An interview with T.C. Williams basketball standouts Ryan Yates and Billy Rowland neared completion when the duo was asked if either had anything to add.
"Get your popcorn ready for the season," Rowland said, quoting brash NFL receiver Terrell Owens to advertise the Titans’ ability to entertain.
"Make sure the rest of the region is ready," Yates said, placing future opponents on notice. "We’ll give a lot of coaches headaches."
Rowland then described the team’s mentality: "We’re humble, yet confident."
While the players’ quotes leaned toward the latter, it’s hard to blame members of the T.C. Williams boys basketball team for believing in their ability. The Titans have not lost a Patriot District contest since the 2004-05 season. During that four-year span, T.C. Williams won at least 24 games each season and captured the 2008 state championship.
Yates, a first-team all-district selection last year, and Rowland, an all-district second-teamer, are the top threats for a T.C. Williams group looking to remain one of the state’s elite during the 2009-10 campaign. Yates, a 6-foot-7 senior guard, is the team’s most potent perimeter scorer and tough defensive player. He will also be relied upon to rebound.
"He’s capable of playing four positions for me," head coach Julian King said. "He’s my coach on the floor. He’s my level-headed guy. He’s a jack of all trades. I can just put him at any spot on the floor and he can get it done."
Rowland, a 6-6 senior center, is the team’s top rebounder and go-to player for low-post scoring. Rowland transferred from Bishop Ireton before his junior season.
"He’s my workhorse, [our] go-to guy inside," King said. "He took a lot of heat last year — a couple nights, maybe, he didn’t perform up to expectations. But you know what? It was his first year playing with us, being in an organized system. I think he did pretty well and I think he’s going to have a breakout year this year."
YATES, ONE of two players remaining from the Titans’ 2008 state championship team, said T.C. Williams’ annual graduation of talented players leads to a lack of respect from opponents, despite the Titans’ successful track record.
"It’s kind of deceiving because, although we have a target [on our backs], we still get disrespected a lot," he said. "They underestimate our talent."
Any worries about snapping the streak of successful Titan teams?
"That’s not even going through our minds," Yates said. "We practice way too hard. Winning is what we’re used to — that’s how it goes at T.C. … At T.C., we have a program. From freshman to [junior varsity], they all understand already. That’s why we’re so good: because everybody can step in and do what they’re supposed to do."
Like his players, King projects a winning mentality. His philosophy: if you’re going to compete, go for it all.
"As I always say, I don’t see [being a target] as any pressure because we expect to win every game," he said. "We don’t start the season in the offseason thinking, ‘Hey, let’s win a few games and see if we get lucky.’ We put in the work to go into the season and say, ‘Hey, we’re trying to win it all.’
"Why coach, why play if you’re not trying to win it all?"
KING ENTERS his third season with the program, second as head coach. He started as an assistant on the 2008 state championship team under head coach Ivan Thomas. King enters the season having learned from his debut head-coaching campaign.
"[I learned to] remember that they’re high school kids and always expect they know nothing and assume they need to be taught every day and it needs to be reinforced all the time," said King, last season’s Patriot District Coach of the Year. "Never assume that they’re just going to be ready to play each game on their own, because they’re just kids."
King is looking for senior guard Tayron Chambers (6-3) to step up as a rebounder and the Titans’ No. 3 scorer. Senior guard Rodney Lewis (6-0) and junior forward Tyrell Sitton (6-3) are strong defensive players for the Titans.
Senior Cortez Taylor (5-8), the other remaining Titan from the 2008 state title team, and sophomore Daquan Kerman (5-10) will share point guard duties. Senior forward Darius Porter (6-4) is an athletic rebounder, and junior center Jay Whitmire (6-8) will provide size and strength inside.