Richmond Academy's Darrin Shine had to admit it, this season was tough, frustrating even.
Of coursewhen your squad is 1-20, frustration might not be the correct word. Try agonizing or miserable. How about depressing?
But it's not Shine's style to talk about the season negatively. What he says, instead, is this.
"At the beginning of the season, it was frustrating," said Shine, The Augusta Chronicle Georgia Boys Player of the Year. "It just took time for everybody to start playing together. Once we started doing that, everybody started playing good."
Nevermind that it took most of the season for the Musketeers to start playing as a team, which then allowed Shine to sparkle on the court.
In doing so, the only returning starter from a team that went 20-5 and made the state Elite Eight in 2000-01 led this year's squad to a little taste of triumph and glory.
Finally, his outlandish stats - 24.6 points, 9.8 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 4 steals per contest - began paying off.
First, the Musketeers beat Jefferson County on a last-second shot for their second win of the season. Riding that momentum into the Region 3-AAA playoffs, Richmond Academy beat the Warriors again in the region play-in game and rolled past third-seeded Westside to earn a state playoff berth.
Sure, the Musketeers lost their last two games of the year, but the last three weeks of the season was a sweet end to what was mostly a sour experience.
Richmond Academy coach Steve Nobles, for one, isn't about to consider where his team would have been without its star.
"Without him, the season would have been a lot longer than it was already," Nobles said. "Actually, I hate to even think about that. But at the end, the team just got confidence in what they were doing. They just started to believe in themselves."
And the Musketeers had Shine helping them through the tough - make that frustrating - times.
"They were focusing on me to do a lot of the scoring," Shine said. "I needed their (teammates) help, and that's what I told them. At the end, it finally got through."
Not coincidentally, that's when Richmond Academy started beating teams, riding a five-game winning streak to make the state playoffs, where it eventually lost to Swainsboro 78-71 in the first round.
In the process, Shine got interest from Georgia State - "(Coach) Lefty Driesell showed me a lot of love," Shine said - George Washington and Sienna. He hasn't yet qualified academically, but if Shine, who is cousins with Seton Hall senior Ty Shine, isn't accepted into school this season, he'll go to prep school and try again next year.
While he's waiting to hear back from schools, though, Shine's been busy wowing spectators on the court. Last Saturday's CSRA All-Star game was a prime example.
With his team losing 69-68 with 4:17 to play, Shine hit back-to-back 3-pointers, stole the ball from the South Carolina team, made a nice dish to Butler's Charlie Hairston for the easy layup and led Georgia to a 77-73 win.
That, according to Nobles, is the epitome of what Shine can accomplish.
"He doesn't care about the attention, all he wants to do is win," Nobles said. "I could see the frustration in him this year, but he always went to practice and games and played as hard as he could. He could have been real ugly to his teammates, but all he did was keep on encouraging them. I can't put into words how much we'll miss him next year."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org