Mia Dammen of Oakland Mills is a soccer fanatic, but she also knows basketball, and it is not just a hobby.
Dammen, a first-team All-Metro soccer player the past two seasons, said she has been playing the sport since first grade, and plays it eight months of the year.
Through hard work and perseverance, Dammen also has become one of the area's top basketball players.
The 5-foot-8 senior guard leads fourth-ranked Oakland Mills (13-1) in scoring average (17.5) and assists (6.7 per game) and is averaging 13.5 steals.
"I love both sports, but I've played soccer a lot longer," said Dammen, a second-team All-Metro basketball player last season. "As far as skill level, I'm more developed at soccer. I focused on basketball more seriously later."
Dammen said she began playing basketball at age 11. She has played varsity for three years and is consistently making extra effort to improve.
"I stay after practice and shoot around and work on different things," Dammen said. "I do put in extra work, but I do that in soccer as well."
Dammen said she frequently plays basketball against boys.
"Guys are a lot quicker," she said. "Playing against guys makes me work on my weaknesses, so when I play against girls I'm a stronger player."
This past summer, Dammen, a left-hander, attended Kathy Rush's All-Star Camp at Lebanon Valley (Pa.) College, one of the top camps for girls high school basketball players. There, Dammen worked on using her right hand and improving her shooting range.
Quickness, stamina and determination are three aspects of Dammen's game that she did not learn in a camp. Just ask Mount Hebron coach Dave Greenberg.
In Oakland Mills' 43-42 win over Mount Hebron on Jan. 18, Dammen played all 32 minutes and had 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and seven steals to spark the Scorpions.
"Her basketball skills aren't at the level of her soccer skills, but her competitiveness and athleticism make her tough," Greenberg said. "She's a good athlete who plays hard and just never stops competing."
Said Oakland Mills coach Teresa Waters: "Unlike [Oakland Mills point guard] Stefanie Magro, Mia is not a finesse player. She works hard for everything she gets. In practice, she is always the leader of the pack, and she is constantly pushing others as well."
Dammen is the defensive catalyst on a team that is known for its full-court press. Waters estimated that Dammen scores about 80 percent of her points off steals.
With an aggressive, physical style of play, fouls are to be expected, but Dammen has cut down on her fouls significantly this season. She was in foul trouble in most games last season and frequently fouled out, but she has fouled out just three times this season.
Dammen, who carries a 3.89 grade-point average, said she has been accepted at Brown University, where she hopes to play both soccer and basketball.
"I still have a lot of work to do as far as basketball is concerned," she said.
Said Waters: "Mia excels in almost everything because she works so hard. If only she devoted as much time to basketball as she does to soccer, her game level would be even higher."