TAMPA - After graduating seven seniors from last year's 27-3 team that fell short of the state tournament, Tampa Prep boys basketball coach Joe Fenlon understood how some would have predicted a rebuilding year for the Terrapins.
But those predictions didn't account for sophomore Juwan Durham.
"When you rebuild with No. 23, it makes life a little bit easier," Fenlon said.
Durham, Tampa Prep's 6-foot-10 sophomore center, has led the Terrapins to The Lakeland Center for the Class 3A state semifinal against Shorecrest Prep at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Tampa Prep won the 3A title in 2012.
"It's really exciting," said Durham, ranked by many recruiting services as the top sophomore in Florida and one of the nation's top prospects for the Class of 2016. "I know we have to get ready because we have a long road ahead of us. We're going to have to just play as hard as we can."
After averaging 14 points per game as a freshman as the team's leading scorer, Durham has increased his productivity to 21.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.8 rebounds per game this season. His 163 blocks lead the Tampa Bay area. Typically, it's the upperclassmen's job to shoulder the team's fate, but Durham feels comfortable in a leadership role.
"I just took my time and talked to my teammates and told them that I was going to do the best that I could at helping them out. We had good leaders last year in Josh (Heath) and Adonis (Rwabigwi) and they left it all to me and taught me what to do."
Durham is coming off a 27-point, seven-block, five-rebound performance in his team's 53-49 win against Orlando's First Academy in Saturday's Class 3A-Region 2 championship. During Saturday's game, he eclipsed 1,000 career points, a rare feat for a sophomore in only his second year of varsity play. Durham needed 17 points entering the game to reach the milestone and scored 18 by halftime.
"It's unreal," Fenlon said. "About a month ago we kind of gauged it out and thought it would probably be the first week of next year and then he went for about four or five games when he scored 30 and the other day, one of my assistants came up to me and said, 'You know he's 17 away.' He got that in the first half. I think it just shows the caliber of kid he is."
A month before this season, Durham was invited to the USA Basketball Under-16 mini-camp in Colorado Springs. After his freshman season, Durham was selected to the MaxPreps Freshman All-American Second-Team. NCAA defending national champion Louisville, Miami, Florida and Florida State are some of the schools to have offered Durham.
"He's drawing two or three guys beating him up every game and he never shows emotion, he just does his job and he does it well," Fenlon said. "We're very fortunate to have him on our team."