When Mount de Sales girls basketball coach Bill Held talks about Amy Buck, he seems to speak in oxymorons.
"She's so graceful and polite that it's sometimes misconstrued as not aggressive," Held said. "She's very aggressive, just in her own polite way."
"She's such a sweet girl, and it's like she's that same sweet girl on the court," he said. "Amy will fight you tooth and nail, but she would never conceive to do something unsportsmanlike. It's not in her character, yet she's as competitive as any athlete I've seen."
Contradictions seem to define Buck.
Standing 6-foot-1, the senior is a natural center, which is the position she plays for the 15th-ranked Sailors (3-1). But she would rather be a point guard, the position her sister, Christy, plays.
And because of her height, many would assume that she rarely strays too far from the basket. On the contrary, Buck's outside shot is one of the strongest parts of her game.
"She has developed one of the smoothest outside shots I've ever seen," Held said. "She has a soft touch with a roll that is pretty to watch and nice spin to the ball."
With her 15-foot jumper and her inside moves complementing her strong defensive play, Buck has become one of the area's more versatile players.
This season, Buck is averaging 17.8 points and is shooting 60 percent (32-for-53) from the field. Held said that strong play by forwards Ana Martinez and Lisa Banbury have helped to open up Buck's perimeter game.
"This is the first year that our forwards are playing aggressively," Held said. "In the past, Amy has had to make up for that. Now, Amy can take that smooth jump shot without having to worry about getting under the basket after every shot."
Buck, who had never played basketball until she joined a recreational league as a seventh-grader, has shown rapid improvement throughout her high school career. Because of her height, Buck was approached during her freshman year about joining the basketball team.
"They started working with me from the start," Buck said. "I could always play defense, but I had to work on my shot. Last year, I increased my shooting range a lot and I got the total game skills down."
As Buck has improved, so has Mount de Sales.
When Held took over as coach in 1992-93, he made the decision to start five sophomores, including Buck.
"I knew that was where the talent and our future was," Held said. "But we took it on the chin."
The Sailors went 11-14 that season, but they finished last in the Catholic League with a 1-13 mark.
Last season, Mount de Sales improved to 15-7 and moved up to fourth place in the league at 7-7. The Sailors even broke into the Top 20 at one point.
Buck averaged 17.9 points and 12.9 rebounds and was named to the All-Metro second team last season.
With all five starters back this season, Mount de Sales was considered a legitimate contender in the Catholic League. The loss of starting point guard Katie Santry to a knee injury, however, has cast some doubts over the Sailors. But it also has inspired Buck.
"Amy is determined to pick up that leadership role," Held said. "She has created a sense to everyone on the team that we can still have a good season."
Several Division I schools have expressed an interest in her for basketball, but Buck -- an All-Metro lacrosse player -- has decided to play lacrosse at Towson State.
"I've talked to Towson State about basketball, but I'd rather play lacrosse," Buck said. "I could try to make it as a walk-on, but right now I'd say no."
By pursuing lacrosse, Buck is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, who played lacrosse at Johns Hopkins, and her aunt -- Leigh Bradley -- who is in the Towson State Hall of Fame for lacrosse.
"Lacrosse has a good tradition in my family," Buck said.
And that's one tradition Buck won't contradict.