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REACTION: Sunshine State Athletic Association Expands and Rebrands

Jae Fortune

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© sunshine state athletic conference

THE ASSOCIATION

One of the fastest growing brands in the Florida high school athletics space, has made the decision to rebrand, and expand. First launched in 2008, the former Sunshine State Athletic Conference emerged as an exclusively football-focused conference for smaller school programs. Now, the newly branded Sunshine State Athletic Association has emerged as a major player in the space, far beyond football.

I was still playing football for Orlando Christian Prep, when the Warriors joined the SSAC. As a young program for a private school that was better known for it’s state champion. As of this month, SSAC has transitioned into a “full-service” athletic association, serving a wide-range of sports for over 120 member school across the state.

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Watching this expansion has been incredibly impressive, as the Orlando Health sponsored organization has grown in membership, and reach. Check back for updates to this story.

UCF Knights

UCF Gets Explosive Scorer, Versatile Wings via Transfer Portal

UCF Knights men’s basketball team has recently announced a trio of fresh commitments via the transfer portal.

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Keyshawn Hall

UCF Knights men’s basketball team has recently announced a trio of fresh commitments via the transfer portal.

First on the list is Keyshawn Hall, a 6-foot-7 guard/small forward who is coming off a breakout year with George Mason during the 2023-24 season.

Hall averaged 16.6 points per game on 50.7 FG% and 35.4 3PT%, earning him an All-Atlantic 10 Second Team selection.

“We’re very excited about Keyshawn. He will bring great versatility and experience to our team. He is a multi-position player that competes with a high level of intensity. He has a great skill set. We’re looking forward to him impacting our program,” Knights head coach Johnny Dawkins said of Hall in the team’s press release.

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Versatile Wing Becomes a Knight

UCF also announced that versatile forward JJ Taylor also joined the Knights basketball program.

After seeing action in three games during his freshman season in Memphis, the former No.86 player in the Nation will get the opportunity to carve out a significant role with the Knights starting next season.

“JJ is a very talented player with tremendous upside. At 6-8, his versatility will allow him to impact the game on both ends of the floor. He has great athleticism and a terrific skill set,” Dawkins spoke about Taylor’s massive potential as a two-way player.

Homecoming for Debo Coleman

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Georgia Tech transfer Dallan Coleman has committed to UCF.

The 6’6″ junior guard played in 28 games, averaging 5.9 points and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 34% from three (32/94).

Coleman averaged 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 2022-23.

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Buccaneers approach potential contract holdout with All-Pro Tackle Wirfs

Robert Brumfield

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Photo Courtesy of: www.buccaneers.com

Buccaneers standout tackle Tristan Wirfs did not show up for voluntary OTAs this week per Jeremy Fowler from ESPN. While this portion of the offseason is technically voluntary, Fowler reported that Wirfs is in the beginning stages of a potential holdout and seeking a long-term contract.

Wirfs was drafted in 2020 out of the University of Iowa, helping the Buccaneers win a Super Bowl his rookie year. Wirfs was a Day 1 starter on a dominant offensive line protecting Tom Brady through his inaugural season with Tampa. The young lineman learned the system quickly and took on a leadership role amongst veterans almost immediately upon his arrival, setting the stage for fan favorite status in the Bay.

General Manager Jason Licht hit consistent home runs with his signings and acquisitions this offseason. Immediately during the initial free agency period, Licht secured new contracts for QB Baker Mayfield, WR Mike Evans, and several other key moves to bolster the defending NFC South Champion’s roster.

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It’s fair to note that Licht has stated multiple times that the team considered Wirfs a priority; and he should be. Wirfs switched from RT to the all important left tackle spot in 2023. The change, if anything, improved Wirfs’ play, garnering himself a rank of fifth overall tackle in the league. He also was ranked second overall in pass blocking, allowing only 22 pressures on 777 offensive passing snaps.

There is still a month until mandatory camp, leaving time for negotiations between the Buccaneers and Wirfs’ agent. One thing to note is the glaring $18.6 million cap hit the Bucs are taking this season for Wirfs. The fact the team did not reach an agreement with Wirfs before the season does not necessarily mean there is friction persé, but allowing his cap hit to increase by $15 million more than his previous three years is, well, “different”. Wirfs’ side has indicated they have no plans to show at OTAs pending a deal, so hopefully this game of contract chicken can come to and end soon, because he is invaluable to protecting Baker Mayfield.

Thanks for getting your Bucs’ news here at Sports Club Florida. Feel free to go check out our other great articles from our other contributors. Stay tuned for more on this and other Buccaneers stories here at Sports Club Florida!

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Russell Gage released before final year of contract begins

Robert Brumfield

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Wide receiver Russell Gage outside AdventHealth Training Center (www.buccaneers.com)

In a not so unexpected move during the free agency frenzy Monday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to release veteran WR Russell Gage by way of declining the third-year option on his contract. Gage signed a 3-year, $30,000,000 deal going into the 2022 campaign. It is safe to say the team moved forward with releasing Gage for fear of him not being able to produce after a gruesome injury before last season even began.

Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the sixth round of the 2018 draft, Gage played 4 full seasons with Atlanta before signing with the Buccaneers at the beginning of his fifth season. He played 13 games for Tampa Bay in 2022, catching 51 balls for 426 yards, finding the endzone five times.

Unfortunately, Gage tore his patellar tendon during a joint practice with the New York Jets in August 2023 before the season began; a non-contact injury universally believed to be one of the most difficult to return from for an athlete. It was assumed entering this off-season that Gage would become a cap-casualty, a fact that came to fruition on the opening day of free agency transactions.

For more breaking news and updates on the Buccaneers and other Florida sports teams, stay locked on here at Sports Club Florida!

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