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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
Published January 27, 2008
Taking talent to the runway
TAMPA — As a child, Abby Alger was, in her own words, a bit chubby.
But a growth spurt when she was 11 changed that.
In the span of a year, Alger grew 8 inches. And by the time she reached the seventh grade, she stood 6 feet tall.
“All of a sudden I was skinny,” Alger said.
By then, basketball already had become her passion. Before long, she had another one.
“Everyone always told me I should be a model because of my height,” Alger said. “So I figured I’d give it a try.”
First came a photo shoot with a photographer in St. Petersburg. Soon after that, Alger was chosen to appear as a runway model for Tampa Bay’s Best magazine. The hitch? Then only 14, she’d be wearing bridal gowns.
“I still had braces,” Alger said, laughing. “When I walked (on the runway), I had to close my mouth and smirk.”
Now a junior at Freedom, Alger still models. And for what it’s worth, she’s not a bad basketball player either.
Alger’s scoring and rebounding numbers are modest (6.2 points, 5.3 rebounds), but her defensive numbers are not. Entering Tuesday’s game against Brandon in the Class 5A, District 8 tournament at Bloomingdale, the 6-foot-2 center is averaging 4.7 blocks a game for the Patriots, which leads county players and ranks among the best in Florida.
“She’s very good at being in the right spot,” Freedom coach Jason Herring said. “She knows where to go for the block.”
Alger’s defensive prowess goes beyond blocks. She’s also effective at altering shots, and often times her mere presence in the paint keeps opponents from driving to the basket.
“She changes the entire game,” Herring said.
Alger began playing when she was 6, immediately fell in love with the sport and, as she put it, “hasn’t stopped playing since.” She hopes to someday compete in college, a goal Herring said is realistic, particularly if her offensive skills improve.
“One thing she needs to do is get stronger,” Herring said. “I think she will. She really has a great work ethic. She has improved every year.”
Alger’s schedule of school (she has a 3.9 GPA), basketball and modeling keeps her booked seven days a week, she said. From time to time, scheduling conflicts arise, but Alger has always made things work.
Her modeling, from which she has saved a good chunk of change, typically takes place one to two Sundays a month, but more than once she has gone straight from a shoot to the gym.
“I’ve walked in here in heels and do-ups many times,” Alger said.
Around school, Alger is known for her hoops, not for her modeling. For the most part, she keeps that hobby to herself.
As for which gets the nod, runways or basketball courts? Well, that’s an easy one.
“I love modeling,” Alger said. “But basketball comes first.”
Class 6A, District 7 at Alonso
Schedule -Wednesday: Countryside (4) vs. Gaither (5), 6; Mitchell (3) vs. Alonso (6), 8; Friday: St. Petersburg (2) vs. Mitchell-Alonso winner, 6; Sickles (1) vs. Countryside-Gaither winner, 8; Saturday: final, 7.
The skinny: This one's a toss-up between Sickles and St. Petersburg, which split their regular-season meetings. Sickles boasts a player of the year candidate in senior Shawnta Snakovsky (21.3 ppg).
Class 6A, District 8 at Riverview
Schedule - Tuesday: Lakeland (4) vs. East Bay (5), 4; Plant City (3) vs. Riverview (6), 6; Durant (7) vs. Sarasota (2), 8; Friday: Plant City-Riverview winner vs. Durant-Sarasota winner, 6; Sarasota Riverview (1) vs. Lakeland-East Bay winner, 8; Saturday: final, 7.
The skinny: Sarasota Riverview and Sarasota are favorites, but don't count out Plant City (12-5), which has recent wins over Sarasota Riverview and Freedom, and only lost by two to defending region finalist Sarasota.
Class 5A, District 8 at Bloomingdale
Schedule - Tuesday: Freedom (2) vs. Brandon (7), 6; Tampa Bay Tech (1) vs. Wharton (8), 8; Wednesday: King (4) vs. Armwood (5), 6.; Bloomingdale (3) vs. Newsome (6), 8; Friday: TBT-Wharton winner vs. King-Armwood winner, 6; Freedom-Brandon winner vs. Bloomingdale-Newsome winner, 8; Saturday: final, 7.
The skinny: Tampa Bay Tech (23-1) had one of its best regular seasons, led by do-everything senior Andrea Bridges (14.3 ppg). But Bloomingdale, the only team to beat TBT this season, can win it all with star scorer Paris Moore (18.5)
Class 5A, District 10 at Jefferson
Schedule - Tuesday: Leto (7) vs. Blake (2), 6; Plant (1) vs. Robinson (8), 7:30; Wednesday: Hillsborough (4) vs. Chamberlain (5), 6; Jefferson (3) vs. Middleton (6), 7:30; Friday: Plant-Robinson winner vs. Hillsborough-Chamberlain winner, 6; Leto-Blake winner vs. Jefferson-Middleton winner, 7:30; Saturday: final, 7.
The skinny: Blake will be a dark horse in a district controlled by red-hot Plant, which has won seven straight after a 1-4 Christmas break. The Panthers, which lost senior leader Kaitlyn Ostroski to a season-ending knee injury, have been sparked by sophomore Michelle Taylor (18.2 ppg)
Class 4A, District 9 at Lakeland Kathleen
Schedule - Tuesday: Bartow (4) vs. Spoto (5), 6; Lake Wales (3) vs. Davenport Ridge (6), 7:30; Friday: Haines City (1) vs. Bartow-Spoto winner, 6; Lake Wales-Davenport Ridge winner vs. Kathleen (2), 7:30; Saturday: final, 7.
The skinny: Haines City, a defending region finalist, is the favorite, with Kathleen not too far behind. Spoto, the only county team in the district, has played both Kathleen and Lake Wales within two points.
Class 3A, District 11 at Tampa Catholic
Schedule - Wednesday: Clearwater Central Catholic (4) vs. Berkeley Prep (5), 6; Tampa Catholic (3) vs. Lennard (6), 7:30; Friday: CCC-Berkeley Prep winner vs. St. Petersburg Catholic (1), 6 ; Tampa Catholic-Lennard winner vs. Academy of the Holy Names (2), 7:30; Saturday: final, 7.
The skinny: SPC, led by Indiana-bound forward Sasha Chaplin, is the overwhelming favorite, having beaten second-place Tampa Catholic three times by an average of 19 points. The Crusaders, led by Colette Eule (15.6 ppg), likely will battle Holy Names for the runnerup spot.
Class 2A, District 9 at Indian Rocks Christian
Schedule - Friday: Bishop McLaughlin (3) vs. Indian Rocks (2), 6; Calvary Christian (4) vs. Tampa Prep (1), 7:30; Saturday: final, 7
The skinny: Tampa Prep and star junior Ayala Wasser (18 ppg) are in a pretty competitive district, but Keswick Christian is again the formidable favorite.
Class A, District 10 at Tampa Bay Christian
Schedule - Tuesday: Cambridge (2) vs. Bayshore Christian (3), 4; Tampa Bay Christian (4) vs. Seffner Christian (1), 6; Saturday: final, 7:30
The skinny: Seffner Christian, led by Jenny Moorer (18 ppg), has a great shot to repeat.
Class A, District 11 at Citrus Park Christian
Schedule - Tuesday: Oldsmar Christian (4) vs. Canterbury (5), 7; Thursday: Academy at the Lakes (3) vs. Citrus Park Christian (2), 5; Oldsmar Christian-Canterbury winner vs. Lakeside Christian (1), 7; Saturday: final, 7.
The skinny: Citrus Park Christian has showed it can beat top-seed Lakeside Chr; can they pull off another upset?