When Ciara Webb walked into the first day of Patterson girls basketball practice as a freshman, she had never played a minute of organized basketball. Her hopes of making the team were based on natural athleticism and a lot of pick-up games.
Not only did she make the team, she started at point guard. The next year, she was a team captain.
"Day one, she was the best player at Patterson High School," Clippers coach Kelley Bagdasarian said.
This season, she was arguably the best player in Baltimore City.
The 5-foot-9 senior point guard averaged 21.4 points, eight steals and 5.6 assists and led the Clippers to their best record in more than 25 years, 17-7. She finished her career with 1,510 points, which is believed to be a school record.
Sunday, she will join some of the best seniors in the country on the floor at the Verizon Center for the second annual Elite Showcase Basketball Classic. The Showcase features a boys all-star game at 3:30, followed by the girls right afterward.
Webb will show off a multifaceted game. She makes tricky moves to the hoop, can shoot the 3-pointer and dishes out the most improbable passes. Although Webb hasn't drawn the same attention, Bagdasarian said she has done for the Clippers girls what another stellar guard has done for the Clippers boys.
"When you think of our boys, you think of Aquille Carr and when you think of our girls team, you think of Ciara Webb. She is Patterson girls basketball," Bagdasarian said. "Without her, I don't know if we would have a team. She brings kids to tryouts. Freshmen want to play because they hear of Ciara."
Her promise was evident when she walked through the door. Having played soccer and softball from a young age, Webb complemented her natural athletic ability and fearlessness with an understanding of the game developed by playing so many pick-up games.
"Ninth grade year, I came in here just playing basketball, not knowing anything about it, just being able to get the ball in the hoop," she said. "That's all I really knew."
Still, she started putting up the numbers and opposing coaches took notice.
"When I heard she just started playing when she got to high school, I was like, 'That girl can play,'" Dunbar coach Wardell Selby said. "From my side, it's just a pleasure to watch her play, not when she's making points against us, but she plays with energy and a passion where it looks like she's just cruising along getting the job done."
Webb, 17, didn't play Amateur Athletic Union ball until after her freshman year when she joined the Baltimore Starz. She developed her style on the outdoor court in her neighborhood and at the rec center playing against boys and grown men.
"A lot of coaches say, 'By the way you play, I can tell you've played with guys, by the way you attack and how aggressive you are,'" she said. "I started playing on the outside court with all the guys. It was just another sport to play. It eventually became my favorite and I started getting better than all the guys I played with."
At Patterson, Webb elevated the Clippers solidly into the middle of the pack in the city's tough Division I and always kept her teammates involved.
"Even though she's the best player, she still gives us all the ball. She plays as a team player," Clippers senior Shakel McNeill said.
""On a scale of 1 to 10, she's an 11," senior Shawntavia Holmes said of her teammate's basketball skills. "I couldn't imagine not playing with her. We played in middle school together and she's a great teammate. She brings energy and family. She has her bad days, but she always keeps us together."
Webb is still learning the game and all of her coaches say that, despite her considerable success, she still has tremendous room for growth when she heads off to play for Towson University in the fall.
She's determined and hard on herself. She likes to be in control and she takes the blame when things go wrong. She loves to compete and she hates to lose.
"Since the first day of try-outs her freshman year, Ciara has had a level of competitiveness that I have never seen in anyone else. It's constant. I think that is what I love about her the most as a basketball player," Bagdasarian said.
During Webb's freshman season Bagdasarian and assistant coach Emily Butler told her she had the potential to play Division I basketball. From that moment, she was determined to get a Division I scholarship offer. She received quite a few before accepting the one from Towson.
"I remember that day they sat me down," Webb said, "and ever since, I've listened to everything they've told me and I accomplished that goal. I would say they deserve all the credit, because anyone can work hard but not everyone can give someone that direction to reach their goal."
In the last few years, Webb had the opportunity to transfer to other high schools where she could have won more games and made more headlines, but she was content to stay at Patterson, where her brother and her father also graduated. She liked drawing attention to the Clippers.
"When I came in ninth-grade year, I was just playing basketball because it was fun for me," she said. "As I progressed, every year we had a better record. I feel like I left a mark on Patterson and I have a lot of pride for that school. A lot of other schools wanted me, but I never wanted to leave. Even if we couldn't win city championships or go very far in the playoffs, I can say that I scored a lot of points and they had their best records when I played. That's what matters to me."