Glen Burnie's basketball team has enjoyed seven consecutive winning seasons -- including a 15-8 mark last winter -- and Coach Mike Rudd doesn't intend to let that streak end, even after four starters graduated in June.
"I always put pressure on the seniors," Rudd said recently while watching his 2005-06 squad play a summer league game at Lake Waterford Park in Pasadena as part of the Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks Senior League. "Some guys . . . it's just their turn. We don't expect to have a drop-off."
For that prediction to come true, the Gophers will need stellar seasons from their two quickest players, junior Kareem Downs and senior Jarvis Askew. Downs, 15, was the Gophers' starting point guard a year ago and is the only returning starter; Askew, 16, came off the bench last season but will start this winter at shooting guard and small forward, where his tremendous leaping ability should help Glen Burnie's rebounding totals.
Downs and Askew, who have been friends for about five years and played basketball against each other in the Harundale Youth League, are not the type to simply fire 16- to 18-foot jump shots to boost their point totals. These two, despite each being 5 feet 10 inches tall and 155 pounds, can penetrate the lane, twisting their bodies to score or earn a trip to the free-throw line.
"Outside, anybody can stop the shot; just stay in the man's face, he's not going to make them all day," said Askew. "But going inside you're going to get fouled, or you're going to go up strong and make the basket. Being [one dimensional] like that is no good, because shooting is easy to stop. But dribbling and driving to the basket, it's hard to stop somebody, because you actually have to use your body and use your feet [on defense]."
Askew played solidly last week against Spalding. Glen Burnie lost, but in a league where wins and losses are secondary to skill development, he scored 10 second-half points and demonstrated prowess at maneuvering in traffic. Askew began his impressive stretch by skying over three Spalding players from the free-throw line, getting a defensive rebound and tip-in. Then, on consecutive Glen Burnie possessions, he scored down the baseline; took to the baseline again with a reverse layup; and drove straight down the lane for another basket.
During a timeout with six minutes left and Spalding ahead by seven, Askew implored his teammates: "You all got to get to the hole."
Downs, meantime, was fashioning a nice crossover dribble to shake his defender and accelerate into the paint. He scored only three points, but also kept plugging his way inside.
"I like to go inside and penetrate because I like the contact, and I like to get their big man in trouble so our big man has easier shots," said Downs, who last season averaged eight points per game. "It moves the defense around, too, so the defense can't stay in one spot while you shoot."
Rudd, who is not permitted to coach the summer league team but can watch from the sidelines, kept a sharp eye on his potential back-court mates last week.
"They're really quick with the ball. They do a good job of finishing and attacking the rim, and that's part of what our game is," Rudd said.
Downs said he has also gained invaluable basketball experience playing AAU ball for the First Baptist Crusaders in Baltimore this summer.
"You play teams from all around the country, so you get to see different people and how they play ball."
Askew, who also plays baseball for Glen Burnie and is passionate about both sports, said he intends to score most of his points inside. Downs, while acknowledging that he is adept at penetrating the lane, knows what he needs to work on most.
"My shot," Downs said, "so I can be more of a threat [from] outside."