By Jeff Odom
Wiregrass Ranch senior Rico Kerney opened the season Nov. 26 against River Ridge with an alley-oop dunk for his first points of the 2011-12 campaign. He finished with a two-handed slam over a 6-foot-5 defender.
For some high school players, dunking once is a career feat. But for Kerney, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound guard/forward, that’s just another night at the office.
Kerney, who averaged 25.1 points and 14.2 rebounds last season while earning The Laker/Lutz News Player of the Year honors, makes the most difficult shots look easy.
He set school records for points (704), rebounds (398) and steals (91) last year and was named the team’s player of the year by Bulls coach Jeremy Calzone, a credit to the senior’s work ethic.
While his statistics are eye-catching, it’s the work put in with his teammates that makes him stand out.
Wiregrass Ranch worked to build up its defense going into this season, and Kerney bought right in to improving that side of his game in part to show is teammates it was vital for their success this season. He has not neglected offense, though.
“We worked on a lot of picks and screens to hopefully keep moving on offense,” Kerney said. “Our goal is (to score) 100 (points) and we (want) to hold (our opponents) below 70, which is also a goal too.”
On a depth chart filled with playmakers, Kerney is the most seasoned.
As a sophomore, Kerney tasted success for the first time as a starter on Wiregrass Ranch’s first and only district championship team. He was the only returning starter last season and helped guide his squad to a runner-up finish in Class 7A-District 9 behind Chamberlain.
Now, Kerney feels like the time is right to add another year to the championship banner hanging atop the rafters at the Bulls’ gym.
“We worked on our defense in the summer,” Kerney said. “Our summertime was about working hard on everything and it’s showed out and we’ve gotten better, and I’m proud of my team.”
Kerney’s teammate Larentz Manora, a senior, said Kerney is one of the team’s biggest leaders, giving everything he has from the opening tipoff.
“Man, Rico Kerney, he’s the Energizer Bunny,” Manora said. “That’s Rico right there and we feed off his energy. That’s how we roll.”