Kedrock Slams The Hammer on Robinson
Senior fullback emerges as workhorse in win over Robinson.
By BJ Koubaroulis
October 25, 2006
Oakton's football team started a new tradition during last season's 12-2 run to the Div. 6 AAA state title. Oakton senior Taylor Naleppa, a stocky fullback known for his gritty running style and toughness, would lead the Cougars onto the field wielding a burgundy and gold sledge-hammer with the words "Whoop Ass" inscribed on the handle. Naleppa would swing and bury the sledge-hammer into the opposing team's end zone in an effort to spread his toughness to his teammates and intimidate the opposition. In Friday's 14-7 victory over Robinson (5-2 overall, 3-1 Concorde District), neither Naleppa, who graduated last year, or his sledge-hammer were present, but Naleppa's replacement, senior fullback Jonathan Kedrock, was. Kedrock, who ran for a season-high 126 yards on 25 carries, wasn't just the fullback — he was the sledge-hammer and the blood seeping from his right arm and the mud clinging to his uniform said one thing, "Whoop Ass.""You can imagine what our defense faced every week, facing Kedrock [last year in practice]," said Oakton head coach Joe Thompson. "He didn't get much playing time because Taylor was there, but every week he practiced as hard as he played tonight."
WITH OAKTON quarterback, sophomore Ryan Harris (7-of-16, 78 yards, 2INT) still learning at the position and Robinson's defense keying on several of Oakton's other running backs, Kedrock established his presence running for 32 yards on seven carries in the first half."Once we figured out that this guy was going to play as hard as he was going to play and run the ball like that, we wanted to keep it in his hands," said Thompson, who spread the ball to four different rushers in the first half, including Orlando Bryant who took his first carry of the half for a 34-yard touchdown run with 1:07 left to give Oakton the 6-0 lead."It was [Kedrock's] turn this year and he wasn't going to be denied. He's been patient...He's wanted it and tonight one of our assistant coaches said 'it's time to get him in the ball game and give him the ball, I was ready to respond,'" Thompson added.Kedrock, a 5-foot-10 and 218-pound senior, wasn't just breaking tackles, he was aiming for contact with defenders, lowering his shoulder nearly every time he touched the ball."They are smaller than me," said Kedrock, who said he ran with a single purpose in mind on Friday. "Playoffs. This is playoffs. All the games for the rest of the season are playoffs. Ever since we lost to Westfield, we realized what we had to do to make the playoffs and this is it."Kedrock rushed for the game-clinching 2-yard touchdown with 5:33 left in the fourth quarter to give Oakton the 12-7 lead."He has a switch that he turns on and when he turns it on, no one is stopping him," said Oakton senior Jared Green, who caught the ensuing two-point conversion pass to put the Cougars up 14-7. "When it comes down to it. He plays better under pressure. We put the game in his hands and he took care of business."Robinson head coach Mark Bendorf was impressed with the Cougars offensive line."They've got a better football team than we have and we knew that going in," said Bendorf. "Just look at their backs and they got their lineman back from their state championship team."
ROBINSON ENTERED the contest without starting running back Mike Meier, who dislocated his right elbow in practice last Tuesday. Meier, who has rushed for 593 yards and six touchdowns this season, is uncertain about his return this season. Without Meier, Robinson ran for a season-low 149 yards on 34 attempts. Robinson senior David Laiti ran for a team-high 77 yards on 13 carries. Alex Murray rushed for Robinson's only touchdown with 7:44 left in the third quarter and finished with 46 yards on 11 carries. The Rams lost two fumbles."It hurt," said Bendorf. "One turnover on the screen was a first down and there at the end that was a chance to go ahead and try to tie it up."With 5:02 left in the fourth quarter and trailing 14-7, Robinson's Wynton Fox (8 carries, 29 yards) was stripped and Oakton recovered. The Cougars ran down the clock and kneeled on the ball on Robinson's one-yard line opting not to go for the knock out punch with under 10 seconds left."Basically, we are a team that has the talent all we have to do is execute," said Green. "Honestly, it is open this year. You see Westfield, they are No. 1, we were right up there and we almost snagged that one. The playoffs is what it's going to come down to."
NOTE: Oakton coach Joe Thompson said that he and his staff went through four years of film in the week leading up to the match up with Robinson. "We haven't beaten Robinson," said Thompson. The win marked the first time that Oakton, which has been outscored 147-105 by Robinson in six games since the 2002 season, have defeated Robinson since Nov. 30, 2002.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Kedrock Slams The Hammer on Robinson
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 3:39 PM
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Herndon High School senior Adin Kavazovic was 10 years old when he picked up his first rifle. Ermin Mujezinovic, also a Herndon senior, was eight years old when the grenade he was playing with in his grandfather’s backyard malfunctioned and a minor explosion buried shrapnel into his face.“I was bleeding so bad. Those pieces stayed in my face for so long,” said Mujezinovic.Standing on Herndon High School’s track, the 18-year-old cousins recount their journey from their birthplace, Vitez, Bosnia, and how it is that they have come to help Herndon coach Peter Sherry’s cross-country team become one of the top teams in the state. They try to explain how the country’s civil war, which raged from 1992 through 1995 and claimed a reported 250,000 lives, put them among the millions of refugees by the time they were barely teenagers. They try to explain their hatred for Serbs through quick jokes and laughs. They try to explain how the war changed the lives of their family members and took the lives of some of their friends. It’s different over there, they try to explain.“You can go outside your house and just start shooting,” said Kavazovic.Just a few years removed from war-torn Bosnia, Kavazovic and Mujezinovic — who run with Herndon's cross-country and track teams — helped Herndon’s Distance Medley Relay (DMR) team climb to a sixth place national ranking last season. Their athletic achievements have given them something that most of their American classmates take for granted — a chance. They have gone from future freedom fighters to All-American distance runners and in Wednesday’s Concorde District Cross Country Meet at Burke Lake Park, the seniors will look to make good on the chance to take Herndon to the top of the district.“When you consider it, here everyone gets a chance. But where we come from no one gets a chance; you have to fight for that chance,” said Mujezinovic, who along with his cousin gained All-American status after their DMR team took sixth at the National Track and Field Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. last June.The DMR team took third at the Penn Relays “Which is significant in that it is the most prestigious high school relay meet in the country/world,” said Sherry.
ON MAY 7, 2001, Mujezinovic left behind an uncertain future in Bosnia — one that most likely would have pushed him and his cousin into required service with Bosnia’s army.“Last year, when I went to my country they were ready to call me into the army, because in Europe when you are 18 you have to serve,” said Adin, whose father — a solider in the war — was nearly killed 13 years ago and was evacuated to the United States to receive the medical care he needed. That event set in motion a chain of events that led to both of the families emigrating to the United States. “He was supposed to lose his arm and a leg,” said Adin, who followed his father to the U.S. four years ago — a year after Ermin. “Over there, they couldn’t help [my dad]. He had to come here because, over there, they were shooting in the hospitals.” The Herndon seniors smile when they talk of their American citizenship. They take nothing for granted.“If I can bring five Bosnians to practice with me, we would be ranked No. 1 in the nation,“ said Mujezinovic, whose gritty and tough style of running has pushed him into the forefront of the Concorde District’s cross-country scene. “Toughness. That is best aspect of his running,” said Herndon senior teammate Matt Giorgis of Mujezinovic. “No matter what kind of shape he is in, he has that aspect. You can’t really train for it, you just have to have it.”Last season, Mujezinovic’s toughness led him to a second place finish in the Northern Region tournament. He took ninth in the Virginia High School League state tournament, helping Herndon to a fifth place finish. Also a track star, Mujezinovic’s personal bests include a 4-minute 13-second 1600-meter, and top times in the 800-meter (1:57) and 3200-meter (9:22). Mujezinovic was the district champion in the 1600-meter and 1000-meter and was part of the 4x800 relay team that won both indoor (2006) and outdoor (2005) state titles.“Once you start running you cannot stop,“ said Mujezinovic. “You get addicted to distance running. When you get to know the people, you don’t want to give up on them.”Kavazovic, who ran the 800-meter leg of the nationally ranked DMR team last season, was all-Concorde district last season and has run personal bests in the 1600 (4:36) and 800 (2:00). His motivation is simple. He thinks of where he has come from.“I think about it and it definitely pushes me harder,” said Kavazovic.
FIVE YEARS AFTER breaking the language-barrier, Mujezinovic and his cousin are still learning the do’s and don’ts of the American culture.Mujezinovic, a team leader, still commits many of what Sherry likes to call “social faux pas.”Mujezinovic’s motivational tactics “which doesn’t let anybody quit,” said Giorgis, include a spicy vocabulary and what can be interpreted as harsh and sometimes degrading comments to his teammates.“He’s tough on people,” said Giorgis. “That’s just him rubbing off on people because he is so tough. It doesn’t let anybody quit. If they are running with us, they are running hard.”Herndon’s team has adopted Mujezinovic’s hard-nosed style and his comments do not offend them. His comments fuel them. Mujezinovic has a simple goal for the upcoming district, regional and state tournaments. “I don’t plan anyone that can stick with me,” said Mujezinovic, who has taken second in the Virginia Tech and VMI Invitational tournaments so far this season. “I am going to try for the school record which is set by Rasheed Thompson, which is 14:57. I am trying to break that, but I am going to be by myself and I know it’s going to be difficult.”Thompson is a 2003 Herndon graduate and runner at Georgetown University. According to Sherry, Mujezinovic is being recruited by Div. I programs like George Mason University and Iona College (New York).“It’s wonderful to see,” said Sherry, a former collegiate runner. “Here is a kid that gets a chance to go to college for free because the kid worked hard. I don’t know what he would be doing if it wasn’t for running. I use him as an example a lot
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 2:07 PM
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Jay Franklin, Madison Baseball
1971 Northern Region's highest MLB draft pick continues 20-year battle with mental illness.
By BJ Koubaroulis
August 9, 2006
To send assistance to this family:
7208 Woods Edge Ct.
Warrenton, Va. 20187
Each time that Jay Franklin takes a sip of his soda, he unwillingly flashes the scar on the bottom of his right arm. It’s a reminder to his mother, Pat, and sister, Trudy — sitting just feet away and listening to him tell his story — of just how bad things have gotten. Franklin, a 1971 graduate of Madison High School, is still considered the Northern Region’s greatest high school pitcher of all time. He earned the scar after he attempted to jump out of a four-story window in Arlington County Courthouse during a court-sanctioned mental health assessment in 1991. It lies just below his right forearm — an arm that carried him to AAA state records, two state titles and local immortality among those that know the Northern Region’s baseball past. Major League Baseball’s No. 2 overall draft pick (1971) takes another sip, bends the bill of his dirt-riddled Washington Nationals hat and adjusts his gray collared shirt. It’s a less than hygienic outfit that the 53-year-old Franklin chooses to wear daily. He parts his grayed and tobacco-stained whiskers so that his lips can utter words that dash his mother’s ears.“I think I have AIDS,” says Franklin, while a collage of old photographs, newspaper clippings, letters from major leaguers and autographs are spilled across the table in front of him. In fact, Franklin does not have AIDS. It’s just one of several delusions, or what he refers to as negative thoughts, that constantly run throughout his brain on a daily basis. Jay, known to his friends as John, is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic with fixed delusions. He also suffers from depression and has been heavily medicated for the past two decades. Every other week, Franklin visits his mother’s one-bedroom apartment in Centreville — in what she calls his ‘comfort zone’ away from the Reston-based group-home type atmosphere in which he resides with others suffering from mental illness. Pat, a lifelong baseball fan — as the daughter of legendary Baltimore Orioles scout Floyd Tuthill should be — watches baseball games with the volume on as low as she can. John won’t watch the games if he can help it. “I try to watch it, but I’m paranoid and I think that they’re talking about me on the games, the commentators. It’s like, I know what’s going on, but I can’t accept it,” said Franklin, who is sometimes aware that his delusions are part of his illness. He visits with a social-worker once a week and a doctor once a month. “Every day he lives like someone is trying to kill him,” said Pat. “It’s not like you can turn it on and off like a spigot.”
FRANKLIN, WHOSE fast ball reached 98 miles per hour in his prime, was gassing his best pitch by anyone willing to take the plate for the opposition in his days spent playing baseball in Vienna. He was on both of Madison’s first two state championship teams and was on the mound for the Warhawks’ 4-1 victory over George-Wythe High School in the 1971 state title game. It was a glorious year for the 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior who struck out 202 batters in 100 innings pitched and gave up only seven hits and 23 walks en route to a 29-1 career high school record making him one of the most highly sought after prospects in the country and an easy choice for high school All-American. As a senior, Franklin struckout 42 batters in 21 innings in just the regional tournament. He is listed in the Virginia High School League record books tied for the record for the most strikeouts in a game after he struck out 29 batters in 14 innings in his senior year of high school."Back then there weren't guys throwing 90 miles per hour," said Madison head coach Mark Gjormand, who added that Franklin is still a legendary figure within his baseball program — he is the bar for pitchers. "From my experience [in baseball], I never saw anybody throw as a hard as Jay Franklin," Gjormand added. His basketball skills were nearly equivalent, but it was always baseball for Franklin, the proud grandson of Tuthill, who used to hit ground balls to Jay in cow pastures where his early 50‘s semipro teams would carve out makeshift practice fields."He just loved the game and always had his cleats and his glove and everything ready to go," said Pat. "Since he could walk, he had a ball and bat in his hand."Franklin also helped American Legion Post 180 to the state championship in 1970.“By the time John was finished [with high school], I think people were expecting him to be a very big time draft choice,” said Mike Wallace, a 1969 Madison graduate that pitched 117 major league games after helping Madison to the 1968 AAA state title. “He was a pretty all-around player. He not only threw hard, he could hit well," said Wallace, who is part of a small group of local baseball legends that hope to get their legendary baseball teammate and friend Franklin, who 35 years later remains the highest drafted player in Northern Region history, the help that they think he needs and deserves."There are a couple more routes we can go," said former teammate Ronnie Slingerman, a 1968 graduate of Madison who is also part of that group. "I'm hoping we don't lose Jay before we get him help."
FRANKLIN NEVER needed help in his younger days. “I don’t know,” said Franklin of where he got his arm strength. “Practice. Just God-given, I guess. Mr. [Tom] Christie, coach at Madison, had a theory that the more you throw, the stronger your arm gets and I can believe that.” Franklin threw a lot of innings. Some believe he threw too many in his stint in the minors. He powered his way through the baseball ranks from an early age as he and his childhood friend Clay Kirby would steal cans of Ajax from Pat’s cupboard and spread the white powder across the backyard drawing out the lines of a baseball diamond. During those backyard whiffle-ball days, Kirby and Franklin, who were neighbors in Arlington before the Franklins left for Vienna, never knew that their baseball futures would intersect as both made it to the major leagues and both with the Padres (Kirby’s MLB career: 1969-1976, 3.84 ERA, 75-104 record). Kirby, who died in November of 1991 from a heart attack at the age of 44, was Franklin’s best man at his wedding.“I was too young and inexperienced,” said Franklin, who made his major league debut less than seven months after his 18th birthday. “It was a mental struggle. But I go back and there’s a lot of things I would have done differently if I had been more mature. I just wasn’t mature enough to be pitching in the major leagues. I had the fast ball, but as far as intermingling with the rest of the players, it was tough. They were all older than me and had more experience.”Franklin admittedly ‘fastballed’ his way through the minor league system, but found that at each level, more and more batters could catch up to his speed. His 5-0 record in rookie ball was exactly the fast-track that the Padres organization hoped that he would be on. To them, Franklin was worth the $65,000 contract they had given him right out of high school. According to numbers compiled by baseball-almanac.com, Franklin's salary was more than $35,000 over the average MLB salary in the early 1970's which was just over $29,000 per year. Minimum wage jobs would have paid an annual $12,000 a year. Franklin made three major league starts in 1971 and gave up three home runs in 5.7 innings pitched. In a matter of four days, Franklin accumulated a 6.35 ERA giving up home runs to the Braves’ Hank Aaron and Darrell Evans. 1971 was ‘Hammerin Hanks’ greatest home run year as he belted out a career high 47 homers en route to his Hall of Fame career total 755. Franklin, who gave up No. 638 to Aaron, would never find his way back to a major league pitching mound again. Injuries and surgeries on his pitching arm took away Franklin’s coveted arm-speed and, with it, his financial future. His fastball dropped to 85 miles per hour and his new sidearm delivery — one that he fashioned to make up for snapped elbow tendons and shoulder problems — just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The Padres sent him home in 1976 and his major league career was over.
MARRIED AT the age of 19, Franklin and his wife Jordi moved back to Vienna and lived with his mother, Pat, and father Gilbert. They had children, John and daughter Jennifer. He worked in construction, maybe a trait he picked up from his father, a perfectionist who built homes in Northern Virginia. “I helped build [route] 66 over there in Arlington,” Franklin says with a smile. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t mind [construction]." But ask him about his wife and the smiles abruptly stop.“I would have girls coming on to me, but I’d rather go hunting and fishing with my dad,” said Franklin of his early days. “I just didn’t date that much. So, I go to San Diego and the first one that comes along, I marry.” Courts did not stop Jordi from taking their children back with her to California after the two split in 1985. The split was the beginning of a series of tragedies that have sent Franklin into a spiral of insanity and paranoia that keeps his sister Trudy in tears. “My goal is to see him live in a better place than he has been in for the last 20 years,” said Trudy. Franklin never recovered after the split with his wife and the 1988 suicide death of his father — who had also experienced mental health problems and was manic depressive. It is unknown if Franklin's mental health problems have anything to do with his father's. Kirby, one of few friends that stayed close with Franklin even throughout his latest and more difficult years, died early at the age of 44 just weeks apart from the death of Jordi, who also died in 1991. It was all too much for Franklin to handle. "For the last 10 years I’ve been pretty much depressed all the time,” said Franklin. “I get paranoid. I think everybody knows about my business, which my business is not too good in the last 15 years. I have some things that I wish I had never done.”He tries to position himself back near the game he so passionately loved, but after an inning or two, the stares, which are mostly out of admiration for Northern Virginia’s greatest pitching legend, are just too much for Franklin’s paranoia to withstand.“I go out in public and I feel uncomfortable because I think people know about my skeletons in my closet and it’s just uncomfortable,” said Franklin, who claimed that he has been sober for three years now after a five-year battle with alcoholism. Gambling is his new vice and smoking is not a habit for him, it’s a lifestyle.“I just take each day as it comes and do the best that I can do,” said Franklin, who sleeps up to 14 hours a day. “I feel like if my day has come, then I have had my day in the sun, so be it. I don’t think any medication in the world can help this.”
WHAT’S NEXT for Franklin? Trudy says that her brother is just “existing, not living,” she says as the tears flow. The rotting teeth and missing front right tooth and poor hygiene are evidence that Franklin is just, as he says, “existing.” “He doesn’t understand how powerful he can be. I saw him laughing and smiling,” said Trudy of the day she took her brother, who still gets autograph requests mailed in from all over the country, to a youth clinic at RFK Stadium. Trudy, Pat and Wallace are in the beginning stages of paperwork they hope will cross through MLB’s red tape in order to get John financial help from Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) — described by MLB.com as “a group of former Major League Baseball players [that] help members of the baseball "family" who have come on hard times and are in need of assistance. Franklin currently lives on a $1,000 a month social security disability — all money that Trudy handles in his name. Franklin has a mere $1,000 in his savings account. He hasn’t been able to work since 1993. “We struggle as a family to take the little money we’ve had and stretch it,” said Pat. At times, she can’t keep up with the overflow of medical bills. “When he was on the mound under the bright lights, everyone wanted to come to his side,” said Trudy. “And now, no one comes, no one calls.”
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 7:01 PM
"Stained" is a column that I wrote when the Duke lacrosse team was being served up by the media all over the country. Facts were misreported, more opinions were heard than facts and almost everyone had piled up on the Blue Devils' lacrosse program. I took a lot of heat for taking the stance that I did in this column. Looking back on it, I'm glad that I took the unpopular side of the argument. It appears that I was dead on.
Commentary: Lax enters Virginia's high schools in first official year with a publicity black eye.
May 24, 2006
Play along for a moment: Grab the closest pen and paper. Write out the names of the four major sports — football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. Leave a space next to each sport. Now, in less than 30 seconds, write down the first thing that comes to mind when you think of each sport. Do it. Quickly. Don't ponder. Just do it (sorry Nike).
Now, write down the word lacrosse. I think you know where this is going.
"This whole Duke thing this year has really scarred our sport," said Langley boys lacrosse coach Earl Brewer, who is in his 12th season with the Saxons. "It's a shame. I wear my lacrosse stuff somewhere and people say 'hey, what do you think about that Duke?'"
UNFORTUNATELY, every sport has its defining moment. The word 'unfortunately' was a purposeful and hand-picked descriptor, but can and should only be applied to the circumstances surrounding the sport of lacrosse. There is nothing unfortunate about the images that come to mind when thinking about basketball. Christian Laetner's buzzer-beater? (The Duke reference was unintentional.) Anything unfortunate about Michael Jordan's fist-pumping leap after "The Shot" over Craig Ehlo in the 1989 NBA playoffs? Of course not. Football is better for having had Joe Namath's guarantee, now known as "The Guarantee." Or what about "The Drive" which catapulted John Elway to fame and defined the NFL in the late 80's. Maybe for baseball fans it's Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire's awkward chest-bumping moment? I hope not, but, either way, the point is that the sport of lacrosse — a sport that has recently been earmarked as one of the fastest growing sports in the country — has, in its mainstream infancy, already acquired a defining moment.
To this point, the sport's defining moment is "The Rape."
Whether or not the Duke lacrosse players are guilty or innocent, at least in this argument, has no bearing. The sport's ambassadors to the mainstream are accused rapists. More importantly, the sport's defining moment didn't even take place on the field. It's not a game-winning shot from 20-feet out or an overtime thriller. Instead, the images of a vacant white house in Durham, N.C. — the scandal’s backdrop — or the speech on the courthouse steps delivered by the third Duke lacrosse player indicted for a potential sexual assault are the only mainstream images that most of us have seen. Both memorable images will be force-fed to the public over the next several months, forever scarring the sport and linking the words "lacrosse" and "sexual assault."
And if the accused are guilty — then the stigma will, and probably should — stick. It's the only way things can change for the better. And while it is important to note that America's major sports have all had their share of on and off the field scandals, none suffered these terrible blows in their mainstream infancy.
Locally, the sport enters its first season as a Virginia High School League recognized official state championship. The high school level is still where the sport is most popular. T.C. Williams boys lacrosse coach Charles Juris is using the scandal as an opportunity to teach lessons. “We all have to learn things from Duke — to have integrity," said Juris. "I tell my guys all the time, ‘Just because you’re a varsity athlete, you don’t have privileges.’"
THE SPORT is stained. It's unfortunate, but it's true. And for those fans who are too shortsighted to see the long-term effects of the Duke scandal, just take a step back and remove yourself from the depths to which you are entrenched in your love-affair with lacrosse. Think about the mainstream. The mainstream doesn't know who your heroes are. Most, probably, couldn't name one professional lacrosse player or if there even is a professional lacrosse league. Is there?
This is not about lacrosse anymore, or what its true core values are really about. It's not about what its players and coaches have learned to love about it. This is about how the sport will be received by those who don't know what a long-stick middie is. This is about how your subculture will be perceived.
“Lacrosse is such a tight-knit community. We build lacrosse programs to build strong characters,” said Annandale girls lacrosse coach Cindy Hook.
This case has treaded through a minefield of explosive and controversial topics including race, class, gender, and education and has questioned the character of not just three lacrosse players or one team, but of lacrosse players in general.
"I just hate that it's given us a black eye," said Brewer, who remains optimistic. "I told the guys on the team after it happened that my best friends, still to this day, are guys that I played lacrosse with or I coached with or had something to do with lacrosse. They are going to find out that when they go one day and they walk into a job somewhere and on that resume it says 'played college lacrosse, played high school lacrosse, ' It's going to help open a door for them, I guarantee it."
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 3:05 PM
Jasmine Thomas Picks Duke
Oakton senior girls basketball star verbally commits to Blue Devils.
September 7, 2006
The thousands of recruiting letters that have been boxed up and stored at the homes of Oakton senior Jasmine Thomas and her two coaches — Oakton coach Fred Priester and AAU coach Aggie McCormick — can finally be cleaned out. Thomas, one of the most sought-after girls basketball recruits in the nation, told the Connection on Thursday that she has verbally committed to Duke University. Thomas, the three-time Concorde District Player of the Year, three-time Northern Region Player of the Year and the AAA state Player of the Year (2004-2005), gave a smiling sigh of relief as she revealed her choice while sitting on the bleachers of the Oakton High School gymnasium Thursday.
“I trained myself to be open-minded because I was getting offers from the best schools,” said Thomas, who by mid-summer had narrowed her choices to Duke and the University of Virginia. “I had to be open-minded and it was fun because I got relationships with most of [the coaches]. But towards the end, when I was still feeling that Duke was my top school, I was like ‘I can’t keep [waiting]’ because I know that there are people waiting to see where I was going to go so that they could make their decision.”
Over the last three seasons, Thomas has averaged 22.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 4.5 steals per game while leading Oakton to a 74-8 overall record.
The 16-year-old senior called Duke University women’s basketball coach Gail Goestenkors on Wednesday at 1 p.m. from Priester’s office.
“Coach Gail was so excited because I have been telling everyone where they stood in the lineup and she always knew she was first. But it always made her nervous,” said Thomas.
According to both Priester and Thomas, Duke has been the program that has been there “from the beginning,” said Priester. “That played a big part in [the decision]. I think [Jasmine] was in a great situation in terms of having some really awesome choices. She had four ‘Final-Four’ teams coming at her ears. She was in a situation where she could not lose.”
THOMAS, WHO ENTERED Oakton in her freshman year as a preseason All-American, will join a Blue Devils squad that has established itself as a threat in the Atlantic Coast Conference and as a top competitor nationally.
Goestenkors, who has spent 14 seasons elevating the Duke women’s basketball program from obscurity to national prominence, has been named the ACC coach of the year six times. She led the Blue Devils to the NCAA tournament championship game this past season – a game they lost to Maryland. Before leaving this summer to polish her skills at the Nike Girls Skills Academy — a camp that welcomes only the top 21 players from the country to Nike World headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. — Thomas named her top five schools as Duke, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia and Louisiana State University.
Near the end of August, Thomas shut herself off from the recruiting calls, letters and visits and “went with my gut,” she said. “It was always a gut feeling.” Thomas, who has made visits to Duke twice, also noted that she wanted to stay close to home.
“Duke’s not too far,” she said of the Durham, N.C. campus.
The 5-foot-9 guard, who has played several positions for Oakton, noted that she will work on ball-handling, three-point shooting and defense because “They recruited me as a point guard,” said Thomas. “I have been told I need to shoot more ‘threes,’” she added.
IN HER HIGH school career, Thomas has tallied 40 double-doubles, three triple-doubles and has set Oakton records for points in a game (34), season points (650), career points (1,817), assists in a game (12), steals in a game (11), and rebounds in a game (16).
According to the Virginia High School League record book, Thomas is currently
1,473 points from tying 1993 Phoebus graduate LaKeisha Frett's state career scoring record (3,290), but only 647 points from passing 1996 Madison graduate Katie Smrcka-Duffy, who is second on that list with 2,463 career points. Over the last three seasons, Thomas, who has averaged 605.6 total points per season, is considered one of the region's more accurate jump-shooters and has recorded a 52-percent field goal percentage and has shot 31-percent from the 3-point line. She took Oakton to the state tournament as a sophomore before leading the Cougars to a 25-1 record last season.
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 2:34 PM
Jon Carman, Herndon Football, 1994
Herndon's gentle giant went from the band to the football field and into the NFL.
August 1, 2006
The legend of Jon Carman has outgrown the "gentle giant's" 6-foot 7-inch, 350-pound body frame. Any coach or neighborhood kid from back in Carman's day remembers their own story about the giant with the big hands whose mother, Betty, said drank two gallons of milk a day. The legend of Carman's car — a small coupe that he disfigured with a chain-saw turning it into a make-shift convertible so that his head could fit comfortably — is a story that anyone that knows him still loves to tell. Carman, now a social worker at a juvenile detention center in New Jersey, laughs when he remembers the Buick he "made into a convertible," said Carman. "I had a Buick Skyhawk four-door. 'Mr. Z,' the shop teacher at Herndon, gave it to me...The seat didn't recline, so I didn't fit in the car. I took a saw to the roof and made it a convertible."
That kind of determination or ability to make the best of any situation eventually catapulted Carman to collegiate football success and into the National Football League.
"You just knew he was destined just because of his size," said Herndon football coach Tommy Meier, who remembers stopping dead in his tracks when he saw Carman, a freshman at the time, practicing with the band in the school's parking lot next to the football field. Carman, who weighed in at an astonishing 330 pounds in his freshman year of football, never knew that that meeting in Herndon's parking lot would have such an impact on his life.
NOT ABLE TO play his true love — the piano — for the marching band, Carman was fiddling with the trumpet when Meier approached him. "I approached him in the parking lot and said 'hey, how about playing football?" remembered Meier, who was taken with Carman's size and saw the potential. "The next day he showed up [to practice]."
At that moment, chances of playing in the National Football League weren't even a consideration for Carman, who was more interested in playing music than sports.
But there was a reason that Carman, shy, quiet and a bit introverted, had — until that meeting in Herndon's parking lot — steered away from sports and became a master on the piano. "He was always 100 pounds over the average child," said his mother Betty. "They would not let him play intramural sports growing up. They thought he would injure another child."
Carman, who weighed 11 pounds and was 26.5 inches long at birth, was eventually allowed to play soccer, but was put in at goalie so as to keep him away from the other children. "It was hard and sad because it was hard to fit him in," said Betty, who added that even though he was larger than life, "Little children loved him. They called him 'little giant.' He was so sweet and very gentle."
While suffering through his parents' divorce, Carman now admits that he lacked a motivation for school and simply stopped going to classes. He admits that he fell in with a tough crowd. His grades slipped and he didn't graduate with his class at Herndon. He finished his schooling with summer school and went to two community colleges before finding his way to Georgia Tech.
THE OFFENSIVE tackle, whose Scottish and German lineage are what his mother credits for size, had yet to find the killer instinct that eventually led him to an NFL career and collegiate stardom. "My father always told me, in a positive way, not to be a bully," said Carman, who credits Meier with helping him not only become a bully on the football field, but a better person off of the field. Both Carman and Meier admitted that the 'gentle giant' was just an average high school athlete. "He was a late-bloomer," said Meier, who had trouble just fitting Carman into a high school uniform. No high school equipment catalog had a size big enough to fit Herndon's oversized offensive tackle, so Meier contacted the Washington Redskins, who put him into contact with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons — a team that shared Herndon's silver colored pants. "They shipped them over night," said Meier of the single pair of game pants that Carman wore during his three years of varsity football. Carman and the Hornets posted a 22-8 record in his three years with their most successful run in his senior year when Herndon posted a 8-2 record and lost in the regional tournament to eventual AAA state champion Annandale. He was a second team all-district selection that season.
"One time, his senior year, we played Langley," said Meier. "Every play, all the [defense] did was dive at his ankles. That got to be kind of popular...knocking down the tree as it gets started." Teams were learning how to deal with Carman, but Meier and most fans knew that big things lay ahead for the big man.
"I MOVED OUT of the area and got away from some bad elements that were there," said Carman, who went to Charles County Community College (Md.), a school that did not have a football team. He then played one season at Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y. — where he helped the football team to an 11-0 record and No. 2 national ranking in 1996. His life, truly inspired by football, was growing in a more positive direction. According to Carman, who barely graduated high school, he made the school's Dean's list in his first semester at Nassau with a 4.0 grade point average. After one season at Nassau, Carman started at Georgia Tech in 1997. "At Georgia Tech, they made him lose 30 or 40 pounds and then they built him all back up," said Meier. Carman starred in three bowl games and was the biggest player ever to put on a Yellow Jacket uniform. As the starting right tackle in 1998, Carman was honored as the ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for the final two regular season games as he helped Tech rush for a combined 560 yards in wins over Wake Forest and Georgia. He was an All-American in 1999 and first team All-ACC selection helping Tech lead the nation in total offense and to a No. 13 ranking in rushing. Sporting News ranked him the eighth-best offensive tackle in the nation that year.
CARMAN PLAYED IN in three bowl games with Georgia Tech before going undrafted in the 2000 NFL Draft. In 2000, Carman became one of only 15 players and the only offensive tackle (since 1997) to make the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie. He was out of the league two years later after suffering an injury to his foot.
"It's tough to explain to people how difficult [the NFL] is," said Carman. "I hate it when people say 'These guys are overpaid.' If it's so easy then why don't you do it? It's a discipline." Carman now lives in New Jersey with his wife Candice and their two daughters. He is a social worker at the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center. He often uses his story to motivate troubled youth.
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 2:27 PM
They say that journalists should be objective. I am. But when the opportunity came to write about the George Mason University basketball team, I had to share my opinion through a column. I covered GMU's basketball team before it was made famous through it's run to the 2006 Final Four. My column was written for the fans that put in their time, the ones who knew who the Patriots were before every media outlet in the country jumped on the feel-good bandwagon. This column remains one of my favorites and, believe it or not, I still get emails from GMU fans from all over the country.
For the Mason Fan
March 23, 2006
While the men's basketball team at George Mason University has effectively transformed itself, the campus and the surrounding areas of Northern Virginia into the most beautiful of 'Cinderellas,' there are those fans that knew her before she made it to the ball. Before she was popular and still loved her when she was scrubbing floors. And while the campus bookstore has been cleaned of anything green or gold and the bandwagon is bursting now at the seems, there are those fans who, for at least this week, feel like Andy Dufrane in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" — that the crawl through hundreds of yards of, well you know, was worth it.
This is for the Andy Dufrane-like Mason fans. Who have crawled through the D.C. Metro area's media bias towards Maryland, Georgetown and even George Washington.
This is for those of us whose knowledge runs thicker than George Evans' mustache. For those of us who know who Jason Miskiri is. For those who remember Raoul Heinen, Trent Wurtz, Rob Anderson, Mark Davis and Bill Courtney — to name a few.
For the Mason fan wondering why I chose to mention those names and not others.
For those of us who knew who Christian Caputo was without having to read the press release when he was named an assistant coach this season.
For those of us who are still using our outdated and expired Mason identification cards to get into games and for the girl at the box office who is still accepting them. God bless her.
This is for all the fans who knew that Tony Skinn was the best kept secret in the D.C. Metro area.
This is for those fans who know where to get a Jay Marsh Burger. Spicy honey-mustard barbecue sauce, banana peppers, and jack cheese for only $8.25. Ah, the sweet taste of Jay.
For those of us who started college after Lamar Butler arrived at George Mason and finished before his eligibility ran out.
For the fans that have a Jim Larranaga bobble-head.
For those of us who know that Makan Konate scored the first two points of his 3-year career in the 81-58 blowout win over William and Mary on Jan. 26, 2006.
For those of us who knew Jai Lewis had been recruited by National Football League scouts before CBS dropped that knowledge this week. For those of us who knew he played lacrosse in high school.
This is for those of us who still wonder what Gunston, our mascot, actually is.
For those of us that listen to the Korean broadcast in the minutes leading up to the 1310 AM radio so as to not miss an minute of Bill Rohland.
For those fans who know where the loose bleacher is in the student section of the Patriot Center and for those fans who know exactly how to stomp on it during opponents' free throws.
This is for those fans who drove to Dayton this week and made the rest of us proud when we could hear "G.M.U. what?" in the background noise of the CBS telecast.
For the Mason fans that remember the heartbreaking loss to VCU two years ago that pushed Mason into the NIT. And for those of us who stayed up until 11:30 p.m. to watch the loss to Oregon.
For the RPI nerd that calculates backwards in seasons somehow trying to elevate Mason because the they beat this season's No. 2 seeded Tennessee two seasons ago in the NIT. It makes perfect sense to us.
For the Mason fan that cheered when Jordan Norwood made that game-breaking catch for Penn. State in the Orange Bowl this year just because he's Gabe's brother.
For the Mason fan that truly hates Old Dominion University.
This is for the Mason fan that scoffs at the word "mid-major."
For the faithful who know we are lucky to have Larranaga.
This is for the Mason fans that believe, that have always believed and will continue to believe when the bandwagon unloads, when the papers stop giving the ink, and when the ride — however long it can continue — comes to a close.
BJ Koubaroulis is a 2003 graduate of George Mason University and served as the Sports Editor of the university's Student Newspaper Broadside.
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 11:05 AM
I wrote a lot of about Scottie Reynolds during his high school basketball career. As one of the top recruits in the nation -- one that had to go through the recruiting process twice after opting out of his scholarship with Oklahoma and signing with Villanova when coach Kelvin Sampson left for Indianna -- Reynolds is the type of athlete/person that makes guys like me want to do this job. If you don't know the name "Scottie Reynolds" by now, you will soon.
Scottie Reynolds: God, Family, and Basketball
Hoops Handbook 2005-2006
Additional reporting by Jeff Graham, Greg Wyshynski, and Rich Sanders
Dec. 6, 2005
He walks simply and expressionless, his eyes locked straight forward. It may be old habit for Scottie Reynolds; a behavior he likely picked up when he lived in Chicago. Maybe it's because he knows he's being watched. Wherever he goes, on the court or off the court, the Herndon senior guard commands attention.
Watch close enough, and his step shows a small kick — the walk of someone who carries both the pressures of star status on one shoulder and a major chip on the other.
The path he's walked is ground tread before only by the greats that have graced the musty gymnasiums and old hardwood floors of the Northern Region.
But his step, his game, his path might lead to being the best ever.
The comparisons are obvious and deliberate. Reynolds — the Northern Region player of the Year for the past two seasons — has catapulted himself into regional lore. Much like former South Lakes star and NBA All-Star Grant Hill, who averaged 27 points per game his senior year. Reynolds averaged 32.7 points per game last season — as a junior.
"Grant and those guys couldn't do that. No one around here has averaged points like that," said West Potomac coach David Houston, who played point guard for West Springfield during the late 1980's and early 1990's — the Grant Hill era.
Reynolds perks up when Hill is mentioned. The two have never met in person, though they share the same barber. Reynolds has heard, through their mutual friend with the sheers, that Hill might make an appearance at the Dec. 9 rivalry game between their two alma maters.
"We'll see if they can beat South Lakes this year," said Hill of the rivalry game, which has a history Reynolds has studied intensely and claims to know very well.
As he creates new entries in the regional record book, Reynolds is quickly becoming his own chapter in its history book — joining names like Hill, Dennis Scott, Tommy Amaker and Hubert Davis, the former Lake Braddock star that went on to pro success with the New York Knicks and is currently an analyst with ESPN.
"First of all, to be compared with those guys is an honor in itself," said Reynolds.
Lake Braddock boys basketball coach Brian Metress has no doubts that Reynolds belongs in that company.
"I see nothing wrong with [Scottie]," said Metress. "I think he's the best player in Northern Virginia since I've been coaching, and that includes Hubert and Grant. He's more dominant. They had personalities that deferred to other teammates; Scottie just comes out and just crushes you."
In his 15th season at Chantilly, head coach Jim Smith remembers what it was like to coach against Hill.
"Grant would score 18, 20 points, but could hurt you in 10 different ways," said Smith. "You can do whatever you want against [Scottie] ... he can still score 40 on you."
No matter if their opinions differ, or whom they chose as the greatest, each coach has one thing in common — a story about how they were amazed by Reynolds.
"I know he's better than our level," added Metress.
It's a level that only Hill could understand.
"I didn't feel any pressure at all. We were pretty talented," recalled Hill, a 1989 graduate of South Lakes and 6-foot 8-inch All-American that went on to star at Duke University.
"I didn't feel any pressure until college."
THE PRESSURES AND COMPARISONS are nothing new for Reynolds. Like when South Lakes head coach Wendell Byrd, who coached Hill, admits the two have contrasting styles of play.
"Scottie's [shooting] range is much further than Grant's was," said Byrd. "Off the dribble there was no one that could handle Grant. Grant's game was defensive and offensive. Scottie is known for his offensive thrust."
Madison head coach Chris Kuhblank, who played against Davis while at Lee in the late 1980's, added that Davis might have been at a disadvantage.
"The 3-point line didn't come out until his senior year," said Kuhblank.
Reynolds welcomes the comparisons and criticisms. "Basically, I let people say what they want to say and I go about my business. If somebody says Scottie doesn't do this or Scottie doesn't do that, okay," said Reynolds.
But as much as the 18-year old has trained himself to ignore the criticism, it is the criticism which fuels his success. He does care what "they" say, and he's better for it.
Reynolds sits back in his bedroom after long days and nights at practice, cracking a smile when he looks at a certain wall.
"I reminisce on what I've accomplished," he said.
Like the time he set Herndon's high-scoring record with a 53-point performance last season in a 91-81 win over I.C. Norcom, just a day after setting his career high at 46 points in an 83-53 win over Oakton. Both records were his to break. The previous Herndon High School record was 43 points — Scottie's record.
His bedroom wall isn't clad with posters like that of a normal teenager — but Reynolds is beyond believing that his life ever was, or ever will be, normal.
"I have a whole wall of all the negative things people have said since my freshman year," he said of the estimated 25 sheets of paper he's tacked up to his wall.
Select quotes from message boards, chat rooms, Web sites, and news articles are his decoration.
Each is a clipping he gets from his coaches. Each is a reminder. Each is fuel.
"Whatever I can do to prove people wrong, I'm going to try to do it because I've been doing it my whole life," said Reynolds.
LIKE WHEN he turned down several offers to play in private schools, and he was told "You're not going to make it in soft Northern Virginia," Reynolds recalled. The answer to why Reynolds turned down those offers is much like his walk — simple.
"To prove them wrong," he said with a smile. "I like proving people wrong so that I can walk out of the gym just cocking my smile."
Herndon head coach Gary Hall added that all Northern Region coaches owe Reynolds a "debt of gratitude" for showing loyalty to Northern Virginia and for boosting the area's prestige by staying in the public school system.
"Now every coach can point to Scottie Reynolds and say 'look,'" said Hall, of keeping young basketball talents in the public school system.
Hall, in his 17th year at Herndon, was an assistant to Byrd during the Hill era.
"I forget how special Grant was sometimes," Hall says when he claims that Scottie is the better of the two. "People don't realize the things [Grant] went through. It's not easy being a superstar. The way that he handled it, the pressure comes from within. The same thing you see with Scottie."
But as much as Hill and Reynolds are compared and contrasted, one thing Hall and Byrd both agree on is that it is a strong family core that has kept both on the path to success.
"Both families handled everything in such as classy manner," said Hall, who can remember sitting in Hill's living room and watching Div. 1 basketball with Grant's father, Calvin.
"There was never any horror stories. A few. But it never got to a point where it was so chaotic with the recruiting. You didn't hear about street agents and leaches," added Hall, regarding Reynolds's days as a recruit.
REYNOLDS IS PART of a racially mixed set of children to a pair of white parents.
"So we are all like, you know, like an Oreo," he says while he twists his fingers as if he's opening the famous cookie.
"I was adopted right when my momma had me," he said. "My foster parents were my parents that I have now. I've been with them since the beginning. My [adopted] mom had three [children], they are white and she adopted three of us [that are black]. Me, my, younger brother and my younger sister."
For Reynolds, only one thing comes before his family — God.
"God's first in my life, first and foremost," said Reynolds. "Then it's my family. And then there's basketball."
While it has become commonplace for athletes and coaches alike to show reverence toward a higher power, Reynolds — who won't specify a religion and says he follows the New Testament as a Christian — has gone above and beyond the call to stay true to his religion.
"I've missed games for it," said Reynolds, who took severe criticism and made headlines his freshman year for attending church services rather than high school games.
"My freshman year was when it first happened. I took a lot of criticism. People were trying to set up interviews for it, but I'm not going to set up the interview, there's nothing to talk about. I'm not doing this for a show."
And since Reynolds has stuck to his strict schedule of church services before games, the controversy surrounding his choice has since settled.
"Last year it happened and there's no controversy," he said. "I think once you establish yourself and everybody knows how you are, then the questions back off."
REYNOLDS' ATTITUDE, seemingly cocky to some, is another habit he may have picked up while living in Chicago.
"What you learn in your teenage years, you take on for the rest of your life. So I feel like I'm from Chicago," said Reynolds, who honed his game as a pre-teen and teenager on the courts of the Windy City.
"If you didn't play basketball you weren't going to fit in," said Reynolds.
After five years of living in Northern Virginia, Reynolds moved to Chicago from sixth grade on; returning with a new skill-set and outlook on life, just in time to wow the region.
He's grown up faster than most his age, and he knows it.
"I think I had to. I think I wanted to. I brought what I learned from Chicago here. I'm going to take what I saw from other people and put myself in the gym," said Reynolds, who watched friends waste talent with bad decisions.
Since his freshman season, Reynolds has had free reign on Herndon's gymnasium in part because of Hall's dedication to molding the budding star.
"Ever since my freshman year, he's opened the gym in the morning, opened the gym on Sundays," recounts Reynolds. "That gym is, like, sacred. If I get mad and need to get away, I just go to the gym. I like being by myself. I like working out by myself."
REYNOLDS, WHO will attend Oklahoma University on a full basketball scholarship next season, continues his simple walk through what has become a complex ride all around him — a ride he's refused to become a part of. He's kept it simple and humble. As he continues his run to perhaps become the greatest regional player of all time, and the doubters become harder to find, Reynolds has only one warning.
Or perhaps it's a request. After all, it's the doubt that has fueled him.
"If you say I'm not going to do something, I'm going to make sure with all my power that I'm going to do it."
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 10:38 AM
This kid, only a high school senior at the time of this interview, proved to me that hard work truly pays off. He's a true motivator.
Most Memorable Manager
Andrew Marshall overcame cerebral palsy to achieve athletic immortality at Marshall High School.
By BJ Koubaroulis
June 22, 2006
Andrew Marshall's biggest fear when he entered his freshman year at Marshall High School wasn't that his limp or his crooked right hand might make him a target. He didn't fear the stares or the questions about his cerebral palsy — a condition that was diagnosed at birth. Marshall worried about just one thing — that he wouldn't be remembered.
"Going into it, that was one of my biggest worries," said Marshall. "Working really hard and no one was going to notice me."
The 18-year-old graduate walked gracefully — limp and all — across the stage at Constitution Hall on Friday capping a four-year career at Marshall High School and did so as one of the school's most vital, memorable, and inspirational athletic figures without ever having recorded one statistic for any of the athletic teams he's loved and so passionately cared for. He never set any records or hit any game-winning shots or even dressed out once for the basketball, football, or baseball teams — all groups for which he was a team manager.
"It wasn't a wanting to play," said Marshall of why he spent over 40 hours per week as a team manager. "It was more of doing all the mental and emotional aspects of playing without playing. I wanted to match [the athletes] in every single aspect that I could."
And as Marshall High School's athletes' stats were recorded, varsity jackets were stitched with letters, and trophies were distributed to those that were deserving, Marshall's legacy was recorded in other ways. First, by the lives he touched and second, through one physical manifestation that will be logged in tradition at Marshall High School — the Andrew Marshall Award. The school's Director of Student Activities, Bill Curran noted that the award would be presented annually, by Andrew, to "the person who is most supportive of Marshall activities in a well-rounded way," said Curran. With out him, Marshall boys basketball coach Kevin Weeren said that "there is a big void in Marshall athletics now. He's a kid I'm going to miss just seeing. He gave that much energy, effort, commitment. He went everywhere with us. He gives everything of himself and asks really nothing in return."
MARSHALL GOT jump-started as a manager with the football team under former coach Pete Salvano and has spent two seasons with J.T. Biddison. He spent two years with the varsity basketball team after what he called "working his way up" through the freshmen and junior varsity teams.
"It was a [junior varsity] game and it was pouring rain on a Thursday night," remembered Biddison. "We are losing by three or four or five touchdowns, it's not even a close game. Half the guys, their heads were drooping, you looked over on the bench...Andrew is sitting on the bench with a rag fiercely getting the balls dry, like the game is coming down to the last play. There was 30 seconds left on the clock... I would love to have a whole team with guys working that hard. I don't think you would lose a football game."
He also spent his sophomore year with the baseball team.
"There were never any instances when I said this is a huge mistake," said Marshall, who used the opportunity to make friends — to be remembered. Marshall moved to Northern Virginia as a sixth grader at Oakton Elementary School before going to Luther Jackson Middle School.
"Sixth grade was the final grade of elementary school when all the bonds were already formed," said Marshall. "I really didn't get a good network of friends until freshman year."
The fact that he was different didn't help, but it didn't intimidate him.
In fact, Marshall never saw himself as disabled or different.
"I have a dominant hand and a dominant foot just like everyone else," said Marshall, whose right side is physically slower than his left side. "People can't write with both hands, that's why they are special that way. From that perspective, I'm just using a dominant hand and a dominant foot."
His insight and knowledge, he believes he's gained through having to "think outside the box" in order to overcome his physical limitations, has also helped him academically. He graduated with a grade point average that crept just above a 4.0.
"One of the things I learned from growing up is that 'This isn't going away,'" said Marshall as he pointed to the right side of his body. "You might as well just be the person you are and the people who like you are going to gravitate towards you and the people who don't like you aren't and you aren't going to be able to change that."
And how the athletes, coaches and administrators flocked to him.
"The big thing we use right now is small school, big heart," said Curran of the Falls Church-based school with one of the smallest student populations in the region. "There is no one who encompasses that more than Andrew. But if he could get out on the field, this would be that kid whose future would be limitless. And his future is limitless...there is no disability."
WHETHER IT WAS racing across the field to bring water to a player, or tape and injured player's ankle — Marshall was always there, always helping, always inspiring. "Pumping up balls, getting new balls, getting them in if they are wet, putting up pylons, putting up towels, putting up cleat-cleaners, making sure equipment is ready," said Marshall of his job description — a job he takes very seriously. Marshall's dedication is not something lost upon his teammates. "It shows us how privileged we are," said Jordan Culbreath — a senior who led the Statesmen to a 5-5 season on the football field. Culbreath was also a guard on the basketball team that made school history by breaking into the AAA semifinals this past March. "We know he wants to be out on the field with us," added Culbreath. Marshall will continue his job as a team manager when he heads to Northwestern University in early August. He is already signed up to be a team manager for the Wildcats football team. "I think one of the key things to gaining [the athletes's] support and respect, which has been great, is putting in as much time as they do," said Marshall. "Being the first one out, being the first one to start shooting around, and rebounding for the last one when they leave. Hustling for everything. You don't have to be good, but you can hustle."
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 10:25 AM
Refusal to Change
Oakton senior soccer player Stacey Woods refused to let cancer change her goals.
By BJ Koubaroulis
Photo by Pam Brooks/The Connection
June 23, 2006
Stacey Woods was determined that her life would not change. Woods, a 17-year-old senior and soccer player at Oakton High School, admitted that she gave in to her emotions after doctors told her she had cancer last Halloween at 10 a.m. It was the first and last time she cried about having cancer. It was also the last time she let cancer rule her emotions.
"When you hear the word 'cancer' you think of death," said Woods, who left her parents Chris and Jill Luttges with doctors while she attempted to pull herself together in the bathroom of Inova Fairfax Hospital.
"The doctor just came in and very politely said 'the tumor is malignant,'" recalled Woods, who admitted that she cried by herself in the hospital's bathroom. "I think I was almost in shock, I didn’t really comprehend it."
Woods was given the news that her enlarged thyroid, a condition that she had been monitoring since her freshman year in high school, had become malignant and that her thyroid would have to be removed.
"I thought it was unfair and thought I hadn’t done all the things I wanted to do," said Woods.
So she did them anyway.
THAT DREADFUL day became a microcosm of what the next few months of Woods's life would be like. She returned to school that day in an attempt to save her four-year perfect attendance record and even attended a Halloween party with friends that very night.
"I have always had perfect attendance through high school," said Woods, who graduated with a grade point average above a 4.0. "I personally love going to school. For me to just miss that [perfect attendance record], something you work so hard for... My teachers were so kind and so willing to help me, so it's kind of like all my hard work in school paid off in a different way."
"I could do nothing else all day," said Jill, who described the news and the hospital visit as devastating. "It could have been a very dark time for us. [Stacey] set the whole tone for our entire family. The way she has handled this and the very positive attitude she has had has turned everything around for us."
Woods refused to change her life goals even though she didn't know if she would have the strength, ability, or health to make good on the promises she made to herself from an early age.
"She has lived her entire childhood for this moment in her soccer career," said Jill of her daughter who played soccer throughout her youth keeping one goal in mind. "Every team that she was on was so when she was a senior in high school, she could be a starter and captain."
Just days after her diagnosis, Woods underwent surgery to remove her thyroid.
"The surgery went well," said Woods, who plucked the Nov. 7 date of her surgery out of her memory with ease. It's a painful day she'll never forget. "When they take out your thyroid, they take out your parathyroids and then they put them back in. My body had a really hard time absorbing calcium."
Woods was hospitalized for a total of three weeks, which set her back even further in her goal of being the most physically conditioned player on the girls soccer team.
"I ended up being the complete opposite of that," said Woods, who by the start of the soccer season could not physically keep up with her teammates. "I felt it was my chance to shape the team and make it go as far as it could. It was really hard for me, almost embarrassing, to not be able to run the timed-mile as fast as everybody else. I couldn’t provide that leadership physically. But I could in spirit."
WOODS WAS NAMED a team captain and despite undergoing painful treatments, including quarterly exams and being put on supplemental thyroid medication, which took away her ability to create her own saliva, she never missed one soccer game in Oakton's 3-9-1 finish this season. She would even crawl out of bed to make several 5:30 a.m. practices.
"One of the side effects of the radioactive treatment that I had," said Woods, who was isolated in a room by herself for two days while doctors could only approach her with protective chemical suits. "It makes your mouth extremely dry. For running on the soccer field, it would be difficult to keep my mouth wet, so I would always have to chew gum."
Woods was also named to the second team all-Concorde District squad this past soccer season.
"She started every single game," said head coach Lon Pringle, who at the start of the season was forced to plan for a season without Woods. She eventually became the team's best midfielder. "Therein lies the most remarkable part of it," added Pringle. "After she told me she had been diagnosed, she said 'I think this is like a test. It's like I have this disease for a reason and the reason is that I am supposed to learn something, but I don't know what it is, so I have to go through it.'"
Woods will attend the University of Virginia where she plans to study education. She was honored with the Cougar Courage Award at the Oakton High School sports banquet last Friday.
"I think that I have learned so much. I almost feel like when I got back to high school, it's hard for me to relate [to my peers]," said Woods, whose new life-goals are to get married, start a family and become a teacher. "I have almost seen my life flash before my eyes. I know what's important to me now. I know how important it is that I work towards those goals, because cancer can come back at any time."
Woods, who has her blood drawn every two weeks, will continue to undergo evaluations and will return from UVA over the winter break for her next quarterly check up with doctors at George Washington University Hospital.
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 10:00 AM
I interviewed NBA great Grant Hill to complete a project entitled "The Greatest of All Time" at The Connection Newspapers. The project, which can be found here click, featured in-depth profiles on the Top-100 athletes ever to emerge from the Northern Region's public school system.
The Hill story was, and still is, one of my favorites as he was truly a pleasure to speak with.
#1, Grant Hill
South Lakes, Basketball
1990Seahawks superstar championed Duke to two titles and made the leap to NBA All-Star and Olympic Team.
August 15, 2006
There was a time before Grant Hill belonged to the rest of the world. There was a time before Hill was a 7-time NBA All-Star and member of the Orlando Magic or Detroit Pistons or even before he was a member of two NCAA champion Duke University basketball teams. There was a "special time," said South Lakes basketball coach Wendell Byrd, who took a young 14-year-old Hill and forced him on to the Reston-based high school's varsity basketball team. Hill became the first freshman to ever skip the freshman and junior varsity teams and go straight to the varsity squad at the Northern Region's powerhouse program. And he didn't like it."He struggled with it at the beginning, he didn’t want to surpass his peers, he wanted to continue to stay with them and not hurt their feelings," said Byrd, who called the freshman Hill a "gentle giant," who eventually "saw the light," Byrd added.Once Hill realized his potential, it was obvious that he would go far. "Coach Byrd was huge," said Hill. "I think for me first and foremost putting me on varsity as a freshman. At first, I kind of resisted it, but he led me to varsity. I think he saw the ability and talent before I saw it myself." Hill had seen a lot of talent flow through South Lakes himself in the years prior to suiting up for Byrd's Seahawks. He wanted to be like Michael Jackson ["Greatest of All Time" #55, 1982], a Seahawk guard that dazzled the region with his quickness and ability to score rapidly. "I probably went to almost every home game at South Lakes that was on a Friday," said Hill, whose parents would take him to football and basketball games at the local high school. "Going to those games and being involved in the summer camps, by the time I was in junior high school, I was part of the family." The Langston Hughes eighth grader would race to South Lakes after school to watch the former Seahawk assistant and current Herndon head coach Gary Hall's freshman team practice. "I was like an unofficial water boy. I would get those guys water when they came off the court," said Hill. "I was already a part of the program, by the time I came in as a freshman."
IT DIDN'T TAKE long for Hill, whose AAU team the Flying Tigers had been winning national titles against teams like the Superfriends from Michigan which boasted future NBA stars like Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Howard Eisley, to become a fixture in the South Lakes starting lineup. He was an instant impact and helped create a basketball tradition that has carried South Lakes to basketball immortality in the Northern Region.He made a name for himself early."Grant would score 18, 20 points, but could hurt you in 10 different ways," said Chantilly coach Jim Smith in a December interview with The Connection.Hill was also known for his defensive prowess. "I don't think we realized [what we were building]," said Hill. "We were teenagers. We were just trying to win. For a lot of us, because we all grew up together, there was some consistency and camaraderie between us all."
The camaraderie between Hill and his teammates resulted in a junior year in which the team finished with the best record (27-2) in Byrd's 21 years. Hill's senior year he carried the Seahawks to the school's first Northern Region championship after winning the Great Falls district titles in every season since his freshman year. Hill is still the school's second all-time leading scorer with 2,028 points (No. 1 Joey Beard, 2,138, 1993). He holds the school records for rebounds (942), blocked shots (160), steals (274) and assists (311)."He was just head and shoulders above everybody," said Beard, who played with Hill as a freshman. "Not just in Virginia, but in any tournament we played in, you could tell he was going to do great things, he had that talent and demeanor."Hill's defining moment is one that he shares with teammate Jerome Scott [Greatest Of All Time, No. 71], who went on to play at the University of Miami.Byrd recalled the 1988 Great Falls District Championship game with the district title game deadlocked at 69-69 against Washington-Lee. Hill scored 16 of his game-high 36 points in the last 4:58 of the contest to help the Seahawks back from the 67-55 deficit. With less than 10 seconds left on the clock and the contest tied at 69-69, Scott — who according to Byrd had the option to take the jump-shot — instead, tossed the alley oop to Hill, who finished with a "thunderous dunk," said Byrd, to cap the 1988 Great Falls district championship game victory at 71-69 in favor of the Seahawks."It was very selfless of [Scott] to allow me to emerge and blossom and grow into the player that I was," said Hill, who remembered the standing-room only crowd. "I marvel more at what he did than what I did. He had the audacity to throw an alley oop."
HILL SOON BECAME one of the most highly recruited players in the nation. He became one of few McDonald's All-American selections in the Northern Region's history. Top college coaches were making time to travel to Reston to see the 6-foot-8 guard/forward dominate games and the mailbox was overflowing with letters from colleges. "We didn't want it to get out of control, so we set up with Wendell a protocol," said Grant's 59-year-old father Calvin, who played professional football with the Dallas Cowboys and was the NFL's offensive rookie of the year in 1969. "We wanted to bring some sanity to the process. We tried to emphasize, to us doing it the right way was very important. From our part and from the part of the people that were recruiting Grant, if once we had set up a protocol and it wasn't adhered to, then that wasn't a place we were interested in going to." But even with the attention he received and the awards that flowed in, Hill remained level-headed. Improving his game was his main focus. "We used to have something called the PGA, the postgame analysis, you were analytical about everything," said Calvin. "Sometimes I was too analytical particularly because I didn't know too much about basketball."Hill committed to play with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils squad. "The kid was hamstrung by his mother," said Hill's 58-year-old mother Janet, who runs a consulting firm on Capitol Hill. She laughs when she remembers how strict she was with Grant. "He was not allowed any independent thoughts or actions before he went to college. I was obsessive with discipline. I had not had a child before, but thought that was the best thing to do. Obviously he turned out okay."In his first true time away from home, Hill turned out more than okay.Hill became the first player in ACC history to score more than 1,900 points, 700 rebounds, 400 assists, 200 steals and 100 blocked shots to help Duke to two national titles (1991, 1992). Hill tossed the inbounds pass to Duke's Christian Laettner in the 103-102 overtime NCAA tournament regional final against Kentucky in 1992 — a game regarded by many as the greatest college basketball game of all time. His jersey was only the eighth jersey retired in Duke's basketball history. He was the No. 3 overall draft pick in the 1994 NBA draft and was the league's co-rookie of the year, an honor he shared with Jason Kidd.
Hill has since been named an all-star seven times and was a part of the 1996 Summer Olympic basketball team that won gold in Atlanta.Hill has fought a battle with injuries, mostly which has kept him from achieving the level of success that he and many around him believed was attainable."Grant handled his injury very well," said Janet. "Four of the seven years that he has been married, he has been recovering from surgery. When you tally it all up it's 24 months on crutches." Hill lives in Florida with his wife Tamia Hill — a singer songwriter and actress — and their four-year-old daughter Myla Grace. Hill remains very much in contact with Byrd and the South Lakes basketball program. He has also given several generous donations to the Reston-based high school and its basketball program. He was recently inducted into South Lakes's first Hall of Fame class."He's a really just an outstanding first of all person and as outstanding as he is as a person, he is as a player," said Byrd. "He's the type of person that never quits."
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 9:47 AM