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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Courtney Whidden's confidence and aggression helped spark PHU.
By MEYLA HOOKER
Published March 20, 2005
If you didn't know any better, you would think Courtney Whidden was cocky.
The Palm Harbor University junior forward has that air about her.
Those who know Whidden, however, will tell you hard work and perseverance have made her extremely confident, not cocky.
"If I think there is a ball I can get, I'm going to get," Whidden said. "No question about it."
Whidden doesn't know when the transformation occurred.
Maybe it was when, after playing most positions in high school, her wish to play forward was granted this season.
Or maybe it was when Whidden realized she was talented enough to earn a college scholarship.
"Something just clicked in me over the summer," Whidden said. "I realized how much more I could accomplish if I tried harder. I got to the front and don't plan on going backwards."
Whidden posted 29 goals and 10 assists for the Class 5A runnerup. She would have had better statistics if not for coach John Planamenta's rule of removing a player after scoring three goals in any game.
But for the first time, statistics didn't matter to Whidden. The lanky, athletic kid who has played since she was 5 just wanted to win.
"Everything has always come easy for Courtney," Whidden's mother, Andrea, said. "I've seen such a different work ethic this year. She had some goals and went out and accomplished them."
Whidden's speed and ability to control the ball in any one-on-one situation make her one of the most versatile players in the county. All four major universities in Florida have contacted Whidden, who said she definitely wants to play in the state.
According to Planamenta, Whidden was the difference maker for the Hurricanes.
"It's simple; Courtney helped our team win," Planamenta said. "She has always been so naturally gifted, but this year she put all of that together. She's a tremendous asset to any team."
Whidden didn't set any individual goals this year. She wanted one thing: go to state and win.
The team got there, only to see its hopes dashed by a 3-0 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas in the championship game.
"Seeing how happy (St. Thomas) was while we sat on the field crying (upset her)," Whidden said. "I want to go out my senior year knowing we are the best team. That's what I want for next year. I don't want to leave any doubts about who is No. 1."