2018-19 Prep Boys Basketball Player of the Year: Accepting His Role
Part of being a good teammate is knowing your role on the team.
When Malik Beauford was brought up to the Palatka High School boys basketball varsity team, for the first of two FHSAA 6A Final Four runs in the 2016-17 season, he was mainly a bystander, watching the others on the team perform and seeing how it all worked on the varsity level. Then last season, Beauford got to start as a forward while senior point guard Chamar Dumas missed the first seven games of the season, still dealing with a suspension from the football season that carried over. When Dumas came back to the lineup, Beauford was odd man out, being asked to come off the bench.
By the end of that season, Beauford had become one of the star players on the PHS team, earning All-County honors that year. This year as a starter, he came into his own as a leader.
It paid off as the 6-foot-3 1/2 junior forward and sometimes center became a leader, averaging 14.6 points a game, while pulling down 4.6 rebounds and shooting 65 percent from the field. He was asked to perform many roles with the Panthers by coach Bryant Oxendine and he did.
The payoff is Beauford being named the Daily News Boys Basketball Player of the Year for this winter, one that ended with Palatka going 25-5.
Beauford is the third different Panther to earn that honor the last three years after Dumas in the 2016-17 season and senior center teammate Mitchell McKinnon in the 2017-18 campaign.
“I was fine with the decision to go back to the bench,” said Beauford on going back to the bench last year and being the first player to come in after Dumas had re-established his starting role with the team. “I played really well off the bench. I just looked at it as my time would come. I didn’t take it all that hard.”
It’s something that Oxendine pointed to with Beauford, who is low-key by nature, but high energy once he steps on a court.
“Malik was starting and averaging double-digits in scoring when Chamar came back. He made adjustments,” Oxendine said. “At that time,
Chamar as a senior was who we needed to lead us and Malik unselfishly took a seat. He said, ‘I can come off the bench.’ That was a great advantage to have because nobody ever expects someone to come off the bench and have that kind of physical ability. And he matured into what would be a starting spot.”
By the end of the 2017-18 season, Beauford became a player Oxendine could count on to come up with a clutch play, like his 3-point field goal in the final minute of play to tie up the FHSAA 6A Final Four matchup with Tallahassee Rickards, 51-51, at the RB Funding Center in Lakeland. The Panthers eventually lost the game, 55-51, but Beauford had established himself as that reliable player to start this season.
Using a strong balance of power and finesse in his game, Beauford showed a workman-like attitude to move to the next level.
“Malik can play the 2-guard (shooting) and he can also play the 3 (swing guard) and the 4 (power forward),” Oxendine said. “He’s just a coachable kid who is ready to do whatever it is you want him to do.”
Beauford, who added 30 3-point field goals, was a consistent scorer during the regular season and stepped up in the postseason, averaging 14.4 points a game during five playoff matchups. He scored 20 points in the Panthers’ 78-69 victory over Alachua Santa Fe in the Region 2-6A first-round matchup at home, then added 18 points against Gainesville Eastside in a 61-60 win on the road.
But it’s the basket that put the Panthers ahead in the game Beauford will be remembered most by this winter. With eight seconds left, point guard Y’dontae Smith passed the ball into McKinnon, who got the ball back to Smith. Smith beat his defender on the dribble to the basket, then threw a perfect pass to a wide-open Beauford, who delivered the basket to give the Panthers a 61-59 lead with four second to go.
“I came off a screen on the play and moved to an open spot that Y’dontae found me,” Beauford remembered of the play. “The play was designed to go to anyone. I got to the basket and I was really wide open. He spotted me and I got the ball. We practice layups a lot in practice. Once I let the ball go, I knew it was going in.”
Beauford said there are still aspects to his game he wants to work on this summer.
“I’m going to the gym to work on my dribbling and on my mid-range jump shot and the 3-point shot,” Beauford said. “But mostly the dribbling where I want to work on both hands.”
He’s playing currently for his AAU team, the Nightmares, coached by Jason Shaw, a PHS assistant, where the team won a tournament in Norfolk, Va.
The next role for Beauford – reaching his full potential.
“There’s a lot more to do,” he said. “I’m working on trying to play four positions on the team, maybe all five. There’s a chance I may play center next year (with McKinnon’s graduation), but I’ll be ready for it.”
After all, this is Malik Beauford we’re talking about.
“I’ll be comfortable with that,” he added.
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
1996–Willie Davis, Crescent City
1997–Ira Armstrong, Interlachen
1998–James Scott, Crescent City
1999–Travis Lewis, Palatka
2000-03–No team, player selected
2004–Tarvarres Williams, Palatka
2005–Laveras Keenon, Palatka
2006–Dexter Clark, Crescent City
2007–Adam Branch, Interlachen
2008–Toshmon Stevens, Crescent City
2009–Tamarick Williams, Interlachen
2010–Jerrell Oxendine, Crescent City
and James Willams, Palatka
2011–Jerrell Oxendine, Crescent City
2012–DaCarr Smith, Palatka
2013–Travis Brown, Palatka
2014–Kenton Bibbs, Crescent City
2015–Kenton Bibbs, Crescent City
2016–Datwan Lewis, Crescent City
2017–Chamar Dumas, Palatka
2018–Mitchell McKinnon, Palatka
2019–Malik Beauford, Palatka