There was no fast in Tampa Prep's fastbreak, and the lethargy was making Joe Fenlon livid. "That was an absolutely pathetic effort," the Terrapins' 26th-year coach yelled during this recent evening practice. A few more scalding observations were strung together as the players stood silently, panting and awaiting Fenlon's next directive. Then just before ordering the resumption of the fullcourt drill, Fenlon barked a profound command, the response to which might determine the outcome of a season brimming with promise:
"Don't get caught up in who the heck you think you are!"
Such are the lofty projections for the 2009-10 Terps.
Nothing, short of themselves, appears capable of stopping them until they reach Lakeland. Ask Fenlon to cite his biggest concern for the season, and he pauses momentarily before saying, "Losing focus."
They haven't lost much else.
Four starters are back from a 26-5 club that came within a controversial last-second foul of making the Class 2A state final. Among them are 6-foot-5 senior Jay Bowie and 6-4 classmate Jamal Cherry, Fenlon's top scorers and rebounders last season.
There's size, senior leadership, depth and some scary good youngsters. Among them: 6-6, 230-pound Oldsmar Christian transfer and sophomore forward Quincy Mitchell, 6-2 sophomore guard Devontae Morgan and freshman guard Josh Heath, sibling of senior guard Jordan Heath and son of USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath.
"There's no drop-off in talent level from the starters to the bench players," Cherry said.
His coach concurs.
"Do we have that McDonald's All-American? No, but we can be as deep as we were then," Fenlon said, referring to the Casey Sanders-led Terps teams of the mid 1990s.
"At this level of basketball, if you're deeper than your opponent, that's usually a good thing. With us only losing one starter …we have cohesion and know what to expect. And they're also a year older."
Should the Terps avoid losing their heads — or an early-round playoff game — a treacherous field likely awaits in the 2A state tournament, where they would try to give their coach his first title.
Weston Sagemont, for example, has a 7-foot, 270-pound senior who has committed to Syracuse. There also is tube sock terror Port St. Joe, which has defeated Fenlon's clubs four times at state.
Then again, such teams also can't afford to get caught up in who the heck they think they are.
"That's why they play the games," Fenlon said.
"We had a McDonald's All-American and went to state three times and didn't win it."