By Jeff Odom
Wiregrass Ranch boys basketball player Rico Kerney never thought he would end up in the program’s history book.
He was relegated to the junior varsity team as a freshman, and used the time to develop into the most prolific scorer and rebounder in the Bulls’ seven-year history.
The senior forward hit a major career milestone Jan. 28 in Wiregrass Ranch’s (19-6) 72-65 win at Mitchell.
Kerney surpassed the 1,500-point mark on a jump shot in the third quarter in the victory over the Mustangs (16-7). He said it was emotional to accomplish the feat, but it left him wanting more.
“To score 1,500 points feels amazing,” said Kerney, who finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds in the win. “I’m happy I did it, but I wish I could have got 2,000. But for three years to get 1,500 points, I’m proud of it.”
Bulls coach Jeremy Calzone has seen Kerney mature into the offensive leader that he is today and praised him for what he has done for the program.
“I don’t want to get too emotional, but over the last three years he’s been pretty special,” Calzone said. “His personality, his hard work ethic and he goes through a lot with his life and has been able to fight through that. I can’t even say any words. He’s been a special kid in our program.”
Kerney, who is also the program’s career record holder for rebounds at 880, achieved his milestone less than a week after teammate Chris Parra passed the same mark. Parra transferred to Wiregrass Ranch last year from Wesley Chapel.
“That’s special, and I don’t really think people appreciate it,” Calzone said. “A lot of (Kerney’s) points come with work. He gets a rebound tip in or a loose ball and throws it in, and I think he’s underappreciated from that respect, but he’s been very special for us.”
Kerney said it was humbling to join Parra in the 1,500-point club because of the work they have put in during the offseason.
“I would have never thought in a hundred years that I would have gotten this far,” Kerney said. “Coming from last year, we worked hard over the summer and played like 60 games. We gained our chemistry, and this year we’re trying to just play it and get to states.”
The Bulls opened the game by outscoring the Mustangs 22-12 in the first quarter, but an inconsistent defense opened the door for Mitchell to hang with them.
Wiregrass Ranch never trailed and was on point offensively with seven 3-pointers and took advantage of multiple fouls, finishing 24-of-35 at the free throw line.
“I still don’t think we’re buying into the disciplined defense that I want,” Calzone said. “We show it in spurts, so that’s better than not showing it at all, which we’ve done this season sometimes. … Hopefully, it’s not too late.”
Mitchell cut down the Bulls’ lead to three with 1:18 seconds left in the fourth, but a late run by Wiregrass Ranch led by Larrentz Manora (18 points), Parra (14 points) and Kerney secured the win.
—Follow Jeff Odom on Twitter: @ JOdomLaker