The Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 7A for boys basketball may be the most competitive and talent-filled high school class in any Florida sport. And the Wellington High School boys varsity basketball team is one of those top-tier programs in the FHSAA’s Class 7A, year after year.
After all, how many high school basketball programs have generated at least 20 wins a season for the last 10 years? Well, the Wellington Wolverines, under the leadership of head coach Matthew Colin, have done just that.
During that run, the Wolverines have been to four state final fours and captured one state title, which was during the 2014-15 season. This year’s WHS team has won 12 of its first 14 games and is off to another strong and solid start.
One of the big reasons for Wellington’s success is a strong starting five players. According to Colin, his starting five lineup is athletic, experienced, strong, talented, smart and quick.
Like all basketball teams, it’s important to have a point guard who can make a pinpoint pass to an open teammate at the right time.
“Our point guard is Manny Hernandez,” Colin said. “He’s a tough kid, who leads the team in assists and is one of our top rebounders as well. Manny came back from a torn ACL last year in the Lake Worth game in late January.”
The other members of the starting five — Reggie Reinhardt, Dakota Izard, Toney Collins and Elyjah Freeman — can run, pass, shoot, rebound and play solid defense.
“Reggie Reinhardt has been a starter since his sophomore year,” Colin said. “He’s a physically gifted player who can shoot and get to the rim. Reggie is one of our best defenders.”
Next year, Reinhardt will be playing college basketball for Barry University in Miami Shores, which is an NCAA Division II program.
“Dakota Izard is a gifted athlete who can really shoot,” Colin said. “He is also a high-flying dunker. Dakota works hard every day to get better.”
Freeman, meanwhile, is 6-foot-6 and is able to use his height.
“He’s one of our long and athletic players who uses his length and great footwork to get to the rim and finish many different ways,” Colin said. “Elyjah is a shot blocker who is really good at the midrange jump shot.”
Next year, Freeman will be playing college basketball for Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, which is an NCAA Division II program.
“Toney Collins is a tough physical player who can post up and score around the rim,” Colin said. “He can also step out and shoot the three.”
When it comes to depth on the bench, the Wolverines have that as well. In fact, Colin has two options for his “sixth man.”
“We have a 6A and a 6B,” Colin said. “They are Tor-El Robinson and Jeremy Tovar. Tor-El is similar to Elyjah with his length and athleticism. He has the ability to block shots, is very strong getting to the rim and can also shoot very well. Jeremy is a hard-working, physical defender who can really shoot it. He can get ‘hot’ and hit three or four three-pointers in a row. He is also a very strong driver to the basket with the ball.”
This year’s Wellington team, like so many talented high school basketball teams, has played well at times during the season, but not well at all times. According to Colin, his squad has yet to sustain excellence during four quarters in any given game.
“I have seen this team play very well in parts, but I have yet to see us play well and clicking on all cylinders,” added Colin, who teaches physical education at WHS. “I know it’s there, and we’ve seen flashes of it. Once we figure it out — and we are close — this team has a shot to be great.”
According to Colin, his biggest concern with his current team is being able to make the right decisions on the court, especially when his team has the ball.
“I think, like most teams, it’s sharing the basketball and playing unselfishly,” Colin said. “It’s knowing the difference between a bad shot, a good shot and a great shot.”
Like all high school teams, there’s always a player or two who gets the attention of the head coach, based on their hustle in practice and games. Colin has spotted a few of those players on this year’s squad.
“Tor-El Robinson, who played junior varsity last year, has really helped us with rebounding and attacking the rim,” Colin said. “Bryan Demyan, a big physical guy who works extremely hard, has become a better finisher around the rim. Also, he rebounds the ball well. Lucas Moore is a really good shooter and is like a coach on the floor, as he knows where everyone needs to go.”
If the Wolverines can consistently put together four quarters of play, they will have a good chance of transforming this season from another memorable one for Wellington High School to an unforgettable one for the Wolverines.
Wellington’s next home game will be Friday, Jan. 12, when local rival Royal Palm Beach High School will visit WHS. The tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.