Four foreign-born team members figure to play a key role in the success of the Howard Community College girls basketball team, whose season starts this week with a rigorous 19-game schedule and runs throughthe third week of next month.
The foursome include sisters Sam and Sarah Khoury of Lebanon, Dawn Garber of Liberia and Marcia Pontrelli of Brazil.
"They are talented, and they want to play," said HCC coach MaxineEggleston.
The HCC Express returns five players from a team that posted an 8-10 record last season, including four starters. Two of the returnees are the Khoury sisters.
Sam Khoury, who last year was HCC's second leading scorer (14 points) and rebounder (nine rebounds), starts at center. Sarah is the squad's top reserve forward.
Garber, the Express' starting power forward, who Eggleston considers a Division I college talent, moved to the United States last summer afterplaying for the Liberian National team for three seasons.
"Dawn is a strong inside threat who can rebound," team captain Tessa Harrison said. "And we need that this year because we are lacking in height."
Pontrelli will come off the bench and play guard.
HCC will feel the loss of former Pallotti High School star Angie King, who averaged 26 points per contest last year for the Express and now is playing basketball for the U.S. Naval Academy.
But the returning starters, including Harrison (small forward),5-foot-5 Colleen Nickerson (shooting guard) and 5-foot-3 Tyeast Clark (point guard) must pick up thescoring slack.
"We need to take a bigger part in the scoring," Harrison said. "Angie was that big a part of our team offensively."
Harrison averaged 13 rebounds and seven points per game last season, while Nickerson and Clark, HCC's main three-point threat, chipped in eight points per contest last year.
"My goal is for the team to becompetitive," Eggleston said. "I think when teams play us, they are going to get a good game. I am looking for us to win more games than we did last season. We will go seven strong."
What the Express lacks in height, averaging 5-foot-6 a player, it makes up for in speed.
"Most of our opponents have height, and that hurts us on the boards," Eggleston said. "But we are fast, and that will help us beat teams down the court. Our good ball-handlers will take it to the hoop. The players just won't be passing and shooting from the outside."
The lack of height and the full-court press Eggleston employs has forced the team to work on defense since practice started Oct. 25. HCC also has been reviewing game films to improve the team's rebounding.
Eggleston doesn't want to let opponents out-rebound HCC in many gamesagain this season.
"We have to improve on the boards, and we can't be intimidated by other teams' height. Last season, we were usuallyout-rebounded in the final five minutes of the game," the second-year coach said. "We have been reviewing a lot of games on film.
"A lot of our team members take a game tape home, review it and pick out our weaknesses and mistakes. They will be able to see the offensive and defensive of the opposing team."
Key reserves include a trio offreshman: forwards Andrea Nelson (Mount Hebron) and Melida Riedemonn(Indian River) and guard April Hinman (Hammond).
"Our main goal is to establish a competitive program here -- one that is respectable on and off the court," Eggleston said.