Don’t forget about Hernando County when it comes to football. They’ve got good players kept secret up in the northern part of our coverage area, some just as good as in Hillsborough or Polk County. Ygenio Booker is one of the best-kept secrets to the rest of the coverage area, however, he made himself known in Hernando County as a tri-sport athlete at Hernando High School. Here’s just some of the things you need to know about the rising senior:
Being a tri-sport athlete makes him very versatile.
Booker stands out as a basketball player and a track runner for the Leopards during the winter and spring, respectively. He scores 12.8 PPG for Hernando out of the point guard spot in 21 games played this season. He runs an 11.63 in the 100m dash for his school, in addition to being a wide receiver in the fall. It’s made him better across the field, court, and track. “When I play sports, it’s a real opportunity for me to get out of the house. I don’t like being bored,” Booker said. In addition to sports, he’s maintained good grades throughout his high school career. “It’s a difficult task, but school’s something I’ve got to do, so I have become good at balancing my schedule.”
His skillset sets him apart from his opponents.
Standing at only 5’10”, he’s not your prototypical wide receiver, but that doesn’t mean he’s got an excellent skillset that he uses to his advantage. Booker is a playmaker. He can turn a play that looks like it will go for negative yardage into a 20-30 yard gain, he’s quite agile, which adds to his quickness. He’s got excellent concentration when catching the ball, he can make guys miss when he has the ball in his hands, and he can also play both sides of the ball. Booker can lurk as a safety, intercepting a couple passes last season. His numbers don’t do him justice (208 receiving yards, 186 rushing, five total touchdowns in only five games due to injury) for the kind of player he is.
Booker thrived at the Ignite Showcase, even though it caught him a little off-guard.
When he arrived at the Ignite Showcase earlier this month, Booker didn’t know many of the people there. Most were from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, or Polk County, really none from Hernando, except his own teammates, but that didn’t seem to hinder his performance. Booker thrived amongst the competition, something he really prided himself on. Even though he did well, there was still one thing that surprised him about the day. “A lot of people don’t really play man-to-man up in Hernando County, it’s a lot of zone, so I was really kind of surprised about how physical everyone was. I kept the mindset that nobody was going to be able to beat me on a rep, which really helped,” Booker said.
The sub-.500 seasons are not acceptable for Booker.
Hernando hasn’t cracked the .500 mark since 2012. They’ve never gotten over the .500 mark with Bill Vonada as their Head Coach. That may change in 2017. The Leopards went 4-5 in 2016 (their game against Springstead was cancelled due to Hurricane Hermine), their best record since ’12, and the trend will likely continue with Booker leading the charge. “It’s all about the team. We gotta grind together. We have got to grind together in the weight room, in the class room, we’re all on the same boat, we all sail together.”
But…Hernando is missing a quarterback?
The Leopards will graduate Scott Bierwiler later this year, leaving them with their backup, Noah Batten. Batten played as a safety in 2016 for Hernando, compiling 34 tackles, but he will be called on for a much bigger role according to Booker. Even though he’ll be new to the system, Booker is confident they’ll go far. “He’s one of my best friends. He played really well last year for us, we just have to have faith in him, which I already do. Other than getting him ready, I don’t think we have any other real team concerns,” Booker said.
Football is more mental than physical for the athlete.
Yeah, sure, football is definitely a game you have to be in shape for, but it’s also a mental game. Booker is getting ready for that through his work in his other sports. “Track gets you mentally and physically ready for football. Doing all of those sprints, every day, it’s hard work, and I feel it makes me stronger once I get into football. It’s all about being able to keep going and to keep pushing, just like in football. It makes me faster, stronger, and better in the mental game. I always tell myself that nobody on the other side of me can nor will outwork me,” Booker said.