Summertime is feeding time for newcomers to the Thomas Stone boys' basketball team.

"They're getting their experience right now," Cougars senior center Nathan Flowers said. "We're feeding them to the lions."

Thomas Stone has fended off plenty of lions this summer. The Cougars have gone a combined 9-3 while playing in two leagues -- the We R One League at Gwynn Park and the Kenner League at Georgetown. By the middle of next month, Thomas Stone will have played nearly 30 games this summer, which is just what its inexperienced roster needs.

"We're going to get a season and a half under our belts this summer," said Kenny Larry Sr., who has coached the Cougars for two summers.

Thomas Stone returns only one full-time starter -- Flowers, who is the leading scorer in the We R One League at 18 points per game -- from last season's 22-3 team, which lost in the Maryland 4A East final. While the Cougars have tremendous front-court depth -- Flowers is joined by 6-foot-2 senior Brandon Crump, 6-6 senior Chris Brown, 6-4 senior David Thompson and 6-6 sophomore John Flowers (Nathan's younger brother) -- their success will depend upon the development of the back court.

Seniors James Davis and Kenny Larry Jr., who played sparingly last season, and junior Ronald Colbert, who led the junior varsity team, are learning the ropes this summer.

"What our guards are doing is learning what they can do best," Cougars Coach Dale Lamberth said. "These are great games for us. At the end of the summer, we'll know what everyone can do."

The elder Larry said: "Last year, we had an identity. Now, we don't. All people know about us is Nate Flowers. Everyone thinks we're a one-dimensional team."

Thomas Stone is changing that perception with victories over teams from Prince George's and Montgomery counties, as well as one over Southern Maryland Christian at the start of the We R One season.

Even the Cougars' 40-36 loss to McNamara last Tuesday showed they could hang with one of the area's top private-school programs.

"I'm seeing more confidence," Flowers said. "Before, we didn't want to play these teams in Prince George's County. But now we beat some of those teams [such as Douglass] during the school year, and now we're building on that.

"It's the same stuff we've been hearing for so long: 'They've been playing longer than you. They know the game a little more than you.' We were getting ready for McNamara and people were saying, 'They're McNamara.' So what? We're not going to be intimidated."

Coaching Carousel

Sonja Carroll never applied for a head coaching job in her 10 years as a basketball assistant in Calvert County. When positions would open up, it was never the right time or the right job.

Everything seemed right, however, when Patuxent girls' basketball coach John McGuffin left to start the Huntingtown program. Carroll jumped at the opportunity and was promoted Monday after serving as McGuffin's assistant for three seasons. Before that, she was an assistant to Rod Stewart at Northern for seven years.

"I've got the confidence in myself to do the job," said Carroll, who grew up in Lanham and played at Elizabeth Seton. "When the opportunity came up last year, I wasn't ready for it. Now I have a lot of support and a real good group coming back."

Carroll is one of several new head girls' basketball coaches in the area. St. Mary's Ryken hired Mike Frank, who spent the past 16 years coaching the Annapolis Advantage travel team, to succeed Glenn Larnerd Jr. Frank has also been an assistant at South River High and Salisbury State University.

"They've shown that they want to build a program," said Frank, 52, "and that's what we're going to do."

After a year away from the high school game, Jake Heibel is back in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. Leonardtown hired Heibel, the former Great Mills boys' basketball coach, to lead its girls' program. Heibel spent last season as an assistant women's coach at St. Mary's College. He replaces Ed Sullivan, who coached the Raiders for two seasons.

Heibel coached Great Mills for six years. He was named All-Extra Coach of the Year in 2000 after leading the Hornets to a 20-5 record and their first SMAC title in 28 years.

Calvert Picks Watson

Marc Watson has never coached baseball. Yet he still made enough of an impression on Calvert Athletic Director Sam Oliver, a former Cavaliers baseball coach, that Oliver tapped Watson to lead the program.

Watson, who was Calvert's track coach last season, has seven years' experience umpiring in youth and adult leagues. He inherits the job from Guy Smith, who will start the baseball program at Huntingtown.

"I'm in a great situation here," said Watson, who will also be an assistant to new Calvert football coach Ed Hottle. "Guy has really helped me out, and we have a very strong group of players here."

Junior World Series

The Southern Maryland Junior Baseball League will host one of the regional tournaments for the 18-and-under North American Baseball Federation World Series.

The 12-team tournament, which includes a team from La Plata, will start Thursday with games at Laurel Springs Regional Park in La Plata and Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf. The championship game will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at Thomas Stone. The World Series begins July 29 in Jackson, Miss.

Senior Nathan Flowers is the only full-time starter returning to a Thomas Stone team that went 22-3 last season.