2016-17 Prep Boys Basketball Player Of The Year: Handed The Keys
As Bryant Oxendine took over as Palatka High School boys basketball coach this season, he gave junior point guard Chamar Dumas a confidence boost.
He handed him the keys to the offensive machine to run as he wished.
Dumas was the proverbial child in a candy store.
“He was telling me it was ‘my’ team,” Dumas said. “He told me to always remain positive and forget what the (road) crowds were saying.”
Dumas rewarded his new head coach in a major way as the Panthers won both the District 5-6A and Region 2-6A championships to reach a Final Four in the sport for the third time in this decade, helping the Panthers to a 21-9 record.
That, in return, has led to Dumas being named the Daily News’ Boys Basketball Player of the Year, the first time a Panther has earned the award since Travis Brown in the 2012-13 season, the last time the Panthers reached a Final Four.
Dumas’ honor ends Crescent City’s three-year stranglehold.
“Here’s the thing,” Oxendine started. “The kid’s got speed and is almost unstoppable. When I think of him, I think of my son, Jerrell (a former Crescent City standout and two-time Daily News Player of the Year). He never got up or down and I see those qualities in Chamar. Chamar doesn’t shoot like Jerrell did, but I’ve never seen him give up in a game either. I know what Chamar can bring to the table as a player.”
An all-around player is what Dumas brings. He averaged 10.8 points a game as the point guard – one of three Panthers who averaged over 10 points a game – but it’s the little things he did that helped the Panthers to another successful season. He averaged 6.8 assists per game, 1.8 steals a game and nailed 15 3-point field goals. Five times during the season Dumas went over 20 points with his season best being a 24-point effort in a Jarvis Williams Holiday Tournament semifinal win over Franklin Page (Tenn.).
“I had plenty of talks with Chamar,” Oxendine said. “I reiterated to him I was the coach, but I told him, ‘You are the coach on the court. As you go, they go. So we’ve got to go.’ I tried to tell him to push the ball hard because we’re an up-tempo team. I couldn’t have him walk the ball up the court. We had to push back the defense.”
And the Panthers did just that en route to their best season in four years. In the postseason, Dumas delivered 12 points against former coach Donald Lockhart and Palm Coast Matanzas in the district title game. Then he added 16 points in the Region 2-6A opening-round win over Gainesville Eastside.
That was followed by an intense battle with Santa Fe in the regional semifinal in Alachua. The Panthers trailed 56-54 with less than a minute left in the game when Dumas took matters into his own hands, taking the ball to the hoop among Santa Fe’s tall players and delivering a reverse layup, tying the game.
“I’m thinking our team is needing a basket badly,” Dumas said. “I wasn’t ready to have our season end. I had to step up to the plate. In my head, no one could stop me.”
The Panthers won, 58-56 on a Tyrius Thomas steal on the next Santa Fe possession that ended with a Mitchell McKinnon tip-in at the buzzer.
Dumas had seven points and helped to control the tempo against a slower Brooksville Nature Coast team in a 50-43 regional final at home that got the Panthers to Lakeland and another Final Four.
“It’s always going to be a good moment,” Dumas said of winning the regional title. “Once we got past (Santa Fe), I knew we could get to the Final Four.”
That trip to Lakeland Center turned into a disaster. The Panthers had trouble with Cape Coral Mariner’s height and never were in the game as they lost 64-28.
There were lessons the team learned from that game, Dumas said, that will help the Panthers focus on the 2017-18 season. Though Thomas, Demare Purifoy, Cam Chandler and Anfernee Royster all graduate, Dumas returns with McKinnon, Brandon Hampton and a young bench that could make another quality run.
“I’m very confident about next year,” Dumas said. “We were getting a lot of good energy off the bench and those players are a year older.”
Dumas’ career started on a very positive note in a very important moment: The Region 2-5A tournament opener at Jacksonville Bishop Kenny in 2015. As a freshman coming off the bench, Dumas scored 11 points, including nine fourth-quarter points, seven of which were from the free-throw line, in a 68-64 upset win.
Oxendine said he was convinced as an assistant to Lockhart that Dumas could help the team as a freshman, and to this day, points to that moment for driving up Dumas’ confidence. As for his senior year, Oxendine raised the bar.
“I’m expecting him to step up,” he said. “He was a team captain with Tyrius and he will be again a leader, helping coach those guys to be tougher. I expect him to get back to where we left off where he’s got that hunger because he wants to be successful.”