After getting his first sample of Annapolis basketball during a scrimmage early in the preseason, newcomer Jourdan Stickler left practice a bit winded.
Coming from Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, which relied more on size and half-court sets, the senior transfer guard found the Panthers' trademark uptempo style something new.
It's common for each high school boys basketball season to have impact players coming and going throughout the area at a pace that matches Annapolis' work on the floor.
This year, Stickler and All-Metro standouts Isaiah Miles, Daquan Cook and Antonio Manns are among the many who have moved on to new teams. With it comes an adjustment for the players, the teams they join and the teams they left behind.
And how quickly the adjustments are made can be the difference between a successful season and a disappointing one.
"Most of the time, you're dealing with seniors who have already been used to a program and a certain coach, so it's almost like flipping a coin," Patterson coach Harry Martin said. "You hope the kids are open when they come in and are willing to try new things and fit in well within your system."
Martin and his Clippers won the coin toss last season.
With Rickey Meekins, Karrell Goines and Myrek Lee-Fowlkes all transferring to join standout guard Aquille Carr, Patterson went from being a competitive team to one of the finest in the state, capturing the Baltimore City championship and reaching the Class 4A state title game.
This season, the Clippers are ranked No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun's Top 15 preseason poll and will lean on transfers Shakir Brown (St. Frances) and Nyme Manns (Digital Harbor) to complement Carr, last season's All-Metro Player of the Year.
Area coaches cite a number of factors for why there's so much player movement. Tops among them are playing time, feeling comfortable with a particular coach or system, and the opportunity to play for storied programs or powerhouse leagues and win titles.
As for why there are more transfers in basketball as opposed to other sports, it's often a numbers game with only five starting positions on the hardwood.
"In football, there's many more opportunities for kids to get on the field, where there's less spots in basketball," Lake Clifton coach Herman "Tree" Harried said. "That has a lot to do with it — kids want to play, and the parents want their kids to play."
After a roller-coaster season at Digital Harbor last winter that ended with the team capturing the Class 2A state title, Nyme Manns is well aware of the ups and downs the player movement creates. With five new transfer starters, the new talent didn't mix well at the start as the Rams opened the season with a 4-5 mark.
"It was frustrating when we were losing, because we didn't know what was going on," he said. "We all had individual problems that we had to work out — everybody just wanted to be the superstar. But at the end, we all came around and were able to unite together. I learned if you really wanted something bad enough, you had to work hard and work together."
After a particularly disappointing loss to Owings Mills in a holiday tournament, coach Johnnie Grimes heard bickering among the players, but nobody was blaming anybody else and he had a good feeling moving forward. The Rams found their form shortly after, winning nine straight on their way to the state title. Grimes said the biggest factors were his players gaining trust in the coaches and learning to play as one.
"Everyone had to find themselves and know their roles," Grimes said. "It took some time, but they finally understood how good they could be."
This year, Digital Harbor has more players going than coming. In addition to Manns transferring to Patterson, his cousin Antonio has moved on to Oakland Mills and Cook returned to St. Frances.
Cook, an All-Metro second team guard, spent his sophomore season at St. Frances and welcomes the challenge of running the point for the Panthers. To get re-acclimated and make sure he would be on the same page at St. Frances, he had a meeting with coach Nick Myles.
"We just sat down and talked about what was expected of me and that's for me to be the leader and run the offense," said Cook, who is set to play at Nevada-Las Vegas next year. "St. Frances is a great school. I feel right at home, and I'm just looking forward to playing."
Plenty of others are hoping to feel right at home as transfers playing big roles.
After leading Glenelg Country to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference title last year, Miles, a versatile 6-foot-8 forward, moves on to Milford Mill, where he'll try to lead the Millers to a third straight Class 3A state crown.
"He's a good young man, he's a hard worker and his skill set is unusual for a kid his size in the area," Milford Mill coach Albert Holley said. "He's a welcome addition, makes us more versatile and he'll help keep us playing at the level we've grown accustomed to."
Annapolis coach John Brady has been impressed with the strong perimeter game that the 6-foot-4 Stickler has shown. Perhaps just as important, Brady describes Stickler as "a company man" who has quickly fit in with the team. In a deep and balanced Anne Arundel County league, Stickler might put the Panthers over the top — once he gets up to speed with their style of play.
"Last year [at Oak Hill], we didn't run as much, so now I just need to get my stamina up and be ready to score a lot of points," Stickler said. "At Annapolis, it's nonstop and it starts with defense, getting steals and starting the fast break. At practice, I'm trying to run the floor as hard as I can so when the games come, it's not as taxing. Outside of practice, I'm also doing some extra running to be ready."
Oakland Mills won the Howard County title last season, led by forward Greg Whittington, who is now playing at Georgetown. Forward Antonio Manns will try to help fill the void for the Scorpions.
Other transfers looking to make an impact include guard Tevon Saddler (St. Frances from Aberdeen), Lionel Greene (Lake Clifton from City), Cliff Cornish (North County from St. Paul's), Isaiah Tripp (Edmondson from Glenelg Country) and Sharod Hartgrove (Digital Harbor from Forest Park).