New coach aims to take Lake Worth girls basketball team 'to next level' as playoffs begin
Sunday, January 27, 2013
by Matt Porter
Lake Worth High's gym, while home to a respectable program, hasn't exactly been a hallowed hall of basketball glory.
Sure, there's the banner remembering 1980 grad Otis Thorpe, who eventually became a starter on a championship team in his 16-year NBA career. Aside from that and boys state championships in 1961 and 1972, a school that has been around for more than 90 years hasn't made a major imprint on the state hoops scene.
Since the Florida High School Athletic Association held its inaugural girls basketball state tournaments 43 years ago, Lake Worth has made the playoffs seven times -- most recently last year -- but has never advanced to the second round. Heading into district play, which starts Monday, Alvin Hamilton figures it's time to write a new chapter.
After four years at Fort Pierce Westwood, the 44-year-old Hamilton took over the Trojans this year -- and nearly took them through the regular season unbeaten. Lake Worth (20-3) won its first 18 games, playing the sweet-shooting, defensively sound brand of basketball that wins playoff games.
"It is definitely the type of team that can do that," Hamilton said. "At that next level, size is what we're lacking. But our athleticism, we hope, can make up for that."
The Trojans play fast, with several players who can bring it up and score. Most notable is 6-foot sophomore Jonika Garvin. After reaching the Class 2A state semifinals with Grandview Prep last year, she transferred to Lake Worth and is averaging 20.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
"Jonika has it," Hamilton said. "She has all the tools to be as great as she wants to be. She's gifted."
The Trojans have another matchup advantage over most teams at the point, where junior Storm Bureau's combination of size (5-11) and muscle overpowers smaller guards. She's averaging 10.6 points, 5.3 assists and 3.4 steals per game.
Junior Leticia Jean Louis (5-7) and freshman Erna Normil (5-9) can make baskets from anywhere. Sophomore Cleonte Joseph (6-2) is an interior shot-changer. Taudra Leslie (5-8), the only senior in the Trojans' rotation, is a versatile defender off the bench.
The Trojans' postseason -- they are the No. 1 seed in the District 14-7A tournament -- will have a smoother start than the preseason.
When he took over in July, Lake Worth athletic director Jessie Hester began looking for an experienced, on-campus coach to replace outgoing coach Brett Studley. Hester didn't find the right person until the first day of practice.
"Alvin was a Godsend," Hester said.
But the Trojans had just seven games scheduled. While other teams were well into their seasons, the Trojans had to scrimmage each other.
"That was frustrating," Hamilton said. "It was a slow process."
But it did give Bureau, the only returning starter, Garvin and a host of first-year varsity players plenty of time to blend. Now, after the most successful start in program history, they're still figuring out exactly how good they are.
"Our goals were to win our conference, win our district and make a run in the playoffs," Hamilton said. "With the slow start, it took awhile for us to realize, those are realistic goals."
Two football players commit: American Heritage dual-threat quarterback Marcus Davis verbally committed this past weekend to Auburn, where he'll play receiver, and Suncoast defensive tackle Ke'Tyrus Marks pledged to Arkansas.
Post staff writer Jeff Greer contributed to this article.