by Alex Hampl
Special To alexandrianews.org
How to replace an all-state star player is a question that both of T.C.’s basketball teams will have to address this season. On the boys’ side, first-team all-state (Virginia High School Coaches Association) selection Ed Jenkins is gone, leaving a void in both scoring and leadership. For the girls, highly decorated Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, also an all-state pick is gone as well. The burden now falls on their teammates and coaches to replace them and continue T.C.’s dominance in the Patriot district.
Jenkins was described by former coach Ivan Thomas as the “emotional leader” of T.C.’s state championship team in 2008. Remarkably, Jenkins was only a junior at the time, leaving him a lot to live up to in his senior year. Jenkins certainly applied himself, winning third team All-Met and Patriot District player of the year honors from the Washington Post. He also helped to sustain the recent stretch of dominance that T.C. has enjoyed over the rest of the Patriot district. During the four years that Jenkins played for varsity, T.C. went 71-0 against the other district teams. Perhaps the largest hole that Jenkins leaves for a team that returns its entire front court is his 21 points per game. The Titans will have to find new sources for points.
Ruffin-Pratt left T.C. as the schools’ most decorated girls’ basketball player ever. She was the Gatorade state player of the year during the 2008-09 season. She now plays at the University of North Carolina, one of the best basketball schools in the country. And she graduated with five other seniors, including fellow first-team all-district guard Khalia Boston (VHSCA). That leaves this year’s team with a lack of both depth and star power. For the first time in a couple years, T.C. girls’ basketball will not have much pre-season attention. How will the girls’ team fare without the respect (and expectations) that has been given to them for the past few years?
For the boys, maintaining “the streak” as it has come to be known around T.C. is one of the most important goals going into the ’09-10 season. “I want to be able to say that I was an important piece that kept the streak alive for the years that I played varsity when I graduate,” said senior forward Ryan Yates. “The streak gives us more motivation coming into the season, so it means a lot to me.” It is a good thing that Yates is on board, since much of Jenkins’ scoring burden will fall on him. Coach Julian King, last year’s coach of the year in the district (VHSCA), called Yates the “go to guy on the perimeter, team leader, scorer.” Yates is joined by senior forward Bill Rowland who King described as the “go to guy in the post.” That duo of star forwards will be joined by seniors Tayron Chambers, Rodney Lewis, and Cortez Taylor. Chambers is King’s “third scorer”, Taylor is the “primary ball handler” and Lewis has been on the team for three years and has shown bursts of explosiveness similar to what Jenkins provided last year. Of these five key returners, Lewis may come the closest to filling Jenkin’s points per game.
Both teams have voids to fill in this upcoming season. The boys have their deepest team since the 2008 state championship run. The girls face a lot more questions than they have in years past, but also have the opportunity for new stars to step up. Maybe the biggest question facing T.C. basketball this season is: Will the streak hold up?
The boys open their season against Kecoughtan, on Saturday, December 5th, as part of a Parker-Gray memorial double header. Annandale is playing in the first game. The girls open against Freedom-South Riding on Friday, December 4th.
Editor’s Note: Alex Hampl is a senior at TC Williams high and one of editor’s- -in -chief of Theogony, the school newspaper, where this article first appeared.