TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (BVM) — During the 2019 high school basketball season, the East Lake Eagles had a hidden gem playing second fiddle to some other starters. That hidden gem now averages over 20 points per game in the 2020 season, which includes a 40-point outburst. But with senior guard and Murray State commit Dionte Bostick leading the charge, Dean Gabrelcik had to wait his turn.
With Bostick now graduated and moved on to the Racers, Gabrelcik is no longer a secret. The East Lake senior guard has been explosive this year and has the Eagles soaring high.
As their top returning player, Gabrelcik is the man this year. And that was the expectation all along. The 6-foot-5 senior is a certified bucket, filling it up in ways that makes his opponents shake their head. Gabrelcik knew that this day would come and he was looking forward to it.
“Once they (seniors) left, it was my turn to be the leader of the team and something I looked forward to after the way the season ended last year,” Gabrelcik said. “I was determined to make everything better this year and go win it all.”
The standout guard is referencing their 2019 playoff loss to eventual state champion, Bartow, in the state semifinals. The Eagles lost by 11 points, ending their season, one that they believed would end with a state title. They had all the pieces of a true contender.
“We had elite scoring guards, leaders, scrappy young sophomores and freshmen and me, I was the glue of the team,” Gabrelcik said. “We ran through a team that played better than us that night. I don’t necessarily think they were better, but they played better than us that night.”
That left a bad taste in the Eagles’ mouths, and Garbelcik vowed to finish the job this year. He dedicated his offseason to working on his explosiveness, making himself better prepared for the Eagles’ lead role. Aside from dunking, he wanted to be faster off the bounce.
Early signs show that it paid off, as opposing teams are now game planning to slow him down. Gabrelcik likes when they do that, though, because he knows that his teammates will make them pay.
“They can’t just scheme for me because we have players all around the court,” Gabrelcik said. “If they scheme for me then I know my teammates will be there to step up.”
And as much as Gabrelcik, who currently holds offers from American University and Stetson University, wants to win a title for his teammates, he also wants to do it for head coach Britt Taylor. Taylor, a former all-american track and field performer at the University of North Carolina, has turned the Eagles into a national threat. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s the best coach I’ve played for. Off the court, you like playing for Coach Taylor. You become a man, you learn to treat people with respect,” Gabrelcik said. “On the court he’s a winner, everything you do has to be perfect, everyday you get better and I’m blessed he’s the coach at my local high school.”
Now to reach their ultimate goal, the Eagles have a plan. As the old saying goes, a dream without a plan is just a wish. East Lake wants to put in the work to make their dream come true.
“Being consistent every day. Everyday we walk into the gym for practice,” Gabrelcik said. “Don’t be soft, don’t slack off, get better. Don’t take anything for granted.”
When the playoffs roll around in February, look for the Eagles to take care of their unfinished business.