No matter the gaudy numbers Keyanna Warthen put up last season, it felt like it wasn’t enough.
Even as she dazzled in scoring 32 points to help the resurgent Flying L’s stave off a late rally and beat Palm Beach Lakes 106-101 in a wild Class 7A regional quarterfinal, the feeling was that Warthen could have done more.
Fair or not, that is the burden all “can’t-miss prospects” such as the Indiana-bound Warthen carry.
“I think the biggest thing is seeing it at another level,” Fort Lauderdale coach LaShonda Gaines said. “To do it every night. I’m challenging her mentally. I don’t think she processed what she was doing and you know, that she had another gear. I’m excited to see her get to another gear this season. It should be special.”
Fort Lauderdale, which underwent a drastic roster overhaul because of graduation, needs Warthen to empty the tank this season if the team has any chance of challenging for a Class 8A state title.
Few, if any players, checked all the boxes as efficiently as Warthen in a break-out junior season. Warthen averaged a career-high 20.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 4.8 steals per game to earn Broward Player of the year and selection to the FABC Class 7A All-State first team.
The prelude to Warthen rescuing the Flying L’s against Palm Beach Lakes was a 34-point, 13-rebound and five-steal performance against Blanche Ely in 83-78 victory in the District 14-7A championship game.
“I’ve seen special, decent and good,” Gaines said. “I think she is in that elite class. In my eyes she is the best guard down here in South Florida. To have a junior year like that was a big deal and confidence boost for her. It set in when the offers came in. I think Indiana solidified that for her.”
Having Warthen, who will team with Tamiracle Taylor, Melonie De Oleo, Aryanna Boyce and Tash Meredith in the starting unit, makes the Flying L’s clear favorites to win District 14-8A.
But they are expected to have their work cut out trying to take the next step to Lakeland. Perennial state powers South Broward, which knocked out the Flying L’s last season, and Nova are expected to battle it out in District 15-8A and loom as potential roadblocks to the state final four.
Warthen said the loss to South Broward fueled her offseason workouts and made her adopt a more take-charge playing style during travel ball.
“It made me want to go harder,” Warthen said. “To fall that short, it hurt me a lot but you learn from your mistakes. Last year I was passive at times. This year I’m trying to go out with a bang. Like a fairy tale. There is no coming back after this. I am trying to prove many points.”
Warthen has all the prerequisite tools to carry Fort Lauderdale to Lakeland.
At a shade above 5-10, extremely athletic and skilled, Warthen gives Gaines the rare player to exploit mismatches all over the court. While Warthen is at her best driving to the basket and finishing through contact, Gaines said she has added a lethal three-point game that will give opponents something new to think about.
Even with that eye-popping skill set and high IQ, Gaines said colleges wanted to know whether Warthen leaves her imprint on all four quarters of a game.
Gaines said that as dominant Warthen was at times, she wants her to impose her will more this season. To that end, Gaines said offseason workouts were geared toward Warthen adopting an attack-mode mentality throughout the whole game. Gaines said she and Warthen watched clips of Russell Westbrook’s high-motor play and the result is Warthen being more vocal and showing more of a take-charge attitude on the court.
“That was the biggest question — colleges were wondering about her killer instinct,” Gaines said. “I think she will prove to a lot of people she has one. She can’t come back and do it over again. Keyanna knows she has to bring it every night. We are all waiting for Keyanna to take her crown.”
Dec. 16-19: Kreul Classic (Coral Springs).
Dec. 17, 19-20: Rock Holiday Classic (North Broward).
Dec. 28-30: Junior Orange Bowl Classic (Miami).
Jan. 7-8: SUTS Report NY Classic (Archbishop McCarthy).
Jan. 13-16: MLK Showcase.
Jan. 26-28: BCAA Championships (South Plantation).
Jan. 30-Feb. 4: Districts.
Feb. 9: Regional quarterfinals (Classes 5A-9A); Region semifinals (1A-4A).
Feb. 14: Region semifinals (5A-9A); Region Finals (1A-4A).
Feb. 17: Region Finals (5A-9A); Feb. 21-25: FHSAA State Finals (The Lakeland Center).
2015-16 STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 8A: Vero Beach; 7A: Winter Haven; 6A: Fort Myers; 5A: Ribault; 4A: Lake Highland Prep; 3A: Miami Country Day; 2A: FAMU; 1A: Madison County
1. Northeast; 2. South Broward; 3. Dillard; 4. Nova; 5. Fort Lauderdale; 6. Cardinal Gibbons; 7. American Heritage; 8. Deerfield Beach; 9. Flanagan; 10. Cypress Bay.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
Guards: Destiny Walters, Hallandale, 5-5, Sr.; Brianna Battle, Somerset, 5-4, Sr.; Genovea Johnson, Dillard, 5-8, So.; Deja Antoine, Cardinal Gibbons, 5-9, Jr.; Ta’Kyla Austin, Northeast, 5-6, Sr.; Cabria Lee, Northeast, 5-7, Sr.; Mackenzie Sadaka, South Broward, 5-10, Sr.; Taylor Smith, American Heritage, 5-7, Sr.; G'torria Swinton, Deerfield Beach, 5-7, Sr. Forwards: Keyanna Warthen, Fort Lauderdale; 5-10, Sr.; Amaya Scott, Piper, 5-9, Sr.; Raquel Rosa, Westminster Academy, 5-10, Fr.; Rikiah Cowart, Nova, 6-1, Sr.; Shante Walker, South Broward, 5-11, Sr.; Shae Pierce, Hollywood Christian; 5-7; Sr.
OTHERS TO WATCH
North Broward Prep: Madi Wilson, Laurel Alin, Rayssa Da Silva; Nova: Erin Guttierez, Gabriel Gonzalez; Northeast: Kandis Taylor, Isabella Lopez; Cardinal Gibbons: Ayanna Armstead, Emma Krause; Archbishop McCarthy: Monica Grimaldo, Reagan McCray, Carla Soto; Coconut Creek: Amber Hixon, Anari Dozier, Rose Seraphin; Coral Glades: Brittany Gabriel; American Heritage: Krystal Moncrief, Femi Femiuis, Skyla Osceola, Femi Feneus. Cypress Bay: Bella LaChance, Sophia Jones, Glory Jones; Calvary Christian: Jade Alexander, Julia Sieradzan, Breanna Hickey; Coral Glades: Britany Gabriel; Douglas: Halie Murphy, Abigail Hsu, Kat Williams; Pine Crest: Maria Ballesteros, Asha Taylor; Miramar: Unique Tate; Westminster Academy: Emma Wallhoff, Ali Sampo, Cristine Alayon; Cooper City: Taryn Johnson; Dillard: Ragene Grier, Briah Christia, Ayana Emmanuel. Coral Springs Charter: Taylor Smellie, Carla Soto; Fort Lauderdale: TaMiracle Taylor, Melonie De Oleo, Aryanna Boyce; Highlands Christian: Danielle Domino.