In the summer, teams struggle to find consistency. The Old Mill girls' basketball team has not only found constants, however, but chemistry in the Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks summer league.
Despite the distractions competing with the county league -- summer jobs, vacations, AAU -- Old Mill summer coach Melanie Herget has not had a problem getting the majority of her players to games. And it has paid off, with the team entering the week 6-1.
In a 54-21 win over Glen Burnie on July 20, all nine players worked well in transition, in the half-court set, on rebounds and on defense. At one point, junior center Kiara Thomas grabbed a defensive rebound and passed to junior guard Charelle Brooke, who took two dribbles and dished to guard Leah Campbell, who dribbled once and scored. Three dribbles, two points.
"When you have a good amount of decent players, which they are, they have to be able to get along on the floor and function as a unit," said Old Mill Coach Craig White, who is not permitted to coach summer league but keeps track of the team's progress. "If they're all individuals it's not going to work. They have to know each other's strengths and weaknesses to be a better team in the winter. The more they play, the better off they'll be."
The players recognize this as well.
Thomas was playing in an AAU national tournament in Florida last week with the Maryland Hurricanes 15-and-under team. She returned July 20 at 6 p.m. and made the 7 p.m. summer league tip-off.
"I like basketball and I wanted to play," said Thomas, who led the team with 11 points that night. "I was tired. I was thinking about not playing, but I might as well, my team needed me."
During the summer, the offense has, for the most part, run through Thomas. That trend is expected to continue during the regular season.
"We're going to start on the inside and work outside," White said, adding that Thomas can handle the scoring responsibilities. "She should be disappointed that she didn't get recognized [as one of the top players in the county] last year. She was pretty dominant at times and at times was quiet. But the fact that she wasn't recognized, she should come back and have something to prove. . . . It's not a lot of pressure because she's a solid player, and she has a good group around her, too."
That group includes juniors Anisha Queen, Charelle Brooke and Campbell. Along with senior small forward Kristie Watkins, they will play a role in keeping Old Mill on its current upward trend. The team went 14-9 last season, after posting 13 wins in 2004 and seven in 2003.
"I want to go 18-2 or something," said Thomas.
She'll need the others to do it.
Queen, who made the team as a freshman, is regarded as a highly intelligent player, Herget said.
Herget, a former Old Mill player and current senior guard at Frostburg State University, described how Queen spotted a weakness in the team's 3-2 zone defense in one game. Before Herget could make a change, Queen had solved the problem.
"Coming in last year she was a little on the young side, but she played solid on varsity," White said. "She's starting to mature. Anisha knows the game. . . . She knows basketball so well, she'll be able to guide us. She's a very, very smart player."
When the team is struggling to score during the season, however, White said they will most likely turn to Watkins, who has been playing AAU ball this summer.
"She was at any given time [last season] one of the better players on the floor," said White of Watkins, who was named all-county last season. "She's going to be a little better because she's going to have better people around her this year."