The first thing you're likely to notice about Arundel center RichardAbrams is his imposing size: 6-foot-5, 245 pounds.
But there's more to Abrams.
Take the fire in his hazel-green eyes, for instance, when he talks about the two sports he loves most -- football and basketball -- ina voice with the resonance and monotone of a laid-back disc jockey.
There's that puzzled expression when the 17-year-old considers thenot-too-distant possibility of having to choose one sport over the other when he heads to college next year.
"They're equal to me. I love them both," said Abrams, during a break in Wednesday afternoon's basketball practice. "I don't know if I could ever give one of them up."
Then there's his stressing the importance of being a team player, mentioning his teammates, mainstays like Jeff Hedrick, who have helped the Wildcats adjust to a recent rash of injuries.
"One person doesn't make a team," said Abrams, who enters tonight's game against Glen Burnie leading the 4-8 Wildcats in scoring with 15.3 points per game. He tops the metro area in rebounding with an 18.5 average.
"If I'm under the boards, I'll put it back up," he said. "But if not, I'm looking to pass the ball around."
Abrams' feet, which require size 14 shoes, have carried him fast enough to "beat some guys" whorun a 4.6 40-yard --.
He bench-pressed 300 pounds in his last attempt, and as an All-County lineman this past fall helped pace the football team to a 4-6 record with 38 tackles, six each in sacks and assists and five blocked passes. He also caused two fumbles.
Only a junior, Abrams already has his mind on college, striving to improve his 2.5 grade-point average and preparing for his Scholastic Aptitude Test.
"If you don't think about where you want to go," said Abrams,"college just sneaks up on you. As an individual, I just want peopleto respect me."
Bernie Walter certainly does.
"He just does the right things," said Walter, the school's athletic director. "He's the kind of athlete you love to see. It's a pleasure to have someone who is as big and strong as he is not going around trying to alienate or intimidate people."
He is, however, intimidating in the playingarena.
"There aren't too many teams who won't respect me when thegame is over," said Abrams. "I want people to be real cocky with me in a game and talk junk because that inspires me to play harder.
"I may joke around in class or in the halls, but I know when to get serious. Like, I'm good friends with (Meade center) Brian Parker. We speak regularly, but when we play against them next week, we'll put that aside. On the court, I have no friends, other than my teammates. It's got to be that way if you're going to come out on top."
At the top of his game is where Abrams has been recently.
In three outings last week, he grabbed 72 boards. Included was his best game to date, last Friday's 94-77 loss to South River, where he amassed 27 each in points and boards.
His second-best game was in a 83-60 loss to Annapolis Jan. 10, where he had 25 rebounds and 19 points.
"As he goes, we go. He's the leader on our team," said Arundel coach Gerald Moore, who at 6-foot-7, knows something about post-up players.
Abrams is averaging one steal and slightly more than one blocked shot pergame. An injured right shoulder kept him out of track's shot put anddiscus events for the past two years, but he still wings a mean outlet pass.
"He'd have more than nine assists, except he's strong as a horse and throws the ball so hard that guys can't catch it sometimes," said Moore, who in 1983 was a seventh-round draft pick before being cut by the NBA's Seattle Supersonics.
"Sometimes Richard plays like he's 6-foot-6. Other times it's like he's smaller. But he's pretty consistent, and he's getting better all the time," said Moore. "He's got great footwork. If he sets his mindon playing his game, he's hard to stop. But I know his future is in football, and I'm encouraging him in that direction."
Said football coach Buddy Hepfer: "He did a good job on defense, but he played mostly on offense. We ran to his side the majority of the time. There was always a hole."
There are few holes in Abrams' priorities, however, and he thanks his parents, Albert and Betty, for that.
"They've always been involved in what I'm doing," said Abrams.
A late bloomer, he didn't start playing organized football until just three years ago in Berlin, Germany, where his father, an Army sergeant, was stationed.
Last year, his father's new job brought the family to Virginia's Faquier County, where Richard helped Faquier High's football and basketball teams reach the state playoffs.
This year, the Abramses moved to Seven Oaks inOdenton.
"I really like the school spirit here and I've had two good coaches," said Richard. "Coach Moore's credentials speak for him.He'll push you to reach a certain level, then when you feel you've achieved something, he pushes you farther and compliments you for doing good.
"But after a game, win or lose, he's like 'See you at practice Monday.' "
And Abrams, wide body and all, is always among thefirst in line for drills.