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Attention comes to Bayshore

By SCOTT PURKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 6, 2001


TAMPA -- Joe Rawlins' family gets junk mail and bills.

Joe Rawlins waits.

Waits for college basketball programs to send him some letters, some inquiries, something.

So far, interest in the Bayshore Christian standout has been nonexistent.

It's hard to figure that at least a Division II school hasn't taken notice of a 6-foot-2 guard who averages 23 points per game, has a 3.6 grade point average and has led his team to the state final four.

Then again, Rawlins noted, maybe the problem is that he's going to the Class A final four.

"I just don't think a lot of college coaches look at a little school like a Bayshore Christian," he said. "But maybe now that we're in the state final four we can get some recognition."

Wednesday's opponent is Grand Ridge, a 26-10 perennial power that just knocked off No. 1-ranked Laurel Hill, 57-43, in the Region 1 final.

Rawlins said he "can't wait," because few people relish a challenge more than he does.

After struggling early in his prep career, Rawlins blossomed this season after a summer dedicated to improvement.

He practiced every day -- shooting, jumping rope, doing squats and calf raises. He practiced so much he wore out the basketball hoop behind his house.

"The rim was all bent, the backboard was beat up," he said. "So my mom had to buy a new backboard."

The results have been impressive.

"I have worked with a lot of talented players," said Bayshore coach Tom Dibble, who has coached 7-footer Nick Smith (Illinois), J.R. Russell (Louisville) and Joey and Stephen Graham (UCF) with the Spirit of Tampa Bay AAU team. "I'd put Joe right in the best mix of players we've had on the Spirit. I definitely think Joe can play for a Division I school."

If not, Rawlins has already been accepted to Florida.

"I always have that to fall back on," Rawlins said. "But I really want to play. I still have basketball left in me."

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