Most Interesting Athletes of the Offseason

Tampa Bay is and always has been a hotbed for high school student-athletes that play their sports at a very high level. This year is no different from all the rest. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the best athletes from around the Bay Area, not just limited to football, but here, we’re looking at the other sports aside from football and basketball. Most of the athletes listed do play football, some don’t. The bottomline is that all of these athletes are quality athletes in every sport they play. Here’s some of the best from around the Tampa Bay area.

Kevin Knox, Sr., Tampa Catholic, basketball:

Kevin Knox at the 2017 Class 5A Basketball State Championships at The Lakeland Center on Saturday.
Kevin Knox at the 2017 Class 5A Basketball State Championships at The Lakeland Center on Saturday.

What makes Knox so interesting is mainly his recruiting. People from around the country are awaiting his college decision. Will it be Duke? North Carolina? Kentucky? Florida State? Nobody knows except for Knox. Experts are saying that Knox may be a ‘one-and-done,’ and enter the NBA after just one year of college basketball, others say that he will wait another year or two. Knox was easily the best player in the Tampa Bay area this past season, averaging 28.9 PPG (good for third in the state) and 11.3 RPG in leading his team to the 5A state championship game, ultimately losing to Ft. Lauderdale Calvary Christian.

Steven Witchoskey, Sr., Durant, football and baseball:

The Western Kentucky-signee is a beast on the football field at tight end, however, did you know that Witchoskey is one of the key players on the Durant Cougar baseball team? Witchoskey plays in the outfield for the Cougars in the spring and was a key player on their run to a district championship in 2016. In 67 total games played, Witchoskey has a career batting average at .257 with 14 runs batted in, 13 doubles, a home run, and seven stolen bases.

Cris Galdos, Sr., Sunlake, football and weightlifting:

Beware of the badger, beware of the badger. That’s what Cris Galdos hears day-in and day-out from people all around Pasco County whether it be in football or his secondary sport, weightlifting. And it’s for good reason. Galdos qualifies for the 169 lb. weight class and was recently named a conference and district champion and will advance on to the Class 2A-Region 3 weightlifting tournament in late March. Weightlifters compete in the paused bench press and clean-and-jerk events to contribute points to a whole team, just like wrestling or track and field.

Duran Bell, Sr., Hillsborough, football and track and field:

Hillsborough's Duran Bell triple jumps at the New Tampa Preseason Track and Field Classic at Wharton High School in February.
Hillsborough’s Duran Bell triple jumps at the New Tampa Preseason Track and Field Classic at Wharton High School in February.

This USF-signee is FAST. You already knew that, right? Bell was seventh in the state at the 2016 FHSAA Track and Field Championships in the 400m dash, and he could very well place higher, if not win the event in 2017. Bell has ran amongst some of the fastest guys in the country, including Melbourne Central Catholic’s Lavonte Valentine and American Heritage’s Anthony Schwartz in the 100 and 200m. Bell’s personal bests include a 10.89 100m, a 21.79 200m (20th in the state), and a 47.60 400m (ran in 2016, but with current times, fourth in the state). This weekend, Bell will participate in the New Balance Indoor Track and Field Championships in New York.

Austin Eldridge, Jr., Plant City, football and baseball:

Eldridge blossomed into a fantastic defensive end for the Raiders on the gridiron in 2016. He’s also getting his first shot on the diamond for the Raiders this spring. Through just six games played in the 2017 spring season, Eldridge is hitting .455 with a run batted in, two doubles, and two walks. He plays in the outfield for Plant City, but he can also play in the infield and even pitch if Head Coach Michael Fryrear wishes. He’ll be a key player in trying to help Plant City overcome a 1-5 start this spring.

Chris Faddoul, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch, football and soccer:

The two sports listed above don’t do enough justice for Faddoul. The FAMU-signee plays just about every sport imaginable, including track and field, tennis, and ping pong. Faddoul shined as the quarterback, kicker, and punter for the Bulls in 2016, leading them to their first playoff appearance since 2010. Faddoul didn’t play soccer this past season for Wiregrass Ranch, focusing on football and his community work. He was very solid in his sophomore year, scoring 23 goals and assisting 28 more in the ’14-’15 season. Faddoul also jumped 20’5” in the long jump at the Class 4A-District 6 championships.

Zach Carter, Sr., Hillsborough, football and basketball:

Carter was a bully at times on the basketball court, imposing his will on smaller defenders, and it helped him out well on the football field in imposing his will against quarterbacks on Friday night. His 26-4 Terriers couldn’t have gone as far as they did without Carter’s contributions on the glass and in the scoring game. Over 71 career games, Carter averaged 11.4 PPG and 9.1 RPG for the Terriers, who went 55-28 in his time on the Hillsborough basketball team.

Ahmarean Brown, So. Tampa Catholic, football and track and field:

Another speedster, Brown brings a lot more than just blazing speed to the table on the field, making him a very good D-1 recruit. However, his speed does help him out on the track during the spring. Brown seems to be almost unbeaten, except to Auburndale’s Chauncey Smart and Armwood’s Jerome Ford, and his blazing speed was very noticeable even when he was only a freshman at Jefferson last year. Brown’s personal bests include a 10.69 100m in his freshman year (and finished 7th in the state championships last year) and a 22.07 in the 200m.

CJ Van Eyk, Sr., Steinbrenner, baseball:

The lone sole-baseball player on this list, Van Eyk lead the Steinbrenner Warriors to a Class 8A baseball state championship in 2017 through clutch pitching and hitting. Van Eyk is a Florida State commit since his freshman year, and was selected to the USA Baseball 18U Club along with fellow pitcher Jordan Butler from Alonso High. Van Eyk is projected as a fifth round MLB draft pick if he were to enter the Major League Entry Draft later in 2017. His Warriors are ranked third in the United States by MaxPreps, however, that ranking may drop with losses to Hillsborough and Plant in the last week. Through 61 career high school games, Van Eyk is 20-1 with a .71 earned run average, 212 strikeouts in 148.1 innings pitched. At the plate, he’s batted .330 with 21 runs batted in, 10 doubles, and two triples.

Joshua Booker, Jr., Manatee, football and wrestling:

Booker shined in his first year at Manatee after transferring from Sarasota as the starting running back for the Hurricanes, even though he battled some injuries. In his first year of wrestling at Manatee, Booker bumped himself up into the 220-lb. weight class and found himself a regional champion. Booker was able to advance a couple rounds in the state tournament but couldn’t grab a championship like his teammate, Charles Small in the 160-lb. class.