Valentino in position to excel at Atholton

January 03, 1993|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Contributing Writer

Some things change, but others don't, as is the case with Atholton basketball star Allison Valentino.

In her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, Valentino's customary position was point guard. Now, as the Raiders' third-tallest player at 5 feet 7, the senior is counted on at the small-forward spot.

What has remained the same, though, is Valentino's torrid shooting. After totaling 579 points in her first three years, with a 13.9 average in 1991-92, Valentino has averaged 13.5 points through eight games this season.

The position transition was one of "necessity, not choice," Atholton coach Paul Eckert said.

"In the scheme of the offense, we're not asking her to post up a lot," Eckert said. "We're still trying to get her the ball out on the perimeter. We've added some post moves as a new dimension."

Valentino said: "I thought I'd be playing at [shooting guard], but [Eckert] put me at [small forward] because I'm one of the tallest people on the team and that's a shooting and rebounding position."

Already this season, Valentino has improved two spots to third place on Atholton's all-time scoring list.

First, she surpassed Erika Kean and then slipped past Cari Kammerer with 15 points in Wednesday's 53-43 loss to Damascus in the Central Maryland Tournament's championship game.

Currently at 687 points, only 94 separate Valentino and Karen Carter for second. And with 14 regular-season games left, attaining that mark is highly likely. However, Valentino admitted that the challenge is not her top priority.

"Second place is good for me, but I'm not just focused on scoring," she said. "If the points are there, I'll take them, but I won't force anything."

What Valentino must be emphatic about is her leadership role. As one of only two seniors on a team with four freshmen, three sophomores and three juniors, her command of the game is sorely needed.

She has responded well, becoming a fixture for the younger players to rely on for tutoring and encouragement.

Valentino's insight and experience assists up-and-coming Raiders such as freshman Lea Nichols and sophomore Stephanie VanDeusen.

"She encourages people to get better," Nichols said. "She's nice to everyone and makes us feel more comfortable."

Valentino knows how important guidance is, for as a freshman, she turned to Sherri Orlosky. Orlosky was a good source, as she had the skills to become Atholton's leading all-time scorer with 1,339 points. Orlosky is in her third season playing basketball at Notre Dame.

"She's still a definite role model for me," Valentino said of Orlosky. "She could play any position. Everyone looked to her for leadership and now everyone looks to me for leadership because I'm the only starting senior."

The team leader in scoring average, steals (2.6), assists (2.75) and second in rebounding (5.5), Valentino is considered the Raiders' go-to player.

More than ever, that's true when the team falls behind, as was the case against Damascus, the CMT's defending champion and a Montgomery County power.

In the third period, Atholton scored just three points and committed nine turnovers, falling behind 41-25.

Valentino took control in the final quarter, handling the ball, improvising plays and launching shot after shot to score nine points. Her basket with 2:00 left pulled the Raiders within four, but they came no closer and dropped to 4-4.

Damascus coach Barbara King, who saw Valentino play last season, noticed a change in her play during the tournament .

"She seems to be playing under a little more control and with a more positive attitude," King said.

Also an excellent lacrosse player, Valentino would prefer playing that sport over basketball at a Division I school such as Maryland or Old Dominion. Valentino's GPA is 3.4 and she is a two-time Atholton Student of the Month, Eckert said.

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