ORLANDO — Forty-five minutes after the Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies finished their NBA game Jan. 16, Trey Boone walked onto the court at Amway Center with his teammates from the Vanguard School boys basketball team.
Nearly all the glamour and noise that surrounded the game – the 18,141 fans, the Magic cheerleaders and dancers, the raucous thunder sticks, the free T-shirts that are blasted into the stands – were gone, but the aura of playing a game in an NBA arena remained intact for the high schoolers as Vanguard faced Lakeland’s George Jenkins in a late-night tilt. Each season only a few high school teams get a chance to play at Amway before or after a Magic game.
“It was amazing to have that experience. A lot of Tribal members don’t have that experience. I’m blessed to have that,” said Boone, a senior captain who has started every game for Vanguard at guard since he arrived at the Lake Wales school from Immokalee two years ago.
Before the high school game tipped off at about 10:15 p.m., Boone already had a memorable evening thanks to being selected with four of his teammates to participate in the Magic’s pregame festivities. Boone was on the court at the front of a high-five line that greeted Magic starters as they were introduced. He exchanged high-fives with Channing Frye, Devyn Mable, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic.
“That was crazy, just to be with the NBA players and the energy you feel,” Boone said.
From section 111, the Vanguard team watched the Magic fall to the Grizzlies, 106-96. It was the second NBA game Boone has attended; the first was earlier this season. He has plenty of admiration for the pros.
“I know how hard they worked to get to this level,” he said.
With a longer court to run and a deeper 3-point line to grasp, the high school game – not surprisingly – featured some early sloppiness as players adjusted. Jenkins led 10-3 after the first quarter and 19-15 at halftime.
Boone, a 3-point specialist, came up short on a few attempts from beyond the arc in the first half but found his stride in the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers; the first tied the game at 28-28, the latter sliced Jenkins’ lead to 32-31.
Vanguard, a Class 2A school with an enrollment of about 120 kids, led by two with five minutes left in the game, but Jenkins, a 7A school, nudged ahead and pulled out a 43-40 win. Boone finished with six points and three rebounds.
“We’re here to have fun,” Vanguard coach Dan Sheppard said before the game. “It’s an experience they’ll never forget.”
A small entourage from the Immokalee Reservation – including Boone’s parents, Johnny and Gale – made the three-and-a-half hour drive to watch the game.
The game didn’t count in the record books for Vanguard, which won 13 of its first 16 games thanks in part to strong shooting from Boone.
“He’s played well. He’s shot really well. I think he’s averaging about 16 points. He’s had a good season,” Sheppard said. “He works hard; he plays hard. We’re proud of him as a leader. He’s really stepped up.”
The game marked the second time in six months that Boone has played in an NBA arena. Last summer he helped the Tribe’s Rez Runners win the Native American Basketball Invitational at US Airways Center, the home of the Phoenix Suns.
Basketball isn’t the only sport Boone has excelled at this academic year. In the fall, he advanced to the Class 1A state regionals in golf. During the regular season, his best scores for 9-hole matches were in the mid-30s. He shot a 78 in the 18-hole Class 1A-District 16 tournament that earned him the trip to regionals.
“He hits the ball a long way,” said Sheppard, who also coaches Vanguard’s golf team.
Boone hopes to continue to play double duty in college. He said he’s looking at Division II schools where he might be able to play golf and basketball. Golf, which he started playing at age 6, is his primary sport.
Similar to his duties on the basketball team, Boone served as a captain on the golf squad.
“I like the leadership,” Boone said.
“He leads by example. He does well in the classroom. I’m proud of him,” Sheppard said.