Inside Preps: Kathleen Basketball Off to Big Start
Thu. December 06, 2012 at 3:34 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
Kathleen's boys basketball team is 6-0 after a big win over George Jenkins on Tuesday night. That's quite a surprise, considering the team only won six games last year.
Yes. You read that right: six wins last year.
"I didn't handle it well," Kathleen coach Tony Longa said.
"I wasn't ready for it. You don't expect that here, especially because of the tradition. I thought we would have a down year, maybe go .500."
But you take your lumps and learn from them, right?
Sophomore point guard Alsean Evans sure did. He literally took lumps. He weighed 115, maybe 120 last season, and was pushed around by opponents.
"I was just a little freshman," Evans said.
Added Longa: "Kids were so physical with him, and he wasn't ready for that. But we had to throw him out there. We didn't have a choice."
Sometimes, an experience like that can make or break you. Evans used it as motivation.
"It helped me get ready for the feel of high school ball," Evans said.
He's 150 now after lots of weights, conditioning and eating during the spring and summer.
"Coach made me eat more, and my dad made me eat a lot more steak and potatoes," Evans said. He's a large part of the reason Kathleen has had such a good start. He's shooting the ball well – 46 percent from the field – and is averaging 10 points per game.
Two other players are in double digits for Kathleen: senior forward Deric Taylor (12.3) and senior guard Deonte Dennis (13.8). Sophomore Trey Jordan has nine points per game.
The Red Devils also are winning without their best player: Junior guard Kevin Wilson only returned last week after missing the first four games because of an ankle injury he suffered during the football season.
But it's early in the season.
Kathleen gets its first real test Friday night when Bartow, which is 3-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 7A in the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches state poll, comes into town.
"We'll get our reality check that night," Longa said.
Auburndale and Lakeland Christian are other boys' teams putting up solid performances so far. Auburndale is ranked No. 8 in 5A and is winning with big performances by senior forward Elmo Stephens. He had 31 points in a win over Jenkins on Nov. 27 and 25 in a loss to Bartow on Nov. 30.
Lakeland Christian (5-0) upset McKeel Academy Tuesday night 76-75 with a big night by Brooks Wilson. He finished with 25 points and was 7 of 9 from 3-point range.
On the girls' side, Haines City and Winter Haven are also playing well right now, despite what their records show. Both are ranked sixth in the FABC poll, Haines City in 7A and Winter Haven in 6A, and have played tough opponents to start the season.
The Lady Blue Devils are 3-2, Haines City 2-3.
All Saints' Academy is also playing well and undefeated at 8-0, with wins over bigger programs, including Auburndale, Mulberry and Tenoroc.