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Pitch-perfect on the court

Craig Augustine knows he can't sing a cappella.

His two older brothers, sister and parents, Michelle Augustine-Fretz and Ed Fretz can, but as the Citrus junior likes to joke, "I can't sing a lick."

"And when I try they yell at me," Augustine said. "I'm scary."

Then a smile cracks across his face.

"So when we go out and play basketball, I tear them up," said Augustine, who at 6-foot-5 is 3 inches shorter than his oldest brother, Scott, 20, who never played basketball at Citrus.

That aggressive play is something Citrus coach Tom Densmore is seeing on the court this year after bringing Augustine up to varsity.

Densmore could have made the move last season. But instead of burying Augustine on the bench as a role player on a senior-laden team, he kept Augustine on junior varsity to give him more playing time.

After graduating a slew of talent, including Walter Howard, a Division I Citadel signee who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, the 'Canes needed all the help they could get.

Now Densmore is looking to Augustine to help fill that role.

With only two seniors, forward Dwann Ross and guard Craig Usher, Augustine is growing into a leadership role. As the 'Canes' tallest player, the forward/center is the traffic director who will see a lot of playing time.

Densmore looks for Augustine to be a consistent contributor who will produce 12 to 18 points and double-digit rebounds as "the 'Canes' rock."

During his first regular-season game, a 72-50 win over Central, Augustine didn't disappoint, with 14 points and 13 rebounds. He went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line with a 55.6 field goal shooting percentage.

"He's pretty dominant," junior teammate Jon Ear said.

Still, Augustine doesn't think he's the 'Canes' next go-to player as there is more parity on this year's team.

"Last year Walt would have 21 points, and the next closest person would have 10," Augustine said. "This year we all spread it around."

Densmore said Augustine has dramatically improved since last season, with more coordination and strength.

It's also a product of Augustine's preparation.

Since eighth grade, basketball is the only sport Augustine has focused on. The National Honors Society Student, who holds a 4.1 grade point average, began playing for Densmore's Junior Hurricane team as an 8-year-old and hasn't stopped playing since.

After living part of his childhood in Inverness, his family moved to Floral City, where his parents own 10 acres and have chickens, dogs, cat and rabbit, and a basketball hoop.

Augustine, who was the junior varsity's MVP last season, doesn't see himself as a vocal leader.

Instead he describes himself as a goofy guy who demonstrates his leadership on the court.

"I just come to play basketball and do my job," he said. "I'm one of the guys who goes with the flow."

Dawn Reiss can be reached at dreiss@sptimes.com or (352) 860-7303.

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