The Umatilla High School Bulldogs Basketball team has surged into the 2023 season with an impressive 2-0 record, securing victories against East Ridge and Seven Rivers Christian to kick off the 23/34 campaign.
After a standout 21-6 season in the previous year, where the Bulldogs clinched a spot in the FHSAA Playoffs, the team’s remarkable turnaround is a testament to their resilience. Merely four years ago, the squad struggled, managing only four wins throughout the season.
(Senior #1 Jalen Pressley brings a ton of senior leadership to the team. He plays with a big heart and the Bulldogs are happy to have a player of his caliber on the team.)
Illustrating the magnitude of the transformation, from 2013 to 2019, Umatilla accumulated a mere 15 victories, suffering 100 defeats. However, the 2022/2023 season, under the leadership of Coach Patrick Todd, saw a resurgence, matching the total wins of the preceding six year span during the 13-19 seasons.
Patrick Todd, an experienced coach with over 500 wins in his high school and college career, took the reins three years ago, instigating a remarkable shift in the program. Under his guidance, Umatilla has witnessed a surge in both talent and commitment, with players excelling academically and athletically.
(Coach Patrick Todd when he was with Florida College. Coach Todd has over 500 wins on his resume. He knows how to build successful programs.)
“I want my boys to be the team that they can be. Umatilla is such a great community with some amazing athletes, and I believe in this program and everything it stands for,” remarked Coach Todd, emphasizing the importance of academics alongside athletic achievement.
Highlighting the team’s academic prowess, Todd proudly mentioned, “We have 12 of our 14 players on the team as straight A students, which to me is even more important.”
On the court, Umatilla boasts a roster of exciting players, including senior Jadon Gibbs, who averages 10 points per game. Senior Artis James and sophomore Herly Brutus have paced the team with 12 points per game. Brutus, standing at 6’6″, dominates the boards with an impressive 11 rebounds per game. Brutus is one player who will be a key role on both sides of the ball this season.
(Artis James has had an instant impact to the team already this year. James is averaging 12 points per game.)
Senior point forward Jalen Pressley, a key player contributing to the team’s chemistry, expressed, “We just have good team chemistry. These guys are like brothers. Each one has a role, and they do exactly as asked. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to go into this season with.”
Artis James echoed Pressley’s sentiments, stating, “Playing for coach Todd has been great for my career. Coach Todd is like a father figure. He gets the most out of us on and off the court.”
(From left to right Jalen Pressley, Artis James and Jadon Gibbs. All three boys are seniors. They bring a ton of leadership to this Umatilla program and have built great chemistry on the court this season.)
Looking ahead, the Bulldogs face a challenging path in Class 4A District 6, competing against formidable teams such as Eustis, South Sumter, The Villages, and Dunellon. Despite the tough competition, optimism abounds, with aspirations of securing a playoff berth for the second consecutive year. Umatilla does not play a ton of district competition this season but the team will get the chance to find their identity by the time districts are among us in late January.
(#23 senior Jadon Gibbs is shooting 80% from the field to begin the 2023/24 season. He is one of the many leaders for Umatilla and is about as reliable as they come when shooting under pressure.)
As the Umatilla Bulldogs continue to ascend in Central Florida, they emerge as a team to watch closely as the season unfolds. Good luck to the Umatilla Bulldogs!