Tony Bishop dreamed of being an astronaut. But when he sprouted to 6-foot-3 by the eighth grade, Tony realized his talent lay in a different orbit.
Now, at 18, Tony stands 6-foot-8 1/2. Basketball has long since replaced space travel in his plans for the future.
After transferring from Havre de Grace High to Towson Catholic two years ago, Tony has turned into one of the better players in the MSA. Last year, the Owls didn't have a great season, but Tony did. He averaged 17.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. In one game, he hit ninethree-point shots.
Two weeks ago, Tony won the most valuable player trophy at the all-star game for the 26th Annual Five-Star Basketball Camp in Honesdale, Pa. One of the country's premier basketball camps, Five-Star has helped such notables as Dominique Wilkins and Michael Jordon.
In his all-star performance, Tony had 25 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists.
"Tony is one of the real success stories," said Mike Daniel, head coach at Towson Catholic. "He has developed into not just a big body on the floor taking up room but into a good basketball player for his size. He can run the floor, shoot the ball and rebound. And he has shown some leadership qualities which is veryimportant."
While Daniel said Tony has "unlimited potential" as abasketball player, the coach has been most impressed with his student's academic progress. Tony improved his cumulative grade point average from 2.1 to 2.9 in two years. He held an A average in math and scored 850 on his SAT's.
Since arriving at Towson Catholic, Tony has impressed a lot of people, including athletic director Mary Landes. "Tony is very conscientious about all aspects of his life from family to athletics to his classroom work. He doesn't have this over-inflated ego. He's a whole school community type of kid. He's not just basketball minded."
Tony said the move got him away from peer pressure and changed his outlook on academics. Unlike a lot of young athletes who think their talent is enough to get them through college and intothe pros, Tony knows better.
"When I was down Havre de Grace, I wasn't performing up to my ability. All I was looking at was basketball. That's what hurt me. My grade point average was so low. At Towson Catholic having 160 kids in the whole school, you get a lot of attention. And a Catholic school has the discipline to get you ready for college," said Tony, who willingly repeated the 10th grade at Towson Catholic.
Had he not improved his grades, Tony would not have drawn the attention of more than 300 college coaches. He has received letters ranging from Providence to Nevada -- Las Vegas.
Another big factor in his development has been the strong family behind him. For Ronand Arthurine Bishop, who attend every one of their son's games, thedecision to send Tony to Towson Catholic has necessitated some sacrifices. Ron Bishop, cross country and track coach at Havre de Grace High, puts about 200 miles a day on the family car chauffeuring Tony toschool and back.
Even after two years, he said, it's been worth every mile.
It was a tough decision," said Ron Bishop. "Being a coach in Harford County and looking at the overall basketball program, Ithink, it's in an overall down trend. (College coaches are) not necessarily going to look at a Class C school for a Division I player."
Since Towson Catholic plays in the high profile Maryland ScholasticAssociation, Bishop knew his son would get plenty of exposure. Goingto high-caliber camps and playing on an Amateur Athletic Union team headed for the AAU National Championships in Arkansas later this month also have also exposed Tony to top college coaches.
Both Ron Bishop and coach Daniel have kept Tony's ego in check, helping him realize that he has plenty of work ahead.
"Even colleges are looking for players with the right attitude," players with the right attitude,"said Ron Bishop. "If you don't have it, they're looking elsewhere. They can find an average player and bring him up to play NBA ball and that's why a lot of players showcased in high school are not making it in the NBA."