SARASOTA — Cardinal Mooney High sophomore Antonio Blakeney is on a mission.
From the moment the season began, the 16-year-old has been focused on one thing — rebounds.
Rather than getting caught up in individual accolades, the Cougars 6-foot-4 shooting guard has his sights set on hauling in at least 10 rebounds every time he steps onto the court.
The more rebounds he and his teammates have, the more likely they are to capitalize on second-chance points.
The Cougars are off to an impressive 6-0 start for the season, thanks in part to Blakeney, who is averaging 31.8 points, nine rebound and 2.4 assists.
“He’s one of those players you can (count on) to finish a play,” says Cardinal Mooney coach Stefan Gates. “He’s a tough person to (guard) because he can score around the perimeter and he can also (drive) to the basket. There are not that many guys in the (area) who can do both.”
Most recently, Blakeney had 28 points, 10 rebounds and three steals to help lead Cardinal Mooney to a 67-50 victory over Braden River in a battle of unbeaten teams Dec. 10.
“I think we’re playing well,” Blakeney says. “We sharing the ball and playing as a team.”
Gates echoed Blakeney’s sentiments.
“Antonio has several games where he has four or five assists along with points,” Gates says.
Blakeney began playing basketball in sixth grade. The former football player joined the Manatee Storm’s travel basketball team and realized he had a knack for the sport.
Blakeney started playing for Cardinal Mooney as a freshman and has since developed into one of the Cougars’ most talented players.
Blakeney is capable of shooting from anywhere on the court, but this season he’s learned to capitalize on the opportunities that are given to him. In the first five games of the season, Blakeney put up 88 attempts — only 19 of which were from behind the arc.
“I’ve just been working hard every day in practice,” Antonio says. “Now it’s kind of get to the basket and get easy points. I just (take) what the defense gives me.”
In addition to playing for the Cougars, Blakeney also plays travel basketball for the Each One Teach One Basketball Association.
Blakeney began playing for the Each One Teach One Basketball Association two years ago as a way to gain more experience and travel around the state.
In doing so, Blakeney has further enhanced his skill set, which he says has been instrumental in preparing him for this season.
“(Sometimes) players who don’t play all the time get rusty. I’ve just kept playing, so it’s put me one step ahead,” says Blakeney.
Blakeney has aspirations of playing college basketball, but for now he’s focused on helping the Cougars earn a trip to the Class 3A Final Four.