With her keen three-point shooting, ability to play either guard spot and willingness to absorb instruction, Woodbridge sophomore guard Liana Wooten is considered a coach's dream. Except when the Vikings practice in the evenings. Then Wooten the dream becomes Wooten the nightmare for the adults in her life.
It works like this: When the Viking girls have the early practice slot, they have to be off the court at a certain time so the boys can use the floor. But during the weeks when the girls have the later gym time, the court is free after practice for Wooten and car-pooling buddy Kanee Booth to engage in lengthy shootouts.
It is then that Coach George Washington has to turn bouncer and escort the girls to the exit, where an appreciative parent corrals them into the car and whisks them away before they can break free to fire another 20-footer.
"You can't complain about that," Washington said. "Liana's a gym rat, and I haven't found many of those here. She has the offensive mentality you'd love every kid to have."
So far this season, Wooten's highest-scoring performances have not come on her all-hours home court but at Prince George's (Md.) Community College, where she posted totals of 20 and 25 points in consecutive holiday tournament games.
The 5-foot-7 Wooten has scored 19 and 12 points the two outings since that tourney, and last night against Potomac she was shooting to make it five consecutive double-figure efforts. She had posted just one such total through her first eight varsity games.
It was not so much the adjustment from junior varsity to varsity that hampered her output, it was starting basketball season just days after her club soccer season ended. For Wooten, soccer is a habit that has been hard to kick--more so than the average player, she is prone to stick a foot out to deflect a pass.
"It's just a reaction," said Wooten, who sometimes during breaks in practice boots a basketball around with Washington's son, Troy, a Vikings assistant girls basketball coach who was the 1998 Big South Conference men's soccer player of the year at Radford University.
The elder Washington said he "debated and debated and debated" last season about moving Wooten up to varsity, where she could learn from veterans Orion Wake and Tamika Dudley. Wooten instead played out the JV schedule and joined the varsity for the postseason, which was fine by her.
"I liked it how it happened," said Wooten, who helped lead the JV team to an 18-0 record. "I got to be a leader on the JV and then got to the state tournament [with the varsity] and saw what that was like."
In retrospect, Washington wishes he would have put Wooten into the game in the final two seconds of the two-point state semifinal loss to Robinson. The Vikings needed a miracle shot when faced with inbounding the ball underneath their own basket with two seconds left.
Wooten practices such shots and, to the surprise of no one in a Woodbridge uniform, she drilled one from just inside the half-court line during her breakout holiday tournament.
So Washington is pleased with her shooting. What he wants is more shouting. He would like Wooten to point out things to her teammates, a task she would rather leave to the seniors.
"She doesn't think she has a whole lot to offer," Washington said. "But she does have a lot of information to share. And it's selfish of her not to share with everybody."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Look no further than forward-thinking Gar-Field, where boys forwards David Hooper and Aaron Andrews combined for 79 points in wins over Osbourn Park and Osbourn, and girls forwards Kia Manuel and Nikki Wells teamed for 52 points in victories over those same schools.