Team: No. 5 seed Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 30-2, No. 16 (No. 3 in the Southeast)
Head Coach: Melvin Randall (11th year at school, 429-133 career record including eight previous seasons at Deerfield Beach)
A 6-foot-6 senior forward, Geffrard came on strong toward the end of the season. He pumped in 33 points and hauled down 14 rebounds in the Class 7A state championship game win over Oak Ridge (Orlando). He also had 22 points and nine rebounds in the semifinals as Ely stormed through the state final four bracket. For the season, Geffrard averaged 17.4 points per game and shot 63 percent from the field. He also averaged 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. The unsigned senior could be the best player at Ely since current Florida Gator standout Kenny Boynton, who led the Tigers to a state title in 2007. “We’ve had a good ride with Clide,” Randall said. “He has been very consistent and one of the leaders we’ve depended on. Not a verbal leader-type but leads by example. He’s extremely competitive."
Bell was solid at the end of the season just as Geffrard was, but his most eye-opening outings took place earlier in the season. The 6-foot-2 senior guard lit it up for 26 points when Ely beat FAB 50-ranked Salesian (Richmond, Calif.) at the City of Palms tournament and had 22 the same week in a win against Gill St. Bernard’s (Gladstone, N.J.). The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 13.1 points and three assists per game for the season. He's capable of big scoring outputs, but if he doesn't hit his average, Ely could struggle against the talented backcourt of St. Benedict's.
Highlighting a third player for the Tigers is tough because so many players (including Anterrio Smith and Kahlil Thomas) are capable of stepping up and getting into double figures. Myers was third on the team in scoring, however, at 8.7 points per game. The 6-foot-2 senior guard’s best performances included 23 points against Constitution (Philadelphia, Pa.) and 27 points against Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). He also plays good defense (1.8 spg), and that will be key since both Ely and St. Benedict's rely on their backcourt to score. “There was any of five or six guys who could have scored 20 points per night at other schools,” Randall said. “Thomas, Myers and Smith were just outstanding and all have their roles. We call Smith ‘Locksmith’ because he’s very aggressive on defense. Tough to get around.”
Road to NHSI:
Ely hopes to make a similar run in the NHSI as Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) did last year and comes from a similar pedigree. Guided by a veteran coach and coming off of an FHSAA state title, the Tigers have lost only to teams that are higher-ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50 than they are – Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) and fellow NHSI participant Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.). While the loss to Gorman was by just one point (58-57), the loss to Montverde was more lopsided (67-53). “We can’t go into the NHSI and go off of what other teams from Florida may have done,” Randall said. “It’s exciting to know that Dwyer won its first game last year, but we’re going there to play our attacking style and see what happens.”
Rolling to the Class 7A state title was impressive, but more important to the team snagging the FHSAA’s guaranteed berth into the NHSI were wins over Salesian and Gill St. Bernard’s. Salesian and Gill St. Bernard’s have been nationally ranked, with Salesian in the top 20 as of March 20. Both losses and both big wins took place at the City of Palms tournament in Florida.
With Dwyer's impressive showing at last year's tournament, Ely won't sneak up on a hungry St. Benedict's team that truly feels it is the second-best team in the field. “It helps a great deal (coming into the NHSI) that we know we’ve already played some of the top teams in the country and have fared well,” Randall said. “With the Bishop Gorman game, we had a chance to win at the end and missed a layup.”
Randall and the rest of the team thought there was a good chance that Ely was going to be chosen for the NHSI. “The kids are real excited and know that this is an out-of-state tourney,” he said. “But it’s not a field trip.”
The Tigers have already played a strong New Jersey team – Gill St. Bernard’s – but they assume that the St. Benedict’s team they are playing in the first-round of the NHSI is going to be harder to beat.
“We know they have a lot of great players,” Randall said. “Our preparation is that we are going to have to defend. It’s a well-rounded team and we hope we can slow them down.”