Western's youth movement moves team to head of class Doves' underclassmen hold the upper hand

January 26, 1993|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

There are some things high school sophomores can't do.

They can't legally enter a theater that is showing an R-rated movie without the accompaniment of an adult, for example.

They can't vote, and most of them can't obtain a driver's license.

On the basketball court, however, there's not much the eight sophomores on Western's basketball team can't do. They have played a major role in making the Doves the area's top-ranked team and the 19th-ranked team in the nation.

Four of the sophomores -- guard/forward Chanel Wright, guard Kimberly Smith, center Danielle Davis and guard Tesha Tinsley -- are impact players and frequent starters (Wright has started all but one game in her two-year career).

Wright (17.6 points per game) and Smith (13.9) are Western's leading scorers, Davis leads the team with 8.6 rebounds per game and Smith averages a team-high 5.9 assists.

The other four -- Carla Lockette, Lisa Jackson, Felicia Burroughs and Janell Burgess -- are role players. They spell the starters while trying to improve their game.

The combination of the sophomores and a core of solid seniors -- Kelly Evans, Erika Dailey, Kia Damon and Charmane Baker -- has meant a 15-0 start. The Doves' average margin of victory is 54 points, and their closest game was decided by 29 points.

It would seem that Western coach Breezy Bishop could just roll the ball out on the court and let her team win.

But that's not Bishop's style.

Instead, she relentlessly pushes her team to improve. With the sophomores, she does this through instruction, constructive criticism and discipline.

"When you have a talented team like this, you spend less time on the floor and more time in the classroom," said Bishop, who has a 321-27 (.922) career record. "We have a chalkboard segment and a critique segment in which they are taught to handle criticism. At first, the younger players couldn't handle [criticism]. Now, if I don't include this after every game, they ask for it."

With the exception of Burgess, the sophomores had all played together on Amateur Athletic Union and recreation teams before coming to Western. They arrived at the school last season with solid skills and untapped talent.

"They had the basic skills coming in, but they also had bad habits," Bishop said. "They were over-passing, dribbling too much and not reading defenses."

Said Wright: "I knew I had to get more disci plined and more focused. Basically, I had to learn the high school game."

Each of the four starting sophomores represents a challenge for Bishop.

Wright, a first-team All-Metro selection last season, has the tools to be an All-American by her senior year. But she sometimes needs a motivator.

"Chanel responds to discipline," Bishop said. "She thrives on it. The harder you get on her, the better she plays. She cries and says 'I can't do this' and 'I can't do that.' But when the buzzer goes off, she hustles 110 percent."

Smith has the ability to thrill a crowd with her Michael Jordan-like moves to the basket. But Bishop is usually less than thrilled when Smith plays to the crowd.

"She is an awesome point guard," Bishop said. "But sometimes she tries to 'be like Mike,' and I just want her to be Kimberly Smith."

Bishop is also trying to get Davis, 6 feet 2, to be more aggressive inside and Tinsley -- whom she calls the team's best pure shooter -- to stay focused throughout the game.

Of course most coaches would probably love to have the problems Bishop has.

One problem that Bishop is glad to be free of is animosity among the players.

Competition is fierce for starting jobs and playing time, and if a sophomore outplays a senior, the underclassman will get the nod. Last season, Bishop said there was some resentment toward the younger players by the upperclassmen.

Consequently, Western failed to live up to expectations and was upset by Walbrook in the City-Wide championship game last season.

"The resentment was what kept us from being great," Bishop said. "This year, Kelly, Erika, Kia and Charmane are working extremely hard to make sure they are leaders on and off the court. They're working hard not to get caught up in the feeling that 'oh, that sophomore is so much better than me.' "

With the internal conflicts apparently resolved, the Doves appear to be nearly unbeatable. Western, which joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association with the rest of the city public schools this year, has the opportunity to play for a state championship for the first time.

The Doves are favored by some to unseat two-time defending Class 4A state champion Old Mill. But Bishop is cautious about making predictions, whether they be about this season or beyond.

"This is the most raw talent we've ever had," said Bishop, who has coached four undefeated teams at Western. "I'm not ready to say this is the best team Western ever had. They're still young and immature. But they have the potential to be one of the top four teams in the country."

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