Walter Johnson's Chili Has a Little Bit of Everything
What to make of Alex Chili, who for four years at Walter Johnson High in Montgomery County has ranked in the top 10 in Washington area girls' basketball in the number of three-pointers made and in free-throw percentage?
During that period, only two other players ranked in both categories in one season, let alone four. Chili entered the week 11 points shy of 2,000 for her career.
But Chili's steady production (see chart) belies a long string of semi-contradictory quirks:
She is best known for her shooting touch, yet she plays point guard and gets to the foul line as often as the most hacked post players and penetrators.
She comes from basketball bloodlines -- her dad played at Duke University in the 1970s. At 6 feet 10, Terry Chili is a foot taller than his daughter, but she has almost doubled his college free-throw percentage of 45.3.
She has capped her storied career not by playing on her home court her senior season but by playing at her old middle school, Tilden, in a drab gym with a curtained stage behind one basket and cracked wall padding behind the other. (The WJ gym is being renovated.)
She is the star player, averaging three times the points of any teammate, but before a home game against Blair last week, she twice left the court during warmups to fiddle with the boombox at courtside. No one would have blamed her if she had delegated that task.
She has thrived; the team has struggled. Walter Johnson entered the week with a 5-16 record.
She is by far the team's most celebrated player -- she was voted "best of the best," the ultimate of senior class superlatives -- yet during senior night last week, she was the fifth of six players honored, not the logical ceremony-closing sixth.
She prides herself on a consistent shooting stroke, yet she is capriciously superstitious. Warmup CDs get shelved if the team has a bad outing. Certain friends are forbidden to show up for games because they are bad luck. Bad game = new hairstyle.
She probably could have earned a Division I scholarship but has chosen to attend Division III Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.
So, as you can see, Chili is as challenging to pigeonhole as she is to keep out of the scoring column.