Tornadoes the real deal

Published November 19, 2006

CLEARWATER - Clearwater star Luke Loucks says last year, the Tornadoes were "the underdogs."

Now, as Largo coach Phil Price puts it, "Clearwater is the top dog."

Boasting size, scoring and savvy, Clearwater is one of the county's top teams.

They're so deep, 6-foot-6 freshman phenom Ocaro White and 6-8 sophomore Julien Sargent likely won't crack the starting lineup.

"This year," Loucks said, "we'll have big targets on our backs."

The junior, the Tornadoes' trusty 6-foot-5 floor general, is a highly touted recruit for a good reason: He's an excellent passer who can post up and pull up.

The shaggy-haired star will have plenty of weapons. Newcomers Justin Morin (Clearwater Central Catholic) and forward John Burke (Gibbs) give the Tornadoes an inside-outside scoring punch.

With solid returning role players such as Regan O'Rourke and Jordan Scholl, senior Nick Nickerson realizes he'll have to fight for playing time by Christmas, when he expects to return from a torn ACL.

Quipped Nickerson: "It'll be an exciting year, that's for sure."

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

Class 5A, District 9

Predicted finish

1. Clearwater: The Tornadoes are stacked, led by one of the bay area's top recruits, 6-5 junior guard Luke Loucks.

2. Largo: Well-conditioned team will wear others out with its grit and hustle.

3. Pinellas Park: The Patriots have undergone a 180 under coach Allen Carden. Sparked by junior sharpshooter Cam Carden, Pinellas Park will surprise people.

4. East Lake: Experienced seniors make them capable of playoff push.

5. Palm Harbor U.: Replacing A.J. Tyler Clemson will be a tough task; junior Adam Pegg will have to pick up the slack.

6. Tarpon Springs: Not enough firepower to crack upper echelon in tough district.

7. Dunedin: Late-arriving players from football will help.

Games to watch

Nov. 30, Clearwater vs. Largo: Two rivals - and district contenders - battle in first of two matchups.

Dec. 5, Pinellas Park vs. East Lake: Improved teams both vying to crack the top-3 spots in district.

Dec. 13, Clearwater at Lakewood: Two of county's top teams go head-to-head in rematch of last year's PCAC title game.

Players to watch

Jacob Troyli, Pinellas Park: The 6-9 junior transfer from Canterbury has long arms and nice touch around hoop.

Ocaro White, Clearwater: The lanky, 6-8 freshman is a hybrid between a post and swingman.

Adam Pegg, Palm Harbor U: The 6-9 junior is strong inside, and can step out and shoot, too.

Ben O'Donnell, Largo: The playmaking point guard has the total package: court vision, smooth stroke and great basketball IQ. Works well with 6-7 swingman Charlie Lytle.