When Poly's LaToya Moore entered the ninth grade, she just wanted to have a good time.
So when her dad told her that she had to find something constructive to do, Moore thought about the fun she had on the neighborhood basketball courts during the summer.
"I just needed something to do," said Moore, "so I decided to try basketball."
Everyone, including Moore, is glad she did. After only four years of organized competition, she has transformed herself from a playground name to a leading player -- both at Poly and throughout the city.
In 1990, her first year as a varsity starter for the Engineers, Moore averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds, garnering two Baltimore Sun Player of the Week awards and honorable mention All-Metro status. But she was just getting the hang of things.
She spent last summer practicing and working out with her good friend Dafne Lee, a Walbrook graduate who is now a senior guard at Maryland. Moore gives Lee much of the credit for making her a better play
"She has helped me tremendously during the summer," Moore said.
However, Poly coach Mark Sawyer gives Moore much of the credit for making the Engineers a better team.
"She is definitely a leader," Sawyer said of his senior co-captain. "She produces under all conditions."
Including a borrowed gym. Sawyer and his Engineers have been competing with four other teams for the use of the Poly/Western gymnasium, and in doing so, often find themselves practicing on weekends and holidays. And for a team as new as Poly's, whose girls program is in just its 10th season of varsity competition, that could be catastrophic. But, for the Engineers, not having a gym to call their own just makes them want everything a little more.
"We really don't have enough time for practice," said Moore. "But we really do work hard."
This year, that hard work is paying off. Moore is among the area leaders in both scoring (20.7) and rebounding (13.6), and the Engineers (15-6 overall, 12-2 in the City-Wide League) are right in the thick of things, currently second in their league to No. 5 Walbrook. Poly has proven itself against tough competition, and so has Moore.
"She is only 5-10 and plays much taller," Sawyer said. "She's always playing against someone bigger inside. A lot of times, LaToya's double-teamed."
Moore not only surprises her competition on the court; she excels in the classroom as well. A solid "B" student, she is enrolled in Poly's challenging B-course engineering program, and hopes to go to college to become an engineer. Sawyer is sure that she will.
"LaToya definitely is a Division I prospect," he said, "but she's looking to find the academics first."