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Nature Coast is working on future

The Sharks have had a tough year but enter their district determined to build for next season.

By EMILY NIPPS
Published February 13, 2005


BROOKSVILLE - Nature Coast Tech went to bed happy after beating Tampa Catholic.

The Sharks were thrilled to defeat Hernando in January, and they bonded after turning back Central in double overtime.

In between, though, have been some tough times for Nature Coast. Losing 17 games in a season can start to wear on you. The Sharks will tell that themselves.

So what keeps them going? Why stick around on a team that averages just over a win per month?

The answer is simple.

"I like building things," sophomore forward Josh Ortiz said. "I hope we can come out and build a good program next year."

Ortiz's optimism seems to be shared by the rest of the Sharks, even as they enter a tough Class 3A, District 6 Tournament seeded fifth - the lowest spot.

Nature Coast will play Hernando in a Tuesday quarterfinal, which the Sharks have a shot of winning. If they don't win and their season ends, it's all good.

The Sharks will keep building.

"I do have a lot of hope," Ortiz said.

"Everyone has just about found what their roles are," he said. "We've been up and down all season and haven't been able to finish a game. But once we figure out how to finish a game, we'll be a good team."

Behind first-year coach Travis Priddy, Nature Coast Tech has not posted much improvement on its five-win 2003-04 season. At least, the Sharks haven't shown much progress on paper.

But any player on the team, including the only two returnees with varsity experience, will insist this season has been different.

Practices are run with enthusiasm and energy. Games are played with more spark and drive. Best of all, the Sharks are learning.

"We still have our strongest players coming back next year," junior guard Josh Gambrel said. "We're all going to get better. I don't think we've played to our full potential."

Priddy has talked to members such as Gambrel, Ortiz and junior Jon Woodbury about being team leaders next season and showing the underclassmen how to handle themselves on the court.

Those roles are important on a squad that has three sophomores getting many of the minutes and several sophomores and freshmen expected to come up from junior varsity. Nature Coast's JV began this season 0-2 but went on to win the next 13 out of 17 games.

Woodbury, one of the varsity team's leading scorers, said he is excited about the future of the Sharks - even if they still have some kinks to work out.

Their main problem, he said, is "not being basketball smart."

"We need to work on knowing when to slow down," Woodbury said. "Knowing when to pace ourselves."

After all, the young Sharks have plenty of time.

[Last modified February 13, 2005, 01:07:16]


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