BRADENTON — The conditions inside Bradenton Christian’s metal-frame gymnasium were sweltering, with a 100 percent chance of sweat.
But the heat on this steamy summer afternoon didn’t prevent the Panthers boys basketball team from honing their craft.
After all, Bradenton Christian lives and breathes basketball.
“We love it,” said Panthers rising junior swingman Daniel Magley, sweat pouring down his face. “This is what I want to do. Whatever it takes. I know there’s a whole bunch of us who want to go play in college and do things beyond high school basketball. A lot of people don’t really understand how.”
You do it by working constantly at your craft — 11 1/2 months out of the year, including during the dead of summer.
Nowadays, it’s a common theme throughout high school sports: If you want to be the best, there is no offseason.
That’s exactly why the Panthers were practicing free throws, fast-break drills and defensive schemes at a July basketball camp.
Over the past decade, BCS has achieved the most success among boys basketball programs in Manatee County, making four appearances in the Class 1A state tournament. Eighteen players have gone on to play at the college level.
Panthers coach David Magley credits the players’ attitude and work ethic for the program’s rise to prominence.
“We played at a Florida Gulf Coast University camp, where every team we played, it looked like we didn’t have a chance,” David Magley said. “They were bigger and more athletic, and every time we got done, we had parents from other teams saying, ‘How do you get your players to play so hard? Your kids play like it means so much to them.’
“Well, if you are on the court 365 days a year, and somebody is really getting after you about how hard you are playing, it’s second nature to them. They are not playing any harder than they normally would. It’s just how they play.”
The Panthers devote their heart and soul — basically, their lives — to the game of basketball.
Hanging out with friends is out of the question. Taking up other hobbies is out of the question. And dating is pretty much nonexistent in their lives.
During the summer months, players arrive for weightlifting and basketball drills early in the morning and return to the gym in the evenings for pick-up games.
Who has time for a girlfriend?
“Most of the girls I hang out with, I tell them I don’t want to get too close to them,” BCS rising senior guard Jonathan Negrin said. “Ball is my first thing. They get so angry at me, because they want me to hang out with them, and I want to be playing basketball and getting better, putting my working in, because I want to play (Division I college basketball). I want to go big.”
Doing it “big” is motivation enough for BCS basketball players. They’ve witnessed their predecessors work hard through blazing hot workouts in the middle of summer to reap huge rewards with the program’s dominance on the court and their signatures scribbled on college basketball scholarships.
Of course, that’s the ultimate goal.
So, practicing during the summer is just part of the plan.
“You just get used to it,” Negrin said. “It’s not too bad after a while.”