Defense, defense, defense...
For a long time now, Oldsmar Christian has been synonymous with confrontational, wall-to-wall defensive pressure. As soon as first-year head coach and alum John Bianchi inherited an athletic and physically gifted core, he didn't expect the image to change much.
Should the team commit any defensive lapses, Bianchi will be sure to let them know about it.
Sustained defensive relentlessness smothered Hudson en route to an 83-43 walloping on Monday night. Consistent stops enabled the home team to crack open a six-point lead. Oldsmar instigated a storm of turnovers, fueling a monstrous transition game.
"Defense is a big part of winning games, when coach (Bianchi) does tell us we need to tighten up and work on our defense we take that to heart," said 6-foot-4 junior guard Elijah Weaver, who scored 16 points and doled out seven assists.
"It's a big part of winning the game. Defense wins championships. When we turn it up on defense, that starts getting us easy buckets on the offensive end. That's really what blew open the game."
So did Oldsmar's balance across the stat sheet. D.J. Mitchell had 19 points and five assists, displaying a variety of offensive tools and high-rising athleticism. Akeil Shakoor added 15 points and four assists.
Weaver is currently sitting on a variety of offers from some of the nation's traditional powers. Villanova, UConn, Notre Dame, Louisville, Wake Forest, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Iowa State, Louisiana-Lafayette, LSU, and Georgia Tech have all been in steady pursuit of the 6-foot-5, 190-pound point guard.
Even in a blowout of this fashion, however, the importance of Oldsmar's supplementary pieces was evident.
"We have the athleticism and the type of players who can do multiple things defensively," Bianchi said. "That's going to take us to the next level. We had contributions all over today. (SFA-commit) Stefon Fisher, when he plays like he did today, he's pretty good. Different guys brought a lot of energy. Jahkeem Smith, an under the radar senior, he's our best defender and he showed that as he was locked in. Our X-factor I would say is D.J. Mitchell, as he's a flat out scorer. Alex OGuinn was impressive as well."
Make no mistake about it, the game was not a reflection of Oldsmar's strength of schedule. Hudson was an inferior opponent, both in skill-set and athleticism. After hanging tough in a competitive first quarter, they struggled with Oldsmar's speed and attacking.
Tougher days are ahead, as Oldsmar will play the likes of Huntington Prep (WV) and IMG.
Weaver grew in stature on the national scale this off-season. Villanova head coach Jay Wright and UConn head coach Kevin Ollie each stopped by Oldsmar to speak one on one with the four-star recruit, who will fill the scoring void left by since-transferred L.J. Figueroa (now at in-conference foe West Oaks) this season.
While he's very high on Villanova, Weaver said he has no favorite or current front-runner. He plans on visiting UConn and Louisiana-Lafayette in the ensuing months. Shakoor, who Bianchi feels will garner more interest this season, has an offer from Cleveland State. He has additional interest from Florida International University, Kent State, and a bevy of other mid-major programs.