Learning curve might be a straight line to success

Westminster boys boast basketball talent, promise

Notebook

High Schools

January 14, 2003|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's not that Westminster doesn't believe it can win a Carroll County boys basketball title this season. With an abundance of talent and probably the county's best athleticism, the Owls, in fact, could be considered a front-runner.

When first-year coach Brett Kanther takes a hard look at his youthful rotation, however, he sometimes can't help but think of the team's possibilities.

"It's fun to think about what's going to happen," Kanther said. "We want to be good this year and we are going to be good this year. But the seniors look around and they know ... they know what's coming."

What's coming is a crop of underclassman that could, even by later this season, turn Westminster into a top 20 contender.

While seniors Brandon Duke and Jason Stone, the latter a second-team All-Metro wide receiver, get the bulk of minutes, junior guards Ryan Carr, Brandon Costley and Dan Simmons are playing increasingly critical roles for the Owls (5-4 overall, 2-1 county), as is junior forward Chris Prior. Stone, Duke, Costley and Carr all average double-figure scoring; Prior has shown flashes of inside dominance.

Then there's 6-foot-4 sophomore Jarod Randall, who is praised by Kanther for his work ethic. Doctors project Randall will reach 6-7 or 6-8, meaning he could grow into a dominating presence.

Several things have helped hasten the learning curve for this season. Many of the Owls played together in a fall Baltimore City league against the likes of a group of players from top-ranked Douglass. The Owls also had an early-season contest against Catholic League power Calvert Hall.

"We didn't necessarily schedule that thinking that we were going to go there and shock the world, but we felt like it was a good long-term thing," said Kanther, whose team was routed by the Cardinals. "Playing Calvert Hall helps, because when you play against teams other than Calvert Hall, everything else seems to go at a slower speed."

Perhaps just as important, however, is a sense of family.

Each game day at 4, the team gathers to eat a meal prepared by a player's mother. Kanther even had the players to his house for Thanksgiving dinner.

"The kids are extremely unselfish," Kanther said. "They understand that a different guy can step up each night, and they really don't care. They care about one thing, the `W.' "

That could be the difference in a wide-open county race. The Owls are coming off Friday's win against defending county champion South Carroll and have a big game on Tuesday at North Carroll, another up-and-coming team.

"It doesn't happen in one season. Their learning curve has got to be quick," Kanther said. "I guess the best way to measure how you're doing is the second time you play somebody, and I think there's going to be improvement there."

Carroll Christian rebounds

With last year's top scorer and rebounder, Greg Mason, now playing at Linganore, inexperienced Carroll Christian has struggled offensively.

Mason averaged a team-leading 18.1 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists as a sophomore to earn second-team All-County honors.

The Patriots (5-7), however, have managed to win a handful of games despite scoring in the 40s, mainly because players with little or no varsity experience have excelled defensively.

"It's a credit to our players," coach Roger Wood said. "They don't have much experience, but they're working hard."

Lightweights

North Carroll (7-0, 3-0 county) has tough wrestlers throughout its lineup, but a strong group in the lower and middle weights has helped carry the team.

The Panthers have relied heavily on good performances from 103-pound Zach Forbes (11-4, nine pins) and 112-pound Tyler MacLeod (14-3, seven pins), both freshmen, and 119-pound sophomore Tim Hutchins (12-2, six pins) in the lower weights. Sophomore Seth Knights (12-2, eight pins at 135 and 140), 145-pound Randy Shreck (12-3, five pins) and 160-pound Robbie Pearre (14-1, 10 pins) also have made key contributions. Shreck is the only senior starter.

Coach David Dodson believes that having strong talent in different places is vital to his team's success this season.

"We need to balance out the lineup that way to be competitive throughout," Dodson said. "You've got to have that balance in order to compete ... in the county."

The Panthers will need all of that when they travel to Westminster tomorrow for one of their biggest matches this season. North Carroll won the county tournament last year after Westminster captured the in-season championship.

That match comes one day after Francis Scott Key and South Carroll meet. These two matches will go a long way toward deciding this winter's county champion.

Jeff Seidel contributed to this article.

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