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North Suncoast girls basketball preview

Mike Quarto speaks with confidence when projecting the path ahead. His calculated bravado is as honest an assessment he has offered since he began coaching Gulf in 2003.

"We're going to be very competitive," Quarto said with emphasis.

Translation: look out.

His words are reminiscent of his projections four years ago when he had a team loaded with similar talent. That's when players like Dominique English, Tiara Cook, Santana Lennon and Turquoise Sampson led the Buccaneers to the program's first region final and a school-best 29-2 record in Class 4A.

One difference this season: Quarto believes this team can win the Class 3A state title after moving down a classification.

And it's not just Gulf. Quarto said he expects Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch to be in the hunt as well. But even those coaches, Karim Nohra (Wesley Chapel) and Greg Finkel (Wiregrass Ranch), have conceded Gulf begins the season with a bull's-eye on its back.

"This team is deeper than we've had in the past," Quarto said. "We have more balance than we've had in the past. We have post players and guards."

The addition of transfers such as sophomores Lani Paselio (Mitchell) and Asia Spencer (Ridgewood) could prove key. Quarto lovingly calls Spencer "Baby Barkley," after NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. They will mix in with Coppin State signee Kianna Mills and Division-I prospect Nicole Adams, the reigning North Suncoast Player of the Year.

Of course, Gulf knows it simply cannot show up and win. There's a mentality that goes with talent.

"Our attitude is we are hungry," Adams said. "We want the reputation that we can beat teams."

The Bucs will test their mettle against some of the bay area's best, including Clearwater, Boca Ciega and Tampa Catholic.

This year's preseason focus was conditioning.

"Last year, we did more scrimmaging," Adams said. "This year we really got out on the track, ran the bleachers, ran miles, sprints and carried 25-pound weights across the field."

The question is whether it will all pay off.

"We have goals we want to achieve," Quarto said. "I want to be the first program from west Pasco to go to a final four."

New districts

Class 5A, District 7: Central, Ocala Forest, Springstead, Ocala West Port

Class 4A, District 8: Citrus, Hernando, Land O'Lakes, Lecanto, Nature Coast, River Ridge, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills

Class 4A, District 7: Anclote, Gulf, Hudson, Pasco, Mitchell, Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel

Class 2A, District 10: Bishop McLaughlin, Brooks-DeBartolo, Calvary Christian, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep

Class A, District 9: Academy at the Lakes, Cambridge, Canterbury, Carrollwood, Keswick Christian, Lakeside Christian, Tampa Bay Christian

North Suncoast Super Seven

1. Gulf: The Buccaneers hope to benefit from some key transfers and a tough schedule.

2. Wesley Chapel: Wildcats lose Janel Mills, and Nohra will consider a starting lineup with two freshmen.

3. Wiregrass Ranch: The same core of players since the school opened. Deep bench with a 10-player rotation.

4. Nature Coast: Coach Travis Lamle has eight varsity players though Tory Hadaway begins the season with a wrist injury sustained during volleyball. Also, Jenn Marshall will not play; she instead is focusing on softball.

5. Mitchell: Mustangs lose three key players, including the Kirkland sisters, who transferred to Clearwater.

6. Central: Raqurra Ishmar is expected to be back after missing last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

7. Hernando: Leopards are led by speedy guard Jasmire Brown.

Key players

F Regan Knapik, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch

F Kianna Mills, Sr., Gulf

F Kelly McCaffrey, So., Wiregrass Ranch

F Kara Carley, Sr., Hudson

F Alexis Helsand, Jr., Nature Coast

F Alyssa Joens, Sr., Nature Coast

G McKenzie Burns, Jr., Central

G Nicole Adams, Sr., Gulf

G Shantel Houston, Sr., Wesley Chapel

G Jasmire Brown, Sr., Hernando

G Hannah Nobel, Jr., Wesley Chapel

Key dates

Nov. 16: Wesley Chapel at Land O'Lakes

Nov. 17: Mitchell at Wiregrass Ranch

Nov. 19: Hudson at Gulf

Nov. 24: Central at Wiregrass Ranch

Nov. 27: Gulf at Boca Ciega

Dec. 2: Nature Coast at Wiregrass Ranch

Dec. 4: Wesley Chapel at Gulf

Dec. 12: Gulf at Tampa Catholic

Dec. 22: Holy Names at Wesley Chapel

Jan. 5: Nature Coast at Gulf

Jan. 15: Gulf at Wesley Chapel

North Suncoast girls basketball preview 11/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 1:33pm]
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