Harcum nurtures lacrosse and young men at Walbrook

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

The Kickoff

April 25, 2006|By MILTON KENT

Clad in black, from jersey to gloves to shorts to shoes, the Walbrook boys lacrosse team did some warm-up tosses behind the school building around 3:45 Friday afternoon, then took a triumphant walk up Clifton Avenue to where it meets Edgewood Street.

With a 5-0 record in the bank, the Warriors prepared to go across town to Patterson, the site of what they hoped would be their next conquest. That is, provided the bus that was scheduled to take them ever got there.

"This is how they do undefeated teams," said one of the players, half-jokingly, half-conspiratorially, as the wait stretched past 4 p.m.

Their coach, Raymond Harcum, kept his players amused and entertained, when he wasn't trying to get someone on the other end of his cell phone to tell him precisely how long the Warriors would have to wait in the chilly, intermittent rain for a bus.

These days, Harcum, a bundle of energy, enthusiasm and dreadlocks, has a lot to be encouraged about, as Walbrook has become perhaps the best-kept secret of the lacrosse season.

Building off last season, when the team went 13-3 and won the first state playoff game in school history, the Warriors have nine returning starters and a head of steam, despite the fact that Harcum doesn't have the feeder system available to most of the area's celebrated lacrosse programs.

But now that he is a physical education teacher at Walbrook, Harcum, in his second year there, at least can deal with his players more closely and doesn't lose time getting to the school after teaching someplace else.

"This has been one of the frustrations as a coach for a very long time," said Harcum, who previously coached at Douglass. "I've always coached outside of the building, and now that I'm at Walbrook and I'm in the building, I can deal with these kids academically and their school climate and what's going on in their lives, everything. Because they are inner-city youths, there are issues that need to be addressed. I see the difference of being in the building and actually working with the kids."

The kids are responding with inspired play. Senior attackman Eric Pitts has 45 points in just five games. Pitts, who also played on the school's basketball and football teams, is a good student and sings, and if Harcum is lucky, he'll be able to get Pitts a scholarship to a Division I school.

"There are times when I am pulling him out of the game or putting him at midfield," Harcum said of Pitts. "And because he's a basketball player, he loves to give assists. He wants to give the ball to other people. He loves drawing and dumping. He's just a good kid and he's very talented."

Harcum, a product of Obie Barnes' lacrosse program at Forest Park, also has instilled in his Walbrook players a sense of accountability to the program and to one another. After each practice, the players gather to tell each other to go to class, stay out of the halls and that dreams come true.

Harcum sees Walbrook's success as a way of repaying Barnes and especially former Forest Park assistant Joe Fowlkes, a Walbrook graduate, for teaching him the fundamentals of lacrosse.

And Harcum has taken it as his mission to spread the gospel of the game. His club team, the Blackfoot Indian Lacrosse Club, is a mix of youngsters and some of his contemporaries, such as Douglass coach John Robinson, his assistant, Marcus Thompson and Forest Park coach Sean Markley.

"The lacrosse community is alive and well, and we're building it up," Harcum said. "It's not a white thing and it's not a black thing. It's a lacrosse thing."

Back on the sidewalk, the wait continued past 4:15, as a pair of motorbikes started to buzz near, but not through Walbrook Junction.

The two young men operating the bikes were without helmets, while a little boy passenger on one of the bikes was wearing a helmet that looked to be at least a size and a half too big for his head.

"It [the helmet] might save his life, but it won't help his situation," Harcum said to his team.

Finally, at 4:30, after six other school buses, five mass transit buses and four police cars had come through or within a block of the intersection, school bus No. 1074 pulled up for the team to board for what would be, at that time of the day, at least a 30-minute ride across town.

The players feared the worst: that when they arrived at Patterson, they wouldn't have time to warm up and the clock would run continuously and they wouldn't be able to get a flow.

Their fears weren't realized, however: By the time the Warriors got to Patterson, the referees had cleared out 15 minutes before. Today's weather forecast calls for afternoon rain again, as Walbrook is scheduled to play at Poly.

Perhaps, the bus will be a bit more reliable.

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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