By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2001
After six consecutive losses to start the season, things are looking up at Gibbs under first-year coach Arian Odom.
The Gladiators are 5-6 in their past 11 games (5-12 overall) with quality wins over Boca Ciega and St. Petersburg Catholic.
"Everything's coming around," Odom said. "Everyone's doing better."
And there's more good news forthcoming: Odom said Benson Callier is eligible to play.
Callier, a 6-foot-4 leaper with a hefty reputation from summer play, had his prep career halted before it began by poor grades and intermittent attendance.
This summer, more than three years after he graduated from middle school, Callier began to dedicate himself to academics. His odyssey comes full circle Jan. 19 when he's scheduled to play his first game against Lakewood, which was the first of three high schools he attended.
"He has a lot of responsibility now, and he's handled it well," Odom said of Callier, who is classified as a junior and has been practicing with the team three days a week while taking night classes the other two days.
"He brings a lot of energy to the team. He steps us up another level."
COMPETITION AT THE TOP: Lakewood continues to prove it is the county's top team. Especially after the Spartans (11-1) outscored Dunedin and Northeast by a combined 199-119 in their past two games.
Meanwhile, Largo has established itself in the No. 2 position. The Packers improved to 15-3 Tuesday with a 55-42 win over Dixie Hollins.
The pollsters have noticed. In the Class 4A state rankings this week, Lakewood moved up to No. 5 while Largo moved in at No. 9. The Web site www.break-down.com has Lakewood ranked No. 25 in the state in all classes.
One of Largo's three losses came to Lakewood on Dec. 12 83-81 in overtime. The District 11 rivals meet again Jan. 26 at Lakewood.
ROUND ONE, SPC: Before a raucous packed house Jan. 5, in what was likely the county's most electrifying game this season, St. Petersburg Catholic beat Clearwater Central Catholic 74-69.
As often happens after such an emotional game, both teams lost their next game. SPC (13-4) was upended at home Wednesday by Boca Ciega 64-62 in overtime, and CCC (13-3) was surprised by Wesley Chapel 81-72.
The rematch is Feb. 2 at CCC. Round 3 should come at the 3A-11 tournament.