College Sports

Commentary | SCF wins with Lakewood Ranch's Brian Cobb, loses out on Southeast's Reggie Smalls

Piece by piece, step by step. That's how it's done.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and everybody knows the State College of Florida basketball program is not Rome.

You deal with rejections and failures, and little by little the right people come.

Reggie Smalls says no.

Brian Cobb says yes.

This could be a win-win for all concerned.

A former Bradenton Herald Player of The Year from Southeast High, Smalls recently signed to play with St. Petersburg College.

A former first-team All-Area selection as a junior at Lakewood Ranch, Cobb verbally committed to SCF and says he will sign a letter of intent May 14 when Manatees new head coach Brock Erickson arrives.

Cobb was most likely headed to a Division I school or at least a high-level Division II school until he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee last summer.

It couldn't have happen at worse time, and most schools recruiting him backed off despite his gaudy numbers.

As a junior, Cobb averaged 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. He had 18 double-doubles. He missed nearly all of last season because of his injury.

Now he is trying to resurrect his career and has chosen SCF over a full-ride offer to Division II Ohio Valley University and invitations to walk on at some Division I schools.

There are a lot of building blocks to put in place at SCF's basketball program and a lot of bad karma to erase. Cobb is a nice place to start.

Smalls originally signed with SCF in the spring of 2011. After then-head coach Reggie Bellamy resigned, the 6-foot point guard opted to play at prep school powerhouse Mount Zion.

Smalls said the post-graduate team he played on disbanded before the season ended. He went looking for stability.

Earnest Crumbley has been SPC head men's basketball coach for 12 years. He has won three Suncoast Conference titles and finished ranked sixth in the state last season. He is a native of St. Petersburg and graduate of Boca Ciega High School.

"I signed with St. Pete because me and the coach were seeing eye to eye on a lot of things, and he is a good guy on and off the court," Smalls said. "He is similar to my high school coach (Elliott Washington), and I like his style of play. He likes to play up-tempo and get out and run, and that fits my game."

St. Pete has a starting point guard returning, but Smalls said Crumbley told him no job is guaranteed. Besides, Smalls was looking for stability above everything.

"I could've gone to other schools, but this seemed the best for me," Smalls said. "I haven't talked to anyone from SCF since last spring and wasn't sure what was going on over there. The only way I would've gone back there was if they had a coach I was familiar with. I wanted a juco that has a good track record and wins consistently. I saw that in St. Pete."

Maybe someday players will see that in SCF. It hasn't been the case for more than a decade. Now the program's fifth coach since the turn of century will give it a try.

Cobb said he liked what he heard in a phone conversation with Erickson when the coach confirmed the scholarship offer. Most of all, the 6-6, 225-pounder who celebrated his 19th birthday five days ago wants the opportunity to see how much talent he possesses.

"I am about 85 percent back from the injury and am starting to get my explosiveness back, which was the main thing I was missing." Cobb said. "I am trying to get back those 2 to 3 inches on my vertical and get my conditioning back. I feel good going to a juco because it's a chance to reprove myself. Hopefully, after two years I can get rerecruited and show them what I couldn't earlier.

"The coach is really good at player development and has a good track record at placing players at Division I and Division II schools, and that was a big kicker for me."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.