Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Landon's Webster Looks to Keep Playing It Smart

Landon's Webster Looks to Keep Playing It Smart
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 27, 2009; E01

His 6-foot-7 frame sunken comfortably into a green L-shaped couch in his Logan Circle home, Darryl Webster flipped through a red scrapbook while his son, Christian, peered over his left shoulder.

"Look how skinny I was," Darryl said as he pointed to a full-page spread of the 1982 Washington Post All-Met boys' basketball team.

The former Coolidge star is pictured standing, gripping a basketball and wearing a warmup suit with "Colts" lettered down the left side of his chest. The caption next to his photo reads: "Best post player in the area."

Pictured behind Webster are the rest of that season's first-teamers: Len Bias, Johnny Dawkins, Tommy Amaker, Jeff Baxter, Doug Turner, Earl Davis, Gary Potts, Michael Jackson and Linwood Davis -- stars whose legends have grown since the click of that camera 27 years ago.

"Is that Coach Amaker?" Christian said as he spotted the teenage version of the man who has been pursuing him for the past two years.

"Tommy's done a really good job," Darryl said. "He's been on him since the start."

Christian Webster, a 6-5 high-scoring guard at Landon, is one of the area's top basketball recruits, drawing interest from Amaker, a former W.T. Woodson star who is now the coach at Harvard, and Dawkins, a former Mackin High standout and Duke assistant who is the first-year coach at Stanford.


Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post

As Christian navigates the recruiting world, his father Darryl, a 44-year-old social worker and community activist, has acted as an experienced guide with one factor taking precedence: education. The push from his father has made Christian consider Ivy League schools over better-known and established college basketball powers that have pursued him.

"I never paid for my education and basketball was the only way I could have gotten educated, and I want him to do the same," said Darryl, who averaged 22 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game as a senior at Coolidge, earning a spot in the prestigious Capital Classic all-star game and a scholarship to George Washington. "It all goes by in the blink of an eye. I don't want him to look back and think, 'If I had worked a little harder or gave a little more effort?' I don't want him to look back and have any regrets."

Sitting feet from the mantel on which his grandparents once hung his medals, trophies and awards, Darryl beamed with pride as he described growing up under this same roof with 15 other family members. He described the sense of accomplishment he's felt each time he's made repairs in turning the Q Street Victorian into a gem.

Christian's medals, awards and trophies are now positioned next to Darryl's diplomas on that same mantel.

"He's been everywhere that I want to go," Christian said of his father.

Now the father is leading the son back to some of those same destinations. He rarely misses one of Christian's games, and he watches home contests from the same spot -- the front right corner of the bleachers at Landon. From there, over the past four years, he's watched loudly and passionately as his son has become one of the area's most feared scorers.

Christian, who has a smooth pull-up jumper, soft hands, accuracy from long range and a mature command of the court, is averaging 25.1 points and eight rebounds, helping No. 13 Landon (12-3) to a five-game winning streak headed into tonight's key Interstate Athletic Conference matchup at No. 8 Georgetown Prep (13-3).

A McDonald's all-American finalist, Christian has led the IAC in scoring and rebounding since his sophomore year and has been part of a turnaround that has taken Landon from a three-win season in 2003 to its first Washington Post top 20 ranking in more than a decade.

"The number one strength he's got in his game is that he wants to improve at everything," said Landon Coach Andy Luther, who credited his program as just partially responsible for Christian's development. "He listens to his dad and hangs on every word with an incredible amount of tenacity."

Parked on the Landon bleachers, Darryl Webster shifts between coach, parent, and player -- he calls himself a "hybrid" -- as he questioned his son's defense and offered his own cocked wrist as the example of a perfect follow-through during a recent game against Bullis.

"You have to think of him as two people: One, the loving, caring dad; then you have the basketball dad who's yelling and screaming: 'Come On Christian. Work harder. Extend on your jump shot,' " Christian said. "Both have helped me to get to where I am now, so I can't ask for anything more."

Darryl, who earned his master's degree in social work from Catholic University, returned to Logan Circle in the late 1980s. He often brought drug addicts and other castaways into his home to offer them help, and gained national recognition as a community activist. He was Washingtonian Magazine's "Washingtonian of the Year" in 1988 and USA Today named him one of the country's top community activists in 1989.

Christian grew up in the same neighborhood as his father and has strived to emulate him in more ways than simply on the basketball court. He coaches kids in the Jelleff basketball league, is mentoring several students from Landon's lower school and mentors kids at Kingman Boys & Girls Club.

"Since my dad has played such a huge role in my life, I am blessed to pass on what I have learned to others that do not have this luxury," Christian wrote in his college application essay to Harvard.

Since Christian was in the eighth grade, the family has received a financial aid package from Landon that has helped pay much of the annual $30,000 tuition. If he were to have gone to public school, he likely would be at Cardozo. Instead, he dons a jacket and tie each day for a slightly longer commute to Landon's 75-acre plot nestled between million-dollar homes in Bethesda.

"I took statistics in grad school," Darryl said. "He's taking it in high school."
"The biggest change for me was coming from a predominant black school to like a suburban, I guess you could say, preppy white school," Christian said. "At first, I hated that tie. As soon as the bell rang, I'd take that tie off and ball it up."

"But that tie and that jacket will carry you a long way," Darryl said.

The father is still thumbing through the pages of his red scrapbook, looking over the old news clippings from his playing days. Christian looked up from his sister's pink laptop, where he'd been reading his college entrance essay to Harvard.

"There's really no expectations," Christian said of his future. "Just work hard and stay focused and the chips will fall where they may. My dad always says 'Work hard and everything always works out for itself. Universal Law.' "

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

T.C. Williams Outlasts Hayfield

T.C. Williams Outlasts Hayfield
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, January 22, 2009; E06

T.C. Williams's 71-66 overtime victory at Hayfield took so much energy out of Titans junior Billy Rowland that he hung his head as he strolled in a near limp to the bench while his teammates celebrated at the final buzzer.

But Rowland, a 6-foot-6 forward, mustered enough energy to throw his hands up in the shape of a diamond as the sweat poured over his smile.

"That's the first thing I learned when I got here," said Rowland, a transfer who followed his 19-point effort last night with the Titans' traditional diamond-shaped hand-signal. "It stands for dynasty."

Rowland, who played his freshman year of high school basketball at Surrattsville and last season at Alexandria private school Bishop Ireton, has been key in helping No. 8 T.C. Williams (12-2, 7-0 Virginia AAA Patriot District) continue its dominance after it went 29-3 en route to last season's Virginia AAA state championship.

Last night, Rowland scored eight points as part of a 23-9 third-quarter run that helped T.C. Williams overcome a three-point halftime deficit and take a 49-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.

"I thought we had it right there," Rowland said.

But Hayfield (12-3, 6-1) rallied back as 6-3 junior forward Chad Canady (28 points) hit one of his five three-pointers as part of a 22-11 fourth-quarter run that junior Rayshawn Rigans capped with a left-handed floating bank shot that forced overtime.

T.C. Williams senior guard Edward Jenkins (20 points) scored five of his team's 11 points in the overtime period to give the Titans' sole possession of first place in the district. Hayfield had its win streak stopped at five.

The victory also improved T.C. Williams's Patriot winning streak to 59 -- a four-year span in which the Titans have outscored district foes by an average of more than 20 points per game. No other area team has been as dominant in its league. The Titans are also 76-3 in the Northern Region during that span.

"That's my objective, to keep my streak alive," said Jenkins, one of the holdovers on a roster that has welcomed seven new players through transfers and junior varsity call-ups.

Following its run to last year's state title, T.C. Williams lost seven seniors -- four to college basketball -- and Ivan Thomas, last season's All-Met Coach of the Year.

"This isn't the same team we had last year, but we still have the same heart," Jenkins said.

No. 8 T.C. Williams 71, Hayfield 66

Flashback: In 1997, Julian King, now T.C. Williams's coach, scored three points in Coppin State's 78-65 first-round NCAA tournament victory over South Carolina. It was just the third time a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 seed.

Take It, It's Free: T.C. Williams senior guard Gavin Peterson was 4 for 4 from the free throw line in the overtime period.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fairfax Holds First of Two Budget Hearings

Fairfax Holds First Budget Hearing
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, January 21, 2009; E07

The Fairfax County School Board hosts its first hearing tonight to allow the public to air concerns over its proposed 2010 budget, which could include cuts of indoor track and gymnastics by the time the final document is adopted in May.

The revised $2.2 million budget proposal, released by Superintendent Jack D. Dale on Jan. 8, listed only gymnastics among the cuts, but Bill Curran, the county's director of athletics, acknowledged recently that indoor track is "not out of the woods."

In November, when three tiers of budget cuts were initially put up for consideration, indoor track was cut only in the most severe tier -- and not in newest proposal.

However, an expected $170 million shortfall stemming from a steep decline in housing prices and anticipated tax revenue, coupled with a potential rise in enrollment, could place both sports in jeopardy by the time the final document is submitted.

Between 125 and 200 gymnasts and nearly 2,800 indoor track athletes compete in Fairfax County.

Both sports will have supporters speak in their defense at the 6 p.m. hearing at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church.

"We still have four months to go," Curran said. "We still have until May and who knows what can happen until then. I think it's important that those groups still get heard."

At 6 a.m. on Jan. 9 the county opened a portal on its Web site at http://fcps.edu/ where concerned citizens could register for one of 120 available three-minute time slots at today's public hearing. The slots filled in less than two hours, forcing the county to schedule a second hearing for Jan. 27.

"Our view is, we need to stay vigilant and focused and keep it in the front of people's minds," said Dan Woolley, the president of Friends of Indoor Track who will speak next week.
Woolley started a "Save Indoor Track" initiative as a reaction to Dale's November budget proposal.

Paul Regnier, a spokesman for Dale, said that if the county's Board of Supervisors does not provide additional aid in absorbing 5,000 new students, and the state does not provide additional financial aid, then indoor track could be cut before the school board adopts its budget in May.

"If we have to swallow the addition of 5,000 students, plus reduction of state aid, then, under those circumstances, there would be pretty drastic cuts and that would include indoor track," Regnier said.

Woolley, a 53-year-old computer company executive and USA Track and Field national official, has recruited a diverse crop of speakers for tonight's hearing, including a police officer, physician, nutritionist, and gang task force member, all willing to vouch for the sport's importance.
Since November, Woolley has been the driving force behind an e-mail campaign that has flooded the inboxes of county officials. The group has also used other Internet tools, including Facebook to mobilize.

Curran said that he received approximately 300 e-mails about the proposed budget cuts.
Woolley will be part of a show of support at today's meeting that includes parents, coaches, athletes and others clad in red T-shirts with "Save Indoor Track" printed across the front.

"We need to keep it short, keep it sweet," said Woolley. "Keep it to the point. Don't save the best for last. Focus on the value it brings to you, the value it brings to the community."

It is unclear how many of today's speakers will speak on behalf of gymnastics, but supporters of the sport have recently organized an e-mail campaign, Facebook page and online petition.

W.T. Woodson gymnastics coach Mike Cooper, a 25-year coaching veteran of gymnastics in Northern Virginia, said he will speak at the second hearing on Tuesday.

According to a bulleted list of facts Cooper shared with The Post, he is expected to challenge the school board's anticipated cuts as they relate to Title IX, the 1972 law mandating gender equity at federally funded institutions.

Cooper will also dispute the county's recent assertions that gymnastics is a dying sport among high school girls, claiming that there are 21 programs among 25 high schools, 17 full programs, with two new programs forming in the last two seasons.

According to Curran, 125 gymnasts compete in Fairfax County's gymnastics programs; supporters of the sport say the figure is closer to 200. Curran also said that the sport has suffered at the high school level because of the popularity of club gymnastics.

"This was coming on its own," Curran said, "because of the continued decline of interest [in gymnastics] at the scholastic level because it's so popular at the community level."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Light Recruited Morra Packs Punch for Bruins

Lightly Recruited Morra Packs Punch for Bruins
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, January 16, 2009; E07

In a Lake Braddock basketball practice this week, Dominic Morra finished off an intense, 10-minute, three-man weave drill with a right-handed layin that spun off the glass and through the basket.

But Morra wasn't done.

Without looking back to see his shot through the net, he ran to a white tarp divider that separated the junior varsity and varsity practices and delivered a flurry of punches -- a right cross, left hook and right uppercut -- that sent a series of loud pops throughout the Burke school's gymnasium.

The sequence was appropriate for Morra, a 5-foot-10 senior and four-year starter. He has approached each of the Bruins' first 12 games like a fight, using a body-punishing bevy of moves to earn himself an astounding 17.7 free throw attempts per game.

"I'm kind of good at [drawing fouls] and some of it's acting," said Morra, who is the area's leading scorer with 31.8 points per game.

Headed into tonight's key Virginia AAA Patriot District matchup at No. 9 T.C. Williams (10-2, 5-0), Morra has gone to the free throw line 212 times, hitting 159 (.750).

He has attempted 81 more free throws than National Christian's Dante Taylor, who is second in the area with 131 attempts. Landon's Christian Webster (118) and Westfield's Chris Kearney (117) are the only others who come close to Morra's eye-popping attempts.

"If you told me as a freshman and sophomore, when I was a natural point guard, that I would wind up averaging [31 points per game] or whatever it is right now, I would have told you you were crazy," Morra said. "But things have happened to our team that have changed the situation."

Lake Braddock's 13-man roster lists seven players at 5-11 or shorter.

"Our tallest player is 6-3," said Morra, whose back-court running mate is 5-4, 145-pound junior Patch McLucas.

The lack of height has forced Lake Braddock (9-3, 3-2) into a fast-break system, in which Morra has been encouraged by Coach Brian Metress to attack in transition and use his body to draw fouls.

"We're not as big, so if we can foul out their big players, we don't have to play the inside game anymore and we practice that," Morra said. "We practice playing without a post player. So if we can get their 6-6 and 6-7 [players] in foul trouble, well, the ball's in our court now."

In a 77-67 season-opening victory over Robinson, Morra shot 18 of 27 from the free throw line and fouled out five Ram defenders en route to his 50 points -- an area best for points in a game this season.

In the Bruins' first 12 games this season, 21 defenders have fouled out.

"I'm not always going to get the shot off, but I can always try to get a bump and a push to go to the line for two [points] and get someone in foul trouble, so it's more of a double-whammy for them," Morra said.

Morra credits his four years as a starter with helping him to identify situations and diagnose defenses on the run.

"A lot of teams now, since they've seen what I've put up, they are anticipating me coming," said Morra, who said he has faced all kinds of defenses. "Sagging man-to-man with a face-guard, zones, half-traps, full-court press. I've been in so many positions now that I can tell if [the defender] is close or if he has no chance of making the play on [me] and that just comes with all the time I've done it."

Whether he will play at the next level remains to be seen. Despite his scoring numbers, he has received tepid interest from area Division III schools.

Morra entered the program with high expectations and has always played with a swagger.

"I've been [called] cocky in the hallways since I was a freshman," said Morra, who led the Bruins in technical fouls as a freshman (five) and as a sophomore (four). "I think it's a swagger you need to have. But now, it's a different way that I carry myself. It's more with my game than with my talk."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yarou, Mustangs Handle Titans

Yarou, Mustangs Handle Titans
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 11, 2009; D02

WATCH VIDEO FROM THE GAME

Still learning the English language, Montrose Christian's Mouphtaou Yarou couldn't share in the jawing that was going on during the top-ranked Mustangs' 70-53 victory over No. 10 T.C. Williams last night.

For much of the game, he kept quiet, with his 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame in the post and his eyes locked on the basket. Then he spotted a Titans player storming down the middle of the lane in the third quarter.

Yarou's fourth block -- an offering he rose up on and swatted off the concrete wall behind the rim -- prompted an intimidating wail from the Villanova recruit and an equal gasp from the 1,700 fans at the University of Maryland's Comcast Pavilion.

"I like defense more than offense," said Yarou, in soft broken English following his 23-point performance, allowing mostly smiles and nods to speak for his effort.

He added eight rebounds, four blocks and three altered shots as the Mustangs (11-1) scored 14 of their 37 first-half points inside to end the winning streak of reigning Virginia AAA public school champion T.C. Williams (9-2) at five.

Yarou, a native of Benin -- a small country in West Africa bordered by Togo and Nigeria -- came to the United States last year on a student visa, following a dream of playing basketball that landed him at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va.

Since his arrival in the United States, Yarou, who transferred to Montrose Christian this year, has grown two inches, put on 40 pounds and signed a national letter-of-intent with Villanova, where he'll join 6-8, 195-pound teammate Isaiah Armwood as part of a recruiting class ranked among college basketball's top five, according to both Rivals.com and ESPN.com.

The addition of Yarou "just releases the pressure off everybody else," said Armwood, who scored seven points and hit one of six Mustangs first-half three-pointers en route to a 37-24 halftime lead. "Nobody can stop him, I don't care who you are."

A soccer-crazed teenager in his native country, here Yarou has led the Mustangs to top 10 national rankings and is next in line among a star-studded list of NBA prospects who have come out of the Rockville school. Alum Kevin Durant was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft and that season's rookie of the year.

"I mean, we've had big guys here in my four years, but not a big guy like Mouph," Armwood said.

No. 1 Montrose Christian 70 No. 10 T.C. Williams 53

The Air Up There, Again: Mouphtaou Yarou's roommate, T. Jordan Omogbehin, is a 7-foot-1, 260-pound sophomore from Nigeria. Among the Ranks: T.C. Williams, led in scoring last night by Edward Jenkins (15 points), suffered its other loss, 59-58, to No. 9 Riverdale Baptist (14-3).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Court Report: High School Basketball Notebook

Court Report: High School Basketball Notebook
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, January 8, 2009; VA08

Members of the Flint Hill boys' basketball team sat in the last row of bleachers at Paul VI Catholic's gymnasium early last month.

They wanted a good view of the court.

The Huskies made the three-mile trek from Oakton to the Fairfax private school to do some final scouting before their meeting the next day.Flint Hill's players watched as Paul VI suffered a 55-50 loss to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference power Bishop McNamara.

The next day, the Huskies extended Paul VI's skid, 64-58.The Dec. 20 victory put Flint Hill "in a position to say we can compete with anyone in the area," Huskies Coach Rico Reed said. "Some of our kids played along some of the kids at Paul VI, where some of my kids were reserves.

You're talking like Patriot League over Big East. The WCAC is renowned or known as the best conference in the country."No. 17 Flint Hill (8-2), which has won two of the past three Mid-Atlantic Conference titles, has become more than just a conference-dominator this season, playing a rigid out-of-conference schedule where it has earned victories over schools in five other leagues, including well-respected powers in the WCAC, MAC and Interstate Athletic Conference.

Saturday's 64-63 victory over Landon (7-3) gave the Huskies their third confidence-boosting win over an IAC team this season.

No. 17 Flint Hill (8-2) became the second team this season to hold McDonald's all-American candidate Christian Webster (27.4 points a game) to less than 20 points.

The Huskies are riding the return of four senior starters from last season's 24-6 MAC champion team: Chris Herlihy, Jeremy Glover, Doug Howard and Jawuan Lockhart."Chris Herlihy is really the backbone of what we do," Reed said of the 6-4 post, who has guard skills and sets screens and rebounds, but who also benefits from Flint Hill's up-tempo style and is averaging 13.8 points per game. "The rock is Jawuan Lockhart, because he is the toughest kid. He can be dominant by scoring, but on game day he sacrifices."

Glover, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound senior guard who is leading the team in scoring with 15.8 points a game, "has the strongest skill set on our team. His skill set is as good as any of the kids we've played against," Reed said.

Bulldogs, Majors Roll

Looking to replace some of the Virginia AAA Northern Region's most productive three-year starters, Westfield (9-1) and Mount Vernon (7-4) have not missed a step.Westfield, which lost the program's all-time scoring leader in Maurice Hubbard (Ball State) to graduation, won its holiday tournament, the Bulldog Bash, and entered the week on a seven-game winning streak behind Chris Kearney (19.9 points a game) and Peter Scanlon (11).

Without Marquel De Lancey (Old Dominion), last year's National District Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, Mount Vernon won its holiday tournament and entered the week on a five-game winning streak.

Four players -- Skylar Jones (16.36 points per game), Robert Coleman, Derek Pruitt and Jesse Konadu -- are averaging at least nine points per game. Robert Smith has developed into a floor-organizer, and 6-foot-5 Kyle Ricks, who also plays football, has given the Majors an inside presence.

"We had a four-game losing streak early on to some quality opponents, but I think it has helped us come together and learn a lot about each other," Mount Vernon Coach Alfonso Smith said. "I really feel we have about eight guys that can legitimately start."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Chantilly's Friday Serving 30-day Suspension

Chantilly's Friday Serving 30-day Suspension
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 6, 2009; E05

Chantilly's Adam Friday, the 20th-ranked Chargers' leading scorer, has been suspended for seven games for a violation of school policy, Coach Jim Smith confirmed.

Friday, a 6-foot-4 junior forward averaging 12.6 points per game, is not expected to return to the team until after he has served a 30-day suspension that started Dec. 21.

"Adam violated a school policy and he's serving his suspension and will be back with the team when that suspension is completed," said Smith, who declined to elaborate on the nature of the violation. "He was honest. He's serving his punishment and I think he is really looking forward to getting back with the team."

With 22 made three-pointers in seven games, Friday is the Virginia AAA Northern Region's leading three-point shooter.

Friday did not play in any of three games during the host school's Pohanka Chantilly Classic tournament last week and Chantilly (9-1, 2-0 Concorde District) suffered its first loss of the season to Landon, 72-60, in the tournament's championship game.