Girls’ basketball | Miami Country Day

Country Day thrives with unselfishness

 

Ochiel Swaby fought the team concept as a player, but he has instilled team values with the Country Day girls’ team he coaches.

Special to The Miami Herald

It was a couple of decades ago, but Ochiel Swaby remembers well his brief ti-me spent playing men’s basketball for coach Leonard Hamilton and the Miami Hurricanes.

“I acted like a fool when I was down there,” said Swaby, who was a 6-6 small forward who had averaged 47.4 points at North Miami High. “I had been the best player at my high school. I shot whenever I wanted, and I did whatever I wanted.

“Then I get to Miami, and we had to be disciplined. We had a team concept, and I fought it. I always had the attitude that I should be getting more instead of earning more.”

With regrets, Swaby ended up transferring out of Miami and finishing his college career at Central Florida.

“I’ve always thought about sending an apology email to Leonard,” Swaby said.

“He dealt with me in the right way, but I guess I wasn’t ready to receive his message as an 18-year-old kid.”

Swaby, 40, is now a coach, leading a 24-1 Miami Country Day girls’ basketball team that is perhaps the best in the state in Class 3A.

The irony, he said, is that his players are in no way like him. They are, in fact, unselfish.

Case in point is the eldest of his three children, Onika Swaby, a 5-11 senior forward. She led her team with a 17-point scoring average last season.

But when Danielle Minott transferred in from Parkway Academy and became MCD’s leading scorer, Onika had no issues, even though she now averages about 12 points.

“I like that now the points are more spread out,” she said. “There’s less pressure on me, and I don’t get double-teamed nearly as much.”

Last season, Minott helped Parkway Academy reach the Class 3A state final, eliminating MCD in the regional final in the process. But when Parkway closed in early August, Minott had to find a new home.

Swaby said Parkway’s former coach recommended MCD, advice Minott accepted, and the 5-7 junior combo guard is averaging 15 points.

Minott is not the only key transfer who arrived at MCD this season. Channise “Aryan” Lewis, a 5-8 point guard, transferred from Parkway Middle.

When he found out that Lewis had transferred, Swaby saw some video of her on YouTube and was impressed with the highly mature eighth-grader.

He immediately told his holdover point guard, sophomore Stephanie Mackenzie, that she would be switching to a wing position.

“She didn’t fight it,” Swaby said. “These kids trust us. She knew she would still play a ton — she just wasn’t going to be the primary point guard.”

Considering MCD returned three starters from last season’s 25-4 team — Onika, Mackenzie and 5-11 senior wing Breanna Blot — there were two openings in the starting lineup.

Minott and Lewis fit into the team perfectly, and it showed as MCD raced to a 23-0 start, winning every game by at least 15 points.

Last week, MCD finally received a pair of tests, losing to Class 4A Coral Springs Charter 44-39, and beating Class 5A Plantation American Heritage 49-46.

Those close games will help MCD as it tries to make a run at the state final four from Feb. 19 to Feb. 23 in Lakeland.

MCD has never made it past the regional finals, but Minott already has made a mental reservation for the Lakeland Civic Center.

“There’s no doubt we will get to state this year,” Minott said. “I don’t know how it will be when we get up there. We just have to mentally and physically prepare.”

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