Basketball preview

Coral Springs Christian coach grows his family, adopts two players

 

Despite a tight budget and a big family, Coral Springs Christian coach Steve Fitzgerald opens home to two more kids.

 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Big family:</span> Coral Springs Christian basketball coach Steve Fitzgerald with his family. Front row Jackson, 14, Aiden, 10, Dublin, 7, mom Teri, and Mackenzie, 12. Back row, Steve, Abule, 15, Liam, 16, Austin, 18, and Alaaowei, 16.
Big family: Coral Springs Christian basketball coach Steve Fitzgerald with his family. Front row Jackson, 14, Aiden, 10, Dublin, 7, mom Teri, and Mackenzie, 12. Back row, Steve, Abule, 15, Liam, 16, Austin, 18, and Alaaowei, 16.
Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald Staff

Top 10 teams — Class 8A-5A

1. American Heritage; 2. Dillard; 3. Boyd Anderson; 4. Blanche Ely; 5. Cardinal Gibbons; 6. Deerfield Beach; 7. McArthur; 8. St. Thomas Aquinas; 9. Cypress Bay; 10. Northeast.

Top 20 players (8A-5A)

Lance Tejada III, Blanche Ely, 6-1, Sr. G; Therrell Gosier, Blanche Ely, 6-7, Jr. F; Richard Lee, Northeast, 6-2, Sr. W; Marvin Jean-Pierre, Deerfield Beach, 6-4, Jr. W; Drake Lamont, American Heritage, 6-9, Sr. C; Rodney Simeon, Boyd Anderson, 6-5, Sr. W; Ross Udine, Cypress Bay, 6-0, Sr. PG; Nick Eubanks, Boyd Anderson, 6-6, So. F; Sidney Umude, St. Thomas Aquinas, 6-7, Sr. W; Jose Morales, Cardinal Gibbons, 5-10, Jr. PG.; Hannif Cheatham, Pines Charter, 6-5, Jr. G; Keyshawn Evans, American Heritage, 6-0, Jr. PG; Hunter Osceola, American Heritage, 6-0, Sr. G; Trenton Pierce, American Heritage, 6-4, Jr. W; Dondre Duffus, Boyd Anderson, 6-2, Sr. G; Cedric Wright, Dillard, 6-6, Jr. F; Dondre Duffus, Boyd Anderson, 6-2, Sr., G; Vanderbilt Carpenter, Deerfield Beach, 6-0, Sr. PG; Tyson Grace, Dillard, 6-0, Sr. G; Derric Jean, McArthur, 6-1, Jr. G.

Key dates

Dec. 18-23: City of Palms Classic (Fort Myers); Dec. 19-21: Kreul Classic (Coral Springs City Gymnasium); Dec. 27-30: Gulfshore Hoopfest (Golden Gate High School, Naples); Dec. 27-30: Kingdom of the Sun (Vanguard High School, Ocala); Jan. 17-18, Jan 20: TOC, Inc. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Classic (Ransom Everglades); Jan. 29-Feb. 1: BCAA Big 8 Tournament, Fort Lauderdale High; Jan. 30- Feb 1: Montverde Academy Invitational; Feb. 3-5, Feb. 7-8: Districts; Feb. 13: Regional quarterfinals; Feb. 18: Regional semifinals; Feb. 21-22: Regional finals; Feb. 25-March 1: FHSAA State finals, Lakeland.

Defending state champions

Class 8A: Oviedo Hagerty; 7A: Blanche Ely; 6A: Miami Norland; 5A: Tampa Jesuit; 4A: Orlando Lake Highland Prep; 3A: Jacksonville Providence; 2A: Grandview Prep; 1A: Bonifay Holmes County.

Top 10 teams

Class 4A-1A and Independent: 1. Coral Springs Christian; 2. Sagemont; 3. Zion Lutheran; 4. Westminster Academy; 5. Coral Springs Charter; 6. American Prep; 7. University School; 8. Chaminade; 9. North Broward Prep; 10. Pine Crest.

Top 20 players (4A-1A)

Jeffrey Prophete, Coral Springs Christian, 6-2, Fr. G; Alaowie Talent, Coral Springs Christian, 6-7, Jr. W; Lance Crawford, Sagemont, 6-0, Sr. PG; Prince Ali, Sagemont, 6-3, Jr. W; Gyorgy Goloman, Sagemont, 6-10, Sr. C; Antonio Vronkovic, Pine Crest, 6-10, Jr. C; Keith Stone, Zion Lutheran, 6-6, Jr. F; Jordan Cooper, Sagemont, 6-4, Sr. W; Jacolby Harris, North Broward, 6-3, Sr. G; Lawrence Barnes, Coral Springs Christian, 6-5, Sr. W; Andrew Boynton, Westminster Academy, 6-2, Jr. G; Austin Vaughn, Coral Springs Charter, 6-4, Jr. W; Alonzo Taylor, Coral Springs Charter, 6-1, Sr. PG; Nick Rosa, Westminster Academy, 6-7, Sr. F; Sammis Reyes, North Broward, 6-7, Sr. F; Champe Barton, University School, 6-3, Sr. W; Malachi Lindsay, American Prep, 6-3, Sr. W; Leandro Allende, Chaminade, 6-5, So. G; Benjy Dumornay, Chaminade, 6-7, Jr. W; Nikita Orap, Chaminade, 6-7, Jr. G.

Other players to watch

American Heritage: Josh Borders, Justin Massey, Jason Massey, Jeremy Mullings, Bryant Hall; American Prep: Christopher Sawyer, Karim Coleman, Luc-Albert Pierre, Jerrell Avery; Archbishop McCarthy: David Moya, Elie Richard, Corey Talbot; Blanche Ely: James Labadi, Joshua Floyd, Javon Heastie, Taiyon Devers; Boyd Anderson: Diandre Wilson, Pitchon Pierre; Calvary Christian: Juan Rosello, Rasheem Etienne, Jason Petit; Cardinal Gibbons: Melvin Brooks; Chaminade: Brandom Ram, Joshua Sanchez, Jason Romero; Coconut Creek: Kayo Samuel, Jhakari Harrison, Malek Young; Coral Springs: Jeff Altidort, Garven Charles, Jonado Fils; Coral Springs Charter: Kajuan Kinsey, Trevor Lee, Karl Hylton; Coral Springs Christian: Abule Abadi, Moses Newman, Kevin Clark, Austin Fitzgerald, Ateev Shirjee; Cypress Bay: Patrick Michel, Leo Joson, Max Udine, Russ Barnes, Brandon Arias; Deerfield Beach: Solomon Kelly, Raynard Robinson, Vance Houston, Eugene Harvey; Dillard: Marquez Smith, Arthur (Rico) Kennedy, Trandon Smith, Keon Farrington; Douglas: Ryan Allison, Greg Georges; Everglades: Dontre Cash, Derrick Theoc, Dwayne Frazier, Keandre Mais; Flanagan: Harry Norton, Keavon Mitchell, Kyanti Blyden; Hallandale: Denzel Ossen; Highlands Christian: Herman Robinson, Andrew Blazeff; Hollywood Christian: Jonas Holmes, Austin Jackson, Wesner Momperns; Hollywood Hills: Jonathan Gonzalez, Akeem Clarke; McArthur: Majestic Tejada, Corey Brown, Kris Goetter, Sandro Noel; Miramar: Jabari Hill, Kahlil Lewis, Stanley Pierre; Monarch: Tyler Flanagan, Zachary Boothe, Gabriel Mohammed; North Broward: Alex Rifkind, Taariq Lewis, Jeffrey Schemm; Nova: Roshane Walker, Jordan Cabrera-Cuba, Isaih Thomas, Marc Lawrence; Pine Crest: Alan Sacks, Andy Wang, Andrew Haeffner, Brett Haeffner; Posnack: Dylan Sherwitz, Jason Brandwein, Marc Spier; Sagemont: Joe Kirby, A.J. Jurko, Tyler Polley, Marcelo Serra; St. Thomas Aquinas: Sean Downes, Matt Maturah, Brandon Marshall, Marcellus Bryan; South Broward: Austin Oltime, Chris Tracey, Brendon Lourie; South Plantation: Michael Green, Valentino Gifford; Stranahan: Leon Holston, Vilbrum St. Preux, Trevaughn Goodman; Taravella: Sean Bush, Matt Groll; University School: Mike Moore, Nikolas Bonito, Robert Livingston, Brian Burns; West Broward: Tyrone Dennis, Luciano Cruz, Josh Brewton; Western: Alex Artaza, Josh Royes; Westminster Academy: Chris Barbar, Bryce Herrold, Zach Scott, Ryan Kroll; Zion Lutheran: Vince Stubbs, Brandon Baraeles, Rashad Witty, Chris Judge.

-- FABIAN LYON


flyon@MiamiHerald.com

Coral Springs Christian boys’ basketball coach Steve Fitzgerald and his wife Teri were already stretched to the financial limit with six children when fate paid another visit to their front door.

Unsettled by the news that Fitzgerald’s two Nigerian-born players Alaowei Talent and Abule Abadi were being uprooted from one host family to another, the Fitzgeralds cobbled together enough money to file adoption papers and make the 6-7 Alaowei and 6-6 Abule their newest sons.

The Fitzgeralds, rooted deep in faith, said bringing Alaowei, 16, and Abule, 15, into the fold with Dublin, Aiden, Mackenzie, Jackson, Liam and Austin — a 6-7 forward for the Crusaders — was a calling they could not ignore.

“We both just felt like it was the right thing to do,” Teri Fitzgerald said. “Steve just had it on his heart to adopt Alaowei and Abule and I always wanted more children. When Steve suggested it, I just knew it was what God wanted us to do. When we sat our children down to talk about it. They were beyond excited.”

The journey Alaowei and Abadi, who fare from the same Nigerian town of Otuan, took them to Coral Springs Christian and ultimately to the same family as adopted brothers.

Abadi, the son of a politician, came from a priveleged upbringing and private school background.

Alaowei, on the other hand, said his birth family is poverty stricken. Alaowei recalled the times he didn’t have money for sneakers and played basketball in bare feet.

Perhaps Alaowei’s first step to escape a similar hardship came when as a 12 year old, he made a two-hour trek by foot to a basketball camp hosted by former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Ejike Ugboaja.

“I don’t know how life would be if I didn’t make that trip,’’ Alaowei said. “That day I heard that they were having a camp. We had to pay for transportation and I didn’t have money so I decided to walk. Back home you don’t get anything. Basically you have to fend for yourself.”

Alaowei and Abule became acquaintances at the camp not knowing their paths would cross again at Coral Springs Christian.

While Abule was considered a raw post prospect at the time, Alaowei caught the eye of camp counselors with his more advanced ball-handling and shooting skills.

After Alaowei moved to Georgia and returned to Nigeria after his visa was revoked, he and Abule ultimately reunited at Coral Springs Christian three years ago.

Alaowei, a rising junior wing, and Abule, a freshman, are expected to play key roles in the Crusaders’ return bid to the FHSAA Class 3A State Final Four.

Alaowei, who has made a name as a defensive stopper, will need to shoulder more of the scoring load after being a complementary offensive player last season. Abule, meanwhile, has the bulk and athleticism to fill the void left by Nura Zanna, another Nigerian born player, who led the Crusaders to the 3A state championship game last season.

Of course, feeding and outfitting four children 6-5 or taller and Steve Fitzgerald, who stands 6-7, presents challenges. Even on a tight budget Teri Fitzgerald said the weekly grocery bill averages $400.

Through it all, Steve Fitzgerald said the values and life experiences Alaowei and Abule have brought to their new family has made it all worthwhile.

“It is hard for me to remember a time now when Alaowei and Abule weren’t with us,” Fitzgerald said. “I really feel like they have brought just as much or more to our family. Helping our kids appreciate what they have. You think with that many kids there would be constant conflict but there isn’t. Alaowei and Abule have taught how to have respect and space for each other. I can’t imagine life without them.”

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