2012-13 Herald All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year | Cardinal Mooney's Blakeney is putting together mythic career

Cardinal Mooney's Blakeney is writing storybook career

adell@bradenton.comApril 7, 2013 

Stories about Antonio Blakeney's feats on the basketball court have at times taken on a Paul Bunyan tone.

It's getting harder to distinguish fact from fiction and whether Blakeney is a mythological figure or young man who has extraordinary talents.

Can he really take off from the top of the key and dunk? Did he really hit 10 straight 3-pointers in that pickup game? Is it true that Dick Vitale has a poster of him in his room?

Everybody who follows basketball in these parts seems to have a favorite Antonio Blakeney story to tell.

Someday they may all be true for the 6-foot-4 Cardinal Mooney sophomore who took the area by storm last season. He is the Herald All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Though he is barely old enough to have a driver's license, Blakeney already is being talked about in the same breath as Adrian McPherson, LeRon Williams and Clifford Rozier, the area's only players to be named Mr. Basketball for the state of Florida.

Ironically, the one person not impressed is Blakeney himself.

"I don't listen to that stuff. There are always going to be people better than me, and it drives me to work harder," he says. "I play hard every day, and I work hard. When I don't have a game, I lift weights and I am in the gym working on my shooting, taking hundreds of shots and working on everything else. I want to be among the best in the country."

Cardinal Mooney assistant basketball coach Dave McMahon, who played high school ball for St. Joseph right across from the Notre Dame campus in South Bend and then played for Valparaiso, says Blakeney could eventually be among the best he has ever seen.

McMahon was 9 years old when he sat in the stands watching Notre Dame end UCLA's 88-game win streak in 1974 behind eventual NBA Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley and John Shumate, who played six years in the league. McMahon followed Kelly Tripucka, who led Notre Dame in scoring for four years and played in the NBA for 10.

McMahon even had a banner in his room of former Bradenton Christian head coach Dave Magley, who played at his rival, LaSalle in South Bend, and was named Mr. Basketball in Indiana.

So it takes a lot to impress McMahon, but Blakeney has done it.

"Antonio has incredible talent and is a gym rat. He constantly works on his game," McMahon says. "I am most impressed with how he can score points with so much ease. He can pull up for mid-range jumpers, take it to the hole or knock down shots with consistency from beyond the arc. He is a rare talent, and when he improves his defense he is going to embarrass a lot of people.

"His length and ability allows him to rebound with the big guys. When he wants to go up and get the ball, there are few who can do it like him. Antonio is similar to Magley in that both have the ability to score easily and were good on both sides of the ball."

Blakeney does not get caught up in the all the hype. He is well-grounded and knows greatness does not come without great effort. One of his goals for next season is take Cardinal Mooney to its first final four. The Cougars fell a game short last season, losing in the Elite Eight.

"I want to finish what we started last season. I am getting stronger and quicker. I led mostly by example last season, but now I am going to be more verbal," he says.

Blakeney enjoys all aspects of the game, but his goal is to win. He credits his mother, Tequisha, for his success.

"I like everything, shooting, driving to the basket and playing defense, but the best part is winning. I just want to be more consistent in everything that I do," he says. "My mother is the person who has helped me the most, and I am thankful. She supports me in everything that I do. She has always been there for me."

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