LOXAHATCHEE — The Seminole Tribe’s representation in the Okeechobee High School boys basketball program will be robust for at least several years.
With three freshmen and a sophomore from the Tribe making significant contributions in their first seasons with Brahman teams on the court, the future looks bright for Okeechobee.
Sophomore Sean Osceola is the leading scorer for the junior varsity team, whose offense is run by starting freshman point guard and co-captain Lucas Osceola. On the freshman team, Michael Harvey Jr. is the team’s top point-getter and Alyke Baker is among the top rebounders.
The freshman team had the night off Jan. 8, but the junior varsity and varsity squads were in action against Seminole Ridge High School in a pair of games at Osceola Creek Middle School in Loxahatchee.
Sean scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds and Lucas notched eight points as Okeechobee JV upped its record to 10-4 with a 69-46 win.
Sean’s primary sport is baseball. Even on the court, his passion for baseball follows him. He wears jersey No. 42, perhaps the most famous two digits in baseball because they belonged to Jackie Robinson.
“I had a choice of 32 and 42,” Sean said, “but 42 is a baseball number and I liked it.”
After a stellar freshman season as one of the top arms on the Brahmans’ varsity pitching staff last spring, Sean decided to play basketball as a way to stay in shape for the upcoming baseball season. He’s had no regrets.
“It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been challenging,” Sean said. “I’m new to the sport, so I don’t really know how to play it, but thanks to my coaches and my players, they’ve really helped me become a good basketball player.”
In the game against Seminole Ridge, Sean showed why it has been a smooth transition from the diamond to the hardwood. Sean entered the game midway through the first quarter with the Brahmans in front 8-3 and immediately made an impact.
Within two minutes, he grabbed two rebounds, dished out an assist and scored two points as Okeechobee’s lead ballooned to 17-5.
Okeechobee enjoyed a comfortable lead for the rest of the night, which meant Sean and a few other regulars played fewer minutes than normal. Junior varsity coach Raymond Collins said Sean is averaging 17.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.
“He’s a beast among boys for a first-year player,” said Collins, who noted that there is room to improve. “He’s a work in progress. He’s still learning the game. He’s a coachable kid.”
In addition to the conditioning benefits, Sean said playing basketball can help him in other areas of baseball.
“It’s a lot of footwork and I think it will help me in baseball for pitching and running, and also defense,” said Sean, who also plays first and third base.
In the fourth quarter, Sean provided examples of power and finesse. He outmuscled an opponent as part of a 3-point play. He also showed a big man’s soft touch when the 6-foot-3, about 235-pound forward/center scored on a layup that was set up by Lucas on a coast-to-coast fast break.
Described by his coach as “the floor general,” Lucas has made a seamless transition in his freshman season after playing three years of middle school ball for Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School.
“It’s faster with more big people and more competition,” said Lucas, whose southpaw skills as a dribbler and shooter can surprise opponents, especially those who watch him in pregame drills. “Sometimes when we warm up, I go with my right [hand] to make them think I’m right.”
Lucas was right on target when he ended the 2015 calendar year on a high note with a season-best 22 points – which included a handful of 3-pointers – in a 60-52 win against Jensen Beach on Dec. 18.
“Lucas is doing great; ball handling, shooting, he controls the offense the way I want it controlled,” Collins said. “He’s averaging about 8.5 points and three or four assists.”
While Sean and Lucas have supplied plenty of help for the JV at both ends of the court, the same can be said for Michael Harvey Jr. and Alyke Baker on the freshman squad.
“Michael Harvey is probably the best player on the team. He’s the leading scorer, a great leader,” said freshman coach Jovanny Torres, whose team was 4-4 as of early January. “Alyke is a big rebounder and plays great defense. They’re both great kids.”
Torres said Michael scored in double digits in just about all the team’s games. But Michael’s value to the team extends beyond scoring from the shooting guard position.
“If there’s a good player on the other team, [Michael] is the first one I put on that guy,” Torres said. “He has a great basketball IQ. He uses his teammates. He doesn’t dribble with his head down. He sees the whole court.”
The defensive zone is where Alyke has excelled as a power forward/center. Torres said Alyke makes two or three blocks per game.
“He is a great athlete,” Torres said. “He’s undersized for his position, but he’s really strong and he knows basketball. He’s a really good defender. Once his offensive game comes around, he’s going to be a really good player.”
Okeechobee varsity guard Demetrius Clark is already in that “good player” category.
Demetrius, whose stepmother is Tribal citizen Pamela Snell, sank six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 28 points with nine rebounds in the Brahmans’ marathon 85-81 triple overtime loss to Seminole Ridge.
The setback left Okeechobee with an 11-5 record. Demetrius, a 6-foot-1 starting junior guard, is one reason coach Demetre Riles’ varsity team is in good shape to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2010.
As of early January, Demetrius had eclipsed the 20-point plateau five times and was second in scoring with 16.7 points per game.
As a longtime resident of the Brighton Reservation and a former three-year standout at PECS, Demetrius is more than willing to help the young players from the Tribe as they ascend toward varsity.
“I take time at practice to work with them; Lucas with his dribbling and shooting, and Sean [with his moves],” Demetrius said. “I miss them up here. Next year they’ll definitely be up. I’m looking forward to it.”