Adjacent to the driveway at Thera Wolven's family's home in Ellicott City, a basketball hoop stands guard. White lines form the outline of a key and a three-point line, and there's lighting for late-night shooting sessions. The family's driveway has been extended twice to expand the court.
Often times a radio blares while a basketball rhythmically pounds the pavement, Wolven's only companion on long nights spent shooting.
"It's fun. I like playing by myself. There is no one there to distract you," said Wolven, a 5-foot-5 senior shooting guard for Mount Hebron. "You can do whatever you want. Most people if they are stressed out they do things to make them not as stressed and that's the one thing I do. I like to go out there and shoot. Turn the radio on and just go out by myself and shoot."
A self-professed basketball nut, Thera Wolven's jump shot -- the same jump shot patterned after NBA star Reggie Miller and the same one that Mount Hebron will count on this season -- was honed by hours spent in front of her family's home.
Sometimes she was joined by friends and often her younger siblings, but it was the time alone that has paid off.
Many nights, she wouldn't leave the court until she hit a three-pointer from her favorite spot, in the corner where the driveway slopes a bit. Or until she made 10 free throws in a row.
"It's not really that easy," Wolven said. "I spent hours until I finally left. It's kind of like a superstition thing also. It's bad luck if I don't do that."
Wolven will have a much tougher task this year: complement returning player of the year Kristen Waagbo and help the Vikings defend their county title.
"She knows how important her role is," Mount Hebron Coach Scott Robinson said. "She and I talked last spring and I told her some of the things we were going to do offensively. She is aware of some of the things we are going to do to try to get her more shots."
Anyone familiar with the Mount Hebron girls' basketball team is familiar with Waagbo. She averaged 20.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, and her 488 points were 37 percent of her team's total offense last season. She was as dominant a player as there was in the county. Little was expected from Wolven, who was second on the team with 8.2 points per game.
Laura Carper, Jackie Greenbaum and Crystal Griner have since graduated, leaving Waagbo's support squarely on Wolven's shoulders.
"I just want to take a little bit of the pressure off of Kristen," Wolven said. "I don't want to make her feel like she has to do everything out there. We have a good inside game I guess and I just want to be out there on the perimeter so if they double-team her or triple-team her she will have someone who can knock it down from the perimeter."
If there's anything Wolven can do, it's shoot, though she slumped last season after a breakout sophomore year. She said she lost confidence in her shot, and simply stopped looking for her chance to score.
"I learned that you have to keep shooting even if you are in a slump," Wolven said. "I wish I could have gone back and done that. I would stop shooting after a couple air balls."
So in the offseason, she did one thing. She spent more time on the driveway.
Boys Mount Hebron's boys lost two key players in the offseason, but got an unexpected surprise when 5-11 senior guard Shawn Howland moved here from Hopkinton, Mass.
Howland will somewhat offset the losses of Marcus Nicks (to Oak Hill Academy) and Blake Jarrett (ineligible), but Howland will not be able to compensate for the Vikings' biggest deficiency: height.
Senior point guard Aaron Rei-White is the team's most talented returning player, and he is only 5-8. Senior 6-2 forward Marc Carroll is the Vikings' tallest player, and Mount Hebron's center will be 5-11 senior Drew Myers.
"Height is the biggest problem, and defending the post will be tough," Coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. "We are going to have to be tough, and try to extend the floor. Our junior varsity team is bigger than our varsity team. A lot bigger. We would beat them by 100 points if we played them, but it'd be nice to have some height."
Howland will certainly do his part to try and make up for the lack of height. He said he averaged approximately 18 points per game at Hopkinton High, and was a first-team Tri Valley League selection.
"Shawn has obviously played a lot of basketball," Linsenmeyer said. "He is smart defensively, and he can score. It never hurts to have a scorer. That's big for us."
At a Glance
Mount Hebron Girls
Coach: Scott Robinson (seventh season).
Last season: 19-5 overall, 15-3 county.
Average points scored last season: 54.9.
Average points allowed last season: 42.7.
Last season in the playoffs: Lost to Douglass in 3A East Region semifinals.
Last state semifinal appearance: 1995.
Last state title: 1991.
Returning starters/letter-winners: 3/7.
Key losses: G Laura Carper, F Crystal Griner.
Top returners: F Kristen Waagbo, Sr., 6-0; G Thera Wolven, Sr., 5-5.
Mount Hebron Boys
Coach: Mike Linsenmeyer (second season).
Last season: 12-11 overall, 9-9 county.
Average points scored last season: 58.5.
Average points allowed last season: 60.6.
Last season in the playoffs: Lost to Long Reach in the 3A East Region quarterfinals.
Last state semifinal appearance: 1987.
Last state title: 1984.
Returning starters/letter-winners: 1/3.
Key losses: G Marcus Nicks, F Blake Jarrett, G-F John Zabel.
Top returners: PG Aaron Rei-White, Sr., 5-8.
Dec. 13 at Centennial, 5:30
Dec. 16 vs. Seton Keough, 5
Dec. 18 vs. Howard, 5
Dec. 27-28 at Mount Hebron Tournament, TBA
Jan. 3 vs. Hammond, 5
Jan. 8 at Glenelg, 5
Jan. 15 vs. Wilde Lake, 5
Jan. 17 vs. Oakland Mills, 5:30
Feb. 18 vs. Glenelg, 5
Feb. 20 vs. River Hill, 5
Feb. 24 at Wilde Lake, 5
Feb. 26 at Oakland Mills, 5
Dec. 13 at Centennial, 7
Dec. 18 vs. Howard, 5
Dec. 23 vs. Pallotti, 5:30
Dec. 27-28 at Gilman Tournament, TBA
Jan. 3 at Hammond, 5
Jan. 8 vs. Glenelg, 5
Jan. 10 vs. River Hill, 7
Jan. 15 at Wilde Lake, 5
Jan. 17 at Oakland Mills, 7
Jan. 29 vs. Long Reach, 5
Jan. 31 vs. Centennial, 5:30
Feb. 3 vs. Atholton, 5
Feb. 5 at Atholton, 5
Feb. 7 vs. Howard, 7
Feb. 11 vs. Hammond, 5
Feb. 18 at Glenelg, 5
Feb. 20 vs. River Hill, 5
Feb. 24 vs. Wilde Lake, 5
Feb. 26 vs. Oakland Mills, 5