Jahmari Johnson

Port Charlotte’s Jahmari Johnson right, will be counted on this upcoming season, along with Caleb Campos, to fill the void left by a bevy of graduated starters.

So far, so very good for all levels of the Port Charlotte boys’ basketball program.

The Pirates – at times shorthanded – have gone 9-2 over the past two weekends, competing in the FGCU camp earlier this month before winning 6 of 7 games this past weekend at the Lehigh Summer Slam.

Top returning player Alex Perry was absent for some of the slate due to a recruiting visit to Purdue, which made things interesting. Port Charlotte is coming off a 17-4 season and will need to replace graduated lineup fixtures such as Logan Rogers, Shawn Lefresne, Navari Johnson and Christian Stone.

“Overall, we did well,” Port Charlotte coach Kip Rhoten said. “We played a couple of games without Alex and we had a couple of people out, but overall we did well.

“I’m not going to lie, in the games we lost we were short-handed,” Rhoten added. “But basically when everyone was there we looked really well. I was surprised and pleased.”

Port Charlotte burned through Gateway, Gulf Coast and Dunbar on the first day at Lehigh, then played Community Christian and Canterbury on the second day before wrapping up with a stirring win against host Lehigh in the night cap.

“We were down by 16 or 17 to Lehigh and we found a way to come back and win,” Rhoten. “That was a good little moment. I saw some things from new kids that I was not expecting. There are so many faces, trying to figure it out. I had Bear (Rogers) for four years. You lose a senior like Bear, and you’re trying to replace him with a boy who literally was in eighth grade three weeks ago. It’s just different.”

In addition to Perry, returning players Jahmari Johnson and Caleb Campos will be asked to take on more responsibility during the 2021-22 season. Rhoten said both have played well.

“Those two, they’ve got to replace literally six or seven seniors, and they stepped up,” Rhoten said. “They’ve got a lot to learn, but I was pleased with them, overall. I thought they did a good job considering the shoes they have to fill.”

The Pirates fell to Lely in the single-elimination tournament that closed out the camp, but for the two weekends overall, Rhoten said 7 of the 9 wins came by 15 or more points.

The summer to date has been mostly about laying down a defensive foundation, which is the hallmark of every Pirates’ basketball team, and figuring out who will step in to fill the void left by graduation.

“Right now we have about five new players who haven’t ever been in the program, whether they moved in or they’re newcomers coming in from middle school,” Rhoten said. “Our defense played pretty solid. They were trying to learn the principles of what we do, and the newcomers for the most part did OK. We didn’t have much offensive stuff. We just played pick-and-roll basketball.”

The summer has been a success on other fronts, as well.

Between the youth camp last week and the skills camp this week, Rhoten said nearly 100 kids have participated. Also of note — a sixth-grade team composed of future Port Charlotte players dominated travel ball during the spring and summer. Out of 14 tournaments, the group — which consists of kids from the Harold Avenue Recreation Center — reached the championship game 13 times and won 9.

“That’s something right here for the local boys in our area,” Rhoten said. “I was very proud of them because all of them are Harold Rec boys growing up right here. That was a good thing. A good moment.”

Port Charlotte will wrap up its camp tour in the next week or so. The team will travel to Eckerd College (St. Petersburg) this weekend before calling it a summer at the Evangelical Christian (Fort Myers) camp early next week.


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