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Posted On: 05/28/18 11:30 AM
Former bulldozing NBA forwards Ron Artest, Ben Wallace, and Charles Oakley proved the sheer value of an enforcer-esque, basketball-football mentality. There was a psychological lift these bruising, unforgivingly aggressive bigs provided for their respective teams.
Big, mobile monsters of this fabric inspired myriad football players’ transition to the hardwood. Over the years, the Sunshine state has churned out countless highly coveted recruits.
Historically and traditionally, Florida has served as the fertile football recruiting grounds for top drawer programs such as Alabama, Clemson, and of course in-state powers such as Miami, Florida State, and Florida.
Similar to physically gifted guys like Randy Moss (whose bolt-quick speed and bouncy vertical leaping helped spearhead Dupont High to the West Virginia state finals back in 1994) and Ray Rice (a pugnacious, defensively adept guard for New Rochelle’s 2005 New York State basketball championship team), Florida’s high profile football recruits also etched lasting legacies in hoops.
We closely examine a gaggle of highly-rated football players who’ve memorably plied their roundball trade. This list also includes those bruising bigs and low post behemoths who are routinely peppered with the “you should be playing football” line from coaches. We touch on the unique physical traits of guys who could quite easily be football players in a parallel universe and vice versa.
Will Mallory, Providence Day School
The bruising 6-foot-5, 220-pound Class of 2018 grad will likely see meaningful minutes right away at Miami in the fall. The Hurricanes commit, who is highly regarded as a Top-5 tight end nationally by multiple recruiting services, brings blurring speed and thrives with catches through contact. These attributes also made him a sturdy target in the low post. Muscling his way to the rim, Mallory routinely turned high lob passes into ferocious dunks and hard-earned buckets inside frontline traffic.
It’s no secret, guards and uber-versatile forwards/centers are those leaving the biggest imprint on today’s prep basketball landscape. Discovering and molding a well-built big capable of steadily scoring between a defender and the basket is rare. Mallory, who also played golf and ran track at Providence Day, was a big muscle-bound target who consistently absorbed contact while finishing amid the taller, rim-protecting trees.
At small schools, the-three sport athlete is not atypical.
Big, athletic kids who have the ability to play multiple sports at a high level should jump at the opportunity, even if they’ve already committed to a sport in college. At bigger, more specialized prep schools with aggressive recruiting tactics, most players focus and train year round for one particular sport.
Vernon Carey, U-School
Built like a hulking behemoth who belongs on an NFL line (see Carey’s bloodline for more on that one), Carey is one of the country’s most transcendent, surefire NBA talents. The way in which the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Class of 2019 forward eats up space and turns high percentage looks into powerful dunks seems unprecedented.
A soon to be senior strongman, Carey’s wing caliber skill set and two way presence aligns with the style preferred in the NBA game. All of this cements Carey as the smart money choice to be a one-and-done. Carey’s quickness, left handed stroke, and baseline to baseline athleticism are simply a portent of a potential First Team All-American come 2019.
Zay Flowers, U-School
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound wide receiver is also a high-octane guard who brings reliable on-ball defensive instincts. Flowers’ emergence into the lineup was not the most ideal situation initially, as an injury propelled him into the sixth man role. Flowers embraced the workload, especially during a 10-point supplementary performance against Mike Bibby’s Shadow Mountain (Az.) team during the GEICO National tournament.
Flowers provides an instant spark off the bench. While he’s mostly motor and athleticism and lacking in the skill departments, Flowers’ toughness played a vital role for a team which catapulted into the national spotlight in one season.
Flowers’ takes some of the pressure off of Scottie Barnes. A heavily touted Class of 2020 national recruit out of West Palm Beach, Barnes has a face-up aptitude and prodigious open court finishing ability.
Flowers is currently sifting through offers (for football) from Pitt, Syracuse, Maryland, Marshall, Kentucky, Liberty, and various others.
Jordan Travis, The Benjamin School
At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Travis was constantly challenged with playing bigger than he is on the hardwood. The responsibility of this role entailed fronting 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8 guys in the post and grappling for boards down low.
Travis, an evasive dual threat quarterback who penned with Louisville back on Dec. 20, is an all around athlete. The physicality of his game on the court provided toughness and interchangeability for a Benjamin team laced with shooters and lacking a true big inside the trenches.
Kaiir Elam, The Benjamin School
The son of former NFL safety and West Palm Beach native Abram Elam, the Class of 2019 Elam is widely regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the country. He holds offers from Auburn, Georgia, Florida, N.C. State, and a barrage of others. As a guard on Benjamin’s basketball team, Elam averaged 11.5 points, 4.8 boards, and 4.4. assists as a sophomore. This past season as a junior, he became more of a penetrator. A staple in the program’s drive and kick game, Elam frequently used his physicality to guard taller players in the post. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound guard’s freakishly athletic and versatile style mirrored Benjamin’s versatility and interchangeability themes which eventually took shape.
Teshaun Smith, Western
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound cornerback is headed to N.C. State this coming fall. Smith, he of the blurring speed and bouncy athleticism, has the 6-foot-3 and 175-pound frame that would make him the fixture in the backcourt as well. Like Allen Iverson during his dual sport heyday, he’s got a unique blend of giant hands and natural quickness. In a perfect world, he would be playing both sports. He’s certainly competitive enough, as his insatiable thirst for winning and work ethic would appeal to anyone who has ever sported the title of “coach.”