Stefan steps out of shadows Wilde Lake senior becomes leader on team, in county

February 21, 1993|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Contributing Writer

If not for one last year of high school basketball, Tracy Stefan's career might have become a story of unfulfilled promise.

Stefan's first three seasons at Wilde Lake were rough. Although talented, she never found consistency on offense -- during her sophomore and junior years guard Renita Young did most of the scoring.

Now, with Young graduated, Stefan, a 5-foot-8 center/forward, has emerged as a Howard County force. Through 14 games, she averaged 12.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, first and second in the county, respectively.

"Tracy was very timid last year," coach Kelly Rosati said. "She was still a very good rebounder and scorer, but we didn't have a chance to get the ball to her that much. This year, she's taken on much more of a leadership role."

Stefan is relieved she no longer plays in a teammate's shadow.

"I know I have to play well, I know I have to score, but if I don't play well, we're not automatically going to lose," she said. "Like last year, if Renita didn't play well, our team lost. She controlled it, so nobody else had any confidence. I kind of got sick of people saying the whole team is Renita Young."

Stefan averaged four points as a sophomore, when the Wildecats scored 25 per game, resulting in a 1-19 season. Last year, she doubled her scoring mark on an offense that still lacked cohesiveness. Wilde Lake improved to 9-13 and lost in the regional semifinals to Milford Mill.

However, the 1992-93 Wildecats are playing with unity, even after last week's back-to-back losses to No. 13 Howard and No. 4 Hammond left them 9-7 overall and 6-5 in the county, good for fourth place.

Ranked third in Class 1A, Region II behind No. 19 Milford Mill and Catoctin, Wilde Lake is virtually assured of a playoff berth. Ultimately, a second-place finish is its goal: earning a bye and home bid and avoiding first-place Milford Mill until the regional final.

Stefan wants Wilde Lake's fate to rest on a team -- not individual -- performance.

"It's a basketball team, not a one-person team," she said. "That's why we've done a lot better this year. We play as a team instead of one."

The tallest starter on a relatively short squad, Stefan alternates between forward on offense and center on defense. She's displayed deft shooting for several seasons.But overall, her offensive value exceeds that of past years, says Rosati, who tutored Stefan as a Wilde Lake assistant before becoming head coach two years ago.

"Last year, she was a very good shooter from the inside and outside," Rosati said. "This year, she's using moves on the inside that she didn't use last year. She can handle the ball and get past people, pull up for a jump shot after a fake, and take the ball to the basket."

Wilde Lake's Kim Driessen, a junior guard/forward, said: "Tracy realizes that she can't do it all herself and she sets people up. She'll try to get other people to step up and score. She wants everyone involved."

In particular, Driessen has observed a tremendous improvement Stefan's outside shooting. In the 53-42 loss to Howard, for instance, Stefan scored scored several baskets on baseline shots. Nine of her 11 points came in the first period, but the Lions soon switched to a sagging 2-3 zone, stifling Stefan's baseline freedom -- and Wilde Lake's most dangerous scoring threat.

"I worked hard to get open and I'd be open for just a split second and get missed," Stefan said.

She and Rosati concur that her ball-handling needs refining for college competition. Stefan wants to play Division II, and Rosati has received letters from Shippensburg, Westchester, Slippery Rock, Radford and Appalachian State.

At her height, she'll most likely play guard.

"If I'm going to be a guard in college, I'll have to dribble the ball much better," said Stefan, who sharpened her skills at the University of Virginia camp last summer. "I've also got to become more aggressive because in college the pace picks up."

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