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Bonds take boys team back to final four

bonds take boys team back to final four

By Mayra Catalan, Olivia Wallenstein, and Tiffany Wiseman

This year’s Booker High boys basketball team went to the state final four, the farthest they’ve gone since the 2005-6 school year. They played in the Class 6A state semifinal in early March, falling by one point to Leesburg.

The Tornadoes finished with a 29-3 record, their best since before they won the state title in 2006. According to MaxPreps.com, Booker finished ranked 36th in the state.

We sat down with Coach Markus Black to find out what he thought of the season and how the team was able to accomplish what it did. Q: How would you describe your relationship with the players?

My relationship with the players is one grounded in love. When I first started coaching at Booker High School, this senior class was the one I entered with. Most, if not all, of the student athletes on this team I have known since they were in middle school, if not elementary. So there is a bond there that I don’t think a lot of people on the outside looking in really understand. I have built individual relationships with each of them through time, so in my heart, these young men are brothers to me. Q: Being that the last time Booker has gotten this far was during your high school experience, how do you feel knowing that you’ve made a positive impact on Booker, your team, and yourself?

Well, the glory will always go to God and the young men who have allowed me the opportunity to coach them, but that is what we set out to do when we got here four years ago. I understood the task would not be an easy one, but I knew with hard work on and off of the court, we could bring Booker High School back into the fold, in regard to our place in the state of Florida. Has this season changed you?

I wouldn’t say the season necessarily changed me, rather an opportunity to grow. Throughout this season, I discovered a few things

about myself and this team. The most important of which would be humility. Learn to sit down, be humble...Hold up! Q: After the state game in Lakeland [state semifinal], what do you have to say to the team?

To the team, I would just like to say thank you. Thank you for having an unwavering trust in what the coaching staff was trying to implement. Thank you for working as hard as you all have since May. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to push you to your mental and physical breaking points. Thank you for the opportunity to not only break some of you, but the chance to build you back up, in theory making you stronger. Thank you for pain that we feel right now because we fell short of our goal. Thank you for the jubilation of

winning a regional final. Thank you for continuing to build upon the foundation we laid last season, but most importantly, thank yourselves. Jaylen Jones, Jordan Curtis, Hudson Gough, Curtis Butler Jr., Fred Francois, Aaron Robinson, Jeff Pedro, Johnnie Williams, Jordan Clark, Zach Smith, Eldrian Arnold, Chris Gough, King Winkfield, Paul McLeod, and Jacques Bristol...thank you. This was one for the books. I love all of you!

Johnnie Williams IV shoots a jumper (above) and Jordan Clark guards number 3 (right) during the Regional Final aganist Cape Coral Mariner at Booker High School. The win sent the Tornadoes to the state Final Four. Photos by Jill Owen.