Brandon’s McKenzie Dennis Named FOI Athlete Of The Week

Florida Orthopaedic Institute has named McKenzie Dennis from Brandon High School as the Athlete of the Week. (FOI)

TAMPA, FL — Florida Orthopaedic Institute has named McKenzie Dennis from Brandon High School as the Athlete of the Week for the week ending May 10.

Dennis, a senior leader for the Brandon cheerleading squad, was nominated by head coach Michella Burney for her selfless attitude and dedication to her team.

"McKenzie is a head cheer captain," Burney said. "She has led her team for two consecutive years. She is very talented. This shows not only in cheer but academically as well as she holds a 3.8 GPA. She loves to serve her community and the others around her."

Always seeking new accomplishments, Dennis sets many goals for herself and does everything in her power to achieve them.

"During the cheer season, my goals included making it to states, gaining new tumbling skills and being a motivational captain," Dennis said. "Now that flag football has started, I want to win states while staying positive and in shape throughout the long season."


As an already established gymnast and an avid thrill seeker, Dennis says that she loves getting others to be the best that they can be.

"What motivated me to get started was my background in gymnastics," Dennis said. "I wanted to be involved in high school. I love being active and encouraging people to be better, so being captain of the cheerleading team for two years in a row helped me with doing so. I started cheer my freshman year and then started flag football as a senior to try new things."

Dennis wants other athletes to know that times may get tough and situations might seem uncertain. However, one must keep believing in themselves and never give up.

"One thing I learned when I ended my last cheer season early due to injury was that you can’t take a practice or moment for granted," Dennis said. "You never know when it could be taken away.

Another thing I learned was that just because I was on the sideline for the last couple competitions, the team still looked up to me as if I was on the mat with them. Being encouraging on the mat is just as important as when you’re off the mat. Stick it out. Do what you have to do. Be supportive through it all."

Florida Orthopaedic Institute’s Athlete of the Week campaign is designed to focus on student-athletes, recognizing them for their hard work and dedication both on and off the field. The Athlete of the Week award can be earned by displaying one of the following characteristics:
Team Player: Athletes who are nominated for excellence in team play are chosen by a coach who feels the athlete does his or her best to put direction into action, makes a significant contribution to the team and continuously works to improve his or her skills, attitude and training.
Leadership: Athletes who earn the award in recognition of excellent leadership must exemplify strong relationship building skills, show excellent initiative and serve as role models for his or her peers.
To view past winners, follow this link.

Founded in 1989, Florida Orthopaedic Institute is Florida’s largest orthopedic group and provides expertise and treatment of orthopedic-related injuries and conditions, including adult reconstruction and arthritis, chiropractic services, foot and ankle, general orthopedics, hand and wrist, interventional spine, musculoskeletal oncology, orthopedic trauma, physical medicine and rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapy, sports medicine, shoulder and elbow, spine and chiropractic services, among others.

The organization treats patients throughout its surgery centers in North Tampa and Citrus Park, two orthopaedic urgent care centers in South Tampa and Brandon, and nine office locations in Bloomingdale, Brandon, Citrus Park, North Tampa, Northdale, Palm Harbor, South Tampa, Sun City Center and Wesley Chapel. For more information, click here.

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Black Man Kicked Out Of Brandon Starbucks After Using Restroom

Lorne Green says he was racially profiled at the Regency Square Starbucks. (Google Earth)

BRANDON, FL — A black customer plans to file a lawsuit against the Starbucks in Regency Square, 2350 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, after he said he was racially profiled and harassed by employees when he used the restroom and then cited for trespassing by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies.

Lorne Green, 44, said he went into the coffee shop April 22 to meet with a client. He went into the restroom before placing an order and said he heard a female employee say, "A big black man is going to the bathroom."

Once inside, Green heard someone knocking on the door.

This incident comes almost one year after two black men were forced out of a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Starbucks responded by closing down all of their stores for one day last May to conduct racial bias sensitivity training. by @TrevorPettiford— Spectrum Bay News 9 (@BN9) May 8, 2019

Green, with Jasmine Rand, a civil rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, by his side, told his story at a May 8 press conference.

"This incessant knocking starts," said Rand. "Knocking on the door, over and over again. ‘Do you need fire rescue? Do you need fire rescue?’ And it became very clear that asking him if he needed fire rescue was not actually about helping Mr. Lorne. Simply, all my client did was use the bathroom while black."


Green said he became nervous, so he called Starbucks’ corporate offices and talked to a representative while still in the restroom.

Green and his attorney played an excerpt from his 22-minute call with the corporate office during the press conference.

Starbucks representative: "Ah, so you feel like this is racially motivated?"

Green: "It is, very! I walked in, she immediately, not even five minutes, she goes, ‘A black male went inside’ and called the police on me before I even got in the bathroom. I didn’t know what was on the other side of that door cause no one identified who they were and it felt like a crowd of people, and I was thinking, ‘Do you really want to open this door right now?’"

When Green finally left the restroom, he said he was confronted by an "angry and hostile white female employee," who called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office after Green admittedly confronted the woman and used foul language.

When deputies arrived, they issued Green a trespass citation and asked him to leave the coffee shop.

Green, a public insurance adjuster, said he often meets clients at Starbucks, and always makes purchases at the coffee shop during those meetings.

"I have never experienced anything like to this degree. This is extreme," said Green.

Starbucks issued the following statement about the incident:

We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and take this type of accusation very seriously. We are conducting an investigation to understand what happened and will take appropriate action.

Following a lawsuit filed against a Philadelphia Starbucks in April 2018 in which Starbucks employees were accused of racial profiling in a similar incident regarding use of the shops restroom, Starbucks publicly announced a new policy that states anyone is free to use its restrooms even without a purchase. The company also closed its more than 8,000 coffee shops across the country on May 29, 2018, to conduct racial bias training.

Green said he plans to file a lawsuit against Starbucks. In the meantime, he demanded that the female employee be fired and that the trespass citation against him be dismissed. Patch has contacted Rand but there is no word yet on whether his demands have been met.

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Lockridge is Healthy and Contributing with RiverDogs

Brandon Lockridge doesn’t take anything for granted when playing the game he loves. “I just try to play every single game like it’s my last game, so I’m going to try to bust it, play 100 percent,” Lockridge said.

The outfielder is in his second year in the New York Yankees organization, currently playing with the Charleston RiverDogs of the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs.

Lockridge grew up in Pensacola, FL and played baseball at Pensacola Catholic High School. At first, there weren’t a lot of opportunities coming his way to play Division 1 NCAA baseball. “I had some small schools that recruited me out of high school. You could say I was a late bloomer coming out of high school. I didn’t grow until later so the big schools were already checked out,” Lockridge said.

Division 1 schools did eventually come calling, including one close to home. “I had an offer from the University of New Orleans, the University of North Florida, Troy, which was kind of my bigger schools. A bunch of junior colleges. I wanted to stay kind of close to home, and Troy was only two and a half hours away, so I decided to go.”

While at Troy, Lockridge not only proved he belonged but excelled. He ended up breaking Troy’s single-season record for triples, with seven, on his way to becoming the school’s all-time leader in that category with 14. Lockridge established that record in just three seasons. He also earned the ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his junior season when he only committed one error while registering 164 putouts for a .994 fielding percentage. This came after playing his first two seasons in the infield.

Despite those impressive numbers, Lockridge isn’t resting on his laurels. “I’m working every single day. I played my first two years in the infield in college and having only one year in the outfield behind me; I think there’s a way to get better every single day in some aspect of my game: first step, routes, route efficiency. We have a bunch of great coaches here with the Yankees that helped me with that side of it,” Lockridge said.

Lockridge finished his junior season at Troy with the expectation of being drafted. “There were teams calling kind of throughout day two. I got a call a few picks before the Yankees pick and it was like, ‘Hey, we have an offer on the table, will you take it?’ and I said, ‘of course.’ I haven’t looked back since then,” Lockridge said.

The Yankees selected Lockridge in the fifth round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft, and even though he still had a year of eligibility at Troy, he decided to make the jump to professional baseball. “I knew I had a chance to be drafted, so it wasn’t a surprise to me at the moment when it happened. I just felt like it’d be a better opportunity to just get my career started and that’s kind of how I did it,” he said of his decision to sign with the Yankees.

One of the tools that Lockridge showcases defensively in his game is speed. He looks to also take more advantage of that on the offensive side of his game. “I try to showcase my speed every chance I get whether it’s running the bases or in the outfield. Hit a ground ball in the infield; I’m going to try and beat it out every time, that’s how I play.” So far in 2019, he has stolen five bases in six attempts. “I’ve been working on (stealing bases) in instructional league and spring training. I need to utilize that part of my game more this year.”

Lockridge stands 6’1” with 185 lbs on his frame. He’s lean and quick, and he keeps that in mind when at the plate. “Utilize my speed. Not doing too much. At this point in my game, I’m a gap to gap kind of guy. Staying within myself and keeping a middle of the field approach every time. That kind of what plays for me,” Lockridge said of his approach.

Lockridge also talked about having a familiarity to help him transition from his first professional season to his second. “It’s a huge difference maker. When I first got here in the summer, I didn’t know anybody, didn’t know the coaches. You feel a little more nervous, on edge when you don’t know anybody, but now after playing the summer on two different teams, instructional league, strength camp, spring training, I mean I know everybody now. You feel like everyone believes in you and it’s a great family atmosphere.” Lockridge is reunited with Staten Island teammates Kyle Gray, and Eric Wagaman, among others. “They’re great teammates, and great guys and I like surrounding myself with those kinds of people.”

A thumb injury shortened Lockridge’s first season, but he worked his way back, and the thumb is fully healed. “It was a freak accident that happened. Trainers and everyone were super helpful with me. They sent me to the best doctor, surgeon and I got it taken care of so I could be back for instructional league, and I’ve been great ever since,” Lockridge said. “It was very frustrating. Obviously, you want to be on the field every chance you can get but it came at the end of the season so doing the rehab after that and staying around and being in Tampa rehabbing by myself while my teammates are playing, it sucked. It’s pretty tough on that side of it. But I came back, and everyone was super encouraging, and here I am now, so I’m thankful.”

Lockridge prepared himself for the challenge of a 140 game season. “There are some times where you feel like you need to work harder physically and rather than just getting the quantity you need, less reps, more quality rather than just taking swings with no purpose in mind.”

He rested up his legs and participated in Yankees Strength Camp during the offseason. “At the end of the season, I was pretty worn down last season between college and my first professional season, and I had lost some weight. Put a little bit of weight back on. I needed some time for my legs to recover. Had a great time and went to strength camp with the Yankees for three weeks. Came in and worked out locally in Pensacola.”

Lockridge has invested himself entirely in the Yankee philosophy. “Respect the game, and good things happen. That’s kind of what the Yankees want us doing. I try to showcase my speed every chance I get whether it’s running the bases or in the outfield. Hit a ground ball in the infield; I’m going to try and beat it out every time, that’s how I play.”

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Sunday Real Estate: Mansion With Hair Salon, Home Theaters, More

This Florida mansion comes with its own hair salon. (Via

LAKELAND, FL — This week’s Sunday Real Estate takes you to Parkland, Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakeland. We visit a mansion that comes with its own very own hair salon and others that boast amazing views along with high-end home theaters.

You can find all of these homes and other great properties on

PARKLAND, FL — If you enjoy getting your hair done but hate leaving home, we have just the property for you. "Touch up and trim your own hair or give your friends a stylish up-do from your… Read more

SARASOTA, FL — This $7.1 million mansion offers breathtaking views, private beach access and a private dock with enough room for two boat lifts. Bury your toes in your own private beach, fish… Read more

BRADENTON, FL — This Bradenton estate will set you back $1.7 million. Surrounded by live oaks and and protected wetlands. The home boasts an elegant driveway that evokes a sense of grandeur. … Read more

LAKELAND, FL — This $1.6 million Lakeland home boasts lake and sunset views. "Prepare to be enchanted. This uber luxurious Grasslands home, built in 2008 is ideally situated at the beginning… Read more

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5 Brandon Area Foreclosures To Check Out


BRANDON, FL — Do you feel like reasonably priced houses are pretty difficult to find in your community? No harm in checking out the foreclosed properties on the market. You could very well find your dream home in the rough!

Here’s a list of five new foreclosures on the market near you — many of them surprisingly affordable for their size and location.

Below, you’ll find an address, photo, price and size for each property on our list — including one with 3 beds and 1 bath for $110,000, and another with 4 beds and 3 baths for $188,500.

Want more information on one of the listings? Just click on any address to learn more. Enjoy!


Price: $188,500
Size: 2,243 sq. ft., 4 beds, and 3 baths

Price: $280,000
Size: 2,297 sq. ft, 4 beds, and 4 baths

Price: $110,000
Size: 891 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 1 bath

Price: $155,000
Size: 1,475 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 2 baths

Price: $190,000
Size: 2,118 sq. ft., 4 beds, and 3 baths

Hungry for more options? Keep scrolling for more listings. Or there’s always a full list of local foreclosures in our real-estate section for the Brandon area.

Photos courtesy of

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Brandon: 5 Latest Homes To Hit The Market


BRANDON, FL — On the hunt for a new house nearby, but getting tired of looking through the same old real-estate listings every time you search online? With our weekly list of new properties in your area, you can be sure you’re not missing anything.

Below, you’ll find the five latest homes to hit the market in the Brandon area — including one with 2 beds and 2 baths for $107,000, and another with 4 beds and 3 baths for $335,000.

Looking for more photos and information? Just click on any address to learn more. Happy house hunting!

Price: $279,900
Size: 2,625 sq. ft., 5 beds, and 3 baths

Price: $138,900
Size: 1,398 sq. ft, 2 beds, and 3 baths

Price: $335,000
Size: 2,948 sq. ft., 4 beds, and 3 baths

Price: $107,000
Size: 811 sq. ft., 2 beds, and 2 baths

Price: $310,000
Size: 2,137 sq. ft., 3 beds, and 3 baths

Hungry for more? Keep scrolling for more listings. Or you’ll always find a complete list of nearby homes in our real-estate section for the Brandon area.

Photos courtesy of

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‘He poisoned her mind’: Florida man tried to marry 12-year-old niece, prosecutors say

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. By

A Florida man was sentenced to 37 years in federal prison last week after a jury found that he sexually abused and tried to marry his 12-year-old niece, federal prosecutors said.

Mirza Hussain, a 56-year-old immigrant from Pakistan, brought his sister, brother-in-law and two nieces to live with him in Brandon, Florida, after they won an immigration lottery and moved to the United States from Bangladesh in 2010, according to court records.

The family from Bangladesh was “culturally isolated, had no jobs, little money, lacked transportation, and struggled to communicate,” prosecutors said, adding that they were “at least initially, alone and completely dependent on Hussain for housing and transportation.”

Hussain’s wife soon started to notice “strange behavior” between her husband and his niece, who was 11 and 12 at the time, according to prosecutors. Eventually Hussain’s wife called child services to report suspected child abuse — and then the wife moved out, as did the niece and her family, prosecutors said.

In January 2012, the niece’s parents called Hillsborough County authorities to report that they’d discovered “sexually charged messages” between Hussain and the niece, as well as explicit photos, prosecutors said. Authorities said even more cellphones were turned over to police later, showing ongoing sexually explicit contact.

The texts included Hussain “professing his love for her and his intention to marry her, discussing sex with her, soliciting naked photographs from her, and asking her to masturbate for him,” federal prosecutors in Tampa said in a news release on Monday. Prosecutors said Hussain “also manipulated her into falsifying reports claiming that her parents were abusing her.”

Hussain was convicted on charges of enticement of a minor, document fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was found guilty during a one-week trial in January, prosecutors said. Hussain is a U.S. citizen.

“This criminal put his own agenda first, hurting his own family,” U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Tampa Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero said in a statement. “He thought he could get away with his despicable behavior by lying and blaming others for his actions.”

Prosecutors said that while Hussain hosted the family at his home, he bought phones, jewelry and tight clothes for the young girl. He “sexually battered his niece and started living with her openly as if she were his spouse — in front of her family and his wife,” prosecutors said in the news release.

Hussain went to Bangladesh in November 2012 and got a fake birth certificate in the niece’s name, which said she was born in 1995 rather than in 1998, prosecutors said. Hussain then got United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a new Legal Permanent Resident card for the girl based on the falsified age, court records said.

Then, in November 2013, Hussain showed up at the niece’s parents’ home with the residency card, showing it to the girl’s parents as “proof” that their daughter “was a newly-minted 18-year-old,” according to court records.

Her parents called Tampa police, and when officers responded the parents showed authorities the girl’s Bangladeshi passport to demonstrate she was a minor born in 1998 — not an 18-year-old, court records said.

Federal prosecutors said Hussain was “as calculated as he was manipulative, possessive and jealous.” He even tried taking the girl to nightclubs and bars, court records said.

“Hussain did not simply lure his niece into a brief romantic and sexual encounter,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum that called him an “aggressive child predator” and recommended life in prison. “He poisoned her mind, isolated her by turning her against her parents, and brainwashed her into believing that he and she were in love and destined to marry.”

The girl’s father testified at trial that Hussain had taken his daughter “to the bad side,” according to court records.

The abused girl said in a victim-impact letter that she fears that “had the family not left Hussain’s house, Hussain would have eventually abused her younger sister,” who was just 5 or 6 in 2010 when the family moved in, court records said.

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Thief Makes Off With Flood Lights At Famous Tate In Brandon

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a thief who stole seven floodlights from the Brandon Famous Tate store.

BRANDON, FL — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a thief who stole seven floodlights from the Brandon Famous Tate store.

On April 2, a worker noticed floodlights missing around the property at 1015 E. Brandon Blvd. Surveillance video showed a white man riding a bike on the property around 2:30 a.m. that morning.

The floodlights were valued at about $180.

Anyone who recognizes the man is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 813-247-8200 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).

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Mercer County natives Ben Ruta, Brandon Wagner prepared to take on Double-A with hometown Thunder

Ben Ruta, left, and Brandon Wagner, right, talk to reporters during the Trenton Thunder’s media day press conference. Both are Mercer County natives. (John Berry/ Trentonian Photo)

TRENTON — Ben Ruta will never tire of the feeling that comes with walking into the home clubhouse at Arm & Hammer Park.

When you’re from Mercer County, it’s a rite of passage to head to the waterfront for a Thunder game during the summer. When Ruta was assigned to the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, he couldn’t wait to get started.

"When you say it’s a homecoming, it’s a full circle moment," said Ruta, a West Windsor native who played in high school at West Windsor-Plainsboro South.

"Even last year, coming back I felt really, ‘Wow, I’m in the clubhouse now because when you’re a kid that’s what you dream of,’" he continued. "That feeling I thought it might go away, but walking in today, it’s like the same feeling every year. A lot of kids probably dream of this, but I accomplished it. It’s an awesome feeling."

He’s not alone when it comes to Mercer County talent in the clubhouse this season. Princeton native Brandon Wagner, an infielder who played his high school ball at Immaculata in Somerville, is also on the Opening Day roster.

"I remember the Derek Jeter rehab game and showing up for batting practice and seeing him walking around," Wagner said. "We have a picture somewhere in my house of that game. That comes to my mind, walking on the same field he rehabbed on and walking in the clubhouse."

Ruta, 24, and Wagner, 23, have struck up quite the friendship since both were drafted by the Yankees — Wagner in the sixth round in 2015 and Ruta in the 30th in 2016. They roomed together on the road while teammates for the bulk of the summer at High-A Tampa last season. They actually faced off once in high school during spring break trip to Florida with Wagner’s Immaculata beating Ruta’s WW-PS thanks to a Wagner home run. "I think I made two errors (at shortstop). That’s why I’m an outfielder now," Ruta recalled.

"It’s also good to have another guy to bounce ideas off of," Ruta said. "It’s like, ‘I’m going to change this a little bit, what do you think?’ We have a good relationship where we trust each other a lot with being open to changes. He’ll give me an honest answer, I’ll give him an honest answer. It’s good to have a guy like that who you’re working out with and going through the season with."

Both got a brief taste of Double-A last year. Ruta was a surprise selection to begin the season in Trenton despite not featuring at all at the High-A level. He posted a team-best .314 average in 36 games before he was unlucky to be optioned to Tampa for the remainder of the season.

In 119 total games, Ruta slashed .300/.350/.441 with eight homers, 53 RBIs and 37 stolen bases.

"It’s nice to have that experience to fall back on this year because it’s not anything new now and I know what to expect," Ruta said. "I know that I can compete at this level. I’m definitely going to look back on those experiences from last year and lean on them to try and get off to a similar start. Just going into this season with that confidence that you’ve already been at this level and had some success is something that kind of put your mind at ease."

Wagner, meanwhile, was promoted from High-A for the season’s final 37 games where he batted .262. His overall numbers across 124 games were solid as he slashed .267/.380/.461 with 21 homers and 67 RBIs.

"It’s just fine-tuning the game," Wagner said. "Realizing that going from High-A to Double-A, the pitching is a little bit better. The big thing was missing a pitch. I missed a lot of pitches early in the count and guys have better strikeout stuff. For me in the offseason, it was just fine-tuning the swing a little bit more."

The Yankees also deemed him the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year.

"It’s a great accomplishment, but I couldn’t haven’t done without the teammates, especially at High-A," Wagner said. "You go up and down that lineup, and anybody could have got that award."

The award, Wagner said, is at his home "in the kitchen," so he’ll get to see it plenty for however long he remains with the Thunder.

"I think it’s pretty easy to come home," said Wagner, who ate at PJ’s Pancake House in Princeton as soon as he got in from Florida. "Other guys are looking for houses, apartments, places to live and for us we’re able to just get back and concentrate on baseball now."

"It’s always nice to be home and be familiar with the area and just put all the unknowns at ease because we’re so familiar with it," Ruta said. "To have another guy to share it with is even better because we can talk about Princeton and got out or talk about breakfast. Where you going? I know this spot, he knows that spot."

Ultimately, the B&B Boys or "whatever you want to call it," as Ruta put it, are chasing the same goal.

"Hopefully," Ruta said, "instead of moving down, moving up this year."

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