SEFFNER — Nicknames are as much a part of sports as athletes themselves. Those more memorable — Prime Time, Magic and Crazy Legs — all speak to those players' athletic prowess.
Then there's Frodo, as in the diminutive main character from The Lord of the Rings.
"I know, it seems kind of mean," point guard Austin Parimore said. "I'm not even the shortest guy on our team. But I know it's all in good fun."
And that fun has spilled over onto the court this season for the Crusaders, especially of late. Seffner Christian (13-6 as of Tuesday) has won seven of its last nine, including four straight.
"We're playing good basketball right now," coach Roger Duncan said. "Our transition game is starting to get to where it needs to be and our defense has been there pretty much all year."
But things didn't always look so good for the Crusaders.
Parimore, who leads the team in steals, assists and court burns, pointed to an early-season blowout loss to Berkeley Prep. The loss was bad, but what happened afterward may have turned Seffner Christian's season around.
Parimore sat down with Duncan after the game and the two tried to figure out what went wrong. Parimore, the team captain, said he felt there were too many guys on the team who were just happy rolling the ball out and playing.
"We were lackadaisical and some guys didn't seem to care much whether we won or lost," he said. "That was a real turning point."
Duncan said that's when his senior point guard "really began exerting his leadership."
"The kid is just tough as nails and he leads by that work ethic," Duncan said. "Both his parents are coaches and I think that toughness comes from them."
Parimore's intensity can be seen on his knees and elbows. He's not afraid to hit the floor for a loose ball and has the scars to prove it.
"I've had to keep trying new sliding shorts to cover up all the strawberries on my knees," Parimore said. "They just keep ripping open."
Of the Crusaders' three losses following the Berkeley Prep game, none was by more than six points. The Crusaders have also been riding the strong play of Devin Paularinne. The 6-foot-4 junior center is averaging a team-high 20.8 points per game. Paularinne, who recently topped the 1,000-point milestone, has finished with 30 in three of his last four games.
"He's a bruiser in the post, but he can step out and hit from the outside as well," Duncan said. "He's definitely got a shot to play at the next level."
With just under two weeks left in the regular season, Duncan said the team might be peaking at the right time. The Crusaders reached the regional finals last year before falling to Bradenton Christian.
"Things have started to come together since the Christmas break," Duncan said. "If we keep shooting the ball like we have and the defense stays aggressive, I think we can make another deep run into the playoffs."