Struggling N. Carroll finds a shooter Boys basketball: Summer ball against a 'real' defense sharpened Robbie Vaughn's scoring sense, and for a team seeking confidence, he's now hitting 17 points a game.

January 23, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

It might be hard to believe of someone averaging 17 points a game, but as recently as a couple years ago, Robbie Vaughn was a non-shooter.

"I came up as a point guard," North Carroll's 6-foot tall scoring leader said. "I didn't like to shoot, because I was no good at it until this year.

A year ago, Vaughn was on the varsity, getting two starts in what was otherwise a generally inactive season. Over the summer, he played in a men's league at the Four Seasons Sports Complex, facing older and better competition, "and that was what I mainly worked on -- my shooting.

"It was a big jump because they played 'real' defense," he said.

The whole North Carroll team took a quantum leap in pre-season conditioning with the arrival of new coach Bernie Koontz, previously the Westminster girls coach. "He really trained us," Vaughn said. "He ran us to death. It was like boot camp."

Vaughn's improvement was reflected almost immediately. He opened with 21 points in a loss to Francis Scott Key, then averaged 18.5 as the Panthers won four of their next five. When they succumbed to Westminster on a late flurry last Tuesday, their record went to 5-9 for the season, 1-5 in the Central Maryland Conference.

"After that first game, I started getting more confident," Vaughn said. "Still, I didn't expect to do this well. I want to score when needed. I didn't expect to be the main scorer."

The pre-season training regimen likely weeded out some candidates, and, although the survivors included seven seniors, only Mike McComas, a 6-3 forward, had seen appreciable playing time during last year's 4-17 season.

The slender McComas -- working hard in the weight room to improve his strength -- is the team's tallest starter. That means he has had to battle underneath against much bigger and bulkier players, such as 6-7 Mike McGrane of South Carroll and massive All-County football standouts Kevin DeCarlo of Key, and Mark Gonzalez of Westminster.

"As a freshman, he got banged around," Vaughn said of his teammate.

A 10-point scorer (he had a high of 21 against Thomas Johnson), McComas said for much of the season his points came off offensive rebounds (he averages 7.5 rebounds).

"I think my biggest improvement from last year has been my aggressiveness," he said.

Against Westminster, McComas held his own against Gonzalez inside and worked free for some outside baskets. He finished with 14 points, one of his better scoring nights.

"I feel good with that outside shot [10-to-15 feet], but I'm not necessarily more comfortable out there," McComas said.

Of his team, new coach Koontz said: "When we start developing confidence, we're going to be competitive. They're doing it right now -- making themselves better -- because they are coachable and they listen. Our bench has helped give us in team cohesiveness because they believe in each other."

Although Vaughn and McComas have been the team's primary scorers, six others have scored in double figures at least once.

Against Westminster, it was Todd Asplen's turn. The 5-11 senior guard, who went into the game with a five-point average, with a high game of 10, hit six baskets, five of them from beyond the arc, and added three foul shots for a team-high 20 points.

"He's been shooting. They just haven't fallen for him," Koontz added.

"Our whole JV year, that's the way Todd was shooting," Vaughn pointed out. "We expected him to be better. Now, he's found his shot and got some confidence."

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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