Work and fun merge in basketball

Harundale teams push youngsters to be their best but still enjoy

December 12, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

Players were streaming out of one of the Glen Burnie High School gyms. It was around 8:45 p.m. on a Tuesday and practice officially had ended a few minutes earlier for the Harundale basketball teams, but Corey Powell wanted to keep working.

Powell, a 13-year old student at Old Mill Middle North, didn't seem to notice that he was one of the few kids left in the warm gymnasium. He went to the basket at the far end and kept working on his own.

He practiced crossover dribbles, driving to the basket and a number of left-handed lay-ups. He kept repeating the routine, with a single-mindedness. "When we play all the good teams, and they know what to do, I've got to know what to do, too," Powell said.

The basketball season officially began last weekend for a number of Anne Arundel County programs.

Powell came to the Harundale program after playing football for the Pasadena Chargers in the fall. He is scheduled to play both point guard and shooting guard for the Hornets this winter.

"I just want to start working and getting ready to go out and ... win games and have fun," Powell said. "I enjoy it a lot, and I'm just getting ready now. It's just fun."

Emily Allender plays in the Harundale 10-11 age group. She fell in love with basketball at the age of four and plays frequently.

Playing both center and forward, she does a lot of practicing, shooting lay-ups, free throws and jump shots.

It might seem like work, but Emily considers it a labor of love.

"I really do love it," she said. "I love it more being on the court than being on the sidelines watching."

She's been fortunate to play for some good teams the past few years, including last winter's championship squad. But basketball means more to Emily than just winning or losing.

"If I've had a bad day at school, when I come to basketball practice, I'm always hanging out with my friends," she said. "I can forget all about" the bad things.

Ed Allender helped his daughter fall in love with the sport. He began teaching her the fundamentals of the game in the backyard. Allender, a former player at Kentucky, is the coach of the Hornets' 12-13 boys travel team.

The Crofton resident said his team has been practicing twice a week for the past three weeks. Allender and assistant coach Brian Spade should remain busy throughout the season as the Hornets will likely play about 45 games through March.

Harundale is scheduled to play in tournaments all around Anne Arundel County, usually on Saturdays and Sundays with multiple games on each day, depending on the tournament structure and number of teams.

Harundale's basketball program also features an unusual format to keep kids interested in the sport, in the gym and away from the streets.

The Hornets have in-house recreation leagues that also use the travel players but disperse them with a different set of athletes. Many children's sports often keep the travel and recreation programs separate, but the Harundale officials like to mix them.

"We take the kids from the travel team and intertwine them with the kids that are the intramural kids, and that way, everyone gets to learn and play and have fun," Allender said. "That's what it's all about."

Allender said the coaches and those running the program make sure the children enjoy themselves on the court. They want the teams and players to have a good chance at winning but not take it as seriously as a college or professional game.

That's clearly what was going on last Tuesday night at Glen Burnie. Allender pushed his players hard throughout parts of practice, something they expected, but he wanted them to walk away with a smile.

Allender walked up to talk to several kids after practice ended, giving them schedules of the upcoming days. It was clear that the children on this team looked forward to coming to the gym.

"I would say that the intensity is there, and the enthusiasm is there," Allender said. "It's all about having fun. We preach to the kids that the number one rule is to have fun ... and to go from there."

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