Elwyne Wordlaw spent most of his eighth-grade year at Sprindgale Prep getting court time as a reserve, and hearing it from his boys basketball coaching staff.
“We challenged him. We called him soft,” Lions coach Tyrone Johnson said. “And he didn’t like that. He went back home and changed everything. ... And I promise you, ain’t nothing soft about him anymore.”
Wordlaw is listed as 6 feet, 3 inches on his team’s roster, and the freshman’s physique is under construction. His basketball skills, however, are on full display ― the shooting guard led Springdale past Avalon School 75-63 on Friday night as the Lions rolled to their 10th win of the shortened season.
Wordlaw had 18 points, matching a team high, and handed out 12 assists. KJ Gardner, a sophomore guard, also scored 18 and forward Vince Atkins added 10. Sylvain Kambala grabbed eight rebounds for the Lions (10-3) and added 12 points.
Springdale Prep put together quick scoring runs that kept Avalon from establishing much rhythm, and when the Black Knights tried to rally the Lions found answers with Wordlaw running the offense.
“Last year I was one of the last men in the rotation, as an eighth-grader obviously,” Wordlaw said. “Over the summer I knew I had to work extremely hard to get a starting spot that I’ve got now. I feel like I worked for it, so at the end of the day I feel like I deserve it.”
Wordlaw said he didn’t put together a serious weightlifting routine in the offseason, but instead worked on conditioning and cardio exercises to stay in shape and be ready to lead his team’s up-tempo style of play.
“I pushed myself,” said Wordlaw, who tried to find a basketball and space to play “every single day, multiple hours a day.”
Springdale led 19-6 in the first quarter before Avalon grabbed the momentum and got the deficit down to three at 26-23 midway through the second frame. The Lions responded with a pair of 3-pointers from Makay Fields, a jumper from Wordlaw, and a layup from 6-8 senior Detwan Montague (five blocks).
The home team led 36-27 at halftime, and Wordlaw had seven assists at the break.
“He’s a throwback. Most of your point guards now are more lead guards, and they don’t really get everybody involved. He controls everything,” Johnson said. “He’s a 14-year-old captain of a team, so that tells you as much as you need to know about who he is as a leader.”
Avalon again cut into the Lions’ lead behind Shaq Samuels and Jovanni Galarza, who combined for nine of the Knights’ 15 third-quarter points. Springdale got hot in the fourth to pull away ― the Lions had 21 points in the final frame, and Avalon committed five turnovers under pressure.
Galarza and Imani Anderson had 16 points apiece for the visitors, and Samuels finished with 12.
Springdale has won six of its last seven games with two contests remaining next week. Johnson is in his fourth year as Lions coach, and the program played its first varsity game in November of 2018. Springdale has seen its share of private-school stalwarts and athletic opponents since its inaugural season in New Windsor, but Johnson said he has seen a good bit of growth from this year’s group as well.
“They have learned the system soundly,” the coach said, “and they’re intelligent young men. And they play that way. I’m proud of them.”