Arundel's Rogers knows rebuilding from ground up

SIDELINES

High Schools

January 18, 2002|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Rebuilding a championship team is a job Arundel girls basketball coach Lee Rogers has done before and is doing again.

His philosophy of playing talented freshmen and not holding them back began in his first season in 1989-90 with guard Alina Smith.

It continues today with the likes of Alex McGuire, Ana Baker, Tiffany Johnson and Latavia Vails, all contributing ninth-graders.

This year's edition has only one senior - Katie Dempsey - the four freshmen, five sophomores and two juniors after graduating eight seniors, three of them Division I players from a county championship/4A state semifinalist team that went 25-2.

Arundel's average age is 14.5, but you only notice the youth and inexperience at times. Pretty much the rest of the time, you would think it was a seasoned team as the 14th-ranked Wildcats (9-4, 5-2) showed Wednesday at upstart Annapolis (8-5, 4-3) in a hard- earned 56-53 victory.

"A lot of it's lack of focus and their inexperience," said Rogers.

"We haven't been consistent boxing out and playing defense. It's inexperience and we have to get them playing. These kids are learning our system. We're trying to mesh and get some good chemistry."

Rogers and his assistant coach, Greg Legrand, the school's head volleyball coach, don't let mistakes go unnoticed and will holler to get the girls' attention if they have to.

They had to Wednesday night when the Wildcats fell behind 32-22 to Annapolis at the half. Rogers went to a 2-3 defense to start the second half and the Panthers hit only two of 15 from the field as Arundel started to take control of the game.

"Changing to the 2-3 was the difference, " said Amanda Hernandez, who is a team leader with fellow junior Jessica Collins and Dempsey.

"I know our underclassmen are trying their hardest and so it [mistakes] doesn't really bug me that much. If they were slacking off, I would get upset."

Of course, the head coach won't let them slack off as they grow up under fire. He has the experience and record to prove his way works and that they will be ready come playoff time.

Rogers, who is in his 13th season as coach of the Wildcats, has two state titles (1996 and 2000), two state finalist finishes (1995 and 1998) and a career record of 239-75 (.761), including the team's current record.

To say the man knows how to coach champions is an understate- ment.

Since taking over a 3-19 team in 1989-90 and going 6-16, the Wildcats have had 11 straight winning seasons with the big roll starting in 1994-95 with a team that took a 25-0 record into the state Class 4A final. Arundel suffered a heartbreaking 51-33 loss to Western of Baltimore.

The following season, Arundel won it all by 57-49 over Sherwood of Montgomery County and set a county public school record for wins, finishing 27-2.

Through it all, Rogers has succeeded playing freshmen, sometimes as the marquee players, or blending them with the three- and four-year players.

Sideliners

Rogers said that Annapolis girls coach John Brady, who is also the boys mentor, "is doing a great job with them." ... . The Arundel/Annapolis game is believed to be the first time in county history that the same two coaches had met in both boys and girls games. Rogers coached the Arundel boys team for five seasons against Brady, who is in his 25th year with the boys, before taking the reins of the Arundel girls. ... Brady and Rogers are not the only county girls coaches who have also coached boys. The others: John Spinnenweber (Chesapeake boys, now girls), Bruce Springer (Broadneck girls, AACC boys before), Dan Mangum (Glen Burnie girls, Arlington Baptist boys before) and Calvin Vain (Annapolis, Broadneck, Northeast and Loyola College girls; AACS boys). ... Because of senior guard Sean Baynham, the Greg Smith- coached Old Mill boys basketball team is a 4-9 team not to be taken lightly. Baynham is averaging 21.2 points per game after scoring 90 in his last three. Baynham had 31 in Friday's 69-61 loss at No. 19 Glen Burnie (8-5), 21 in a 63-51 upset of Severna Park (6-7) on Tuesday and 38 in a tough 78-75 loss to No. 12 Mount St. Joseph (11-6) Wednesday. ... Bernie Walter, the Arundel High athletic director and head baseball coach who has a Maryland record nine state titles and is the winningest public school coach in state history (484-131), has written a book. Called The Baseball Handbook, it's on winning fundamentals for players and coaches with a forward by one of his Wildcats proteges, well-traveled big-league pitcher Denny Neagle. It sells for $19.95. To order, call 1-800-747-4457 or visit the Web site: www.humankinetics.com.

Have a note for Sidelines? E- mail patomalleysports@aol.com or call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647-2499.

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