With the same soft-spoken manner, familiar sweet passes and precise pull-up jump shots that made him the All-Extra Player of the Year last season, senior guard Charles Lightfoot handed it to his old team Tuesday.
Lightfoot now plays for St. Francis of Baltimore, and his team defeated Westlake--the squad he helped lead to a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference championship last season--71-39, in the Calvert Holiday Tournament.
"This is the weirdest situation I've ever been in," Westlake Coach Jimmy Ball muttered as the two teams took the court for warm-ups. "Coaching against a former player."
Ball wanted very much to have Lightfoot back himself. Last season was Lightfoot's third year at Westlake and his third year playing high school basketball, so it was hoped that he would have one year of eligibility remaining. But when he transferred from overseas (his father is in the Army) after the eighth grade, he was put in the 10th grade because of the number of credits he had already accumulated.
Lightfoot didn't graduate from Westlake last spring--despite a 3.6 grade-point average--because he failed English. He petitioned the Charles County Board of Education to gain eligibility for the 1999-2000 basketball season and was turned down.
So Lightfoot transferred to St. Francis in Baltimore, where he now lives with his aunt, Karen Lightfoot. Because St. Francis is a private school and Lightfoot has played only three years of high school basketball, he was eligible to compete.
"We didn't have any idea that he played basketball until tryouts started," St. Francis Coach William Wells said. "But he fit right in with us, not just as a player but as a leader, too."
That's the quality Ball says he misses the most.
"He is a great player," Ball said. "He was exactly what we needed last year and exactly what we're missing this year. I'm not trying to take anything away from the guards we have now, but he's got the experience that we're lacking. He was the floor leader for us last year, calmed us when things weren't going our way."
Westlake (1-5) played without forward Randy Starks, the team's leading rebounder and scorer, who missed the game for disciplinary reasons.
Though Lightfoot swears the only thing that has changed about his game this season is the "color of the uniform," his numbers indicate otherwise. He is averaging 13 points and six assists per game for St. Francis, up from seven points and four assists last year. Lightfoot scored 10 against Westlake but, like last year, spent more of his time running the show than firing shots.
"I didn't want for [the score] to get that way," said Lightfoot, who rested the entire fourth quarter. "It was hard just playing against my old team. Made me miss those guys, and Coach Ball."
"I really didn't notice it that much during the game itself, because I was trying to focus on other things, but sometimes, how could I not notice?" Ball said. "Seeing him out there, how could I not wish he was still on my team? If he was, we wouldn't be in the situation we are now."
St. Francis (7-3)--Brown 3 3-3 9, Hardy 2 0-0 4, Jacobs 3 2-4 8, Lightfoot 5 0-0 10, McKoy 6 0-0 12, Patty 3 2-2 8, Payne 8 2-2 18, Walker 1 0-0 2. Totals 31 9-11 71.
Westlake (1-5)--Cornwell 1 2-2 4, Brown 0 0-1 0, Dickson 1 0-0 2, Chisley 3 2-3 8, Briscoe 2 0-0 5, Smith 3 1-2 7, Bonnett 3 3-7 9, Satterwhite 1 0-0 2, Merrill 0 2-2 2. Totals 14 10-17 39.
Halftime: St. Francis, 30-8.
Three-point goals: Westlake 1 (Briscoe).