Willingham guarding his time Wilde Lake player makes court move

January 06, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

The game is different. The job's the same. Direct the offense.

Seth Willingham quarterbacked Wilde Lake's football team to its third straight state championship last fall.

Now, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior point guard hopes to lead the Wildecats to their first county basketball championship since 1978.

So far, the Wildecats are 3-3, having beaten St. Mary's, Poolesville and Great Mills, while losing to Loyola, Pallotti and Calvert.

Friday, they play host to archrival and five-time defending county champion Oakland Mills in the league opener.

Willingham has been Wilde Lake's most consistent player, averaging fewer than two turnovers, scoring 17 points and making seven assists per game.

Against Great Mills in the semifinals of the Southern (Harwood) Holiday Tournament, he set season-highs with 26 points and nine assists. Wilde Lake won, 87-75.

"I've been extremely happy with him at point guard," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said. "He can take care of the ball, sees the court well and has an air of confidence about him that he brought with him from football."

Ellis expected to play Willingham at shooting guard, but experimented with him at point guard when others didn't measure up. He has played all but the first game there.

Willingham is a go-to type of player who isn't afraid in pressure situations. That's why the junior played a lot as a sophomore, especially at the end of close games.

He's adept at going one-on-one, and he has made 10 baskets from three-point range.

"Shooting threes is my favorite part of the game," Willingham said.

In a sport where mismatches often decide the outcome, Willing- ham's size offers the Wildecats an advantage. There are few 6-foot-3 guards around to defend against him.

Wilde Lake can start a big team with 6-5 centers Ramone Myers and

Sule Carpenter, 6-4 forward Deon Wingfield, 6-3 forward Taronn Evans and Willingham.

"We go to that lineup when we want to run our half-court offense, but our big men can run the court so we can still fast break," Willingham said.

Willingham scores a lot off fast breaks.

He's also a deadly scorer when the Wildecats work a play to isolate him against a smaller opponent on the low post.

"Playing the point guard position hasn't cut down on his scoring," Ellis said.

Luck also has played a role in Willingham's success at point guard.

He was always one of the taller players on his youth league basketball teams while growing up in Owen Brown and Harper's Choice. Despite his superior height, he was asked to play point guard for his first traveling team, the Columbia Bulls.

Willingham also played youth league football, soccer and baseball. Football is the sport he hopes to play in college, although he'd like to take a shot at doubling up by playing both football and basketball.

Wilde Lake has nine juniors and only three key seniors, so it is a relatively young team.

That youth was evident in Wilde Lake's opening game, a 71-63 loss to Loyola.

"We got down by 18 points in the first quarter because we were nervous, but then we played well," said Willingham.

Ellis hopes that Willingham's confidence from football infects the basketball team. If it does, that 14-year county championship drought may be over.

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