Saturday, May 6, 2017

Gators, Butler In Heavy Pursuit Of Oldsmar's Weaver

Oldsmar Christian’s Elijah Weaver had an eventful junior campaign. It started with Jay Wright and Kevin Ollie stopping by the SIAA school to see the bullish 6-foot-5 lefty. During the year, Weaver shot a scalding 52 percent from the floor and averaged 18 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.5 boards.

A 37-point game during a dramatic win over the Cannon School (N.C.) put him under a national microscope. The season culminated with Weaver helping a forgotten about Oldsmar team out of obscurity and into an upset victory over The Rock (Gainesville, FL) in the state championship.

Now, Weaver is being aggressively courted by Florida, Butler, Oklahoma State, Villanova, UConn, UCLA, USC, Georgia Tech and several others. Coaches have been lining up at Oldsmar to get an accurate read on Weaver, with UCLA and USC having criss-crossed the country to meet with the five-star prospect and Oldsmar's coaching staff.

“I would say the program doing a really good job right now is Florida,” said Oldsmar Christian head coach John Bianchi.

“ I mean they are doing an excellent job staying in contact with Elijah, staying in contact with his Mom, his Dad, with everyone involved in the whole process. Butler is doing an outstanding job as well. Oklahoma State, Villanova, Illinois, they are starting to really jump in. I would say Georgia Tech is doing their thing, getting involved. The other programs on his list are working, but the ones I’ve listed—those are the ones which stand out to me.”

Weaver said there is no timetable on his decision.

"I'm wide open right now, I'll probably decide at some point next year as senior," said Weaver, who will play with Team Breakdown this spring.

"Right now, it's a lot of the same schools I speak with consistently. Florida, Georgia Tech, Butler, Villanova, USC, Illinois. Right now I'm just focused on being consistent, being a better point guard, getting my handle tighter."

Despite possessing a 6-foot-10 wingspan, displaying a variety of scoring tools, and showcasing innate ability to score off the bounce and kick in timely passes, Weaver has still been under the radar to a degree. Currently, few regard Weaver as the top point guard in the Class of 2018.

“I just think the leadership skills he has off and on the court is what separates him,” Bianchi said of Weaver. “I don’t know the point guards ranked above him personally, but I can almost guarantee Elijah works just as hard as them if not harder. You just see how he leads everyone around him. On the court the leadership is in Elijah's decision making, his knowing of when he has to score and knowing when he has to get his teammates involved and what he needs to do in order for us to be successful."

Success followed Oldsmar during the stretch run of the 2016-17 campaign, as they reeled off 12 of their last 13. A turning point, according to Bianchi, was re-evaluating the lineup and beefing up the frontcourt. This helped atone for the loss of the injured D.J. Mitchell, a high-scoring 6-foot-5 combination guard.

“When D.J. got hurt and was out for all those games, we had to switch things up,” Bianchi explained. “D.J. was our second leading scorer and a real good rebounder. We decided to try a 2-3 zone with three kids who are 6-foot-8 and above. I think at that point in the season, we all came together.”

The switch would ultimately benefit Weaver, taking some of the scoring weight off his shoulders. He was able to create more and not dominate the ball as much.

“There were some games in the beginning of the year where (Weaver) had to score 30-plus points,” Bianchi said. “The final 13 games, he didn’t always have to be our leading scorer. He’s the type of kid who can go for 14 points, eight assists, and five boards. We were balanced and it took pressure off of him.”