BRADENTON -- Last season, Elliot Washington could only dream about the basketball team he wanted to put on the floor.
Gearing up for his second season as the State College of Florida head coach, Washington doesn't have to dream anymore. All he has to do is make things work.
The former longtime Southeast High head coach signed 12 new players and still has one more scholarship to offer.
"We brought in 12 guys that are long, lean and athletic. We want to play a fast, up-tempo, pressing style of basketball, and I believe now we have the players to do that," he said.
Washington wasn't hired until mid July last summer. Most of the top recruits around the country were signed, and he had to make do with what he had. Things were made worse when his top player, Obinna Oleka, missed most of last season for a variety of reasons.
"I look at this as my first recruiting class because I've had a full summer to recruit," Washington said. "I love recruiting and going out and looking at the best talent. We definitely took care of
our size, or lack of, and all the big guys we brought in are lean, athletic and can play fast."
Washington's top recruit could be 6-foot-9 Kingsley Nwagboso from Manchester, England.
He earned Elite Academy Basketball League second team honors last season averaging 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds for Loreto (Manchester).
"He is a rim-to-rim guy. He runs the floor, can score and block shots. He is an athletic, agile player who fits our system and allows us to do what we want to do," Washington said.
Joining Nwagboso in the front court will be 6-8 Rodney Ross, who played for Atlanta's Action Sports Academy last season.
"He is an above-the-rim guy, shot blocker and rebounder, a very athletic kid from a city very rich in basketball talent," Washington said. "He received Division II offers and qualified but wants to play Division I and wanted to come here to get more seasoning. I think he is a Division I guy, and it's a good move."
Washington is excited about the backcourt he signed, including two-guard Joshua Floyd, point guard Alonzo Taylor, Venezuelan Gustavo Leon and transfer swingman Henry Ford.
The 6-3 Floyd was a key contributor to Pompano Beach Ely's run to the state final four. Washington said he can play multiple positions and has a high basketball IQ.
The 6-0 Taylor was a second team All-State selection last year at Coral Springs Charter, and Leon (6-3) played for Impact Academy (Sarasota) last season.
The battle for playing time should be intense. There is a lot of talent among the other signees that includes 6-7 Divante Jenkins (Tampa Bay Christian), 6-6 DJ Flippin (Holy Springs, Raleigh, N.C.), 6-1 Travis Mitchell (Terry Park, Jacksonville) and 6-0 Greg Johnson (Tampa Bay Christian).
Washington expects solid production from the 6-5 Ford, a sophomore who was a standout at Sarasota Christian and played last season for Florida State College (Jacksonville).
Other local guys are 6-4 Harrison Herbert (Sarasota Riverview) and Blake Harper from Sarasota Booker, the only returnee from last year's team.
Though last season was a struggle, Washington says it taught him some valuable lessons and will make him a better coach.
"From a coaching standpoint, I had never been on that end of the spectrum and it was a valuable lesson having to make so many adjustments," he said. "I had 12 guys some nights and I had seven guys on other nights. I grew as a coach and I look at that in a positive way. I am expecting a great season."