County squads have their guards up Basketball: Backcourt men abound in Carroll this season, which means play will be highlighted by perimeter play, coaches say.

December 05, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

For a sport in which the emphasis is usually on height, boys basketball is coming up short in Carroll County this season.

In what must be considered a rarity, four of the first five members of last year's All-County team return for their senior seasons, and three are guards.

Desmond Esteves, 5-foot-10, and Aaron Krug, 6-1, provide Westminster with a stellar 1-2 combination and John Ely, 5-9, will be the key outside threat for South Carroll.

There is, however, still some height out there with 6-foot-7 Sam McGrane at South Carroll and 6-8 Matt Wilder at Liberty, and some bulk with Francis Scott Key's Kevin DeCarlo, the other All-County holdover, at 6-4 and 230 pounds, and Westminster's Lucas Geiman at 260 and Mark Gonzalez at 230.

Still, for a change, the spotlight will be on the guards.

This is particularly true at Westminster, where coach Dave Byers not only has Esteves and Krug, but 6-3 senior Sean Davis as a third perimeter player, although he has less experience.

At South Carroll, Ely will be in a much more comfortable position this season. He comes from a well-traveled family, one that spent the first half of his freshman year in Colorado, then moved to West Virginia for 18 months.

Thus, when he showed up at South Carroll a year ago, he definitely had to earn his way.

"I started the first game, but I had to work my way into the lineup in practice," he recalled.

Last season marked the first time he had been asked to play the shooting guard, after a career at the point.

"I'm comfortable at both spots, but I know I shot the 'three' better last year," Ely said. Also, that season was the first he concentrated on basketball; previously, he had included soccer and baseball.

As a junior, Ely averaged 14 points a game and was an outstanding three-point shooter. He hit six three-pointers in a game three times, and his three-point percentage was even better than his two.

At the time, Carnes said his shooter's outside prowess took pressure off the offense and opened up opposing defenses. In addition, he was a smooth ball-handler under pressure.

"Now, I'm more a scorer than an assist person, and some of our players, like Dorsey and [John] Luster see the floor really well. This year, I think we will be good -- better than last year. Overall, we are quicker, and Sam [McGrane] has gotten a lot better."

At Westminster, the number of guards is the opposite of the situation several years ago.

"We went through 1994 and 1995 with no guards," Byers said. "We had to bring some up, such as Desmond and Aaron, and force-feed them into the program."

Krug has been knocking down three-point shots since his sophomore year, with one of his best efforts coming last season when he hit five in a career-best 25-point spree against South Carroll. In his next game, a win at North Carroll, he had 22 points.

"He's a well-rounded offensive player," Byers said then. "He's only a junior but can shoot the three and handle the ball. However, he didn't do anything this time that we haven't seen since November."

For the season, the strong, all-around player led the Owls in scoring with 12.5; hit 47 three-pointers; made 45 of 58 free throws; and played tough defense.

"We've been looking forward to this year for a long time," Krug said. The three of us [Krug, Esteves and Davis] have been playing together since rec ball. We started talking about being together in eighth grade. Now, I think this is the best team of all of them. We know how each other plays. In the past, I was hesitant, not knowing what to expect, but now we are just more confident."

Esteves, the point guard, and one of the area's quickest players, averaged 9.8 points, and had 53 steals and 94 assists for last year's county champions after posting marks of seven assists and 3.5 steals as a sophomore. In the process, he had a knack for playing his best in the big games.

"Last year was a good learning experience," Esteves said. "I didn't take a leadership role; I just went out and did my job. It was a season of decision-making."

Of adjusting and improving, he said, "The skills were always there, but now I'm seeing the floor better and am more physical. All three of us are -- we've been hitting the weights. It's the most talented and physical team we've had."

Davis' career has not been as sparkling as his two friends have enjoyed, but he has shown steady improvement. As a sophomore, he was left back to play on the JV team when the other two were moved up, so last season was his learning year.

"I didn't get that much time, but I'm fitting in now," Davis said. "Because of the experience, coach has been able to put in more offenses and defenses than we've had before. We'll be tough."

Pub Date: 12/04/97


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