Rec basketball for men riding a wave of popularity in county

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

January 28, 2001

THE REASON'S unclear, but basketball for men is undergoing something of a quiet explosion in Howard County -- like about double the number of teams competing from a couple of winters ago.

Mark Pendleton, who oversees the program for the county rec and parks department, said participation, once relatively large, had tailed off to "28 or 30" teams.

But with nothing extra in the way of promotion or advertising, that figure grew to 46 last winter, and when play began this month, Pendleton found himself scheduling 58 teams. Figuring about 10 players a team, that's 580 guys 18 and older.

"I wish I knew what the attraction was," Pendleton said, adding with a laugh: "I guess it's just having a superior supervisor."

Most teams average about 25 years of age, Pendleton said. And he has a 30-and-over league with six teams -- five that make the age cutoff and one that doesn't but is still, let's say, competitive.

Leagues operate in five middle schools on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and have both of River Hill High School's gyms on Sundays.

Interest among guys 18 and older is high enough to keep leagues playing in fall, winter and, during the summer, outdoors. About 30 teams compete during the fall; the summer league began two summer ago with four teams, which quadrupled for summer 2000.

Also becoming noticeable are calls to rec and parks, Pendleton said, inquiring about women's basketball. Reason: High schools and colleges are churning out more and more female athletes in all sports, and basketball is one of the headliners.

But while no women's teams are competing this winter, Pendleton said he's willing to work on setting up a league next year if the calls keep coming in. If you're interested, let him know at 410- 313-4703.

He needs at least four teams to make up a league.

Birds at play

The county-owned Timbers at Troy Golf Course in Elkridge has a renewed honor that gives new meaning in the context of golf to the word "birdie."

Audubon International has recertified the 18-hole course as a "cooperative sanctuary" for songbirds. The course is one of five in Maryland and 280 worldwide with the designation, which it first received in 1998.

"Timbers ... has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program," said a spokesman for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System.

Which means what?

Scott Roche, grounds supervisor for the course, said the certification involves not only posting boxes to attract purple martins, bluebirds and other species, but broad environmental measures.

He said his staff uses some unusual maintenance techniques in irrigation, water conservation and applying fertilizers and highly controlled weed killers, for example, intended to enhance wildlife.

"We have some interesting things going on," Roche said, some of which include neighbors who do things such as check the bird boxes.

Next up? Roche said a detailed count and tracking of wildlife on the 200-acre-plus course is in the works.

Nice touches

Under basketball commissioner Mike Breen, the Savage Boys and Girls Club has arranged to honor at Atholton High School home games its "alumni" now playing for Hammond High and Atholton.

The girls got the honor this month. Now playing for Hammond's varsity -- Julie Bixler, Rachel Foley and Tara Zammichicli; and for Atholton -- Julia Reynold, Lisa Daciek, Meaghan Murphy, Chelsea Barret, Katie MacFarland, Karen Lee, Stefanie Wiesener, Sara Costa and Michelle McKenna.

The boys will be singled out at the teams' rematch next month. Names are being tracked down.

Two players from Savage youth teams, Kendall Kundrat (girls 12-13s) and Peter Smith (boys, same age group) have qualified for the state title in free-throw shooting in a contest run by Elks clubs, locally, the Laurel Elks.

The state competition is Feb. 17 in Frederick.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland @baltsun.com.

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