TAMPA — He was duped into the dark gray slacks, checkered sweater and tie.
Wharton boys basketball co-captain C.J. McGill was told the Wildcats — Class 8A final four qualifiers — needed a player representative at a Thursday morning awards ceremony in the Hillsborough County school district’s downtown headquarters.
“We led him to believe it was team-related recognition,” Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said.
Then, county athletic director Lanness Robinson started reading off some of McGill’s feats: three-year starter, career 1,000-point scorer. Suddenly, the point guard was off-guard.
McGill was presented the Alston “Mac” McGahagin Award as the county’s top senior boys player, highlighting a series of winter sports awards handed out by school district officials. In a sense, it was a fitting culmination to a scintillating 76-win career.
Now, McGill — a 5-foot-9, 145-pound dynamo — can go about the exercise of surprising everyone else. Namely, those who suggest his size hinders his chances of flourishing at the next level.
“It makes me go harder,” said McGill, joined at Thursday’s ceremony by his mom, Dayna. “It’s motivation. Just look at the other people that’s my height and the people that made it. I mean, that’s motivation to me, too. I don’t listen to what they say, I just go out there and do the best I can.”
Had it not been for a torn right ACL sustained the day before his 16th birthday in September 2010, McGill certainly would’ve finished his career as Wharton’s all-time leader in points and victories. As it stands, he totaled 1,306 points — including 17.4 per game this past winter — and a 76-11 record in three seasons.
His 5.8 assists as a senior also led Wharton. Last weekend, he was named MVP of the Hillsborough-Pinellas All-Star Game, scoring 26 points in his county’s 110-102 triumph.
Still, no formal scholarship offer has arrived, though interest is intensifying. On Thursday, McGill said he has received strong overtures from the University of Mobile and Ave Maria — both NAIA programs — as well as Division II schools Southern New Hampshire and Clark Atlanta.
“In coaching him, I never even gave a second thought to how big he was or how big he wasn’t,” Tonelli said.
“He always found a way to get the job done. I’m confident that no matter where he ends up, it will be the same thing. He’ll be the type of guy wherever he goes, people are going to say, ‘Where did this guy come from?’ ”
Standing in 6-foot-2 contrast to McGill was Freedom star and Georgetown signee Faith Woodard, winner of the Dottie McGahagin Award as the county’s top senior girls player. A McDonald’s All-America nominee, Woodard averaged a double double (22.6 points, 10.3 boards) in leading the Patriots to the 8A final four.
Brandon senior Kevin Norstrem, a five-time state champion who owns a 247-3 career mark and 5.7 weighted GPA, won the Hillsborough County Outstanding Wrestler of the Year Award. Hillsborough’s Mike Patrick, whose 23-5 team placed sixth at the county wrestling meet, won the Joel Medgebow Coach of the Year Award.
Bloomingdale’s Danielle Griffith, who owns a 5.5 GPA and led the Bulls cheer team to top-10 conference, region and state finishes the past four seasons, won the Williamson-Snapp Outstanding Cheerleader Award.
Winter sports academic team champions also were recognized for having the best collective GPAs for the second quarter of the school year.
Plant’s boys (3.31) and girls (3.61) swept the basketball awards; Alonso’s girls (3.604) and Chamberlain’s boys (3.292) won in soccer, Chamberlain prevailed in wrestling (3.192) and Newsome won in cheerleading (3.454).
The boys and girls soccer players of the year will be announced later this spring.