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BOYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ROBERT LANGSTON, NORTHEAST // Langston ends career in style

Northeast boys basketball coach Dave Redding is going to miss Robert Langston. And it's not just because Langston averaged 25 points a game for the Vikings over the past two years.

"He's among the most coachable kids I've ever had," Redding said. "He would do anything _ be glad to play on the third team.

"I've never seen him look at his own stats. Those kinds of things don't seem to be a concern (for him). The only thing he does is look at a scoreboard: "Are we ahead or are we not ahead?' These days, that kind of kid is hard to find."

Langston, a 6-foot-1 forward known for playing bigger than his size, led 23-8 Northeast to many a victory this season. He did it all, from clutch three-pointers to silky short jumpers, from rebounds to assists.

His smoothness, his quickness, his unselfish leadership and his ability to make big plays when it counted _ all those qualities added up to make Langston the area's best player. For the second year in a row, Langston is the Times All-Suncoast Player of the Year.

Though he was dominant all season, Langston saved some of his best moments for the playoffs.

After the Vikings toppled favored fourth-ranked Largo in the first round, Langston almost engineered a bigger upset of No. 1 Cape Coral Mariner. He scored 42 points, grabbed 20 rebounds and made 11 assists in Northeast's 110-108 season-ending loss to Mariner, the eventual state runner-up.

For the season, Langston averaged 23.4 points a game, 11.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He had 21 double doubles and two triple doubles and was named first team all-state in Class 5A.

A good junior college program is most likely Langston's next step, since he does not have the core courses necessary to play for an NCAA school. Not surprisingly, he has been popular on the community college recruiting circuit.

Schools from around Tampa Bay, around Florida and even outside the state are clamoring for him. One of them, he hopes, will be a good stepping-stone to a Division I program.

"I don't see any reason why in two years he's not going to make some big school a decent player," Redding said.

Langston is joined on the All-Suncoast team by Tampa Catholic's Otis Kitchen, Largo's Ron Hale, Springstead's Ronnie Roberts, Tampa Bay Tech's Rodney Fields and Hillsborough's Esaw Scruggs.

Kitchen, a senior forward who was the Class 3A Player of the Year, averaged 23 points and led Tampa Catholic to the regional final, where the Crusaders lost to Pahokee. Hale, a senior 6-8 forward and Florida State signee, averaged 25 points and led Largo to its first district title in 30 years.

Roberts, a senior forward/center, was the North Suncoast's best player, averaging 18 points a game as he led Springstead to a district title. Fields, a senior guard, scored 21 points a game for the ninth-ranked Titans.

Two representatives from Hillsborough round out the All-Suncoast team.

Terriers coach Leroy Long molded his supertalented players into a Class 6A final four team and earned Coach of the Year honors. Hillsborough, the only area boys team to reach the state tournament, nearly upset South Miami _ led by Mr. Basketball Luke Barnes _ in the state semifinals.

Scruggs, a junior guard, led the Terriers this season averaging 19 points a game.

The All-Suncoast boys basketball team is selected by the Times in consultation with area coaches. Players from Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties are eligible.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Robert Langston, senior forward, Northeast (23 points per game)

COACH OF THE YEAR

Leroy Long, Hillsborough

FIRST TEAM

Name School Yr Pos.

Otis Kitchen Tampa Cath. Sr. F

Ron Hale Largo Sr. F

Ron Roberts Springstead Sr. C

Rodney Fields TBT Sr. G

Esaw Scruggs Hillsborough Jr. F

SECOND TEAM

Name School Yr Pos.

David Ross Boca Ciega Jr. F

Ronny Merrill Jesuit Sr. G

Rory Wheeler Clearwater Sr. G

Desmond Allison Robinson So. F

Mario Lovett Leto Sr. F

J. Jones-Phillips St. Pete Sr. F

HONORABLE MENTION

Armwood _ Terrence Dupree. Bayshore Christian _ Andrew Pulido. Bloomingdale _ Jon Hughes. Brooksville Central _ DeWayne Williams. Clearwater _ Yaphett King, Darryl Williams. Crystal River _ William Richardson. Gaither _ Clint Moore. Hillsborough _ Mario Porter, Andrew Williams, Johnnie Cochran. Largo _ Eric Harris, Mike Richardson. St. Petersburg _ Jason Cato. Tampa Catholic _ Darrell Jackson, Kenny Kelly, Kelly Hite. Tampa Prep _ Casey Sanders. Tarpon Springs _ Jeff Kliewer. Zephyrhills _ Chad Bouton, Shaun Daughtery.

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