Warriors set pace in classroom Boys basketball: Sixth-ranked Woodlawn is putting up solid academic numbers, with a 3.1 team grade-point average.

February 09, 1997|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

With a 15-game-winning streak No. 6 Woodlawn appears to be head-and-shoulders above Baltimore County competition.

But the success of the Warriors (16-1) may be as much a function of their heads being on straight in the classroom as much as their heady play on the hardwood.

At any rate, a team with a cumulative 3.1 grade-point average entering the third marking period means fewer headaches for a basketball coach. Just ask the Warriors' Bobby Richardson, in his first season at Woodlawn.

"We just received report cards for the last marking period and no one's close to being in trouble," said Richardson. "It's not like they're struggling academically, but they still want to be overachievers. As a coach, I just feel lucky to be in this arena."

Among the career interests of Warriors players, assistant coach Melvin Jackson listed "computer science, engineering and architectural drafting," and among their college considerations "Virginia Tech and Georgetown."

Among the five senior starters, whose combined GPA is 3.2, the backcourt leads the way with 6-foot guards Derek Foster (3.25 GPA) and Eric Burrell (3.2). They are followed by 6-6, 205-pound forward Paul Kwajafa and 6-5, 195-pound forward William Epps -- both with 3.1 GPAs -- and guard Marcel Smith (2.9).

Among the reserves, there are seniors Bernard Lee (2.95) and Larry Goins (3.0) and 6-5 junior center Benga Adekunle (3.8).

"We practice at 2: 30 and have a study hall right after. Some of us stay here until 7 or 7: 30," said Epps, who scored 910 on his Scholastic Assessment Test, which he plans to take again. "Where grades are concerned, everyone motivates themselves. But if someone's grades are slipping, we help each other out."

Epps comes from a family of basketball players. His parents, Wendel, 44, and Theresa, 43, played at Coppin State. But his sister, Tawanda, 25, eschewed a basketball scholarship for an academic scholarship to Towson State.

Epps, who would like to major in architectural drafting, said: "I guess there's some pressure to play in college because of the family tradition."

Academics are also a family tradition with Burrell, Goins and Adekunle, the latter of whom won the Scholar-Athlete Award at the Walbrook Junction Tournament earlier this season.

Adekunle's older brother, Emanuel, carried a 3.86 average and made all-county as a center for the Warriors before graduating two years ago.

Burrell, who scored a team-high 1,010 on his SAT, has a twin brother, Emerson, who carries a 3.8. Emerson withdrew from the team early on "to concentrate on his academics," Eric Burrell said of his sibling, who has earned a full academic scholarship to Virginia Union.

Goins' parents are involved in the educational system -- his mother, LaVerne, as a teacher at Southwest Academy (formerly Johnnycake Middle), and his father, Larry Sr., as a principal at Woodlawn Middle.

Foster is a three-sport athlete, also playing football and baseball, but makes no pretense of what comes first.

"I just play sports to keep active, and sure, I'd like to get a scholarship if that becomes a possibility. But grades are first and foremost," said Foster, whose SAT score of 820 -- he plans to take the test again -- would make him eligible to play sports as a college freshman.

On the court, the Warriors are a team of balanced scorers, with the leaders being Epps (9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists) and Kwajafa (8.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists).

After Kwajafa, who had a game-high 20 points in Wednesday's 76-52 win over Hereford, there is Burrell (6.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists).

"On most teams, the starting five is the whole team, but our whole bench can come in and pump us up," said Smith, who averages 5.3 points and 2.9 assists. "If we had to go with all guards, we could do that and still run with anybody. We can wear down any team with our speed and depth. Everybody can %% play."

And everybody's playing the game smart.

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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