By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Bill Specht and Kip Rhoten spent three full quarters imploring Sean Price go to the basket.
The Port Charlotte High School boys basketball team had been stuck in the mud offensively in a regional quarterfinal, the potent slash-and-kick offense that had carried it there all but stifled at the hands of a long and athletic Largo zone defense.
It didn’t help that Price, the focal point of that attack throughout a 24-win season, had only contributed five points after being saddled with two early fouls.
Price never ended up listening to his coaches. Instead, he spent the fourth quarter settling for 3-pointers. Five of them, actually — four as part of a stretch where he scored 17 straight Pirates points and another as part of a 22-point quarter that nearly let Port Charlotte erase a nine-point deficit.
“It shows the drive he has. He does not want to lose,” Specht said. “Their coach was just amazed at the way he could turn it on like that.”
Price’s efforts didn’t lead to a win that February night in Seminole — senior Matt Washington’s game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer went just long — but it did nothing to damage all he accomplished in a breakout junior season.
After leading all area scorers with 20.6 points per game and the Pirates with 8.8 rebounds while also contributing 2.3 assists, 2.3 steals and a 49-percent shooting mark from the field, it should come as no surprise that Price is this season’s Sun All-Area boys basketball player of the year.
“I like to play all-around basketball. I like to pass the ball, rebound the ball, shoot the ball, drive in, kick out. I want to do everything,” Price said. “This year, it was my time to be a leader. I just took that step.”
Depending on what you knew about the Port Charlotte basketball program coming into the year, that step might have been unexpected. As a sophomore the season before, Price was little more than a scorer off the bench on a team with talented seniors in Chase Leggett, Malik Dixon, Keyshawn McLeod and Jacob Smarjesse.
But Price’s breakout didn’t come as any surprise to Specht. The longtime coach had seen a player do the exact same thing at Port Charlotte 20 years earlier in his tenure. A player with the same name as the one who did it this season.
Sean Price Sr., who was a junior when Specht took over as head coach in 1995, was the one who first put a basketball in Price’s hands. He taught his son how to play and showed up at every game, whether it was in the stands as Dad or on the bench as coach, like he is with Price’s travel team, Impact Elite.
“I explained to him that this would be that year that he could really make a big name and a statement of who he is and the potential that he has,” Price Sr. said. “He let people know that he’s a special player.”
There’s a lot of his father in Price’s game, Specht said. They’re both have the same competitive streak, athletic ability and basketball IQ. Price Sr. was better at going to the basket, but Price has grown into a better outside shooter.
Like his father, Price played on varsity as a freshman and is on track to score 1,000 points over the course of his career. But Price Sr. never averaged 20-plus points per game or led a Pirates team in scoring and rebounding like his son did this season.
There is one thing Price can’t match, though: Price Sr. was on the team that won Port Charlotte’s first-ever district title.
“But now he’s beat it by two and is going for one more next year,” Price Sr. said with a laugh. “That’s the goal. My goal was always to have him to exceed everything I’ve ever done.”
In some ways, Price already has. And he still has another year left in red and black.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Price Sr. said.
North Port • Sophomore • Forward
Did a little bit of everything for a balanced Bobcats team in his first season on varsity, using his aggressive, slashing style of play to average 12 points, seven rebounds and three rebounds per game while serving as one of the team’s top individual defenders.
Charlotte • Senior • Guard
Beers was the Tarpons’ second-leading scorer to go along with being one of the team’s emotional leaders, averaging 11.3 points per game to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Charlotte • Senior • Guard
Finished the year as one of the area’s most lethal shooters, averaging three 3-pointers a game and shooting 45 percent from the field en route to a 20.1-point-per-game average. He also averaged nearly two assists per game and led the Tarpons with 7.6 rebounds per game.
Lemon Bay • Senior • Forward
Kluner provided leadership and a scoring punch for a young Lemon Bay team, pacing the Manta Rays with 18 points and eight rebounds per game while also averaging three assists.
North Port • Sophomore • Guard
There weren’t many scorers in the area who could fill it up from 3-point range as fast as O’Boyle, who averaged a team-high 17 points per game while also pulling down four rebounds and dishing out two assists.
Port Charlotte • Senior • Guard
Emerged as a dynamic scorer in his senior season, averaging 18.8 points per game — second only to teammate Sean Price — while also averaging 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He set a single-game Port Charlotte record when he scored 47 points in a double-overtime loss at North Fort Myers on Dec. 5.
Community Christian: Blake Via
Imagine School: Quadir Waters
Lemon Bay: Cade Huber, Keegan Wyman
North Port: Brandon Graff