Former coach's visits boost AFA's spirits

Published November 15, 2006

The face was familiar. So was the trademark smile.

Former Admiral Farragut coach Mike Wells, recovering from September surgery that removed a malignant brain tumor, visited a couple Blue Jackets' practices during the past few weeks.

Wells, who said he is taking it "day-by-day" as he undergoes radiation treatments, "really inspired the kids," said interim coach Anthony Lawrence, a 37-year-old former Lakewood star.

"They want to play well for Coach Wells. I think we're gonna surprise a lot of people."

The Blue Jackets blend size (6-foot-7 sophomore Jacob Gray) with speed (senior Kreg Brown and freshman Josh Burch). They'll likely press and push the ball at all times, mimicking the style Lawrence's former coach, Lakewood's Daniel Wright, employs.

NEW FACE, NEW PACE: Brian Shane, a Villanova grad who coached 17 years in the Philadelphia area, promises to inject some energy into Shorecrest's program in his first season. What the Chargers lack in size, they'll likely have to make up in scrappy play.

Said senior guard Pete Calomiris: "We are gonna go a long way this year."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8129.




Predicted order of finish

1. Tampa Prep: Defending district champ returns most of its nucleus.

2. Admiral Farragut Academy: The Blue Jackets, playing in honor of former coach Mike Wells, could make an inspired playoff push.

3. Keswick Christian: The Crusaders lost four starters and 90 percent of their offense from last year's group that reached the region finals.

4. Northside Christian: The gritty group will go more up-tempo this season.

5. Shorecrest: New coach Brian Shane has Chargers revved up.

6. Indian Rocks Christian: Typically well-coached team could surprise some down the stretch.

7. Bradenton St. Stephen's Episcopal: St. Stephen's doesn't have the firepower to match up with the district elite.

Games to watch

Dec. 8, Keswick Chr. at Admiral Farragut: The run-and-gun Blue Jackets and a stingy Keswick group could make for an interesting clash in styles.

Dec. 12, Tampa Prep at St. Petersburg Catholic: Tampa Prep's test against the Barons, a perennial 3A power, should give them an early-season indicator.

Jan. 11, Keswick Chr. vs. Tampa Prep.: The top teams from last season likely will be battling for playoff positioning.

Players to watch

Josh Burch, Admiral Farragut: The 6-foot, 160-pound freshman is a high flier coming into his own.

Robbie Fricke, Keswick Chr.: The 6-foot-6 center, having to fill the big shoes of R.J. Denton, will be the focal point of Keswick's offense.

Carter Schwartz, Shorecrest: The 6-5 junior is still growing into his body.

Michael Martell, Northside.: The 6-2 forward led Northside in scoring last season.