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Tarpon turns fortunes around

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000


Fact No. 1: Tarpon Springs was 2-20 last season and returned two varsity lettermen this season.

Fact No. 2: Tarpon Springs is 6-1 this season.

Fact No. 3: Yes, facts 1 and 2 are accurate.

Coach Jerry Woodka's team has performed an astonishing turnaround, thanks primarily to an infusion of football players. Six of the seven newcomers in Woodka's nine-man rotation were on the 9-2 playoff football team.

They're not too shabby at basketball, either. Two holdovers, a transfer and six guys playing high school basketball for the first time have come together quickly.

Guards Jerome Russell, Roshawn Marshall and Tony Hunter and forwards Corey Burrowes, Noah Driver and Eddie Green joined the squad after football season. Starting guard Henry Crockett is a transfer from Clearwater.

Only D.J. Robinson and Charles Driver (who both also played football) were in the basketball program last year.

The makeshift group is 5-0 in Class 4A, District 8, including Tuesday's 73-54 win at Central, even though there is no star or big man.

The offense is spread evenly among seven players who average between Robinson's 5.7 points and Russell's modest team-best of 11.7.

Charles Driver, Noah's older brother, is the biggest player at 6 feet 2, but the Spongers compensate by having everybody crash the boards.

Six players average more than four rebounds a game.

On defense, Woodka has them scrambling all over the floor.

"We do it the whole game. That's all we can do. We have no size," Woodka said. "We turn it into offense. The defense is just unbelievable."

Last season, Tarpon Springs had four players leave the team for various reasons.

This season, Woodka can hardly contain his enthusiasm over the team chemistry.

Woodka said he is eager to get to January and exact some revenge on teams that brushed Tarpon aside like lint a year ago.

Next up: Clearwater on Jan. 4.

"I'm really excited about what these guys can accomplish the rest of the season," Woodka said. "It starts with the Clearwater game. My wife is a Clearwater graduate, and I'm 0-3 against them. I need to get one. Hopefully, this is the year."

WHAT NEXT? Injuries have crippled 1-6 East Lake.

Star guard Chris Thomas averaged 18.6 points in the first three games despite playing with a lingering sprained ankle. He re-injured the ankle practicing for the Palms/Pinellas All-Star football game and has missed the past four games. He hopes to return Jan. 3.

Another starter, junior Dalen Cuff, fractured his wrist just before the season and is out until January.

Earlier this week, the Eagles lost two reserves. Senior Brian House broke an ankle Tuesday against Largo and junior Mike Deatrick fractured his shoulder Monday in a car crash. ON THE FLY: Northside Christian beat Seminole 61-44 on Tuesday and hammered Class A, No. 4-ranked Sarasota Christian 75-48 on Wednesday to improve to 7-2. Its lone losses are by three to Indian Rocks Christian and to unbeaten St. Petersburg Catholic. ... Keswick Christian (6-3) has averaged more than 93 points in its past three games. Joey Dunn scored 35 in a 90-60 win over Bradenton Christian on Dec. 15.

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