Learning to lead

Juniors and seniors finding ways to step into roles their teams need

Varsity Girls Basketball

December 04, 2008|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Being a vocal leader isn't the most comfortable role for Asya Bussie.

The Seton Keough senior would much rather lead with her strong post game and leave the talking to someone else, but now that All-Metro guard B.J. Williams has graduated, the young Gators will look to Bussie for guidance.

"It's something I have to work at because I'm not really a talkative person," said Bussie, a 6-foot-5 All-Metro center. "I've learned from other players and the coaches, especially from [coach Jackie Boswell], that we must talk on the floor. We have to communicate."

On basketball courts all over town this month, juniors and seniors are stepping into leadership roles they've never had to shoulder before. Some are natural leaders, and some prefer to lead with their performances.

It's a natural progression as important for a team as finding the right starting five.

"If you don't have people who are ready to step into those leadership roles, it changes the whole dynamic of your team," Poly coach Kendall Peace said.

Quite a few of the area's best players are taking on new leadership roles this season after their older, more vocal teammates have graduated. Most are still getting used to their new responsibility.

"Trying to be a leader is not always the easiest thing," Mount Hebron junior Brittany Bowen said, "but I don't think I've ever had a hard time being supportive of teammates and being there if they need help."

For most of these girls, it's just a matter of finding the leadership style that fits them best. They're learning how to assert themselves without running roughshod over their teammates.

"It has to be more of a team effort," said Bowen, whose Vikings won the state Class 2A title in March. "When you lose key players, there's not just one single player you can depend on. It has to be everyone working together to make it easier for someone else."

That theory also works at Arundel, where three players will lead on the court for the state Class 4A runners-up: seniors Simone Egwu and Ashley Davis and junior Sheronne Vails. While Egwu is the most vocal and the Wildcats will look to her for cohesion, she's fine with sharing.

"You look to different people for different things at different times," said Egwu, a 6-3 All-Metro center. "When people start to panic, that's when it falls on my shoulders to say, 'All right guys, calm down and let's do what we have to do.' Sheronne and Ashley can get us really pumped up. When they get on a run or something, everybody picks up and goes from there."

Egwu learned a lot from watching Ayanna Randolph lead the team from the bench after an injury ended her senior season a year ago.

"Just seeing the kind of influence she had from the sideline, I realize what I have to do out there on the floor now," Egwu said.

At Poly, junior Cynthia Johnson also takes her cue from her predecessors - Breonna Brewer, Elisha Clayton and Kiara James - who helped lead the Engineers to the Class 2A state semifinals.

"Learning by example from Breonna, knowledge from Elisha and Kiara being the spirit of the team, I think that's what helps everybody else pull together, put their heads up and be the best they can be on and off the court," said Johnson, who will share the leadership role with the quieter Shenika Johnson (no relation).

While these girls have help, others have seen just about everyone they've played with for the past few years graduate.

Fallston junior Jess Harlee, a two-time Harford County Player of the Year, is the Cougars' only returning starter. She knows everyone will be looking to her, and she takes her lead from recent graduate Lindsay Howard.

"Lindsay taught me to always be positive and keep your head up no matter what's going down in the game," Harlee said. "You can always come back no matter what, and that does work because when you say good stuff it just makes them feel so much more comfortable and they feel like they're part of the team."

Bowen picked up the same philosophy from watching Deanna Dydynski last season.

"When you're not a captain, it's easy to see a lot of the negative and the positive," Bowen said. "Watching the other captains, you realize you have to constantly be positive. You can't put people down, and you can't criticize. The coaches are there for constructive criticism, but you really have to pick everything up. That's your job."

Just as it will take time to find the right on-court chemistry for most of their teams, it will take these players a little time to develop a smooth leadership style. But they say they're prepared for the challenge.

"As a freshman," Bussie said, "I wouldn't say anything, so my [leadership style] has grown a lot. I now have to talk the whole time. I'm looking forward to it, because going to West Virginia next year, I'd like to be more outspoken, so I think it's going to lead into next year."

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