Player of the Year: G/F Reggie Hart, Sr., Chamberlain
The area’s most electrifying offensive player hasn’t always been able to slash or slice his way through traffic. And it nearly killed him.
At age 6, Hart and older brother Rod were playing chase outside their Tulsa, Okla., home when Reggie ran into the path of a slow-moving car. By the time his dad, Rod Sr., arrived from Tampa, doctors told him his youngest boy had a hairline skull frac ture and possible brain damage.
Over the next half-decade or so, Reggie barely spoke, and stuttered when he did. At home, he did little more than watch TV in silence.
The additional classes his parents — including mom Yolanda — arranged at school seemed to bear minimal results.
“He really wasn’t responding like a regular child at that time,” Rod Hart Sr. said.
Unbeknownst to Reggie’s dad, a miracle was a chest pass away. At the behest of a classmate’s father, Reggie — then around 10 — and Rod Jr. joined a Brandon-based i9 youth basketball team. In the first couple of games, Reggie mostly stood at midcourt in a daze, his shoes often untied.
Then one Saturday, he was switched to a team short on players. That day, he scored. He smiled. He even blocked Rod’s shot.
“Everybody was like, ‘Wow, where did this come from?’ ” Rod Sr. recalled. “Ever since then, he’s been a different child.”
Today, Reggie is talkative, tattooed and 2,022 points removed from the shy, stammering prepubescent.
This past winter, he capped a dazzling prep career by leading Chamberlain to its third consecutive district title. When every soul in the gym knew him as the 6-foot-1 crux of the Chiefs’ offense, he still averaged 25.8 points, eight rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.8 steals and 3.5 blocks.
“We all just took our time with him,” Rod Sr. said. “And he just flourished once he started playing basketball.”
Coach of the Year: Neal Goldman, Jesuit
Goldman was a 24-year-old assistant to John Szponar when Jesuit — led by a burly low-post force named Terry Rupp — captured the Class 3A state crown in 1984. Earlier this month, when the New York Yankees honored Goldman and his Tigers squad (31-1) for winning the 5A state title prior to a spring training contest, the irony was as profound as pinstripes. Goldman, whose team won 30 of its games by double-digit margins, stood along the third-base line right next to Rupp, Jesuit’s athletic director. And coordinating the pregame ceremony: Yankees vice-president of community relations Szponar.
G Donavan Hale, So., Largo: Averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and led the Packers to a conference title and berth in the Class 6A region finals. In a season-ending loss to Winter Haven, Hale had 31 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter.
G Devin Harris, Sr., Jesuit: Perimeter matchup nightmare averaged 15 points, eight rebounds, 4.2 assists in postseason.
C Travis Johnson, Sr., Jesuit: State champs’ per-game leader in scoring (16.0 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg), blocks (2.2 bpg).
G Dallas Moore, Sr., Boca Ciega: One of the area’s best pure shooters, Moore averaged 27 points and scored a season-high 42 in a district semifinal win vs. Lakewood; scored a game-high 30 points in last week’s Pinellas-Hillsborough all-star game.
F Erik Thomas, Sr., Wesley Chapel: Class 5A player of the year ranked among state’s leaders in scoring (32.7 ppg), rebounding (16.3 rpg) to lead Wildcats to first district title in seven years.
F Rohan Blackwood, Jr., Nature Coast
PG Josh Heath, Sr., Tampa Prep
SG Rico Kerney, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
G Anthony Lawrence Jr., So., Lakewood
PG CJ McGill, Sr., Wharton
Alonso: Malachi Christopher; Berkeley Prep: Justin Gray; Boca Ciega: Michael Clark; Central: Joey Stokes; Countryside: Darnell Lovett; Gibbs: Barry Brown, Shaq Speights; Gulf: Joey Nickerson; Hernando: Jeffrey Velasquez; Jesuit: Jack Fleming, Joey Galvis; Mitchell: Lawrence Watt; Nature Coast: Victor Davila; Ridgewood: Tristan Ficarro; River Ridge: John Childs; St. Petersburg: Dayon Griffin, Demontrae Adams; Seminole: Noah Weller, Matt Cassity; Tampa Catholic: Chivarsky Corbett; Tampa Prep: Juwan Durham; Wiregrass Ranch: Chris Parra