JACKSONVILLE – Orange Park High boys basketball coach Derek Kurnitsky has a new look; not the bright, orange shirt he wore at the Episcopal High preseason tournament that featured two wins for the …
JACKSONVILLE – Orange Park High boys basketball coach Derek Kurnitsky has a new look; not the bright, orange shirt he wore at the Episcopal High preseason tournament that featured two wins for the Raiders, but it was his two guys playing the paint that measured above six feet. Orange Park beat Episcopal in game one 68-58 and then beat Ponte Vedra 59-54 in game two.
“We’ve got two legit down low guys that can get rebounds, play post and get the ball downcourt,” said Kurnitsky, who returns to the sidelines of the Raider Dome hoping to get an unprecedented third district title in 2018.
“We add another dimension to our ‘Chuck n Duck’ running game with some backboard presence. It will be interesting.”
With Clay Today player of year John Abate playing point man for Kurnitsky, the Raiders, with Abate’s wingman Ty McBride graduated, now offer an attack of outside shooting from Kadin Elmore, driving prowess from Abate, defensive scatness from Diallo Bryant and baseline defense from returner D’Marre Craddock and newcomer Kenneth Banks; both 6’-3” plus post players. Banks is a senior transfer from Mandarin High School. Kurnitsky lost two double figure scorers to graduation: McBride and center DaVontai Crutch. Crutch is playing at NCAA Div. III Wells College in New York where he scored eight points and had two assists in his college opener; a 67-48 loss to D’Youville College. Wells is 0-3. One other former Raider, Anthony Abate is a senior guard at Elmira College in New York.
“Ty was our leader to start the transitions,” said John Abate, who led the Raiders with 22 points. “We got Diallo and Kadin working to be that wing man kind of player; with Diallo a defensive guy and Kadin a shooter.”
Abate opened the Episcopal game by pushing the Raiders to a quick 8-0 lead off the usual Raider frenetic pace and opportunistic defense. With Elmore hitting two three pointers, Orange Park bumped the score to 18-8 before Episcopal would regroup and chop that lead down to a 27-27 tie.
“We kind of got loose with our attack and things got chaotic out there,” said Kurnitsky, noting Elmore with 19 points and Banks with 18. “We just have to still play our game and stay in the flow. Kenneth took some time to get used to our game, then adjusted to become part of it. He’s going to be a force inside.”
Orange Park, 18-10 last year and unbeaten in five district 4-6A contests, opens at 7A-Middleburg on Tues., Nov. 27 with Bolles coming to the Raider Dome Nov. 30.
The Raiders lost in the region quarterfinals in a thrilling last second full court shot from Ribault that won the game 63-60. Ribault eventually lost in the region final to 6A runnerup Tallahassee Rickards. In 2017, Orange Park lost to Terry Parker in the region opener.