Season Wrap-up: Jabari Price

During its quest to prove critics wrong this past season, Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely leaned heavily on North Carolina commitment Jabari Price.

"Jabari, he had that attitude and that swag about him," Ely head coach Rodney Gray said. "I believed in him and he believed in me… He's not afraid to be on the island and actually wants to be on the island… And there's not too many times he was beat all year long."

For most of the season, Price lined up at cornerback across the opponent's top receiving target. The 5-foot-11, 171-pounder was thrown on only 23 times all season and made five interceptions and 12 pass breakups.

"I improved my ball skills," Price said. "During my junior year, I came away with one pick and a lot of breakups. This year, I developed a nose for the ball and ended up becoming a ball hawk cornerback – instead of just a cornerback with a lot of breakups."

Against run-oriented teams, though, Price played free safety.

"[Against run-oriented teams], I wasn't getting any action at cornerback," Price said. "So I was moved to free safety where I could roam the field free. At safety, it gives me the chance to play football, instead of being ignored."

Price ended the season with 39 tackles and forced five fumbles. He was named to the All-Broward County first team.

Despite its rich tradition, during the preseason Ely was projected by a local publication to go 3-7 and be the third best team in a county of three. Adding to the doubt was a controversial coaching change two games into the season.

"Coming into the season – even as an assistant coach – I just knew we had some special kids there and we could do some things if we worked hard," said Gray, who was promoted from assistant to head coach. "My biggest thing was to make all our doubters eat their words. Our attitude was us against the world all year long."

Having Price at his disposal was a big help in that objective.

"When you have a guy who says ‘Hey coach, I want so-and-so, I can play him all night,'" Gray said. "That makes game planning so much easier. I only have to worry about the ten other guys."

Additionally, Price made a positive impact on the team off the field.

"He became more vocal," Gray said. "He was more of a quiet kid [before this season]. He became more vocal by the end of the season. He built up the moral of the teammates around him and his confidence rubbed off, also."

Ely went 11-2 and nearly upset Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, the No. 1 team in the nation, in the FHSAA 5A Regional Finals.

"That game was big," Price said. "The energy, we had it all, and everybody brought their ‘A' game. But playing a good team like St. Thomas, the little mistakes ended up hurting us in the end."

For the first half of the Aquinas game, Price matched up against Rashad Greene, a junior who has already received a scholarship offer from Florida. In that half, Greene managed just one catch for four yards.

Ely switched to zone coverages for most of the second half.

On the recruiting front, Price switched his verbal commitment from Minnesota to UNC in early November.

"It's been on," Price said. "… Everything just seems to be connecting. I'm firmly committed to North Carolina. I'm very comfortable with my decision."

Regardless, Price's pledge hasn't prevented other schools from pursuing him. Most recently, he said, Miami and Michigan have shown interest.

Price, who officially visited UNC in October, says there's a 90-percent chance that he won't take any future official trips.

"If a big offer came in later, there's a chance I could visit [that school]," Price said. "Even if I visit, I don't think a visit could change my decision. I love North Carolina. As of right now, on Feb. 3 I'm signing with North Carolina."

Butch Davis and Troy Douglas, Price's primary recruiter, recently made an in-home visit with Price.

"[Davis] talked about academics, character, and the campus lifestyle," Price said.

Price expects to see playing time within his first two years at UNC.

"I know next year they have two returning seniors [at cornerback]," Price said. "If I don't get on the field my first year, I can learn from the underclassmen and hopefully get on the field the next season."

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