Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weaver, Oldsmar Christian Now The Hunted In SIAA

After winning the 2017 SIAA state championship in a monumental upset of the favored The Rock School, the expectation level is maximized for Oldsmar Christian High School. With a steady increase in support and excitement surrounding the program since the title, the culture has evolved.

Oldsmar will again play a schedule of national heavy hitters, highlighted by another season on The Grind Session. The 12-month program features six key returnees and loses just two, claimed by 2017 graduation. They will play a stacked conference schedule in the SIAA, which features perennially tough Florida powers such as West Oaks Academy,  The Rock, Potter's House, Arlington Country Day, and several others.

Leadership will again emanate from the backcourt, starting with 6-foot-5, 195-pound senior Elijah Weaver. 

Known for smooth, crafty left-handed scoring and prodigious ball-handling and dishing ability, Weaver is widely-regarded as one of the country's best at the point guard position.

Weaver shot 50+ percent during SIAA play in 2016-17, leading the team in nearly every statistical category in the process. He shined on major stages. It started with an electric 37-point performance at the Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta. It ended with Weaver engineering offense and manufacturing big points in big moments during Oldsmar's wild post-season ascension.

Bolstered by a knack for creating offense and taking it upon himself to get a bucket during crucial junctures, Weaver inherits some ownership of this team.

Both coach and player want it that way.

"They are going to see this year that Elijah should, no question, be a McDonald's All-American," said head coach John Bianchi.

"I still feel he's underrated personally. I believe he has the potential to be a one-and-done (in college) to be honest. At whichever school he lands, he's going to come in and run the team however the coach wants him to and succeed at that. He leads by example in everything he does."

Ohio State, Florida, USC, and Oklahoma State have been the most consistent in their pursuit of Weaver, who is currently considering all of them as favorites. Weaver is slated to head out to the West Coast and visit Southern California on September 2nd. He will follow that up with a Sept. 9 visit to Ohio State. Then, on Sept. 16, he'll make the quick trip to Florida for an official visit.

Weaver and his inner circle are still trying to gauge the decision to add another school in this close to finalized list.

Bianchi sees his best player as unsung among the country's elite, an approach Weaver subscribes to as well. Routinely playing with a chip on his shoulder and looking to make a statement, Weaver has an unbridled hunger associated with his game.

Weaver spent the summer criss-crossing the country and elevating his stock at some of the most prestigious, invite-only events. Playing a quick, defensive-minded style in alignment with the principles of Team Breakdown, Weaver sacrificed his individual numbers as a facilitator.

His options and supporting cast will increase with the addition of a healthy D.J. Mitchell.

Mitchell, who holds several mid-major offers, is a 6-foot-5 guard with length, bounce, and a consistent stroke. Mitchell's improvement and active involvement on the defensive end, where he can guard nearly four different positions, makes him an intriguing prospect.

"D.J. was our leading scorer last year and we're expecting much of the same," Bianchi said.

The team returns Micheal Durr, a skilled 6-foot-11 forward who has received offers from Georgetown and Texas A & M recently. Oldsmar has bolstered its front court with the addition of Marcus Hopkins, a 6-foot-10 rim protector from Oakland, Calif.

"He's got a big time motor and he's been great on defense," said Bianchi of the under the radar 2018 prospect Hopkins.

"I feel like he's going to pick up some high-major offers as the season goes on."

Oldsmar also returns Akiel Shakoor, a gritty 6-foot guard with an advanced backcourt skill-set that enables him to impact the game on both ends.

"We have about nine kids who are going to play Division-I basketball so I feel we're going to have very good upside," said Bianchi.

"You can tell how serious everyone is and the type of mentality they have, just from playing pickup together. They've been on a mission since Monday. We had a team conditioning session on Monday. Everyone is buying in and encouraging everybody already. So for me it's been kind of shocking, in a good way."