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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.
1. LARGO (17-11): The Nate Johnson-Ben O'Donnell backcourt is one of the best around, but the Packers also are big on the inside with Alex Gerhard and return the most talent.
2. CLEARWATER (27-2): Lost almost everyone, but Luke Loucks is back from injury and Nick Nickerson is the best of a few new additions that should keep the state runnerups in the playoff picture.
3. PALM HARBOR UNIVERSITY (9-17): A.J. Tyler is the best player in the district, and Adam Pegg could be down the road. Both are 6-10. The addition of Jordan Fair may help solve the Hurricanes' guard woes from last season.
4. EAST LAKE (16-7): The Eagles will lean on forward Jason Stypul and center David Buric, but sharpshooting junior PG Josh Garcia (13 ppg) holds the key for Eagles.
5. PINELLAS PARK: Three-point specialist Cam Carden and Farragut transfer James Smith should give the Patriots a backcourt that can compete with any in the district.
6. DUNEDIN (7-17): First-year coach Josh Walker will rely on Matt Gilghrest, who started 26 games as a sophomore, and Dominique Williams.
7. TARPON SPRINGS: The Spongers are back in a district with county schools, but not even a new coach will make it an easy transition.
F - Luke Loucks, Jr., Clearwater
Excellent court vision and a lockdown defender, Loucks will head up an all-new lineup at Clearwater this season.
F - A.J. Tyler, Sr., PHU
At 6-10, able to dominate inside but has the skills to bring the ball upcourt and hit the long jumper as well.
C - Adam Pegg, So., PHU
Could be district's top center with improved skills to go with 6-10 frame.
G - Nate Johnson, Sr., Largo and Cam Carden, So., Pinellas Park
Johnson led the Packers in scoring last year (13.1) and could again, and Carden is capable of being one of the district's top scorer.
G - Ben O'Donnell, Jr., Largo
Good enough that even at 5-9 colleges are checking out his ball-handling skills, outside check and breakneck pace.
A.J. TYLER, PHU: Tyler is headed to Clemson after rewriting the PHU record book last season as a junior. Though the 'Canes struggled, Tyler achieved great individual success. He was first-team all-county and all-Suncoast, and second-team all-state after averaging 22.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. He also set school records for points scored in a game (38) and rebounds (29). The first basketball player in the 10-year history of PHU to sign a Division I scholarship, Tyler could find greater success this season with a better team around him.
NICK NICKERSON, CLEARWATER: Twenty years ago, Rick Nickerson was Clearwater's MVP in consecutive seasons (1984-85, '85-86); now his son will try to follow in his footsteps. A move-in from Texas, where he lived with his mother, Nickerson is a 6-3 guard and explosive scorer who should shine for the graduation-depleted Tornadoes. Don't be surprised if he leads the team in scoring.
TOP THREE STORYLINES
1. DON'T CRY FOR ME: Clearwater played for the 5A championship last year, but lost all of its starters to graduation. Rebuilding year? Well, not quite. Nick Nickerson moved in from Texas, 6-4 guard Jordan Scholl moved in from Indiana, 6-2 forward Patrick Baker transferred in from Countryside and Luke Loucks is healed from a broken leg that ended his season prematurely.
2. IS PHU READY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HAVING A.J. TYLER AROUND?: If point guard Jordan Fair is as big a help as expected and 6-10 center Adam Pegg is ready to assert himself down low, the Hurricanes could be talking playoffs in February.
3. 3S ARE WILD: Though the district has some very good big men, guards such as Carden, O'Donnell, Johnson, Nickerson and Garcia are capable of draining a half-dozen 3-pointers or so on any night.