Of boundless rebounds

Basketball: UMBC's Monica Logan is forming an identity with her remarkable rebounding ability, leading Division I with 14 per game.

January 23, 1999|By CHRISTIAN EWELL | CHRISTIAN EWELL,SUN STAFF

It begins with an errant shot.

Underneath the basket, Monica Logan will rise above the crowd of players to grab the ball. On long-range misses, the number 50 on the back of her jersey expands as her arms reach beyond those of her opponents.

Fourteen times a game, the cycle ends with another earned possession by Logan, the nation's leading rebounder and the starting center for the UMBC women's basketball team.

From near or from afar, she denies second-shot opportunities for the other team or creates them for UMBC. For the 6-foot senior from College Park, that is a more important product of her efforts than any national recognition.

"It's something I do every day, and I get recognized for it," said Logan, who grabbed a career-high 23 in a win against Wagner on Jan. 11 and needs 46 rebounds to surpass Tammy McCarthy (1,048) as the school's career rebounding leader. "I'm proud of the recognition that it means for our team and the program, but if we don't win games, it means nothing."

UMBC is 8-8 overall and 6-4 in the Northeast Conference going into today's 1 p.m. game against Monmouth.

After UMBC lost to Robert Morris on Jan. 9, first-year coach Jennifer Bednarek said that Logan felt compelled to apologize for not pulling her share of the load. Logan had 14 rebounds against the Colonials, but she was a no-show on offense, missing all of her field-goal attempts and never getting to the free-throw line.

"It's very frustrating because I worked all summer on the offensive aspects of my game," said Logan, who is averaging 7.8 points. "It's my responsibility. I can rebound, we all know, but I want teams to see me as an offensive threat."

Said Bednarek: "On one hand, I'm thrilled to death that she's doing what she's doing, rebounding-wise. On the other side of the coin, I wish we had more time with her to work on her offensive skills. We can't make her the offensive player she could be in just a few short months."

The daughter of an English professor at the University of Maryland and a pathologist, Logan didn't see college basketball as part of her future when she graduated from Sidwell Friends School in Washington. There, she had averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds her senior season.

Before former Retrievers coach Kathy Solano approached with a scholarship offer, Logan had thought she might try basketball as a walk-on wherever she attended college. She had barely heard of UMBC.

"I looked into the school, heard about the reputation in the state, and about having the chance to play," said Logan, who now splits her extracurricular time between basketball and a social work internship at St. Agnes Hospital. "I also thought about having the opportunity to relieve my parents of the financial burden because I'd only gone to private schools, and my sister ended up going to Yale."

Immediately, Logan made an impact, if only statistically. Starting in 26 of the team's 27 games during her freshman year in 1995-96, she led in rebounds -- a feat that she would accomplish in each of the next two seasons.

But while Logan was averaging 9.7 rebounds for 80 games, the team was able to win only 23 in the three seasons before Solano was forced out in May.

"We were all very frustrated," Logan said. "No one wants to come into a Division I program and win 11 games over two years. We were all unified in wanting a change for the best."

One week after Solano's departure, the school hired Bednarek, a former protege of Vivian Stringer's at Iowa who struggled to a 9-19 record in one season at George Washington in 1988-89, then took nearly a decade away from the sport.

Though she was an assistant to Solano during the seven-win campaign in 1997-98, players said they accepted the promise that things would change.

"Everyone looked at this as a new season, a new beginning," said senior guard and Mount Hebron product Kathy Doyle, one of the team's top defensive players whose block-outs often create rebound opportunities for Logan. "Whatever she was going to put on the table, I was going to take it."

One twist was the zone defense that Bednarek implemented, a switch from the man-to-man exercised under the previous coach. The other is the addition of Lange, a steal of a point guard from Mechanicsville, Va., who scored 22 points in an eight-minute stretch during a game earlier this season and is averaging 16 points.

After a 1-3 start, the Retrievers have seen the long-sought change for the better. The recent success catches the respect of teams like Robert Morris, a floundering team that celebrated like it had beaten a contender after its 48-45 win over UMBC on Jan. 9.

"It's different being on a winning team," Logan said. "The whole attitude is different, even how teams respond to you. Once you prove you can play, a lot of changes start to happen, in the program and outside of the program."

Pub Date: 1/23/99

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