Shaun Pender found his current school by accident, a tall teenager scanning The Post’s high school sports Web site looking for a place to call home.
The 6-foot-4 senior forward is hoping that things are a bit more routine as he tries to determine the next stop in his basketball career.
If nothing else develops, though, Pender is satisfied with his decision to leave behind the big-time basketball atmosphere found in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. He played on the freshman team at Carroll during the 2008-09 school year, but started looking for a new school after former coach Clinton Perrow was fired.
“I went on washingtonpost.com and was looking for schools,” Pender said. “We thought the school was in D.C. because of the name. I thought this might be somewhere nice.”
So Pender and his mother, Shonda, got in the car and started driving from their Cheverly home. They kept going and going on Georgia Avenue, all the way out to the Washington Christian campus in Olney, where high school tuition is $16,000 annually. Shonda thought it was too far to go, but Shaun convinced her otherwise. He spent the past two years taking the Metro and a bus or hitching a ride, but now drives his 2006 Dodge Charger each way.
“I didn’t know anything about this school,” Pender said. “There was something about it. Let’s go see what it’s all about.”
From a basketball perspective, things could not be much more different. Washington Christian’s gleaming six-year-old campus includes a gymnasium with six rows of bleachers on one side. There is no admission charge for games; perhaps 100 fans watched Tuesday’s game. Teammate Scott Visy was the public address announcer introducing lineups before the game, while a plea went out for another volunteer to work the concession stand.
“It’s totally different,” said Pender, who spent last summer playing for two smaller travel-team programs. “At Carroll, the mind-set is basketball and everyone around you is your competition. You don’t smile, you can’t let up an inch or somebody is going to come take your place. But sometimes basketball is more than that. You should have fun. Why would you play if you’re not having fun?”
While Washington Christian – which has 320 students in kindergarten through 12th grade — usually plays smaller schools with similar athletic profiles, Coach Dave McGlone wanted to include some opponents with brand-name athletic programs this season. The Wildcats have lost to Good Counsel, Wilson, Riverdale Baptist and Georgetown Prep, but Pender has put up points against everybody.
Pender is capable of shooting three-pointers or using his body to score close to the basket. In the Maryland Independent School Athletic League, few opponents can match up with him. Aside from a four-point outing when he played half of one game while suffering from flu, Pender has scored at least 24 points in every game this season.
On Tuesday, it was readily apparent that Pender was not at full strength. He had missed last Friday’s game and said he spent Saturday night in a hospital because of severe dehydration. He has gasping for breath in the first quarter, twice taking himself out of the game. While he made 7 of 9 shots in the first half, he finished 11 of 21 with 10 rebounds and four steals.
“He can straight out get it done,” McGlone said. “What we’re trying to do now is get him some exposure. That’s the missing ingredient. … No one has really put an offer out there. It’s time for that to happen, with him being a senior. That’s where our hopes and prayers are, that he gets an offer to go on and play.”