Underclassman of the Year: EJ Floreal

Peter Dennis, Columnist

With four minutes left in a league basketball game against Cupertino High School, Paly was down by six. After one play, the lead was cut to four. EJ Floreal (‘13) cut off a pass, streaked down the court and threw down a monstrous dunk. And with that, the game changed. The dunk invigorated the team, the bench and the stands. Paly ended up winning this crucial Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL) game, 45-42, extending their lead in the De Anza Division to two games, greasing their way to winning leagues.

“It was a momentum shifting move,” Floreal said. “Cupertino had been beating us the entire game and we put together a run in the second half and after I dunked it the intensity picked up, everyone played together and we were able to win.”

Floreal, the San Jose Mercury News Sophomore of the Year, carried Paly basketball to a 19-7 record and a SCVAL championship. Despite key seniors Max Schmarzo (‘11) and Davante Adams (‘11), Floreal was able to carve out a leadership role for himself, averaging 14.5 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game.

“EJ really led by example this year and contributed both offensively and defensively,” forward Tory Prati (‘12) said. “He plays hard and makes a lot of big plays.”

Floreal also  contributed to the team’s effort by playing with heart and doing the intangibles, as ascertained by guard Aldis Petriceks (‘13).

“He’s a very emotional player and plays with a lot of heart,” Petriceks said. “You always know if you mess up or miss a shot, he’s there to get a rebound. And it’s really comforting on defense because you know if someone gets into the lane, he’s there to help out and get a block.”

Prati agrees with Petriceks.

“His athleticism is incredible,” Prati said. “He is extremely gifted but he also works hard.”

Floreal’s athleticism, seen most visibly on the basketball court with his dunks and blocks, is also seen on the track. With an Olympic silver-medalist as a mother,and Stanford’s head track coach as a father, one would expect Floreal to be fast. In his first 400 meter race, Floreal ran nearly a sub-50 second time, a simply unheard of time for a rookie runner. His time of 50.57 seconds is the fastest 400 meter time in SCVALs. Floreal has the fastest 200 time (22.20 seconds) on the Paly team and the third fastest in SCVALS. He is also the anchor on 4×400 relay team.

“He will continue to be a leader through his performance and he will become a vocal leader,” Prati said. “Paly is lucky to have him.”