Just two years removed from a 23-4 campaign and a trip to the Virginia AAA state tournament, the Eagles are trying to rebound from a 2-20 finish last season.
Enter Carter, who begins his first year as a head coach after seven years of experience on Coach Brain Metress’s staff at Lake Braddock, and Huff, who averaged 3.5 points per game in spot action at Springbrook as a junior guard before moving to join his father in the Manassas area this summer.
Together, new coach and point guard have helped the Eagles (4-1) double last year’s win total just five games into the season.
“As a coach, he connected with us,” Huff said of Carter. “He’s the type of coach who’s your friend first. He makes sure your grades are up.”
Scoring is up, too. The Eagles have eclipsed 70 points twice already — a total they never hit last season — and are averaging 67 points per game.
“It’s kind of an unwritten deal we have,” Carter said. “I like to score points. I think everybody does. Nobody wants to watch a 30-27 game.”
Huff appreciates that Carter breaks down the Eagles’ motion-based offense clearly during practice sessions. He’s averaging 15.2 points per game and shooting a team-high 79 percent from the free throw line.
“It’s a fun way to play,” Huff said. “It’s not like a robotic offense where it’s a [called] play every time you come down the court. It’s pretty much a free-based offense, and that’s what the kids on the team like to play.”
With a new coaching staff and fresh faces all around, Carter signed his prospective players up for two fall leagues, Metro South at Potomac (Va.) and another circuit at Briar Woods.
“It was a really good thing that Coach put us into two fall leagues before the season started so that team chemistry could build,” Huff said.
Last year’s group never gelled like this one.
“We could have won at least six to eight games last year, but [we] would bring up kids from junior varsity who had no chemistry with us at all,” said Justin Vargo, Osbourn’s leading scorer with 21.8 points per game. “I honestly believe that if you like your coach, you’re going to play well.”
Carter is trying to cater to his players’ strengths.
“These kids were liked caged animals,” he said. “Justin can throw it up, but he also has a lot to learn. He has confidence, but it’s no exuberant confidence. He’s just a junior.”
Osbourn hit its first stumbling block with a 65-55 loss to a tough Mountain View team on Saturday. The Eagles started slow and never matched the Wildcats in transition.
“Don’t judge us now, don’t judge us in late December,” Carter said. “Judge us at the end of January, come tournament time. That’s our goal.”
Manning, Freedom start hot in Prince William
“I’m really a drive guy,” said Manning, who’s led the Eagles in scoring in three of their first four games. “I drive the ball and dish out. I make one quick step and blow past my defender.”
Solid guard play by Manning and senior Marcavett Fowler has led the Eagles to a 4-0 start, with wins over county rivals Hylton, Patriot, and Woodbridge.
Much like Manning, the Eagles’ offense is predicated on pushing the tempo.
“Offensively, we’re a fast-paced team,” Manning said. “We get the ball and run. It gives us a chance to get the other team tired.”
Just two weeks into the season, Freedom is only three victories short of last season’s total of seven. Manning saw the resurgence coming during spring ball.
The Eagles received an infusion of young talent on the perimeter and fought for loose balls with abandon.
“In the spring, we were executing a lot better and had players who were willing to sacrifice their bodies,” Manning said.
Junior Frank Agyemang has drained nine three-pointers so far, including four during a season-opening win over Massaponax.
Despite the hot start, Manning would like to see his team cut down on turnovers and box out a little better.
“Honestly, I don’t think we’ve played to our potential yet,” he said. “Yeah, we’ve been winning games, but we can play up-tempo more and play with confidence.”