Glare of spotlight she turns to smile Nikki Teasley: The only thing nicer than the game of the 'best in the country' Prospect Hall star is her disposition, which makes her bigger winner to fans.

February 17, 1997|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Nikki Teasley senses it from the moment she steps into an opposing team's gym.

A 6-foot-1 senior point guard from Frederick's St. John's at Prospect Hall, she can feel the glare of the crowd, and she hears the murmurs:

"There she is. It's her."

Teasley prides herself on being a team player, but she's not like everyone else. Much of the crowd is there just to see Teasley, considered perhaps the best high school player in the nation.

And she rarely disappoints them.

"I think it's great that people come to see me play. That gets me pumped up," said Teasley, whose team plays at No. 3 Seton Keough at 6: 30 tonight. "I think it's good to put on a show for them and get some oohs and aahs."

Teasley, rated the top player in the nation by the Blue Star scouting report, is averaging 26.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists and is the career scoring leader (2,131 points) for Prospect Hall, the third-ranked team in the state. She is shooting 65 percent overall and 54 percent (75-for-139) from three-point range.

Although the crowds on the road root against her, Teasley quickly earns their respect with flashy offensive moves, accurate shooting and precision passes.

She also usually wins them over with her wide smile and friendly disposition.

"I believe in having a good heart as well as being a good player," said Teasley, who has narrowed her college choices to Virginia, North Carolina and Penn State. "I'm doing something that I love. I'm alive and I'm happy, thank God, and I just like to show everybody that I love the game of basketball."

Teasley, a member of the U.S. Junior Olympic team that will compete in the international tournament in Brazil, converted most of the spectators at Baltimore City Community College during Gwynn Lake's Valentine's Day Mixer last Thursday.

She was in foul trouble for most of the game and the crowd taunted her relentlessly, but Teasley still finished with 35 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists and six steals to lead the Vikings to an 86-81 win over sixth-ranked Gwynn Lake.

After the game, some of the same people who had been razzing Teasley asked for her autograph. She accommodated them and even sought out one especially vocal heckler to shake his hand.

Gwynn Lake coach Roland Hall was as impressed with Teasley's attitude as he was with her talent.

"She doesn't trash talk, and she's very mature and very thankful. I have the upmost respect for her," Hall said. "I told her to send me some tickets to whatever college she attends, because I want to see her play."

It took time for Teasley to develop into the person she is today. She said she was cocky when she was younger, and Prospect Hall coach Steve Kennedy said she used to get frustrated with her teammates as a sophomore.

"I haven't been able to reach her as much as other kids as far as basketball is concerned," Kennedy said. "But the school and the team have made a positive impact on her. The most important part of her development is in her maturity, responsibility and discipline."

Those three characteristics have allowed Kennedy to relinquish some degree of control on the court to Teasley.

"If she sees a mismatch, I expect her to call out a switch in plays the way a quarterback calls out an audible," he said. "People may interpret that as her doing something different than what I want, but it's exactly what I want."

Teasley attributes her positive personality traits in large part to her mother, Ernestine, who raised Nikki and her four brothers as a single parent.

Born and raised in a violent area of southeast Washington, Teasley began to fall in with the wrong crowd, and that prompted Ernestine to move the family to Frederick four years ago. Teasley's younger brother, Sherrod, plays for the nationally ranked Prospect Hall boys team.

"My mom has done an excellent job with me and my brothers in making us do what's right," Teasley said. "My mom keeps me focused on what's important. She makes sure my homework is done before I go anywhere."

In the beginning, Teasley struggled academically at Prospect Hall, but she now has a 3.1 grade-point average and received an NCAA qualifying score on the Scholastic Assessment Test on her first attempt.

Teasley said she also maintains a close relationship with her brothers. It was her older brother, Ernest, who taught her how to play basketball. Ernest was killed in a car accident in 1994 at age 26.

She began playing exclusively against boys, first in the neighborhood and then in organized competition. At 11, Teasley was competing -- and thriving -- in a 14-and-under boys league.

Teasley, who said she started getting letters from colleges in the seventh grade, had so much success against older boys that she dreamed of playing in the NBA. With the recent advent of two women's professional leagues, however, Teasley sees an opportunity for women to "show that we can really play this game."

Among her many assets, court vision and passing ability are two of the biggest.

"Other people see in black and white, but she's seeing 3-D color," Kennedy said. "She knows who's open even when they don't know they're open sometimes and she can get them the ball. With her size and strength, she can pass the full length of the court accurately."

Said Teasley: "I'm a 6-1 point guard, so I can see over top of everybody. If I see a player working hard and getting open, I think giving them the ball is a reward."

As good as she is, however, there's at least one thing Teasley hasn't accomplished in high school yet.

"I want to try and dunk during our last game of the season," she said. "I'm almost there. I'm grabbing the rim."

Pub Date: 2/17/97

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