Wharton High basketball coach Tommy Tonelli enjoys pulling the wool over his players’ eyes from time to time.
“I like surprises,” Tonelli says.
One of his players, C.J. McGill, said he is well aware of this Tonelli tendency, and yet on Thursday morning Tonelli did it to McGill again.
“He told me that Wharton received a team award and he picked me to represent the team,” McGill said. “I said, ‘OK, no problem.’ I honestly thought that’s what it was.”
It was not.
It was McGill, and McGill alone, who was honored as Hillsborough County’s top boys basketball player.
Nonetheless, McGill said he still had no idea until his name was announced in the county’s school board auditorium as the player of the year.
“Right up until that last second I thought it was going to be for the team,” McGill said. “It was a real shock. I honestly was a little stunned.”
Perhaps that’s because McGill is always in the habit of being a team player, a senior point guard who helped lead the Wildcats to the Class 8A state semifinals before losing 46-38 to South Miami.
It was an ending that finished Wharton’s season at 24-5 and left McGill feeling immediately sore, but a little better as the weeks have passed.
Thursday’s honor helped a little more.
“Now every time I look at this award it will remind me of all the good things that we accomplished,” said McGill, who averaged 17 points this season and finished with a career record as a starter of 76-11. “What a great honor. Another great memory.”
The other individual athletes honored Thursday included: