Like hundreds of his peers and competitors across Virginia, T.C. Williams senior Daquan Kerman has his eyes set squarely on a state championship.
And he doesn’t waste words making that clear.
“We’re striving for a state title,” he said, shortly before the start of practice Monday. “I want one before I leave. I’ve wanted one since I was a sophomore.”
What sets Kerman apart is his experience. The 5-foot-10-inch point guard knows what a deep playoff run takes. He is one of just three returning seniors this year, a holdover from the previous season’s squad that went 24-6 overall before bowing out of the state semifinals in an overtime loss to L.C. Byrd.
Still, Kerman and his teammates saw action against some of the best in the state and region, and more often than not came away with the win or near win, including falling a shot short of upending local powerhouse Montrose Christian on the road during a nonconference matchup.
That’s when Kerman was a swaggering upstart, one of a small sampling of young Titans standing out as potential playmakers. Now he’s expected to lead the squad as a veteran, mold his younger teammates and keep them as focused as he is on celebrating a state championship. It hasn’t been the easiest transition.
“I’ve got to be louder, more vocal,” Kerman said. “I’ve got to be more strict.”
The relative inexperience of T.C.’s squad is as worrisome to coach Julian King as the lack of leadership coming from his crop of seniors. They’re still making mistakes, some of which have carried over from last season.
“There is hope down the road for us to get a lot better,” King said. “Whether it’s turning the ball over or rebounding as a group, we’re lacking a lot of the little things.”
Like Kerman, small forward T.J. Huggins is one of the seniors King anticipates stepping up in the coming days and weeks. Where Kerman entered his junior year with high expectations, Huggins slowly blossomed during the course of the previous year’s season and subsequent playoff run.
He too has struggled to take on a leadership role in a team markedly different today than it was a year ago, but for a different reason than Kerman. Huggins feels the weight of that responsibility on his shoulders.
There’s no room for mistakes, he said, adding that he has to be lead by example in every situation.
“You’ve always got to be on top of your game,” he said.
Questions of leadership aside, both Huggins and Kerman have no qualms about what will motivate this team through a grueling 22-game regular season. Where last year’s squad fought to wipe away any of the remaining stains of the ineligibility scandal that marred the 2009-10 season, this incarnation of the Titans will play to uphold the program’s celebrated history.
“We always got a chip on our shoulder,” Kerman said. “Everybody is always coming at us because we’re T.C. They’ll always say something. We’ve got to stick together or we won’t win a thing.”
It’s music to King’s ears.
“It’s harder to stay on top than it is to get on top. There is a legacy here,” he said. “You don’t want to be known as the guys that ruined that legacy.”
The next chapter of T.C. Williams basketball begins Saturday at home in a showdown with Wakefield on Earl Lloyd Court at 8 p.m.