It was not until Sidwell Friends senior John Patrick entered the fifth grade that basketball became even a modest interest for him. Before then, football was his glory sport. Then, for five years, Patrick went to Morgan Wootten's summer basketball camp.
Patrick, a 6-foot-4 point guard currently leading the Little Quakers in summer league play at Friends, said the first summer at camp was the turning point in his young athletic career. That taste of basketball was enough to convince him which sport he wanted to play, and for what school: DeMatha, where Wootten is coach.
"After that, all I ever did was play basketball. I became obsessed . . . I would do drills for seven or eight hours a day because I wanted to go to DeMatha," Patrick said. "I was mesmerized by the idea of all the glory these guys got because of basketball."
Patrick eventually did attend DeMatha. He did participate in the basketball program, playing on the junior varsity as a sophomore, and varsity as a junior. However, that one year of varsity experience was "a hard year," Patrick said. "I sat on the bench the whole time. That year of sitting as the last man on the team really shot my confidence."
Patrick's lack of success at DeMatha was affecting him even outside the realm of basketball.
"I wasn't doing as well as I could have academically," he said, "because I was depressed about basketball. I lost sight of my priorities there. Basketball was on the top of my list."
It was at that point, at the end of his junior year, that Patrick realized he needed to reevaluate the role of the game in his life. "A lot of guys lose proper perspective, but I didn't want to fall into that trap. There's such a slim chance to make it . . . I just realized that there are a lot of players out there who are better than me."
Patrick decided late last summer to transfer to Sidwell Friends. Because of Sidwell's high academic standards, Patrick, like many high school transfers, was required to repeat his junior year.
"I knew nothing about Sidwell other than that it had a good academic reputation, but did not have a top basketball program," Patrick said.
Patrick has progressed impressively with his studies, and is doing his part to improve the Quakers' basketball stature. "He's already changed it," said Sidwell basketball Coach Eddie Saah. "He has made us contenders in one year."
Last winter, although the Quakers finished fourth in the Interstate Athletic Conference, a total of seven points in four losses separated them from first place.
Patrick had gone from being a bench rider at DeMatha to an honorable mention All-Met and a first team All-IAC performer. He led the team in scoring with 17.3 points per game and was second with 7.5 rebounds a game.
According to Sidwell assistant coach Steve Jones, Patrick's greatest value to the team is his leadership ability. "He really helps us with leadership. In the past, we never had anyone who could take charge and play with his head. John can. He learned that at DeMatha."
Patrick is currently leading the Quakers to their best-ever showing in the Friends League. The Quakers, who only won three games last summer, were 4-6 entering last night's game against Whitman. According to Patrick, the Quakers could have been 5-5, but were unable to keep a five-point lead over Theodore Roosevelt with 30 seconds left in the game, and lost, 42-41.
Much of the Quakers' success this summer is due to Patrick's dominant play. He is the second leading scorer in the league, averaging 21 points per game. His consistent play earned him a spot on the East Division all-star team.
Patrick's best performance came against DeMatha. He did everything well against the Stags -- handling the ball, rebounding and scoring 24 points -- in leading the Quakers to a 57-53 victory.