Three Eastside hoops players sign letters of intent

A trio of Eastside boys basketball players have signed their letters of intent to play at the next level.

Jarviel (Jarvy) Gainey (Pensacola State College) and Omar Brown (Louisburg College, N.C.) went the JUCO route, while Jahiem Smith, who was unable to attend Friday’s signing due to the passing of his grandmother, is headed to D-III Utica College in New York.

This past season, the threesome helped lead the Rams to a 20-3 record and a Class 4A state playoff appearance.

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“It was a blessing coaching those guys,” said Eastside basketball coach “Pop” Williams. “They’re smart academically. The squad I had this year was kind of a surprise after losing K.J (Bradley). They really stepped it up this year.”

Gainey led the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. also led the team in free throw shooting at 82%.

“It feels good to play at the next level,” Gainey said. “It was fun to play with Coach Pop. He used to clown and goof with us. I’m going to miss those days.”

The All Area selection scored in double figures in all but two games this past season, including a career-high 30 points against rival Gainesville in January.

“Dominant player,” Williams said. “He did it all. I think he’s going to have a great future on the next level.”

Omar Brown, who transferred from St. Francis Catholic, only played one year but he helped fill the void when Bradley left.

“He really helped us,” Williams said. “Without him, I don’t think we would have been as great. He really was like an Eastside player.”

Brown averaged 14.2 ppg. He shot 44% from the floor, including 37% behind the arc.

“Coming over here with Coach Pop was probably the best thing I could have done for my career,” Brown said. “I learned things as a gentleman and on the court. He gave me court skills and life lessons.”

Smith, who transferred from Tennessee two years ago, didn’t really start playing basketball until he got to Eastside.

“He was our sixth man,” Williams said. “If he would have had enough time, he would have been one of the best players in this area. He was someone I really enjoyed coaching.”

Smith averaged 3.4 ppg and 4.1 rebounds per game.

“The opportunity to play at the next level means a lot to me,” Smith said via text. “It’s always been my dream to play at the next level and it also gave me the opportunity to further my education. I would like to thank all the coaches that recruited me and took a chance a with me.”

The three signees gives the Rams’ program a total of five in the past four years, joining Bradley (Florida Memorial) last year and Malik Robertson (Trinity College of Florida) in 2018.

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