Arundel senior center Shaunte Edmonds' basketball education didn't start until ninth grade, though the story begins a year earlier.
As an eighth-grader, Edmonds was taking some advanced math and science courses at Arundel High when Chavonne Hammond, a standout with the Wildcats at the time, approached her with a simple question: Do you know who Mr. Rogers is?
"Of course, I know Mr. Rogers," Edmonds replied. " 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.' "
The question was asked again later.
"Finally, I realized he was the basketball coach [Lee Rogers]," she said.
As a freshman, Edmonds was 6-foot-1 and slender. You would think that somewhere along the line, she had played some basketball. But that wasn't the case.
Family-oriented, with her priority academics, as it remains today, Edmonds said she had never played sports. But after getting her mother's approval, the ever-positive, energetic Edmonds was ready to give basketball a try.
"I figured if I didn't like it, I didn't have to play the next year," she said. "I remember everyone asking me, 'Do you love it? Do you love it?'
"I didn't love it, but I did enjoy it."
Welcome to Basketball 101, Lesson No. 1: Rules of the game.
"Three seconds? Hellooo, I didn't know what that was. What are free throws for? And what's the bonus mean?" she said, laughing. "I had so much to learn. I didn't even know what a pick was."
Edmonds was surrounded by a group of experienced players -- Hammond, Kara Kitchen, Shannon Noon, Jen Mottar -- who helped her along in that first season while leading the Wildcats to their only state championship. She said the most important thing in her freshman varsity season was how comfortable they all made her feel.
To see her play now, as a 6-3 senior co-captain with three varsity seasons behind her, you would never imagine she started playing the sport four years ago.
She played a vital role in helping the Wildcats reach the state final again last season -- averaging 7.3 points and 10.8 rebounds a game, blocking 77 shots -- and is being asked to do even more to get them back this season.
So far, so good. She averaged 14 points, 13.5 rebounds and seven blocks in the Wildcats' 1-1 start.
Rebounding, blocking shots and simply being a defensive presence in the middle came to her first, but her offensive game -- a jump hook, some up-and-under moves using both hands, and a short jumper -- is catching up fast.
"Shaunte has covered a lot of ground in a short time. It all starts with her work ethic. She wants to be the best she can be and took the approach, 'I can do this; I just have to work at it,'" said Rogers.
"We selected her as a team captain this season, and it's something she earned with the time she's put in. She's put a bigger responsibility on herself to be successful."
Said senior guard and fellow co-captain Meagan Rollins: "We rely on Shaunte a lot -- rebounding, blocking shots and scoring. A lot of times, a smaller player will be on her, so we post her up and let her go to the basket."
And how far has Edmonds come since her days as a freshman?
"Oh, man, a lot," added Rollins.
For one thing, Edmonds' ever-present smile is removed during her time on court.
"She's such a nice girl, and not being around competitive athletics before, we needed her to develop a bit of a mean streak in her," said Rogers. "She's become a little nasty and intimidating on the floor, and then she goes back to the very sweet young lady after the game."
She has the talk down, too.
"We're extremely talented," Edmonds said of the team. "It's going to take a lot of hard work and consistency. But when we work together, we're unstoppable. We just can't be complacent. Every game matters."
Edmonds, who has a 4.3 weighted grade-point average, has been a peer helper all four years in high school and wants to continue down that road as she searches for a major and a college choice.
Her options are wide open -- Columbia University tops her list -- with plans of continuing basketball, as well.
Pub Date: 12/13/98