Hot-hand 'Man' arrives in town Boys basketball: Tiny Colonel Richardson's Albert Mouring, who scored 62 in a game earlier this season, shoots for respect at the Charm City Classic today.

February 01, 1997|By Brant James | Brant James,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Albert Mouring dreamed the same dreams of all the kids who decided one afternoon they wanted to be basketball stars. He shot the same shots, practiced the same moves, and won millions of imaginary games at the buzzer.

But dreams of this high school senior, who's been called "The Man" since middle school, sprung not from hardscrabble inner-city courts that so often mold those dreams into reality. His dreams started on a backyard dirt court and a tiny playground miles from the last square of city sidewalk.

Basketball is still the city game, but the 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard from Colonel Richardson High School on the Eastern Shore has proved that talent does not always disembark with the last bus.

For against the backdrop of southern Caroline County's rolling farmland, in a quarter-mile-long hamlet named Jonestown, he has made himself one of the nation's top college recruits -- and landed a full scholarship at the University of Connecticut this fall. He's also proved that more than decoys and tomatoes come from "The Shore."

Mouring will attempt to further illustrate his point when his Colonels face Newport Prep in the Charm City Classic at 5: 15 p.m. today.

"They don't give us respect [on the Western Shore]," Mouring said. "I had to earn my respect -- I had to do that with my game. And I'm still trying to prove it. It puts good pressure on me -- makes me ready to play even harder."

Mouring has posted ever-improving statistics in relative obscurity for 3 1/2 seasons.

He averaged 16.7 points as a pensive, too-quick-to-pass freshman, but in addition to his long-range shooting skills, established his trademark free throw proficiency (he's a career 84 percent shooter) by hitting 69 of 80 attempts (86 percent). Going into tonight's game, he's hit his last 20.

As a sophomore, Mouring began to complement his deep scoring abilities with a slashing inside game, and he averaged 24.7 points a game. As a junior, the average climbed to 32 points, and he shot 54.7 percent from the field.

This season, he is scoring 38.3 points a game on 57 percent shooting from the field (43 percent from three-point range, and 64.6 percent on two-pointers).

Mouring has scored 40 or more points against five teams this season (and never less than 26), including a 62-point effort in a 99-77 win over Queen Anne's Jan. 7.

In that headline-grabbing effort, he hit 11 of 14 three-pointers, 11 of 16 two-point tries and seven of 10 foul shots in 31 minutes against the Lions. The 62 points likely either set or approached a state single-game record, although no official records are kept for regular-season games.

'He's not forcing shots'

"People look at this and think he must be selfish," said Merrill Morgan, Colonel Richardson's coach for 30 years. "But he's not. Some good players never have a shooting percentage like his. He's not forcing up shots."

Morgan met Mouring as a sixth-grader after watching him play in a recreation center game the boy's elementary school principal invited him to attend. He knew that in a couple years, something special was coming his way.

"You could tell then he had all the skills," Morgan said. "He was doing things the other kids couldn't, things some older kids couldn't."

Local lore at the time said Mouring already was beating players twice his age -- men in their 20s -- on the playgrounds, and he

was often seen honing his ball-handling skills by dribbling up and down the stretch of Route 16 near Preston that defines Jonestown.

"We were on the bus going to play Easton one day -- I guess Albert was in the seventh grade," Morgan recalled, "and when we drove through Jonestown [assistant coach] Tom Coursey said, 'There's The Man.' Albert was out in the backyard shooting foul shots in the snow. That's the dedication that made him what he is."

Mouring's life at home has not changed much, even since people around school began calling him "superstar." His mother, Shanelle, and father, Albert, see that he and his younger brother Gerren, 14, remain on an even keel.

"One time I was around the house thinking I was all that [stuff]," Mouring remembered with a smile. "She put me in my place. She said I was still just like anybody else."

Mouring's mother said she just wants her son to realize what he has, adding: "I just didn't want him to get a big head. I told him he was blessed, and God gave him what he has."

Much of Mouring's production has been attributed in city circles to weak competition, a statement he and Morgan have had to combat. For example, William Wells, coach for Baltimore powerhouse St. Frances, said: "The kid has all the tools. He can shoot. He can go to the basket. The question is whether he could do it against the city kids."

Colonel Richardson faces mostly Class 1A schools -- the state's smallest -- during its regular season, but plays in an East Region that has been regarded as one of the state's best for the past three years. Five of the top eight teams in the current Class 1A poll (including Richardson at No. 5) are from the East.

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