FLEMING ISLAND – With an historic playoff run that ended at the Class 8A semifinals, the Fleming Island High boys basketball team, led by senior guard Gianfranco Grafals and sidemate Sebastian …
FLEMING ISLAND – With an historic playoff run that ended at the Class 8A semifinals, the Fleming Island High boys basketball team, led by senior guard Gianfranco Grafals and sidemate Sebastian Astor put up a handful of top choices for the Clay Today SUPER 11 boys basketball selections.
Chosen by Clay Today Sports Editor Randy Lefko and his A-Team sportswriting team, the SUPER 11 is the county collection of the top 11 players for 2018-2019.
Fleming Island High coach Traavis Chandler, 22-3 in his best season at the helm, had his special blend of fast and furious to keep opponents on their heels for most of the season with Grafals, a senior, averaging near 20 points per game, the leading force down the court and Astor, a junior, with six assists per contest, making a perfect 1-2 punch on the Golden Eagles offense.
Underneath, Chandler had stealthy Jordan Miles, a junior, as his backboard patrol captain with the defensive star likely on the floor for pulling offensive charges while also yanking down key rebounds; five per game, to keep the offense moving downcourt at a rapid rate.
The one guy though that became the team’s spark plug was senior sixth man Khalid Pogue who electrified the Golden Eagles with his timely three pointers; team-leading 24, and disruptive midcourt steals for layups.
Joining the first four of the SUPER 11, Oakleaf senior guard Kenny Thomas was coach Jason Price’s go-to guy on both ends with his rugged defensive pressure as well as his ability to penetrate the paint for tough layups. Thomas, averaging near 15 points per game with 33 three-pointers, was one of just two or three players that found a way to slow down the Fleming Island attack with their upset district win a season classic game for the Knights. Oakleaf wound up losing in their region round one playoff game against a Robert E. Lee team that the Knights defeated in a Christmas tournament to dampen an otherwise stellar season by Thomas.
Thomas’ defensive efforts were paired up with junior center Chantz Williams who accumulated a bucket-load of rebounds (9 per game) and blocked shots (4 per game) to set new school records and even turned up his offensive production in the final games with a smooth turnaround hook shot.
Across the county, Orange Park coach Derek Kurnitsky (16-11) got thwarted from a third straight district title, but not without the baseline-to-baseline effort of senior guard John Abate. Abate, who hit the 1,000 point career mark near the end of the season, put up near 20 points per game to lead the Raiders with five rebounds off the boards. Abate, who finished with 45 three pointers, had his best effort in a tournament upset of 6A-region finalist Palatka with 32 points.
Abate’s compliment underneath was senior Kenneth Banks, who had less than a year to adjust to the Raider ‘Chuck n Duck’ attack, but finished the season with eight points per game and a strong six rebounds underneath. With a year or two more under the K-man tutelage, Banks could have been one of the more dominant baseline players to come from the Raiderdome.
Head west to Clay High and senior center Cooper Vaughan was the emotional catalyst for a handful of near-misses for coach Jared Moses in what ‘almost’ was a great season. At Keystone Heights, under new coach Jay Schofield, senior center Eddie Thomas put up 20 points per game with an astounding 292 rebounds (11 per game) and gave the Indians one of their more competitive seasons. Finally, at Middleburg, senior guard Layton Veon led the county with 49 three pointers shot at a 35 percent success ratio. At the free throw stripe, Veon, who put up near 11 points per game, shot 69 percent while also putting down eight rebounds per game.