New-look ’Canes still flying high

Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:21 p.m.

After winning the FHSAA Class 5A state championship last March, the Gainesville High School basketball team was hit hard by graduation.

Gone were Mr. Basketball runner-up Greg Gantt, rebounding machine Gabe Rutledge, point guard Taylor Simmons, second-leading scorer Anthony Nwadigo, as well as contributors like sharpshooter Matt Huber. Even class of 2010 senior Thomas Laerke had to move on, and he is playing for Henderson, Nevada’s Findlay Prep (USA Today’s No. 2-ranked team) as a senior.

But if the returners were supposed to drop their heads and bill this year as one to rebuild, the memo got lost somewhere on the way to the Purple Palace.

The Hurricanes will enter Friday night’s game with archrival Eastside at Santa Fe College with an 11-3 record, including the Fort Myers Dex/Cypress Lake Holiday Invitational championship.

As expected, 6-foot-6 swingman T.J. Hall, an Ohio University signee, has led the way with averages of 20 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 2.3 assists. His best outing came in a 70-45 beatdown of then eighth-ranked Largo, where the inside-outside threat scored 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting. And Hall really has come on of late, averaging 25.8 points on 40-of-63 shooting (63.5-percent).

But he has received a lot of help.

Guard Matt Jackson, who Gantt predicted would be “one to watch” in 2009-10, is second on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg) and also averages 1.2 steals. Octavius Green, a 6-5 power forward/center, has helped in the post, scoring 8.6 points, grabbing 6.3 rebounds and blocking 1.5 shots per game.

Frank Gainey (6.5 ppg, 3.4 apg), Tim Norman (4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Mychal Means (4.8 ppg) also have shined at times for GHS.

The next week will include three rivalry games for the Hurricanes. The night after the Eastside game, GHS will visit Santa Fe. And after visiting Orange Park Ridgeview on Tuesday, the Hurricanes will welcome in Buchholz on Jan. 15.

OTHER ’CANES: Two GHS football players, quarterback Ryan McGriff and defensive lineman Trevarris Saulsberry, are among 500 juniors participating in the invitation-only U.S. Army National Combine beginning today through Sunday in San Antonio.

It’s early, but the 6-1, 200-pound McGriff said he has received interest from Louisville, Mississippi, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Arkansas and UCLA, among others. Meanwhile, the 6-4, 250-pound Saulsberry already has a written scholarship offer from Florida International and has taken an unofficial visit to South Florida. Central Florida, Arkansas, East Carolina, Syracuse, Clemson (the current favorite), Rutgers, Indiana and Duke also have expressed interest, according to his father, Richard.

TIDBITS: Lafayette’s do-everything junior Antwan Brown was inadvertently left off the small-school all-area football first team on Sunday. Playing receiver, running back and defensive back, the 6-2, 170-pound Brown had 38 receptions for 565 yards and seven touchdowns, 326 rushing yards with six touchdowns, a punt return for a touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception for a touchdown. Coach Joey Pearson called Brown the Hornets’ most productive player this season. ...Eastside’s talented shortstop Billy Mayberry has committed to Grinnell (Iowa) College, according to his father, Bill. Mayberry also considered Dartmouth, Penn, Kenyon and the University of Rochester. ... Add GHS offensive lineman Tyler Moosman to the list of all-area football honorable mentions. His nomination was received after the deadline, so that is why he wasn’t listed initially.

Contact John Patton at 352-374-5074 or

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