- Faith & Family
The grassy football field that is dominated by the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes may become secondary to the pine-wood basketball floors of the under-recognized boys’ program. The Tornadoes’ basketball team has made commendable leaps and bounds in the past few seasons under the leadership of head coach and Miami High alumnus Javorie Wilson with back-to-back winning seasons.
The Tornadoes 14-3, have faced the woes of building a program in a sport that is largely overshadowed by the domineering football world in Miami-Dade County. Basketball season in large part, according to Wilson, is dependent on the outcome of the football season.
“When I first took the job, my better players were football players,” Wilson said. “Obviously the football team has a lot of success so by the time they’re done in late December our season has already started. So we weren’t very good in the beginning of those seasons; it was mediocre until we got them.”
Wilson worked diligently to find actual basketball players that would commit.
“I worked to get it where I could have predominantly basketball players,” Wilson said. “Where I could take them to camp and we can do skill work over the summer, play in summer leagues and fall leagues to develop that cohesiveness that a basketball team should have.”
“There’s nothing wrong with having football players, but in my opinion they should be designed to enhance the team not be the team and the results are showing,” he added.
After winning a slew of tournaments in the off season and throughout the regular season — including the coveted Junior Orange Bowl Classic that brings teams from throughout the nation — respect built for a team that was 16-9 a season ago.
Senior point guard Richie Spiller is largely to thank for the team’s success. Spiller who is taking two Advanced Placement courses and being recruited by every local Division II school, made First-team All-Dade last season the first for any B.T.W. player in recent history, when he averaged 20 points per game. This season Spiller has a stronger supporting cast which has given the Tornadoes a tough-to-defend spread offense and Spiller a better opportunity to drive and dish.
“Everyone knows Richie wants to penetrate so when they sag in Richie is maturing as far as making the extra pass,” Wilson said. “I think that in itself has made us harder to guard and has contributed to the success we’ve had this year, because last year he was going between two or three people because we didn’t have those people to stretch the floor or other options.”
Spiller and junior forward Demetrius Jackson who averages a double double (13.5-points, 13.7-rebounds) are an inside-out tandem that set the offense in motion.
“Demetrius makes my job easier,” said Spiller who averages 17 points and 8.5 assists per game. “We’re learning how to play off each other. . . and we’re ‘gelling’.”
With only one conference loss to Archbishop Carroll and four games left, Booker T. has an opportunity to head into playoffs ahead of the previous year. Wilson, who is happy about the recognition for his players, said he wants one thing for the program.
“I want everyone to know once they line up against us it’s going to be a battle. It’s no easy outs,” Wilson said. “I always preach to them that I don’t want anyone to play harder than us.”
By Akilah Laster
Miami Times writer