Annapolis boys hoops coach John Brady doesn't like to depend on one player, because if that individual has an off-night, it "puts the team in a precarious situation."
Not to worry, senior Rob Wooster didn't have many off-nights this season.
No longer being used in a supporting role, Wooster emerged as a prolific scorer and the unquestioned leader of the Panthers.
The 6-foot-5 forward led the county in scoring with 26 points a game and pulled down nearly nine rebounds a contest. He also served as the glue that held the team together in the most trying of times.
"He's such a good all-around player," Brady said of Wooster, the 1991-1992 Anne Arundel County Sun Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
"He can score a lot of different ways, and he's good under pressure," Brady said. "He knew when to take over a game, and when he did, he was usually successful."
And those qualities made Annapolis successful. The Panthers won 20 games and were seeded first in the Class 4A Region IVplayoffs, a surprise considering the number of good athletes who graduated after last season.
The Panthers' season ended with a loss to Coach Paul Bunting's Old Mill Patriots in the regional semifinals, a game in which Wooster surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. Bunting was selected as the 1991-1992 Anne Arundel County Sun Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
Wooster became the go-to guy, the player that Brady wanted to have the ball in the waning seconds of a close ballgame.
"He didn't exhibit any stress to me," Brady said of the added pressure. "It seemed like he pretty much accepted it. You can evaluate it by his performance."
"Each year, Annapolis has a person who was a junior (the previous year) who steps up. It was just my turn," said Wooster, who scored at least 30 points in eight games this season, including a career-high 38 against Severna Park.
Wooster, who became the first boy to repeat as Player of the Year, set school records for three-point baskets in a season (56) and career (103), and free-throw percentage (.880).
Wooster's play grew more impressive as the season rolled on. He bypassed South River's Al Lee as the county's leading scorer, and perhaps more importantly, finally satisfied himself.
"I felt I had to step up," he said. "The first partof the season, I wasn't playing Rob Wooster basketball. I needed to take control and take the shot that was needed and show some leadership on the floor and settle everything down and get us back to where we were supposed to be."
Brady said, "As a team comes together, everybody assumes their role. I think he took a look at everything that was going on and realized that, down at the wire, he was the guy to go to. But at the same time, when it came to a rebounding, blocking shots or penetrating and passing off, he also did that."
Wooster dideverything right in a 76-74 win over Old Mill on Feb. 18, a game in which Annapolis trailed late in the third quarter. He scored 13 of his game-high 37 points in the last quarter, including two free throws in the final seconds after Old Mill had come within two.
"I've never seen a player quite dominate a tight game the way he did," Brady said.
Bunting said, "When we cut their lead to six or eight points and had a chance to really put the pressure on them, he came up with two big blocked shots, two key defensive plays.
"I don't think he is given the credit he has deserved. His other assests don't get readily recognized because he scores points, which, unfortunately, draws the average fan's attention."
Bunting's team drew a lot of attention this season, and not always for the best reasons. The Patriots were besieged with internal strife late in the regular season -- with accusations made that the coach was showing favoritism toward certain players -- and Bunting benched four starters in a 73-51 loss to Chesapeake.
The defeat dropped Old Mill to the fifth seed in the regional playoffs, but the Patriots regrouped to upset Broadneck, Annapolis and Meade on the road and qualify for their first state final four.
"It certainly surprised me, especially after the last-game fiasco,"said Bunting, whose team finished at 16-10. "With the unhappiness that apparently had built up in some of kids' minds that I was unaware of, and the general dissention, for them to beat these teams is quitean accomplishment.
"I learned a lot about myself and about human nature that I'll store in my memory bank for years to come."
Nothing came easily for the Patriots. Their tallest player was 6-4, their leading scorer (Ravon Austin) missed time with an injured knee and another standout guard (Erik Sheppard) sat out a portion of the season because of poor grades.
"To play between six and eight games without both of them is a credit to the rest of the guys on the team. Theypicked up the slack," Bunting said. "They could have folded during the bad times, but they put it all behind them and went on. I admire that.
"This season is going to be tough to match."