Winter Park (Fla.) High School ended their season earlier than they wanted but finishing 17-11 was a successful year for the team that graduates one senior this year. With Jeremiah Rivers running the point, two other players, Francis Aihe and John Pietkiewicz have emerged as college prospects themselves.
Rivers, the No. 34 ranked junior in the class of 2006, will get a lot of attention from the high-majors but Winter Park head coach Matt Hixenbaugh says Aihe, a 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward and Pietkiewicz, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound shooting guard both played important roles for the team this season.
Over the last 12 games of the year, Hixenbaugh said Aihe averaged a double-double (11 points and 10.5 rebounds a game).
"It's like the light went off," Hixenbaugh said. "It was a big hurdle for him. He really believes in himself. He's extending how long he's playing and he's getting the confidence that he needs to be successful. That mental character is being built."
Hixenbaugh credits Aihe's success to the play of Rivers. The two helped better each other, says Rivers.
"He really improved. At first, he was decent but then he really stepped up and just kept coming along. It took a lot of hard work," Rivers said of his big man. "We have a great relationship. We'd take the time to work out together, one or two hours a day after practice. His post moves are getting better and better. In the last half of the year he was incredible."
Aihe is a long and athletic big man that needs a few more pounds to be a high-major guy but it hasn't kept some schools in some hoops power conferences from staying in touch.
"His recruitment is still all over the board," Hixenbaugh said. "Garner-Webb loves him but he's also receiving interest from Purdue, Texas A&M and Clemson. They are keeping tabs on him."
Pietkiewicz, a great student with a SAT score over 1,200, has attracted some of the top academic basketball institutions in the South. Furman and Belmont have been down to watch him play this season. Davidson and Tulane have been sending mail as well.
The son of Stan Pietkiewicz, a former Auburn player that went on to play in the NBA for three years, the younger Pietkiewicz has learned the fine art of jump shooting. The class of 2006 prospect is one of the finer shooters in the Sunshine State.
"When he's open, he's going to knock it down," Hixenbaugh said. "He's automatic."