Vikings' Toback draws a crowd

Boys basketball: Despite double and triple teaming, 6-foot-6 center Eric Toback is averaging 16.5 points for surprising Mount Hebron, which is in third place in the county league

High Schools

January 23, 2000|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Wherever he plays, no matter how many points he scores, Mount Hebron's Eric Toback leaves a lasting impression.

He's the Vikings player that opposing coaches double-team routinely and triple-team when they can.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior center's 29-point, eight-rebound effort Dec. 15 in the Vikings league-opening 69-64 victory over Long Reach e-mailed his capabilities far and wide. He sank four of five three-pointers and 11 of 12 free throws in that game, and displayed great hands and a deft shooting touch that led Lightning coach Al Moraz to call him `phenomenal.'

Toback followed that performance with 22 points in a 72-62 win over Hammond and 19 points in a 41-40 win over Centennial, a team that is currently tied with Wilde Lake for first place.

He scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds in a 52-50 loss to defending county champion Oakland Mills.

Then the Vikings and their feared matchup zone defense ran into two straight teams that held the ball hoping to force Mount Hebron out of the matchup zone. Toback was held to 11 and 10 points respectively in those low-scoring three-point wins.

He averages 16.5 points, but does not have to score to play well because his rebounding, passing and shot-blocking hurt opposing teams so much, and because the overbearing defensive coverage he draws frees up his teammates. He averages 7.4 rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists.

Toback scored 14 points, had seven rebounds, three blocks two steals and two assists in a three-point loss to Wilde Lake Wednesday.

"I was trying to stop Toback. He's the essence of their offense. He didn't get into his scoring rhythm, but he was every bit the player I thought he'd be," Wildecats coach Lester Clay said. "He's very consistent, passed extremely well, rebounded and did other things."

"Unselfish" is a word Mount Hebron coach John Aquila uses to describe Toback. "He's our impact player but he's not concerned about his stats. He just wants to win games," Aquila said.

Mount Hebron, a surprising 10-3 overall and 9-4 in the league, one game behind Wilde Lake and Centennial, already has won more games than some coaches thought they'd win all season.

And they've done it despite an avalanche of serious injuries that have sidelined three key guards, Brian Drnec (legs paralyzed in an automobile accident), Zach Merena (collapsed lung) and Matt White (torn Achilles).

"Although we played well during the summer league, I didn't think we'd be this good," Toback said. "I thought we'd be middle of the pack. We've been on an emotional roller-coaster because of what happened to Brian [Drnec] and our other injuries. I think Brian's accident really brought us together as a team. Last year we were extremely talented, but this year we have more team chemistry. No one is selfish."

Toback, the MVP for the Bobby Bowers Christmas Classic at Allegany High where he totaled 29 points and 15 rebounds for two games, started playing basketball at age 7 and had a series of excellent coaches -- Doug Dieringer, Joe Armstead and Charlie Stewart.

"He's fundamentally sound because of that coaching," Aquila said.

Always tall for his age, Toback was recruited out of eighth grade by both Loyola and Cardinal Gibbons. He decided instead to stay with his friends at Mount Hebron.

He has attended five-star camps the past two summers and his dream is to play Division I college basketball.

He knows he'd have to play the small forward spot at that level, but has shown he can shoot facing the basket as well as play with his back to the basket. He is working hard to improve his ball-handling.

An excellent student, he posted a cumulative 3.64 GPA his freshman and sophomore years while taking both gifted-and-talented and honors courses.

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