Red Devils coach Keith McClenny, second from right, and Derrick “Rock” George, right, talk to their players Thursday as the team gets ready to run drills at the Holly Hill YMCA.

By : Brent Woronoff / [email protected]

The Red Devils Basketball Academy is giving former high school players who didn’t receive college offers a second chance.

DAYTONA BEACH — A year ago, Antonio Ruby didn’t feel like he had much of a future.

“Nothing was really going my way,” said the 2012 Atlantic High grad, who was a basketball star with the Sharks but didn’t receive any firm college scholarship offers.

“I was taking classes at (Daytona State College), but I withdrew. I worked at a call center, taking calls,” he said. “But I was like, ‘I’ve got to play basketball again ... somehow.’ “

Now he is playing again, and next year he expects to play in college.

Ruby, a 6-foot-7 forward, is the leading scorer for the Red Devils Basketball Academy’s post-graduate team, which will play against Daytona State College at 4 p.m. today at the Lemerand Center.

The Red Devils is one of many post-grad programs popping up around the country trying to give second chances to players who have fallen through the cracks.

The team, which currently has eight players on its roster, practices at the Holly Hill YMCA. The Red Devils have a 30-game schedule with all the games on the road against junior colleges, four-year college JV teams and other post-grad teams.

Keith McClenny, the academy’s owner/head coach, started the program seven years ago with assistant Derrick “Rock” George to help develop former high school players and give them a chance to play college basketball. College recruiters attend the games and McClenny and George also send film of their players to colleges all over the Southeast.

They also do their own recruiting.

“We try to look out for Volusia County kids like Antonio and Shane Jones,” McClenny said.

Jones, a former Atlantic teammate of Ruby’s, told Ruby about the program.

“Shane’s been out of high school for two years,” McClenny said. “We reached out to him in New Smyrna. We went looking for this kid. We really want to help him get to school. He has academic problems. We have him in a school where he’s trying to get his high school diploma.“

Jones is already getting looks from Florida A&M, Johnson & Wales and Florida Memorial, McClenny and George said. Ruby has a long list of junior colleges and small four-year schools that are looking at him, his coaches said.

“I’m really interested in (NAIA power) Northwood,” said Ruby, a versatile forward who has been averaging more than 20 points per game for the Red Devils this season.

Point guard Kevin Tuggerson, a 2011 graduate of Ocala West Port, said he started getting interest from Johnson & Wales, an NAIA team, and some JUCO schools right after the Red Devils’ first game this season against State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota.

“I think this is a great program,” Tuggerson said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to get an education and get somewhere in life. We’ve got a lot of good players on this team, and everybody’s got a lot of heart. Everybody wants to follow their dreams. And our dream is to play basketball somewhere.“

Other Red Devils players who now expect to play in college next year include Raheem Freeman, a 2013 graduate of Ocala Vangard, who is looking at Manatee and Polk State; Glen Owen, a 2013 graduate of Ocala St. John Lutheran, who said he has two offers from NAIA schools but is leaning toward going to a JUCO; and Josh Nunn of Ocala Vanguard, who is looking at several small schools.

Derrick Kirk-Turner, a 2012 graduate of Pontiac (Mich.) High School, said he practiced with DSC last year as a walk-on but wasn’t on the roster and will play his first game with the Red Devils on Saturday.

McClenny, a former player at Mainland High and assistant coach at Father Lopez, said 18 former Red Devils players have gone on to play in college. Most of them have had the grades but didn’t get much exposure when they were in high school.

“I’m on the road all the time,” George said. “I talk to a lot of college coaches, and they don’t come to Daytona to recruit high school kids. If a kid from here gets a chance to go to college (out of high school), he’s been with an AAU team outside of Daytona and was seen.”

“We’d like to see Daytona become a basketball town again like it used to be,” McClenny said.

The yearly fee for the program is $10,500, which pays for everything from equipment and travel to medical insurance and ACT prep courses. There is also a housing and meal plan option, said McClenny, who has given discounts to locals to get them into the program. He said in the future he hopes to get area businesses on board to help sponsor local kids.

“My grandma is helping me (pay for the program,)” Ruby said. “She knows how much I love basketball, and it’s helped me so much. I’m working hard, trying to get better. It’s helping me get back into school. Without a scholarship I wouldn’t be able to get back.”

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