SIDELINE SCENE: Ocoee hoops sets program record for wins in a season
| 1:38 a.m. January 22, 2015
OCOEE — When the seniors on the Ocoee boys basketball team were freshmen, the Knights won just five games.
Last week, with wins over Wekiva, Orlando Christian Prep and Eustis, Ocoee improved to 18-3 on the season.
Win No. 17, which came Jan. 13 over OCP, set a program record for wins in a season.
The Knights have had the feel of a team in uncharted waters all season. Now, with program records already in hand for wins in a season and consecutive wins (Ocoee has won 10 in a row as of Tuesday), the feeling has been validated with the Class 8A District 3 Tournament on the horizon.
“I just really feel great for our senior class because they have been through a five-win season,” coach Rob Gordon said. “And now, to be able to enjoy the fruits of the labor … it just speaks volumes to their overall commitment to what our vision was when we got here.”
Gordon takes particular pride not only in how much the program has progressed in his time at the helm, but also in the names on the roster. Mainly, the Knights have no transfers. Senior guard Vaughn McCall played at Montverde Academy as a sophomore, but is an Ocoee kid who played his freshman ball with the Knights and went to Ocoee Middle School, along with teammate Grant Riller.
“These are all homegrown kids — there’s not a single transfer on this team,” Gordon said. “They have been through thick and thin with me. To have them be homegrown and to be able to put together this kind of a season, it just speaks volumes (about) our kids.”
Of course, neither Gordon nor his team is satisfied — nor should they be. The Knights could make a run at Lakeland, especially as the program’s role players — everyone not named Grant or Vaughn — continue to progress.
Ocoee’s star, Riller, is another element of success for the program. Gordon doesn’t hold back when talking up his star, either, saying Riller is the best player in Central Florida this season.
“(Riller’s season is) right up there with B.J. Taylor last year; in what he means to our ball club and what B.J. meant to Boone,” Gordon said, referencing the former Braves guard and current freshman for the UCF Knights. “(Riller is) the best player in Orlando for this season. I know other players have been more highly recruited, but for what Grant has accomplished so far this year, he’s having the best year of any high school basketball player in Orlando.”
It’s hard to say what will happen with the Knights — they’re still in a district with the top team in Class 8A (Evans) and dropped a game to rival West Orange earlier this season.
Still, it’s an exciting time for Ocoee, and if you haven’t seen the Knights this season, then you’re simply missing out.