Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Springstead takes the long view on success

SPRING HILL — Pat Kelly put all thoughts basketball on paper.

When Springstead's second-year coach realized he had left the list of locker room talking points at home, he called his wife for a lifeline.

Kelly is careful not to overlook any detail in a marathon season he knows will ultimately end with a sprint to the finish. The latest brainstorming session came after Wednesday's 80-63 win over Gulf, which put the Eagles at 14-0.

Kelly noted there still was plenty of room for improvement.

On any given night, the Eagles are the juicy targets of any fast-trapping, zone-pressing, man-to-man defense. Opponents would love nothing more than to put them on a platter and declare themselves the first to stuff the Eagles with a loss.

But this roster chock full of talent isn't too full of itself to forget last year's stunning collapse.

The Eagles had started 15-1, but the season ended swiftly in a jaw-dropping 48-44 loss to Hudson in the Class 4A, District 8 tournament. They finished 22-5 without a playoff berth.

So excuse Kelly for not trumpeting his own horn in mid-January.

"We're not too worried about the record," Kelly said of 14-0. "We're focused on the only thing that matters, the end. People say the journey's important. My wife tells me to keep that in perspective. It encourages me, but so many people judge you by what happens in the end."

To be fair, the Eagles went into last year's district tournament without leading scorer Dante Valentine, who was out with an elbow injury.

The loss of a 20-point scorer at such a crucial time showed the Eagles the importance of depth.

Like many teams, Springstead spent the summer developing inexperienced players in local leagues where they sharpened their skills. Those courts were the place where Isaiah Mason began to mesh with Valentine and Dominique Roberson.

Mason, whose older brother Nehemiah was a top Eagles producer last season, leads Springstead in scoring, averaging 19.2 points to give the Eagles a nice inside presence and a new leading scorer. Valentine, a senior known for being gritty and tough, said being the top dog on the scoring sheet is irrelevant. He is second, averaging 16.5 points.

"We're 14-0," Valentine said. "If we go 28-0 because he's scoring more then I don't mind. I'll sit in the passenger's seat."

Focus has become a mantra this season.

Practices are not as loose because everyone understands the ramifications of a missed free throw, pass or dunk. Roberson said the Eagles had become complacent at this point last season because of the early successes.

"Losing defense like that really hurt us," Roberson said of the Hudson loss. "It gave us a gut check. I didn't want to eat the next morning. It felt terrible. It's not going down like that again."

On paper, the Eagles appear to have had few true challenges though they say otherwise. A seven-point win over Mitchell and an overtime battle over Gainesville Eastridge in the preseason were two of the tougher games.

Springstead has won most other games by double digits.

"We're further along because we've had more time," Kelly said. "It's the second year I've been here. Our program's progressing."

Springstead takes the long view on success 01/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 8, 2009 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Steven Souza's two passions collide in charity fantasy football event

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Steven Souza knows a thing or two about football.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston gets a hug from right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) after throwing the ceremonial first pitch of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 23, 2017.
  2. Vibe is good around Clearwater volleyball this season

    Volleyball Preps

    CLEARWATER — Katy Rice knows what a good volleyball team looks like, and the Clearwater coach believes she has a pretty good one this year. Rice was a left-side hitter on the only two teams to win a volleyball state championship at Clearwater, in 1997 and 2000.

    Clearwater High School girl's volleyball player Hailey Bosetti (OPP) plays the ball during team practice on Monday (8/14/17) at the school in Clearwater.
  3. Jameis Winston's subtle but strong moment of leadership displayed on 'Hard Knocks'


    Quarterback Jameis Winston went to each teammate in the locker room prior to the Bucs' preseason opener Friday at Cincinnati with one message: 'I got your back.'

    Then he proved it.

    Jameis Winston sarcastically tells offensive linemen James Stone and James Harrison he's glad glad they're having fun while quarterback Ryan Griffin is being attended to in the locker room by the Bucs medical staff. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
  4. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Highlights — and fights — from Jacksonville


    Greg Auman is back home after two days of joint practices between the Bucs and Jaguars in Jacksonville. He recaps those practices — and fights — and talks about highlights from Tuesday's episode …

    Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Kenneth Walker, right, cannot snag a pass against Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith during a joint NFL football practice Monday in Jacksonville. [Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union]
  5. Who's No. 2: Florida State Seminoles or Ohio State Buckeyes?


    The toughest decision in my first stint as a voter for the AP Top 25 came at the top.