Shark JVs post Impressive 15-4 Record
To say that the future of Ponte Vedra Boys basketball is alive and well would be a gross understatement.
To finish a season with an overall record of 15 wins, while tasting defeat only four times, is in itself most impressive, but to accomplish this mark with a team comprised principally of freshman is remarkable.
Three of the JVs four losses came by 3 points or less, and for the entire season they outscored their opponents by a convincing 16 points per game.
It is common knowledge that a number of Junior Varsity teams will have a rotation of 6-8 players, and then rounding out their roster with players who have little hope of contributing.
This was certainly not the case for the 2013-14 Sharks as coach Dustin Latta had 12 players who all could play, and play well.
All the players on the Shark roster started at least one game during the campaign and eight of coach Dustin Latta’s well-balanced squad had at least one outing in which they scored in double figures.
Although the entire roster made major contributions throughout the season, three players clearly stood out in the stat department.
Lance Kren (207 points), Matt Johnson (191) and JD Pirrus (186) had consistent performances throughout the season while Tyler Perez (114) also managed to top the century mark in points scored. Only Johnson is a sophomore.
Kren also topped all Shark rebounders with 109 with Johnson close behind with 101. Johnson easily led the JVs in assists with 84 and steals with 54.
Two of the Shark losses came at the hands of Bartram Trail, losing the first game on a buzzer beater and the second contest by only 3 points. Bartram Trail would finish the season with only one defeat.
The highlight of the season surely was the Sharks showing in Palatka when they completely dominated the talented Panthers 64-41. It might have been the only game during the entire season when coach Latta went with a rotation where only 7 players saw action.
However, when the Panthers faced the Sharks again later in the season, Palatka reversed the table by handing the Sharks one of their rare defeats. The Sharks were colder than a frigid polar vortex from the field beyond the 3-point arc, shooting a paltry 3-21 in the return engagement.
With nine of the 12-man roster being ninth graders, it will be interesting to witness their progression during the off-season, not only in improving on their basketball skills, but also in their normal growth development..
Only four seniors from this season’s outstanding varsity team will graduate this year, two of which were starters, with both being backcourt performers.
A huge vacancy will be created on the varsity team for the 2014-15 season with the departure of four-year starting point guard Jackson Johnson, one of the most outstanding ball handlers in the state of Florida.
It is very possible that these backcourt vacancies could be filled by one of Coach Latta’s current JV squad.
Listed below is a thumbnail sketch of this year’s JV team in numerical order:
No. 1 - Fr. JD Pirrus: JD, the cover boy for this weeks Ponte Vedra Recorder, is an outstanding athlete, 3rd on the team in scoring and a top-notch rebounder for a backcourt performer. Pirrus runs the court very well and is very adept at finishing on his driving lay-ups. The 6’0 freshman could very well challenge for a spot on next year’s varsity rotation with a lot of hard work in the off season. JD is hopeful of improving on his out court shooting over the summer months, as he was only a 16% shooter from long range.
No.3 – Fr. Michael Nicandri: Michael is arguably the best ball handler on the JV team who quickly worked his way into the starting lineup. If the 5’2 Nicandri can add a few inches to his growth over the next few months he could certainly contend for a spot as Jackson’s Johnson replacement at the point guard in future years. Michael, despite his small stature, is a very good on the ball defender and was 3rd on the JVs in steals.
No. 4 – Fr. Reid Smith: Reid is another one of those very good athletes on this team who made vast improvements over the course of the season after suffering a minor injury back in November. It is likely that Reid will be the point guard on next season’s JV squad where he hopes to develop some better shooting skills. (0-13 on 3-point attempts).
No 12- Soph Matt Johnson: The younger brother of Shark 4-year starter Jackson Johnson, Matt made huge improvements to his game from his freshman season. Johnson has a high basketball IQ and contributes in all phases of the game. Although only 5’10 in height, Johnson has great leaping ability as evident by his team high 16 rebounds against Palatka. An off-season regimen of weight training, and tuning up on his ball handling skills, could earn Matt some major minutes on next year’s varsity team
No 13 – Soph Quint Boyd: Perhaps the fastest player on this year’s JV squad, Boyd was sometimes a little too fast and had trouble finishing his breakaway lay-ups. Quint always brought a ton of energy onto the court, as his style is very similar to that of the varsity’s James Crowther. Quint, however, must improve on his shooting skills during the off-season. If so, he could very well fill the role that the graduating Crowther played this year.
No 20: Soph Zac Murphy: Standing at 6’2 or better, Zac may have been the tallest JV player from this year’s squad. Zac was not shy about firing away from beyond the 3-point arc, and even led the team in 3-point shooting percentage this year. Zac must get stronger and more aggressive to contribute next year as he only attempted one foul shot over the entire season. Murphy has hit for double figures in a game this season and, with a growth spurt and added strength, could play a role on the varsity team in 2014-15.
No 21: Fr. Clay Welch: Clay saw action in all 19 games this year, and often cracked the lineup in a starting role. Welch twice was in double figures in scoring and was especially effective in running the floor and playing some solid defense. Welch is another one of those very athletic Shark JV players who will more than likely fill a starting role with next year’s JV team.
No 22: Fr. Chris Tomaszewski: Chris is another one of those athletic Sharks with a football body who has chosen basketball as his chosen sport. Chris runs the floor very well and is hopeful of improving on his shooting skills and ball handling in the off-season in an attempt to crack the starting lineup on the JV team next season. For his limited minutes played this year, Tomaszewski had a very high percentage of rebounds.
No 23: Fr. Tyler Perez: Coming from a very athletic family, Tyler is projected to perform a huge role on future Shark basketball teams over the next three years. Perez experienced a rapid growth rate over the last 12 months, a rate that could continue into next season. Perez is a good ball handler and has a mindset of a scorer. Perez could give the Sharks the luxury of having a big man who can handle the ball, much like Beau Beech did for the Sharks during his outstanding career. Tyler’s biggest challenge is to development a better rotation to his shot from out court.
No 34: Fr. Rowan Fitch: Rowan has a very soft touch with his shots from inside the 15 foot range and even led the JV team in free throw percentage. A member of the regular rotation throughout the season, Fitch was a valuable performer for the Sharks, mainly in a relief role. Rowan goes up strong for the rebounds and, once he secured control, was able to find an open teammate. When Rowan acquires the trait of playing a little bit more ‘loose’ on the court, he could be a future Shark contributor for what is now a very solid program.
No 35: Fr Dean McCarthy: The younger brother of varsity starting front line player Ross McCarthy, Dean’s progression took a step back this year by missing a number of games, as well as practices, over the Holiday break. However, one can see that Dean has vast potential to aid the Sharks in the coming seasons. McCarthy is adept at going hard to the basket and shows no fear while on the court. With an off-season of hard work McCarthy could be a big plus for the Shark JV team in the upcoming season.
No 41: Fr Lance Kren: Lance was the leading rebounder and scorer on this year’s Shark team and was a very consistent performer all season. Kren has advanced ‘post’ move skills as a freshman and a very soft shooting touch from short range. Ponte Vedra coaches are hopeful that Kren will add some needed inches to his 6’1 frame so his post skills can best be utilized at the next level. The Sharks return their starting varsity front line from this year’s team; a front line that should see more additional depth with the addition of Lance Kren.
It will be very interesting how many of these young Sharks will move up to the varsity during the next school year. There can be little doubt, however, that from those young Sharks who will be returning to the JVs next year, coupled with the additional players from this year’s talented Landrum Middle School team, there should no shortage of talent on the JV team for the years to come.