs the court in our transition game very well."
Palmer leads the team in scoring with 244 points _ a 11.1 average _ and in rebounds, averaging 4.5.
His grade point average is 2.95 majoring in business administration.
"I finally got to play against Matt Geiger and although he scored 32 points, I held my own and gained a lot of valuable experience," Palmer said. "With coach Baby playing the No. 2 position and giving me some positive coaching on the court, our team was able to finish second in the league."
We even managed to beat the St. Petersburg AAU team, which featured the Lawrence (Anthony and Pat, at Miami) brothers, which was an accomplishment."
With a 5-2 record in the Palmetto State Conference, Palmer's Newberry team is expected to make the district playoffs again this year. After next season, his senior year, Palmer said he would like to give professional basketball in Europe a try.
Women's basketball: Pinellas Park graduate Tamika Coley is having a banner year in the Sun Belt Conference for the University of Central Florida. A 5-11 freshman forward, Coley ranks second in the conference in three major categories: points scored, 18.3 per game; field goal percentage, 50; and rebounds, 10.2 per game.
Coley's coach, Gail Falkenberg knows the importance of aggressiveness on the court: "They (opponents) triple team her inside but she still gets her shot off. I've never seen anyone play like her. We've been in three tournaments this season and she's made every all-tournament team. Coley's bound to be freshman player of the year in the conference. She plays like she's 6-2."
Briefs: Tad Yeager, a three-time state Class 4A wrestling champion for Pinellas Park High, has resumed training at Northwestern University. He had reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has been been rehabilitating until two weeks ago when his doctor said he could resume drills. Dixie Hollins graduate Rich Townsend is Florida Southern's leading returning pitcher having posted a 9-1 record last season. He was the team MVP in 1990. Tom Hilbert, a senior at Florida Southern via Dunedin High and Lake City Community College, is playing second and shortstop this season. He made the Times all-county first team in his junior and senior years at Dunedin under coach Greg Nichols Sprinter Bridgette Williams, a 1988 graduate of Lakewood High where she earned all-county honors in both the 220 and triple jump, in winning on the indoor circuit for Morningside (Sioux City, Ia.) College this winter.
In the Northwestern (Orange City, Ia.) College Invitational, Williams won both the 55 meter (7.33) and 200 meter (27.06) dashes. Last weekend at the Cornhusker Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., Williams ran the opening leg of the 4 by 400 meter relay. Larry Murphy, Dixie Hollins/Florida Southern, sank two free throws with one second remaining in Wednesday's game with Rollins to force overtime. The Moccasins went on to win 78-70.