For Engel, the eyes have it

Old Mill point guard Andrew Engel's extraordinary court vision has the Patriots setting their sights on the Class 4A state semifinals.

March 01, 2006|By LUKE BROADWATER | LUKE BROADWATER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Whether he's looking down a basketball court or a soccer field, Old Mill senior Andrew Engel sees the game in a way a spectator cannot.

He sees the cuts his teammates are making before they make them. He notices the defense's strengths and, especially, its weaknesses. He understands the small things that make a play develop.

"His vision on the court is unbelievable," Old Mill basketball coach Greg Smith said. "He's one of the most knowledgeable basketball players I've known since I've been here. As soon as he gets the ball in his hands, he's constantly surveying the court. Everything we do offensively starts with him."

With Engel at the helm, the Old Mill offense is in great shape again this season. The Patriots, who are 21-2 overall and 15-1 in Anne Arundel County, won the county title Feb. 21 with a 61-47 victory over No. 13 North County.

In doing so, No. 7 Old Mill avenged its only county loss of the season and claimed its second straight county title. The Patriots beat Annapolis, 61-51, in last year's final. Old Mill, a Class 4A state semifinalist last season, has also secured the top seed in its region, as they hope to make another run deep into the playoffs.

Smith said Engel's contributions were noticeable during the county championship game.

"You look up at the scoreboard and you see we're winning that game and he has 12 points," below his season average of 15 per game, Smith said. "But then you look and see that he has eight assists. You see he's making great passes and opening up the defense. He puts so many people in positive positions to make things happen."

The stats back up that assessment. With 4.9 assists per game, Engel is one of the leading playmakers in the metro area. He also averages three steals a game.

Engel shoots 86 percent from the free-throw line, 52 percent from two-point range and 33 percent from beyond the three-point line. He hit nine three-pointers and scored 31 in a game against Northeast this season.

"He comes up big all the time," said Derek Harris, who plays basketball and soccer with Engel. "He's got a great shot. He can handle the ball. He can crash for rebounds, too. He's just a team player."

Engel's skills stand out on the soccer field as well. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior was a first-team All-County pick at center midfield last fall.

Engel said the two sports - especially his roles as a midfielder and point guard - complement each other.

"Center midfield is just like point guard in basketball," Engel said. "They're pretty much the same game. In basketball, there are more quick cuts. You have to make real quick decisions. In soccer, the game's more spread out. But it has the same type of plays. I have to make the same type of decisions, just one's with my hands and one's with my feet."

Such responsibility in controlling the flow of a game calls for maturity, as Engel must avoid making knee-jerk decisions in favor of responsible choices.

"I'm the organizer," he said. "I make sure everything is directed and make sure everything gets done."

Andrew's mother, Kae Engel, who hasn't missed one of her son's soccer or basketball games since he started high school, said she has noticed her son taking on more of leadership role on the basketball team.

"Whenever I watch him play now, he's so vocal," she said. "He's always talking to his teammates. You can watch it as he rallies them. He gets them to buckle down. He wants to bring the best out of the team. He has really turned into a leader."

Smith has seen the same thing.

"As the season progressed, he just took over more as a leader and a captain," Smith said. "He's kind of made it into his team. The other kids believe in him. They know he's competitive and he wants to win."

Andrew's father, Dave Engel, who played basketball and graduated from Old Mill in 1979, said he can see his son's propensity for running an offense.

"He has the court vision in both sports," Dave Engel said. "He sees the play develop before him. He knows when to pass and he knows when to take it himself. He's the consummate team player. It's nice to see him out there doing something he loves so much."

Smith said Engel's strongest attribute might be his consistency.

"He's not the type of kid who is going to get the big dunk or make some amazing behind-the-back or between-the-legs move," he said. "He's just very consistent in everything he does. He's one of the better point guards I've seen around here in a while. He's not flashy. He just gets the job done."

Engel said he is considering a number of schools, including Virginia State, Bowie State, Mount St. Mary's and UNC-Belmont Abbey. Dave Engel said he believes his son's court vision and ability to distribute the ball will make him a successful college player.

"Those things are going to set him apart from other guards, especially as he moves to college," he said.

In the meantime, with Engel controlling the ball, Smith feels confident that his team can get back to the state semifinals next week at Comcast Center.

"If we play as good as we can as a team, we can get back to Comcast again," he said. "We're excited. I know Andrew's going to do pretty much whatever it takes to get us back there."

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