It might not be able to guarantee victories just yet, but this year's Durant High boys basketball is bound to be worth the price of admission.
The Cougars are off to a fast start. Not record-wise, mind you, but that's still to come promises their head coach.
"We're tinkering around with a few things, but one thing's for sure, we've got some good offensive players," said Durant coach Trent Tice after his squad lost a close one at Tampa Bay Tech Monday night and dropped to 2-4 on the season.
That game gave a perfect glimpse of what the Cougars are about. The pace was frenetic. Early in the fourth quarter when fatigue might set in, Tice reminded his team to shoot the ball within 10 seconds of getting it.
"We love it," says senior Kyle White. "You might get a little tired, but just a little."
White put on a jaw-dropping display of shooting in the first quarter, scoring 16 points while the Cougars raced to a 10-point lead.
However Durant had trouble with defense and rebounding as the game wore on, and the Titans eventually pulled out an 81-75 victory in the wild back-and-forth game.
Trent Robertson, Durant's other offensive-minded senior guard, took his turn leading the way in the second half. Just as the Titans opened a five-point lead in the third quarter, Robertson sank a huge three-pointer followed by a fallaway 15-footer — helping the Cougars go up 59-51.
"With those two guys, we can be a dangerous team," Tice said. "I think we'll be really dangerous by the end of the season."
Robertson says it's as simple as being able to close out games.
Durant was able to pull off a one-point victory against Newsome but fell short after playing Wharton and Alonso close.
Robertson is doing his part. His 22-point effort Monday raised his scoring average to 16, while White ended with 27 points and is averaging 22 a game. The leadership role is something Robertson has taken by design.
"I spoke to some college coaches and they all said that you have to be vocal," said Robertson. "The vocal leaders stand out."
While hardly silent on the floor, White let's his shooting do most of the talking, in an equally confident manner.
That confidence never lacked but it took a dip last season. Durant went from being a 21-5 team that reached the regional final, to collecting just three wins after Andre Nation graduated and signed with James Madison.
"Last year we struggled," Tice said. "We lost our star player and teams focused more on Kyle."
The problem for White wasn't scoring. He averaged around 16 points a game. But he relied heavily on driving to the basket, and as a result ended up getting called for a number of charging fouls.
This summer White did something about it.
"Me and my brother Tyler just shot baskets in the backyard. Day and night," said White, while warning that Tyler — now an eighth-grader at Mulrennan — is pretty good too.
The results were major, as White now has a mid-range jump shot that not many high schoolers are able to take, much less hit, with any level of certainty. White can hit the three-point shot but doesn't look to very much, with teammates Robertson, Josh King and Jesse Coker more apt to fire from behind the arc.
"Kyle's like a throwback to some degree," Tice said. "No one in high school, really, makes that (mid-range) shot consistently."
Now it's a matter of putting together more complete efforts. Tice says big man Dontriel Perry, the football player trying his hand at basketball for the first time, will only get better and Durant's inside presence will improve.
And the 10 seconds to shoot concept, while probably not something Tice will implement every game, is still in line with the tempo he wants with the goal of wearing down the opponent.
Part of Durant's losing record had to do with moving up to a tough district, Class 8A-7, where the Cougars went 0-10. The Newsome victory snapped the district losing streak, but the schedule remains tough. Tonight the Cougars play at Bloomingdale and Tuesday they visit Wharton, one of the county's best teams.
After Christmas the Cougars will get in some more quality opponents as part of the Shorecrest Holiday Tournament in St. Petersburg. Durant starts off against Countryside on Dec. 27.