Action Friday through Sunday at six Bradenton sites
Tom Massolio does not care that Division I basketball coaches will be in the area to see his two teams compete in the FABC Bradenton Camp.
“We have lower level college players on our team. That’s fine,” Massolio said. “I hope we have a couple of high level guys, but I also believe we’ve got a couple of guys who can play at the next level and they don’t have to be Division I guys.”
Because there was no girls participation, the Florida High School Athletic Association did not approve the event, which drew the ire of some coaches. Therefore, Division I basketball coaches are not permitted to watch the 64 varsity teams and seven junior varsity teams competing Friday through Sunday at IMG Academy, Palmetto High, Bayshore High, Manatee High, Southeast High and Braden River High.
Teams from the area competing are Lakewood Ranch High, Booker High, Palmetto High, Riverview High, Braden River High, Bayshore High, Bradenton Christian School, Manatee High and Charlotte’s two teams, including a junior varsity team playing in a varsity pool.
“Good exposure for our younger guys,” Massolio said. “They will be playing good competition and get better for next season. The main goal is to get a couple of colleges to see your guys play on the court and be interested in.”
Massolio has changed his summer strategy during the past few years. Instead of dispatching his players to traveling AAU teams, he is playing in team camps and tournaments.
In the past, Massolio has taken his team to events that advertised college coaches, only to show up with none in attendance.
So, to ensure there are college coaches at events, Massolio went right to the source.
“With help from college coaches that tell you where to go, we’re trying to hit those events even more,” he said.
Entering his 22nd season and the dean of area high school coaches, Massolio also changed the way his players train, not only during the summer and offseason, but throughout the year.
With the help of assistant coach Ed Chery, the Tarpons developed a strength and conditioning program similar to circuit training.
With six stations, five with weights and weighted balls and one with a VertiMax, the 30 players are divided into groups of five and spend 10 minutes at one station. If they finish early, they do an “extra” at another station.
“When you have other high school coaches coming up and telling you that your kids look big and really good, we are achieving our goals,” Massolio said. “We’re bigger and stronger than we were a year ago.”
Seeing results from implementing the program in August and the offseason, Massolio and Chery are finding ways to incorporate it during the season.
“We’ve seen a lot of benefits,” Massolio said. “We can see it by the way the kids are jumping off the floor, getting down the floor. We’re happy with it.:
While the FABC Bradenton Camp is the only team camp the Tarpons will attend this summer, at least three players — 6-foot-8 rising senior center Faustin Phanor, 6-7 rising sophomore Tre Carroll, who already picked up an offer from Florida Gulf Coast University, and incoming freshman 6-4 wing John Gamble — will play AAU ball next month and be seen by Division I coaches during the live period.
The Tarpons are planning to attend a team camp in September in Orlando.
“We want chemistry,” said Massolio, who has a 444-198 record in 21 seasons. “We’ve got a couple of new guys in the mix.”
Graduating three seniors from a team that finished 22-8, losing in the regional semifinals to Port Charlotte, Massolio is eager to see how the new points ranking system will work for basketball.
The Tarpons are in a district with Braden River, Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers and North Fort Myers.
“I like our district,” Massolio said. “The change of the different teams in the district will be challenging for us, but if you have a good program you’ll be in the hunt every year. We have one of those types of programs, no matter where you put us, we’re going to be in the hunt.”