There is a white line exactly 15 feet from each basket on the Suitland basketball court that guides the team's erstwhile shooters when they pull up for jumpers. Any shot taken from inside those perimeters is perfectly acceptable to Rams Coach Irving Hay, "but if they shoot any farther," he said, arching his eyebrows, "they'll find themselves on the bench."
Most of Suitland's players have found the white line well within their shooting range and few have ventured bombs from outside that distance very often. It's a team-oriented style of game played here and the Rams have been molded to conform to Hay's ideals of working to get the best possible shot.
Guards Rick and Roddy Peters have also found the 15-foot distance to be the point of origin of some of their best shots. Both are unafraid to let fire from the outside, or, in Roddy's case, from anywhere on the floor.
"He (Hay) lets me shoot anywhere I can hit it. Sometimes I think I can take a half-court shot and make it," said the 6-foot-5 Roddy, a senior cocaptain. "I can take the ball and nine out of 10 times I will either score or pass to someone who can score.
"Sometimes my teammates say 'You're the offense, we're around to contribute.' If I'm playing against a big guy, I'll drive and if it's a small guy I'll pull up for the jumper," added Roddy, who was moved to point guard last season to get more playing time. "After I shoot, I just back up and go play defense (confident of making the shot)."
If Roddy appears to lack little confidence now, it hasn't always been that way. Twin brother Rick, in fact, developed faster as a basketball player, and despite a two-inch height disadvantage, was the first to dunk the ball -- stretching his then-5-foot-7 frame over Roddy for a slam on the family's backyard court.
"He had big legs," Roddy said sheepishly. "But he could get the dunk and I'd get 25 points a game."
The dunk incident, while the two were in eighth grade, foreshadowed some of the high-flying moments to come and helped influence their goals of mimicking the dunks they saw in college and professional games. A year later, playing in a junior high tournament, they caught the attention of Hay, then the junior varsity coach at Suitland.
A year later, when Hay became varsity coach, he welcomed Rick and then Roddy -- after a transfer from McNamara -- to the team. And though neither played much that first year, they continued to hone their skills.
"(Hay) told us to play summer league and to leave the women alone," said Rick, who also was restricted from football -- his best sport -- because of fear of injury. "But we were with the women more than we played basketball." Whatever they did during the summer worked as the Rams, with Roddy starting at point guard and Rick filling in as the sixth man, won the Prince George's County AA championship and qualified for the state playoffs.
"I thought we had too much talent last year. We could've beaten DeMatha," said Rick. "We had five starters plus seven good players on the bench. But we pulled ourselves together and put it together. We had more meetings than Congress, but it made us a better ball club."
This season, after losing two starters to graduation, and 6-7 transfer Tony Williams to an ankle injury, the Rams again have a balanced attack, led by 6-5 Louis Harris and the Peters brothers.
Each member of the versatile trio knows his role and contributes to the league-leading Rams from both the front and back court. But while their individual statistics are not as high as they might be without Suitland's team-oriented playing style, each has excelled at least once during the season.
Harris, a three-year starter, leads the team in scoring with 17 points per game, while Roddy Peters averages 14 and Rick scores at a 12-point clip. But it was the latter, who, at 6-3 is the shortest of the three, that made the most significant contribution to Suitland's 70-68 victory over conference rival Bladensburg, scoring a game-high 22 points, including four clutch free throws in the final minutes.
"We all have to crash the boards pick up the slack in the scoring, and hope for the better," said Rick. "But I'm a physical ballplayer; I love to pound down low."
Even against his brother in practice. "We've been playing together since we were little boys, and we teach each other moves," Rick said. "Roddy's a better back court player and. . .and down low I show him a few things. I even played center in recreation league when he was the biggest guy on the team."
But back then, without the white lines on the gym floor and the watchful eye of Hay, the Peters boys were firing up the ball from everywhere.