BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Spruce Creek boys basketball team is off to a 9-4 start as of Jan. 4, thanks to a combination of talent, depth and versatility.
Despite losing talented players Neiko Green, Keyshawn Johnson, Reakwon Sloan and Jessie Davis to graduation, the Hawks have reloaded during a rebuilding campaign.
“We lost four starters from last year and brought in a lot of new guys. When that happens, it’s always tough. But, fortunately, we have guys who know basketball and have high basketball IQs.
We just have to keep working,” said Head Coach Joe Giddens.
Creek beat Hudson High (near Tampa) 70-64 on Tuesday night.
Senior point guard Hayden Bieri is leading the Hawks in scoring, assists and steals.
“I try to get a triple double every game. I’ve gotten used to being a go-to player and a team leader. I also do everything that I can to help everyone else constantly,” said Bieri.
Bieri transferred to Spruce Creek from Calvary Christian Academy in Ormond Beach two years ago.
“The players at the bigger schools are a lot faster and stronger so I really had to work on my speed, strength and athleticism to get better,” Bieri noted.
Giddens added, “Hayden has a really high basketball IQ. He put in a lot of work in the offseason.
He does all the little things and he has become a complete player.”
Other key players
The Hawks also have another star in senior guard/forward Jerry Antoine, who is a four-year varsity letterman who leads the squad in rebounding and is second in scoring.
He said, “My time here has been great. Playing for Coach Giddens has been cool. Coach challenges us in practice daily as well as games.”
Noted Giddens, “Jerry has always been talented. I’m glad that he stuck it out. He is 6’6” and just a nightmare matchup because he can play and defend all five positions.’’
The Hawks also have junior guard Riley Oldham, who transferred from Seabreeze, where he averaged 21 points per game last season.
Sophomore guard/forward Rodney Rhoden, who stands at 6’4” and is 200 pounds, also transferred from Calvary Christian.
Senior forwards Bryan Rerko and 6’9” Zach Smith are also making noise for Creek.
“All of these guys have really come in and stepped up. They are playing some great ball for us,” commented Giddens.
Both Antoine and Bieri believe in this team and they are enjoying the moment.Antoine remarked, “I think that we are different from other teams because we are all interchangeable. We can all do a little of everything. We’re versatile.”
Echoed Bieri, “We have good team chemistry. Many of us on this team have played with each other in AAU basketball going back as far as fourth grade.’’
Spruce Creek has won the district title and made the playoffs the last two years. Last season, the team won 22 games.
The Hawks now look to take the next step by making a deep playoff run and contend for a state title.
“We just have to trust in each other. I tell them each day to not play for me but to play for each other. To play every play like it is your last. You never know what can happen,” said Giddens.
Antoine agrees, “We just have to play together, and if we do that we can go deep in the playoffs and be where we want to be – that is playing for a state championship.”