In its 30-year history, East Lake High School has never been known for its basketball program — until recently.
“We built on the success over the years,” head coach Britt Taylor said. “We have a great group of seniors this year.”
The Eagles are off to a 6-0 start, well on their way to matching last season’s 17-0 start. They’re led by senior Anthony Bittar, who transferred in this season from Countryside High School, and four-year starter Dean Gabrelcik.
“(Anthony Bittar) coming to East Lake was big,” Gabrelcik said. “We needed a guy to control the offense. He’s done amazing. He’s been our floor general for sure.”
“I also played with (Dean) back in eighth-grade,” Bittar said. “So just coming back to our senior year it’s like old times again. It’s a lot of fun.”
Getting the attention of college coaches has not been a slam dunk for these seniors. The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered all athletes' recruitment. Division-1 schools can’t come to East Lake to see them play in person.
“It’s been a challenge,” Gabrelcik said. “People have to watch the live streams. We can’t see campuses, D-1 coaches can’t come watch us. Everyone has had to deal with it.”
Gabrelcik has an offer from American University and Stetson University. Bittar recently picked up an offer from Florida College.
“They have anything you can ask for,” Taylor said. “They are both 6'4’, they are both athletic. They both have multiple dunks this season, they play above the rim. They both shoot the heck out of the ball. (Coaches) call me all the time. They are always asking me for film. I know their time is coming.”
Last week in a game against Palm Harbor, Gabrelcik poured a school-record 42 points, sinking 12 three-pointers and Bittar tied a school record dishing out 13 assists. Each only seeing 17 minutes of action.
“I just got hot,” Gabrelcik said. “That’s one thing about me, if I got hot it’s a long night for the other team.
And hopefully a long run through the post-season.
“We haven’t done nothing yet,” Bittar said. “We’re just getting started."