Towers of friendship More than foes: Chavonne Hammond and Jennifer Holmes may battle on court, but they leave their rivalry there.

February 05, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The word has leaked out.

Arundel High's Chavonne Hammond and her rival, Severna Park's Jennifer Holmes, spent six days together at each other's home last month during the Blizzard of '96.

That's right.

The Baltimore metro area's two premier girls post players who also happen to be two of Vanderbilt University's prized recruits took time out from their fierce on-court basketball battles to continue their off-court friendship.

The two seniors stayed three days at Hammond's Crofton home and three days at Holmes' Severna Park residence.

Oh, by the way, Holmes entertained the first three days because she has a hoop in her driveway.

Imagine the one-on-one games between these two who were signed by Vanderbilt last Nov. 8, the first day of the early signing period.

"It goes back and forth," said Holmes when asked the outcome of her one-on-one encounters with Hammond, the leading girls basketball scorer in Arundel High history.

While the results of the individual basketball duels fluctuate, not much changes in their friendship, which began when they were teammates on the Chesapeake Hurricanes AAU basketball squad in the summer of 1994.

"We're so much alike," Holmes said. "We're always thinking the same things and enjoy talking about Vanderbilt basketball. We're both even going to major in mass communications."

Also, both players know how to separate basketball from friendship.

"The court is business," said Holmes. "Afterward is friends. I'd be mad if Chavonne didn't play at her top level against me."

Hammond said: "Our love for basketball first brought us together. Now she's a good friend and my favorite person to play against. But I still want to beat her as much as I do anybody else."

When the 6-foot Hammond and the 6-2 Holmes were given full basketball scholarships by Vanderbilt, it was a red-letter day for girls sports in Anne Arundel County.

Imagine the odds against two girls who live just 10 miles apart in the same county getting full rides to one of the top women's basketball programs in the country.

Vanderbilt was ranked No. 2 in the nation a couple of weeks ago before dropping to No. 5 last week.

"It's so exciting to get involved with these two young ladies," said Vanderbilt recruiting coordinator Debbie Patterson. "They have incredible potential and are hard workers. They are real recruiting finds."

"I consider it a privilege for me to go to Vanderbilt," said Hammond, who is averaging 15.2 points, 12 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 4 steals and 3 assists for second-ranked Arundel. "I have followed their team every game this year and was upset when they lost their first game of the season to Tennessee."

Holmes also was disturbed by the loss to Tennessee in Knoxville.

"One of my main goals at Vanderbilt will be to help them beat Tennessee at Tennessee," said Holmes who is averaging 15 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks for seventh-ranked Severna Park. "They've never done that."

Vanderbilt recruiting coordinator Debbie Patterson has been following the progress of Holmes since the summer of her sophomore season but first laid eyes on Hammond last April in Hampton, Va., at the Boo Williams AAU tournament.

Patterson was amazed that Hammond had been playing basketball only three seasons at that time.

"When she caught the ball, faced the basket, split a trap with one dribble, took the ball to the basket for a layup and scored, I was kind of stunned," Patterson said. "I said this young lady is only a baby in regards to playing basketball and it was real obvious that move hadn't been taught her. Chavonne has great instincts, is very good at anticipating what is going to happen two passes down the road, has great hands and really impresses me defensively."

Another aspect of Hammond's game that sets her apart is her ability to finish on the fast break, and that is why she most likely will wind up playing the shooting guard as a college freshman.

While the perimeter is in Hammond's future, Holmes will be a power forward.

"Her strengths are her ability to rebound and to defend on the blocks," Patterson said.

Severna Park coach Kevin McGrath sees Holmes "blossoming at the college level."

"She is held in check by some of the officiating in high school," he said. "Jen is getting beat up by the opponents, but if she breathes on someone, it's a foul."

Arundel coach Lee Rogers said Hammond will be a big hit at Vanderbilt once she improves her perimeter shooting.

"I encourage her to take the outside shots all the time," Rogers said. "But Chavonne doesn't feel any pressure to score because we have so many other players who can hit from the perimeter. She has to play inside for us, but once she goes to Vanderbilt, her quickness will allow her to fit right into their up-tempo game."

Hammond and Holmes have met six times in high school, with Hammond leading the series 5-1. Holmes has at least one more chance to gain some revenge when they meet Friday at Severna Park at 7:30 p.m. in the last regular-season meeting between their teams.

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