Boys' Notebook

Rundown Home Gymnasium Keeps Kima on the Road

Because of exposed electrical outlets and other problems, Kima must travel to Laurel to "host" games.
Because of exposed electrical outlets and other problems, Kima must travel to Laurel to "host" games. (Photo Courtesy Of Levet Brown)
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When it comes time to debate which high school basketball team is the best in the Washington area and beyond, the players and coaches at the Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers -- or, simply, KIMA, as its team is known -- have an interesting perspective. The D.C. public charter school will take on any team, anywhere -- though it is rare for the Hawks to enjoy a home game.

KIMA has perhaps the most ambitious schedule of any team in the nation, with 46 scheduled games -- roughly twice what most public schools are allowed to play. There have been trips to tournaments in Roanoke and Miami, and this coming weekend KIMA will head to Chicago for two games. In addition to playing in a holiday tournament at Lake Braddock -- losing in the final of the eight-team field -- KIMA also filled in as a last-second entrant in another local tourney, which meant playing twice in one day.

Last week, KIMA lost to top-ranked Montrose Christian, 64-47, and the Hawks have a 12-12 record after last night's 72-62 overtime win over No. 5 National Christian.

"I try to put the kids in front of anybody," said KIMA Coach Levet Brown, whose team competes as an independent and therefore does not have any scheduling limitations. "I know people aren't coming to see us play. They're coming to see whoever we're playing."

But the one place Brown doesn't want to play is his own school's gymnasium. Giving a tour of the facility -- located in a former D.C. public junior high school building in Northwest that KIMA shares with two other charter schools -- Brown cringed as a bird flittered in the bleachers while he ticked off the gym's list of problems. Among them: No heat or running water; paint peeling from the ceiling and walls; exposed electrical outlets; broken windows; bleachers, slightly askew, littered with trash.

Students from the school have testified before the D.C. Council hoping to elicit a renovation that will cost $480,000, according to Brown.

Brown won't even let his team practice in the gym, instead holding some practices on the outdoor courts behind the school or traveling to a nearby recreation center. KIMA used to try to play some games at the building, but Brown soon became embarrassed by the facility. He remembers a game against Montrose Christian three years ago, when superstar Kevin Durant asked one of his players, "Do you guys really go to school here?"

Most of the team's "home" games now are held at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where Brown uses his connections to get court time.

"It's strange that we have to travel 30 minutes just to play a home game," senior guard Dwayne Curtis said. "This is my last year and I was expecting to have a home gym. But we don't have one."

Going to Great Reaches

Logically, Chopticon guard Derrell Armstrong shouldn't have had the time for one last shot late in the first half of in the Braves' 46-35 win over Leonardtown on Friday. But as the seconds ticked down, the 6-foot-1 Armstrong flung himself above all other players to push a rebound back toward the basket for two of his 23 points.

That's the thing with Armstrong, opposing coaches say -- just when you think he's too far out of the play to score, he does.

"He just has great extension," Braves Coach Terry Mumau said. "He can be at the foul line and somehow get a shot off from four feet."

Armstrong's 24.6 points per game leads all Southern Maryland scorers and has the Braves (9-1, 3-1 SMAC) aiming for their first state tournament berth since 2003. . . .

There are few things Fairmont Heights Coach George Wake has not seen in his 26 years as the Hornets' head coach. After last week's 128-119 double-overtime victory over Potomac (Md.), Wake can add a new one to his list, finishing the game with the equivalent of hockey's five-on-three power play.

Potomac had 11 players in uniform, but eight fouled out, including two in the second four-minute overtime. That left the Wolverines with just three players able to take to the court for the final period; Coach Torrence Oxendine wasn't left out, either, as he picked up his second technical foul and was ejected in the first overtime.

Guard Khaalis Coppock-Bey scored 31 points for Fairmont Heights, whose four-game winning streak later was stopped by No. 13 Friendly on Friday.

"It was a wild game," said Wake, whose team attempted 73 free throws, making 41. "It was a heck of a game for fans to watch."

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