What a difference a few years makes.
After being cut from the middle school team as an eighth-grader at Zion Lutheran, senior Keith Stone is making up for lost time.
The 6’8”, 230 lb. senior who averaged 28 points and six rebounds last season has the Lions primed for another postseason run. Zion Lutheran entered the week at 15-5 with narrow defeats to Cardinal Gibbons, Dillard, First Academy (Orlando), and Spring Valley and Dreher (both Columbia, SC).
“When I got cut from middle school, I really didn’t feel like doing it then, and coach Francis (Bornelous) came and got me,” Stone, 17, of Deerfield Beach, said. “I worked real hard, spent the summer with him. He helped me out. He trained me every day for free, so I owe him the world. Look at me today. I am just doing my thing, getting better at basketball and learning the game.”
Stone, who played goalkeeper in a recreational soccer league and baseball before giving basketball a try when he enrolled at Zion Lutheran, has come full circle. He recently signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Florida next fall. His future college coach, Billy Donovan, was in attendance watching Stone play at the Kreul Classic holiday tournament in Coral Springs.
“My old coach who cut me was proud of me and didn’t know I would turn out this way,” said Stone. “It helped me because it is the way my work ethic is set up. I like to work and I ain’t scared to work.”
It was hard in the beginning for Stone, who chose University of Florida over South Carolina, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech and Alabama. Stone is rated a four-star prospect and the nation’s 100th best (No. 9 in Florida) prospect for 2015 by ESPN and a three-star (No. 127 overall) by Rivals.
“At first, I didn’t want to play basketball anymore,” Stone said. “I didn’t want to do nothing. I stayed home, played my video games and just sulked. Then, I thought to myself that this man (Bornelous) wanted me to become better in basketball and I might as well take that chance because I didn’t get that chance in middle school. I went with him.”
Stone believes he has improved in his ball handling and stretching the defense in the last couple of years. He can step out and knock down 3s. He also believes his supporting cast is better.
“Our team is much better this year,” Stone said. “We have been, as a whole, since our 9th grade year. We all know each other. We all love each other and, since we are together almost every day, the communication is great on the court.”
Zion Lutheran boys’ basketball coach John Guion said the Kreul Classic helped his team.
“We had three great tests,” Guion said. “We played different kinds of teams and I just think it does a great job preparing us for what we are going to see in the playoffs and down the road.
“The whole key right now for us is to continue to get better,” Guion added. “We continue to see different things so we are continually learning from those mistakes that we make and the success that we have. We had a considerable amount of success this weekend.”
Guion said the team has also shown that it has more than Stone.
“Coming in, we know we have Brandon Bornelous ,who is a great shooter, and we know we have Keith, who is a dynamic weapon,” Guion said. “I wasn’t sure what the others around him were going to do. The best thing that I have seen is that we have a lot of people stepping up like Kevin Dailey, Rashad Witty and Edwin Louis. This is just a better collective team than we had last year. They are really good with each other.”
Stone is looking forward to the future.
“Winning state this year would be the icing on the cake,” Stone said. “I’d love to finish out my senior season with a state ring and then I head off to Florida.”