By STEVEN RYZEWSKI | Editor
WINTER HAVEN — The Polk State College men’s basketball team is off to a red-hot start — and people are taking notice.
The Eagles improved to 5-0 Nov. 16 with a 100-80 victory over Indian River State College in Winter Haven, led by 25 points from standout sophomore Tekorian “TK” Smith.
The undefeated start saw Polk State continue to climb the state rankings in the NJCAA Region 8 Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Poll released Nov. 18, jumping up from No. 7 a week ago to No. 4. Only Florida SouthWestern (7-0), Chipola (4-0) and Tallahassee (5-0), respectively, sit ahead of the Eagles.
“We’re off to a great start, but we aren’t satisfied,” head coach Brandon Giles said in a media release. “We have to continue to play with a high level of defensive intensity, because it’s really starting to payoff offensively.”
Giles and his program will now turn their attention to hosting the Josh Giles Memorial Classic this weekend — an event honoring the memory Brandon Giles’ father, who coached the men’s basketball program at Polk State from 1987 to 1999 and died in 2002.
The late Josh Giles is a Polk County Hall-of-Famer and coached the program — then named the Vikings — to three state championships and a reputation for success.
As part of the two-day event, Polk State will host Florida State College at Jacksonville on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. The next day, the Eagles will get a chance to show what they can do against one of the teams ranked ahead of them — Polk State will host Chipola at 4 p.m.
All of the games will take place on the Eagles’ home floor at Polk State’s Winter Haven campus.
On the season thus far, Polk State is scoring 95.2 points per game while allowing just 64.8 points per game. Offensively, the Eagles are shooting 46.2 percent from the field — and 35.3 percent from three-point range — while on defensively the are averaging more than 13 steals per game.
Smith has been a big part of the offensive production this season, averaging 15.4 points per game. Four other Eagles are averaging double-figures in scoring to start the season — Malcom Stevenson (13.8 ppg), Kerry Richardson (13.0 ppg), Clarence Jackson (11.0 ppg) and VannAubrey Thomas (10.0 ppg).
Jackson has also been a force on the boards, averaging 6.6 rebounds per game.
Eagles sign NLIs
Two Polk State men’s basketball players recently achieved personal milestones when they, along with the program, announced where they will be completing their collegiate careers.
As a junior college, players for Polk State are only eligible to be Eagles as freshmen and sophomores and therefore are recruited once again for their remaining eligibility.
On Nov. 18, Tekorian “TK” Smith signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Georgia Southern University next fall. According to a press release, Smith chose Georgia Southern from among 21 scholarship offers — after having no four-year offers coming out of high school.
“(That) just tells you not only how talented he is but also how hard he works,” head coach Brandon Giles said in a statement.
Earlier, on Nov. 13, Malcolm Stevenson signed an NLI to continue his athletic and academic career at Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.).
“Malcolm is a great human being with qualities that will take him a long way in life,” Giles said of the talented sophomore.