Conwell builds stats, but victory is his goal Driven to excel: Oakland Mills' scoring and rebounding whiz won't accept star status until he makes his team better.

January 28, 1996|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Oakland Mills' Irving Conwell, the Baltimore Sun's Howard County Basketball Player of the Year last season, doesn't think he's a great player yet. Most opponents might disagree.

His definition of great is: "A good all-around player who gets his teammates into the game, makes them better players and produces big plays in the clutch."

It might be added that a great player hates to lose as much as Conwell does.

"I'm happy scoring 10 points as long as we win," Conwell said. "I hate losing, at anything."

Oakland Mills has won six of its last eight games, and Conwell's individual numbers are impressive. He's averaging 25.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.6 steals through 10 games. A year ago he averaged 20.4 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Last Monday against Howard the 6-foot-4 senior forward broke a school single-game scoring record with 43 points, shooting 13-of-18 from the field. He had 15 rebounds. The game before that he scored 31 against Loyola and had 15 rebounds.

"Irving's shooting percentage from the field is up, and he is playing his best ball of the season right now," Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby said.

"He's the hardest-working player I've ever coached, and his infectious enthusiasm sets a good example for the rest of the team. The most important thing that Irving needs to do is continue making his teammates better players."

For Conwell, that means making his passes more accessible. He's averaging only 2.1 assists.

"Irving is not a textbook player," Appleby said. "He is so creative and instinctive that sometimes his passes are unexpected and hard to handle. But to structure him down would be counter-productive. To minimize his options would be foolish. We need every ounce he can give, and he'll play until his tongue hangs out."

One other sore spot has been his free-throw shooting, hovering around 50 percent.

Conwell, who broke the 1,000-point mark last season, usually draws extra defensive attention that makes him work harder to get open, although some teams focus on stopping the rest of the team, figuring he'll get his points, no matter what.

Conwell admits that this season has been tougher than last.

"Last year's team all played together the summer before so it was easier. And there wasn't as much on my shoulders," he said. "This team didn't play together last summer, so no one realizes how good it can be. Athletically, we can play with any school, anywhere. We just don't all know what it takes to win yet."

Conwell's team goal includes another trip to the state's final four. "If we get to states we're going to win it, because we won't have to play Dunbar," he said.

Dunbar, which beat Oakland Mills in the 2A state championship game, moved up to 3A this season. Oakland Mills remained 2A.

Conwell's personal goals, most of which appear within reach, are: a college basketball scholarship; breaking Barry Young's county single-game scoring record of 51 points; scoring a triple double and beating Atholton.

He grew up playing with Atholton team members Tyrone Allmond and Nat Watkins.

"I'll know them the rest of my life. Nat is like my brother," Conwell said. "Beating Atholton will mean bragging rights for the rest of my life."

Right now, he's hoping to play college basketball at Delaware or Dayton.

As for breaking Young's record, it could happen. "I think he's capable of scoring 51 points in a game," Appleby said.

Chicago's Scottie Pippen and Orlando's Anfernee Hardaway, players who can take control of a game, are Conwell's favorite NBA stars.

Conwell excelled at quarterback and defensive back for the Oakland Mills football team, winning All-Metro and All-State honors. He's being recruited by Nebraska and Florida for football, but would prefer to play basketball in college.

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