The 2009-10 season was one to forget for the T.C. Williams boys basketball program. Two Titans were found ineligible at midseason, leading to turmoil in the school’s athletic department. The Titans forfeited 12 victories and later ended their season with a loss in the opening round of the Patriot District tournament. In March, Director of Student Activities Bob McKeag was forced into retirement as a result of the issue.
One year later, the Titans are preparing for the 2010-11 campaign, eager for a fresh start. TC, winner of three consecutive regional titles from 2007-09 and the 2008 AAA state championship, took part in a scrimmage on Saturday at Landon School in Bethesda, Md. The Titans will scrimmage at Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) at 9 a.m. on Nov. 27 and will open the regular season at home on Dec. 4 against Wakefield. With games that count quickly approaching, head coach Julian King wants his players focused. To ensure this, King deems last year’s season of adversity one to remember.
"There’s no way you can just forget about it and move on," King said. "That’s a point that I will use the entire season as a learning point: we don’t want that feeling again. Was there a lot that played into us finishing our season sooner than expected? Yes. But there’s still no excuse. We still had an opportunity to win [in the district tournament] and we beat ourselves. …
"Any time we have any lulls in playing hard or trying to execute, I’m always going to point back to [last season]. You never know when this is going to be your last game."
The Titans will have to replace much of its offensive production with the loss of standouts Ryan Yates and Billy Rowland. Leading the way this season will be 6-foot-3 Tyrell Sitton. King’s scouting report stated Sitton "has to be our best player every night in some capacity."
"Tyrell Sitton for us is going to be this year’s Ryan Yates," King said. "It’ almost in the same mold where: Ryan as a sophomore was a defensive player. Ryan as a junior was still our main defensive player, but he had more of a responsibility offensively and he was running the show. … As a senior, Ryan evolved into an all-around player — one of the best rebounders on the team, one of the best scorers, one of the best playmakers and an all-out leader.
"That’s what Tyrell is going to have to be this year. With his ability and his work ethic, he’s up for the task."
Helping Sitton in the leadership department will be junior point guard Daquan Kerman (5' 10"), who started as a sophomore. Kerman is a pass-first point guard who King will ask to help carry the scoring load.
"He’s always been a good leader," King said. "He’s always been able to penetrate and make other people better, but this year he’s got to score more for us."
Kerman said he won’t force the scoring issue, but will look to the basket rather than making an extra pass.
"Last year, I had Ryan and Bill," Kerman said. "This year, I have to lead the team. … Me, Jordan [Byrd] and T.J. [Huggins] have been playing with each other since we were in elementary school. We have a lot of chemistry."
Huggins is a 6-foot-5 left-hander who King wants to be more aggressive. The junior showed his ability to get to the basket during Saturday’s scrimmage.
"T.J. is going to be a real bright spot for us as a small forward," King said. "He’s going to be a jack of all trades."
The Titans have seven players listed at 6' 5" or taller on the roster. Six-foot-8 senior Jay Whitmire, a Division I football recruit, provides a physical presence in the paint. Seniors Rick Mathews (6' 6"), Joe Massaquoi (6' 6") and Jamal Pullen (6' 5"), juniors Huggins and Josh Kahindo (6' 5") and sophomore Landon Moss (6' 5") provide TC with size. King said Pullen could be the "best rebounder in the region" if he pushes himself.
Senior guards Tyler Driver (6' 1") and Donte Adams (6' 4"), junior guard Byrd (6' 1"), sophomore guard Winston Duncan (5' 11") and freshman Mert Ozynak (6-2) complete the roster.
TC has a lot to prove this season, but King has high hopes for the Titans.
"Considering what I’ve seen us do at times in the summer and fall leagues against some really talented teams, the sky is the limit," he said. "Are we a little slow getting out of the gate? Yes, and that’s to be expected. But I think this team has a chance to do a lot of special things."
King’s players share his enthusiasm.
"We expect to sweep the district," Huggins said, "and win regionals."