There will be life after Alex.
Or so the saying goes around the county.
The Arundel girls' basketball team lost seven seniors, including 5-9 All Met guard and current Army basketball player Alex McGuire, who led the county in scoring three straight years. She averaged 22.5 points per game in her senior season and set a school career scoring record with 2,090 points.
Her talent was undeniable, as were the effort and strengths her fellow seniors -- among them Anastasia Baker and Janae Butler -- brought to the team. But this year, things will be different.
Arundel's trademark pressure defense might not have the same force early in the season, with just one starter, guard Danae Brownlee, returning from last year. Three seniors are at the head of a young team that includes three freshmen who will fight for starting positions in the early going.
"Getting the right chemistry, that's what we're looking forward to doing," said Arundel Coach Lee Rogers. "We're going to be very young but we're going to have some size."
The key to the season will be "how quickly the new kids grasp the system and how quickly we get some leaders out of the group that's returning," Rogers said. "You don't replace those [seniors], and I don't expect these kids to do that. I want them to put their personality into our system, and if they do that I think we'll be fine."
A clear go-to option on the offensive end will be 6-4 senior center Jazman Ramsey. Ramsey will command double teams in the post -- possibly even triple teams at times, if her skill level has taken the jump some expect.
South River Coach Dave Klingel is familiar with Ramsey's talent: He credits her with helping Arundel beat the Seahawks in one of the three games the teams played last season.
"We tried to play a guard game with them because we felt we matched up pretty well with them there," Klingel said. "The game we lost, they pounded it inside to Jazman. It was a tough experience. . . . I hear she's improved a great deal over the summer months. She's definitely a force that if she comes to play -- because not many kids, if they jump, can get to her shot -- she's definitely not a player we're looking forward to playing every night."
Ramsey may be the perfect mentor for Arundel freshmen Simone Egwu and Naimah Kimbrue as they begin their careers. Egwu, a 6-3 center, and Kimbrue, a 5-10 forward, battle with Ramsey during practice and are learning quickly the difference between playing for their 14-and-under Amateur Athletic Union basketball teams and playing varsity basketball on a team that has won three state championships and two of the last three 4A East Region titles.
"She's really big and she's strong," Egwu said one day after practice last week, with Kimbrue at her side agreeing. "You have to work really hard to keep up with her."
This season Arundel is expected to be among several teams vying for the county title. The others include Old Mill, Southern and South River, which this year is led by junior Ali Moreland. But if Arundel can rebound and return to previous seasons' form, the difference in the county standings could be its defense.
"Arundel's offense comes off pressure defense," said Old Mill Coach Craig White. "The whole thing with Arundel is, if you are able to handle their pressure and slow the game down a bit you may be able to stay in the game. But with the way they play defense, they score layup after layup and it's usually out of hand before you can get into it. Either you handle the pressure or you don't. Their pressure defense is something people don't see on a regular basis. They get after you."