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For their own good
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.
After an injury sidelined him last season, Clearwater's Luke Loucks has learned to make the most of his playing time.
By CHRIS GIRANDOLA
Published November 20, 2005
For injured athletes, the initial thought of not playing can be worse than physical pain.
For Clearwater point guard/forward Luke Loucks, every bit of that emotional pain flashed through him like a ton of bricks when he broke his left tibia during a pregame drill in January.
"I was excited to play with my brother (Nathan)," said Loucks, who was averaging a little more than four points and five assists before the injury.
"I always looked up to my brothers and when I went down, that was one of the thoughts that went through me. That I wouldn't be able to play again with Nathan the rest of the season."
Loucks grew up as a gym rat, following brothers Nathan and Jacob, now a redshirt freshman at UCF. He got good at every skill but relished passing because he liked watching his brothers score. Okay, maybe they demanded the ball a bit more, but he learned how to be a better guard because of it.
"It's the reason he's such a good passer now," said Clearwater coach Jack Coit, who took the Tornadoes to the state final last year. "He also learned to be a good leader and knows how to make his teammates better."
Coit respects the team's decision to make his junior forward a captain. It is the only time in Coit's career he has had anyone besides a senior assume those duties. "He's mature beyond his years," Coit said.
That maturity and his determination helped Loucks make it through the difficult part of therapy.
"I learned a lot about myself and just life in general," said Loucks, who read the Bible and attended church almost daily during rehabilitation. "One of the most powerful verses in the Bible really stuck with me. It goes, "Do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' I just appreciate everything life has to offer now."
And each day he steps on the court, Loucks plays with everything he has because "you just never know when it all might stop."
Clearwater will rely on Loucks' enthusiasm, as it has only two seniors, three transfers and two freshmen. But Coit has had a full team since the first day of practice, unlike last year, when almost half the team missed the first two weeks because of football playoffs.
And Loucks is finally back to full strength. During the summer, he avoided precarious situations on the court, trying to stay injury free. Finally, during this fall's preseason pickup games, Loucks decided to test his dunking ability again.
Loucks stepped a little outside the paint, took one power dribble toward the basket, planted his left foot hard, then right, and exploded off two feet.
Dunk! Two hands.
When he landed safely, Coit and the rest of the Clearwater faithful could breathe easy.