Drew Myers was always a guard. He liked to dribble and shoot three-pointers, and he played the position in recreation basketball games, in gym class and on the playground.
So when Mount Hebron Coach Mike Linsenmeyer approached the 6-foot-1 senior and asked him to play center, Myers was a little apprehensive.
"I did think it was crazy, but his strategy kind of got into all our heads and we have run the defense just how he said to, and it works," Myers said. "There is really nobody in the county that intimidates me. If you are bigger, I am going to be faster, or I am going to be able to jump higher."
Linsenmeyer's strategy came more out of desperation than anything else. Even in a county without any true big man, the Vikings are considered tiny. Senior Marc Carroll is the tallest player at 6-2. Even the school's junior varsity team is taller, Linsenmeyer said.
Linsenmeyer's situation -- coaching a team built around guards -- is hardly unique. The graduation of 6-10 Kevin Steenberge from River Hill last year left the county without a true center.
"Maybe I could be close to taking his place as a big man, but there are aspects that I know I am not going to be like he was last year," 6-7 River Hill senior Matt Glover said earlier in the season. "I don't think I am as good or up to the skill he had."
Few players measure up to Steenberge, now playing center at the University of Richmond. Most high school centers -- such as Glover -- would play forward at the next level, where centers ordinarily stand 6-8 or taller.
Other, such as Myers, would be guards at the college level.
"It's not often that a true good center comes along, maybe once every three or four years," Centennial Coach Jim Hill said. "In the county, we don't get a lot of true, good big men."
Centennial's center, 6-foot senior Ian Foran, makes Myers look tall. Foran is the shortest center in the league.
Atholton junior Jonas Vaitkus, only 6-4, is considered by many coaches to be one of the toughest post players in the league. Long Reach senior Terrell Blackwell has been a force inside at 6-5, and Glenelg 6-5 junior Dallas Davidson has used his girth to establish himself as the Gladiators' go-to guy down low.
Neither Vaitkus, Blackwell or Davidson -- and especially Myers and Foran -- get by purely on size. Like their smaller counterparts, they use a blend of toughness and aggression to fight for rebounds and points in the paint.
"The reason Drew [Myers] is there is because he is the toughest kid and the most athletic kid on the team," Linsenmeyer said. "That's why he is our center. We were looking for that. I am sure that's what everybody that doesn't have a true center does. You go throw your toughest in there to rebound, and that's basically what we do."
Added Atholton Coach Jim Albert on Vaitkus: "I think his desire and will to score and his aggression around the basket makes a difference. I have been here a long time, and I haven't had anyone that is that aggressive around the rim. . . . Within our league, I think he is going to be able to compete like that, but obviously, he is not a true center."
Because of their relative scarcity, coaches often don't count on centers as much as in the college or professional ranks, valuing guard play above the play of a top big man.
"It's tougher to win without a point guard, especially in high school basketball," said Wilde Lake Coach Philip L. Chenier, who lost two big men to offseason transfers. "The point guards are the ones that are making all the decisions. They have the ball the majority of the time. A big man is a luxury if you do have one."
Mount Hebron proves that case. With Myers anchoring the middle and a lineup of all guards, the Vikings (9-3 overall, 7-1 Howard County) are tied for second place in the league with Atholton (11-1, 7-1).
"We are basically a team of five guards, and as long as we get the rebound and push it and push it, nobody can really run with us," Myers said. "Basically, I play center on defense, and on offense, since we run a man offense, it's like we are all guards."
"Teams look at us, and they are like, 'So, this is the team?' " Carroll said. "Then their big man tries to match up with anybody, probably me, because I am the tallest person. Then I go run around the perimeter and they are like, 'What's going on?' "