Coaches foresee competitive year for young teams Basketball: Only two All-County players return, only one girl is taller than 5-10, and no county team is ranked as seasons open tomorrow.

December 04, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

As Carroll County's five public high schools go through final preparations for their opening games tomorrow night, the season-long action likely will be the most competitive, top to bottom, it has been in recent years.

No apparent superstars are around to lead the way -- yet.

One indicator is that of last season's 13 All-County players, only two return, both from the second team, and the one common denominator on every roster is varsity inexperience. Two teams, in fact, have no returning starters.

This is reflected in The Sun's pre-season Top 20 poll, which has no county schools. That's in sharp contrast to last season, when Francis Scott Key, South Carroll, and Westminster were ranked in the final poll.

Another factor countywide is a lack of height. Westminster senior Katie Righter, at 6-foot-2, is the only county player taller than 5-10. For most teams, there may be one or two at 5-9, but it scales down quickly from there.

Additionally, there are two new head coaches.

At Westminster, former JV coach Sue Head Conklin steps up to replace Bernie Koontz, now the boys coach at North Carroll.

At Liberty, David Trumbo, who succeeds Diane Spalt, is the Lions' fourth coach in four years. He will be trying to put in place framework for some future continuity, but it won't be easy.

One change won't have a noticeable effect until tournament time, but things could get tough for Francis Scott Key in March. The Eagles have moved to Class 2A from Class 1A, where they won a state championship last spring.

Coach Alice Smith's team can claim one distinction, however. It has the two holdover second-team All-County picks, senior guard Jessica Matos and junior guard Sindi Stem.

Overall, though, this winter is going to see a lot of coaching done.

"I think it will be a free-for-all in the county and the Central Maryland Conference," says North Carroll coach Greg Knill, starting his eighth season. "Many of the girls who graduated were their teams' top players, so now teams will have to rely on younger and unproven players.

"There will be some inconsistent play until coaches and players figure out what they can and can't do. Experienced players understand their roles. With the younger ones, it takes longer for them to establish themselves and be respected."

Knill believes some of these players would be farther along given more chances for year-round play, as in other sports. There are a few recreation leagues, but for the most part there are no development opportunities similar to soccer, for instance.

At Westminster, Conklin sees the league as definitely being better balanced than in recent seasons.

"I know it is true for my team, and it is probably true of the others -- we need everybody playing well to succeed," he said.

As is the case elsewhere in the metropolitan area, many of the players are multi-sport athletes who bring athleticism to the gym even though basketball is not their No. 1 focus. This is saved for other sports in which their skills mean attention from college coaches.

At Liberty, for example, of Trumbo's 11 players, seven played a fall sport and six were on All-County teams.

All of which may make the scramble for contending places somewhat of a challenge for the Carroll teams -- Liberty, North Carroll, South Carroll, and Westminster -- in the Central Maryland Conference. Pre-season state rankings list two-time defending state champion Linganore No. 9 overall, No. 1 in Class 3A, and Urbana, now in its third year with the same players, is No. 8 in Class 2A. No Carroll teams are mentioned.

Of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League schools, which includes Francis Scott Key, Middletown is picked No. 4 in Class 2A, and Smithsburg, No. 2 in Class 1A. Look for Key to be good down the stretch after it finds the right of mix of players.

Pub Date: 12/04/97

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