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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.
An injury sustained during a pickup football game made Charlie Lytle realize how much he loves basketball.
By CHRIS GIRANDOLA
Published December 27, 2005
LARGO - Charlie Lytle and his brother, Hans, were bored. They had been cooped up inside their home in Largo for what seemed like weeks during the 2004 Labor Day weekend, awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Frances.
All of the news services had advised residents to hunker down in anticipation of the Category 4 storm.
But Frances meandered along, eventually weakening to a Category 2 storm and giving the New York natives the impetus to head to Clearwater Beach in search of a football game. Charlie and Hans found one, a five-on-five tackle game on the sand. Five minutes in, Charlie was tackled hard. Pain shot through his right side. At first, he thought he had sprained his shoulder, so he kept playing for another five minutes. As it turned out, he had broken his collarbone, prematurely ending fall workouts for basketball and putting Largo coach Phil Price in a bind.
"You can say that I wasn't too thrilled," Price said, noting Lytle, at 6 feet 7, was projected to be a starter. "But what are you going to do, tell the kids not to live their life? We just had to make the most of it."
For Lytle, it became an eye-opener.
"I was devastated," said Lytle, who did leg exercises to keep in shape during the two months of rehabilitation. "I realized how much basketball meant to me, and during the down time, I just thought about how hard I was going to work when I got back."
Lytle, who weighs only 185 pounds, concentrated on a better diet to help with the healing process, ingesting as much protein as possible.
The junior returned in time for the start of the season but had to adjust to the awkwardness of being out of playing shape and not nearly at full strength.
"It took me a while to get my leaping ability back," said Lytle, who started 10 games down the stretch. Finally, toward the last couple weeks of the season, I could do a one-handed dunk."
During the summer, Lytle made swift improvements, in his game and strength. The forward helped a contingent of Largo players coached by Largo assistant Chip McCalister make the championship of the AAU Breakdown tournament in Miami.
"During that tourney, I finally felt like I was back," said Lytle, who scored 15 in the title game. "I shot pretty good, and I rebounded without any pain."
Lytle, 18, has been an integral part for Largo this season, averaging a double double entering this week's Kingdom of the Sun tournament.
"Charlie's a great player, and he adds a different dimension to our offense that we didn't have last year," Price said. "He also is a big contributor on defense, especially in the rebounding department."
While Largo has lost a couple of games this season, it has shown signs of having the pieces to make a run at a title, whether it be at this week's holiday tournament or the district tournament.
Just as long as Lytle stays away from the beach and a football.