`All basketball, all the time'

Family: For the Wolvens of Ellicott City, basketball is a game to play, coach and watch.

Howard At Play

January 11, 2004|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Wolvens of Ellicott City have taken some interesting vacations in recent years. They've seen various parts of the United States, heading to Phoenix last year and Indianapolis a few years before that.

They did the same thing each time. They went to basketball games.

"Ever since I grew up, it's always been basketball," said Eric Wolven, a junior who starts on Mount Hebron High's varsity team. "We all just enjoy the sport."

Tom and Joy Wolven have four children, and all agree that an enjoyable life often is built around basketball.

Their oldest is Thera, who played on Mount Hebron's girls' varsity team and now comes off the bench as a freshman at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

After Eric, who'll turn 17 Jan. 22, comes Brandon, 15, a guard on the Vikings' JV, then Emily, 13, who plays for the Sharks, a Howard County Youth Program travel team.

Tom Wolven loved basketball while growing up in New Jersey. He played for DePaul Catholic High in Wayne, N.J., and never lost his zeal for the game.

"But I played golf in college," he said with a laugh.

The Wolven children all began playing basketball while very young. Their father put up a basket in the family's driveway and worked with the kids. He also coaches at every opportunity, at different age levels each year. This winter, he has one team; in the spring, he'll be coaching two.

Eric Wolven began playing basketball in elementary school. His father coached him from second or third grade through eighth grade in travel team competition. Playing for his father, Eric said, helped him understand the game. If Eric had to sit out, he liked the way Tom would tell him why.

"He knows the game, and I don't mind sitting as long as it's for a legitimate reason, like I'm playing badly," Eric said. "He always had a good reason for telling me why I was sitting. It was easier to understand what he was thinking."

Brandon Wolven said he learned a lot from watching his older brother and sisters play. Eric is a point guard. Brandon works at shooting guard and keeps an eye on his sibling's talent when on the court.

"My brother is really, really smart with the ball," Brandon said. "He's just fun to watch because he sees the court better than anyone I know. He sees passes that I would never see."

Brandon hopes to get a chance to play with his older brother on Mount Hebron's varsity next year.

He sometimes has friends come over to play basketball on the family's court, and they often stay out late working on their game.

"We have a spotlight in the driveway," Brandon said. "We've got a regulation basket and glass backboard. It's pretty good."

Emily said she began playing basketball around the first grade. She's not as big a fan as her siblings, skipping games on television and preferring mainly to work on her skills, especially shooting.

"Shooting [is what] I work on the most," Emily said. "I go to a lot of shooting camps during the summer. I also work on it a lot in the yard."

The Patapsco Middle eighth-grader is looking forward to having a shot at the Mount Hebron junior varsity next year and said she doesn't mind when people say that her family seems to spend a lot of time on basketball.

"I just kind of laugh and agree with them," Emily said. "That's like all we do. It's all basketball all the time, and we like it."

Joy Wolven was a basketball fan growing up in Philadelphia, often going to high school games on Friday nights. Basketball has become a major part of her life in recent years. She does a lot of chauffeuring, runs the Mount Hebron basketball fund-raising program and takes all of the pictures for the team's game programs while managing the Amateur Athletic Union teams on which the girls play.

"We make sure that one of [the parents] is watching all the time," she said. "There's always a parent there."

She went to one of Thera's Dickinson games Tuesday in Philadelphia and made it home by 10:30 p.m. If there are no conflicts with the three younger children, Joy or Tom will go.

High school basketball is causing some interesting conflicts.

When Thera played on the Mount Hebron girls' varsity and Eric was on the JV team, it meant the Wolvens had two children playing at different schools. But the games were not at the same time, so Joy and Tom had chances to make it to both contests.

"We'd always run up Route 29 to get to both," Joy said, laughing.

All basketball, all the time.

And what did the family do while on the aforementioned vacations? They saw the NBA's Suns beat the Sacramento Kings in Phoenix and watched the Pacers twice in Indianapolis.

And, they'll tell you, they enjoyed every moment.

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