Positions mean nothing to Wiregrass Ranch
By Kyle LoJacono
The Wiregrass Ranch High boys basketball program narrowly missed its first playoff appearance last year and the squad’s seven seniors are using that disappointment as motivation this season.
The Bulls (6-2) lost in the Class 4A, District 8 semifinals 57-52 to Nature Coast Tech last year. A win in that contest would have sent them to their first postseason.
“We want to get what we missed out on last year,” said senior Tanner Carey. “We want to get the first district title for our program.”
The 2009-10 Bulls went 21-6, but the team lost five seniors including 6-foot-9 center Eric Williams who scored more than 1,000 points and pulled down more than 700 rebounds while at Wiregrass Ranch.
“I think this team is better than that team,” said Bulls coach Jeremy Calzone, who has led the squad since the school opened in 2005. “We have more depth this year. We go 10 deep. We’re going to be just fine with these players.”
The team goes 10 deep on the depth chart, but the flexibility in the lineup goes farther than that. Calzone stresses that none of the players have set positions.
“We don’t really characterize them,” Calzone said. “Basically we have four guards and one center. Anyone can go inside and play the post or step out and play on the perimeter. For example, if we feel like Tanner Carey can get things going in the post we’ll put him there, but he’s also our best three-point shooter.”
Senior Josiah Jones is the epitome of that flexibility. Not only can he throw down acrobatic dunks, he can also step back and drain nothing-but-net jump shots.
“It’s kind of just automatic,” Jones said about the shift from inside to outside play. “We’re all used to it. It lets us attack our opponent’s weakness. I’m not sure how my mentality changes, but just when I see a lane open to the net or an open shot I’ll take either.”
Jones is not usually a starter for the Bulls, but his impact is felt immediately when he checks in.
“He’s our high flyer,” Calzone said. “He can do exciting things and makes the crowd get up and cheer. He comes in off the bench and is instant energy for us.”
Two pieces to the Wiregrass Ranch versatile backcourt are seniors Antwan Prince and James Tringali. While many of the Bulls have chemistry from years of playing together, these two have a different connection from years on the gridiron.
Tringali has been the quarterback of the Bulls football team since halfway through his freshman year, and Prince has been one of his most reliable targets. The two connected for 37 completions and 598 yards and five touchdowns this season, more than any other combination on the squad.
“It’s not just in sports, but in school and outside school too,” Tringali said. “We spend a lot of time together and are good friends. We just know where the other is going to be on the floor.”
Prince said they spend a lot of time together, but the two have very different personalities. Prince is very laid back and
calm much of the time, while Tringali is more of a fiery leader.
Prince is currently averaging 13.5 points per game, the second most for the Bulls behind Carey’s 13.6, while also leading Wiregrass Ranch with 28 steals. Tringali has been more of a facilitator, dishing out a team-high 39 assists while adding 54 rebounds.
Jones is far and away the leading blocker with 27 while adding 33 rebounds. Sophomore Rico Kerney is Wiregrass Ranch’s top rebounder with 60, but also has added 8.3 points per game and 11 steals.
The team’s improved play during the last few seasons is being noticed and fans are getting excited about the program.
“I came from a school in Wisconsin, where I was as a freshman, that has been there for 60 years,” Jones said. “They packed that gym every night. Coming here as a sophomore there weren’t so many people coming out, but then more and more people started to show up. You can feel that pride.”
Pride is the key word to Calzone.
“It has a lot to do with pride,” Calzone said of the improvement in all Wiregrass Ranch athletics. “The kids are actually proud to be a part of this school. Before it was I’m from Wesley Chapel or Land O’ Lakes. We’re finally starting to make our own traditions. The kids care about winning for Wiregrass Ranch.”
The Bulls started play in the Brighthouse Tournament Dec. 20, but results were not available by press time. Their next game is Dec. 28 against Riverview High in the first round of the Alonso Holiday Tournament.
-All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches as of Dec. 20.