Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UFC comes to Virginia

Check out this video interview with Post reporters B.J. Koubaroulis, Dan Steinberg and UFC President Dana White.

Washington Post feature on Amir Sadollah

Washington Post coverage of UFC Fight Night 20

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"Verbally Committed" A DMV Prepcast on CBS Radio's 106.7 The Fan

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"Verbally Committed" A DMV Prepcast with B.J. Koubaroulis and Stephen Ball is a weekly 2 hour radio show on CBS radio's 106.7 The Fan.

What is "Verbally Committed": Watch Video

With more than 300 high schools in Washington D.C.’s metro area – D.C., Maryland and Virginia – the show gives a voice to the area’s top recruits, coaches, players and fans through interviews, commentary and calls from fans.

The show is produced and hosted by B.J. Koubaroulis and Stephen Ball, both with long time connections and experience working in the Washington media and in particular high school sports.

Koubaroulis is a sports contributor at The Washington Post, covering high school football, basketball, baseball, soccer and lacrosse and is also an active blogger at for recruiting news and more. He is also the Play-by-Play voice for high school and college sports for Verizon FIOS1 sports television. Stephen Ball is a sports contributor for The Washington Post and associate producer of The Mike Wise Show on 106.7 The Fan. He has covered high school sports, the NFL and the NHL for The Post. He hosted a weekly sports radio show on WGMU and interned at ESPN980.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Div. 6 Region Championship Preview:

While previewing Saturday's playoff matchup between Lake Braddock and W.T. Woodson, The Washington Post's B.J. Koubaroulis examines a controversial play from early this season. Was W.T. Woodson QB Connor Reilly's knee down before he threw an impossible 2-point conversion pass for the win? Did Khamrone Kolb make the sack in the backfield. See the replay and decide for yourself.

(Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post)

Lake Braddock vs. W.T. Woodson

Monday, November 16, 2009

VIDEO: Behind the Scenes as T.C. Williams Strives for Glory

T.C. Williams Strives for Glory

Post reporter B.J. Koubaroulis takes you behind the scenes for an emotional day with T.C. Williams -- a playoff-starved program that missed making the playoffs in a win-or-go home loss to Lee on Saturday.

(Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post)

Friday, October 23, 2009

UFC Coming to Fairfax


UFC is Coming to Fairfax
Organization's president sees D.C. area as fertile ground for larger martial arts events
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White confirmed Tuesday that he plans to make the Washington D.C. market a new destination for his growing martial arts business.

White said that lightweights Nate Diaz (11-4) and Gray Maynard (8-0) will square off Jan. 11 at Patriot Center in Fairfax in the main event of Ultimate Fight Night 20, one in a series of cards that have been televised by Spike TV.

White said that he expects the show's attendance numbers to confirm his belief that the Washington area is a fertile place to bring bigger shows such as Saturday's UFC 104, a pay-per-view event that will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. UFC 104 features a main event between current light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

The Jan. 11 show is "not a market test," said White. "We don't test markets. We go in and we pretty much know what we're going to do when we go in. We believe that there's enough people that live there and will travel there that this thing will sell out quick."

Diaz and Maynard are two of the top fighters to emerge from the fifth season of Spike TV's reality series "The Ultimate Fighter." It will be a rematch of Diaz's victory over Maynard on that show.

Multiple online sources are reporting that the undercard could include Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce, Efrain Escudero vs. Nik Lentz, Tom Lawlor vs. Aaron Simpson, Rick Story vs. Jesse Lennox, Chris Leben vs. Jay Silva and Mike Guymon vs. Rory MacDonald.

White's interest in the Washington area follows the recent efforts of Ultimate Warrior Challenge, a business that Maryland native Marcello Foran grew into five local cards that drew an average of 5,000 fans to Patriot Center.

"There' a lot of grass-roots shows out there like that and obviously if they are drawing 5,000 people we know what we're going to do," said White, who expects to sell out the 10,000 seat facility.

Foran, however, said on Tuesday that he has doubts about his organization returning to Patriot Center, citing a lack of support from local martial arts schools, businesses and media as well as a controversial ending to Anacostia native Mike Easton's fight earlier this month against Chase Beebe. Easton was declared the winner in a split decision over Beebe during UWC7: Redemption on Oct. 3. Foran and many others dispute the decision and blame Virginia's athletic commission for a botched scorecard.

"Here I am and I'm talking to Dana White and [UFC Vice President] Joe Silva and saying here's a great market you need to go to," Foran said. "And now I feel like I get screwed on a call on a fight. We're not saying we wouldn't come back to D.C. but what option do we have? In D.C., I'm dragging people to the finish line and other places they are throwing venues and incentives at me."

Temple Hills-based trainer Lloyd Irvin, the area's premier talent-finder and fight groomer, said that he has been in contact with UFC about his fighters who have been successful in UWC events. Some of them could appear on the Jan. 11 card. Irvin would not name any of the fighters that UFC has spoken to him about, but Foran said that UWC standout Timothy Woods, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound Sterling resident, is in talks for a long-term contract with UWC and is being considered by UFC talent scouts. White said he was unaware of Woods, but that it was possible Woods was talking with UFC.

Irvin's most notable student is Brandon Vera, a Virginia native who will headline UFC 105 against Randy Couture on Nov. 14. "If there was ever going to be a big UFC show, it would make sense to have Brandon Vera because he's from this area."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Five-Sport Wonder

A Five-Sport Wonder

By B.J. Koubaroulis

Special to The Washington Post

Tuesday Sept. 29, 2009, D1

A framed photograph sits on the kitchen counter of Erin Hardtke's Herndon home. It's a 10x14 image of Erin, a senior at Oakton High, playing volleyball. In the picture, her left arm is perfectly placed above the net, poised to deliver a vicious kill shot as two defenders, caught in midair, brace for impact.

"I love looking at that picture," says Erin's mother, Gretchen.

Gretchen often comes home to find the picture turned face down. Erin, 17, "hates" the photo, says her mom. "She has a really tough time seeing herself in print or in pictures."

Erin's right arm is also plainly visible in the image. The limb ends a few inches below her elbow because of a birth defect.

Despite her disability, Erin has developed into a five-sport anomaly, excelling in swimming, diving, basketball, volleyball and soccer. She's used each sport as her proving ground, trading self-doubt and questions of self-image for confidence-boosting moments of athletic accomplishment. Still, despite her varsity letters, Hardtke admits her condition has had a powerful impact on her high school experience. She says she has struggled to keep a positive self-image, saying she's found it difficult at times to "love myself."

"It's something I had no control over," said Erin, who lost her right arm to a condition called amniotic band syndrome, in which fetal parts, usually limbs or digits, become entrapped in fibrous amniotic bands while in utero.

Described by her parents as a "chatter box" when she was younger, Erin has become more withdrawn during her high school experience, choosing to shield her emotions as she learns to balance being disabled with being a teenager.

"I still have those moments when it's just a lot to take in, when it's really frustrating, when I want to give up, when it's really annoying, when I'm at my end," she said.

"We've always said, 'Thank God that she's naturally athletic, naturally beautiful and smart because those are positives,' " Gretchen said as she peered across the kitchen table at her husband, Bill. "Athletics evens the playing field for her. It makes her feel like an equal."

Left-Handed 'Thunderbolt'

In her fourth year playing organized volleyball, Hardtke has become one of the Virginia AAA Northern Region's most feared outside hitters.

"That left hand is a thunderbolt," Oakton volleyball coach Steve Drumm said.

Left-handed hitters are particularly desirable in volleyball, according to George Mason University women's volleyball coach Pat Kendric, who became so enamored with Erin's hard hitting during a GMU volleyball camp this summer that she hooked her up with an invite-only tryout with the Women's U.S. Paralympic volleyball team.

Reluctantly, Hardtke will travel to Oklahoma for a Nov. 20 tryout.

"When we went to the Web site, she didn't like it at all because the whole focus is on being different," said Gretchen. "But, who knows, this could be the one opportunity where, for her, being different might be an advantage."

Hardtke also is an accomplished swimmer and diver at Pinecrest Swim and Tennis Club, where she is a specialist in the breaststroke and butterfly.

"I do the butterfly just like everybody else does it," Erin said.

Last spring, she was a starting defender for Oakton's state semifinal soccer team, and she is a year-round soccer player with the travel team Chantilly Electrics.

She also played basketball for Oakton as a freshman and owns a defensive hip-check that earned her both a reputation and playing time.

"She's no shrinking violet. She doesn't apologize for her situation or ask for any particular quarter for it," said Oakton basketball coach Fred Priester, who described Hardtke's jump shot and the inexplicable spin she puts on the ball. "She hasn't let what would be a pretty daunting situation for most kids hold her back."

A one-handed jump shot is just one example of what Hardtke calls "modifications," as she has to "think a lot more than other players do," she said.

"I guess I just try and find an easier way of what [other players] are doing and apply it to me," said the 5-foot-10 Hardtke, who has a 21-inch vertical leap -- one of the highest on the volleyball team. "Volleyball is the hardest thing for me because it's really a lot of technique, it's precision passing, it has to be a precision set."

During a 3-0 season-opening victory over South Lakes this month, Erin scored on nine straight serves; more than half were aces.

"There's nothing wrong with an opposing team trying to pick on her defensively, because she's never been a liability," said Drumm. "Sometimes parents from the other team come up to me and say, 'It's so great what you're doing for her' and then I'll feel a little uncomfortable. I'm not doing Erin any favors -- if she wasn't talented enough, she wouldn't be on this team."

The hard work, the extra hours, and the obstructions that foul Hardtke's day-to-day activities have equally frustrated her and shaped her resilience.

"I'm usually a really private person," Erin said. "My mom and dad are my support system, but I don't even feel comfortable telling them when I have problems because I have to admit to them that I'm not like everyone else and I'm different, and it's really hard for me, even right now. I don't like drawing attention to myself at all."

Adaptable and Stubborn

By the time she was 5, Erin was learning to adapt to her disability. Twice a month, her parents would make the three-hour drive to Shriner's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, where she would endure grueling repetitions of simple tasks such as tying her shoes and cutting with a fork and knife, while learning how to use her prosthetic arm.

"The first time I saw her tie her shoes, it boggled my mind," said Bill. "And I mean, a perfect bow, too."

By the time she was a sixth-grader, Erin had developed a stubbornness that her parents called unquestionable. Determined to fit in with her classmates, Erin would take off her prosthetic arm and hide it in her backpack at school. The prosthetic was "just one more thing that made me feel different," she said.

Eventually, she stopped wearing it completely.

"I think she just thought, this is it, this is the way it's going to be and I'm going to have deal with it," said Bill. "I doubt right now that she'll ever get to a point where she'll want to wear [the prosthetic] again."

When Erin was in fifth grade, a referee made her remove her prosthetic before walking onto the field for a youth soccer game. Her teammates, family, opposing team and spectators watched. "It was very public," Bill said.

"After that, she didn't wear it playing soccer anymore," Gretchen said.

Since entering high school, Erin's self-awareness has grown. The stares and sideways glances often magnify her discomfort. In addition to her family -- she's one of four children -- she finds support from a small circle of friends, many of whom are teammates from sports.

"I don't really play sports to prove anything or prove anyone wrong, I just always played sports," Erin said. "My parents had us all in sports ever since we were kids."

Sitting on a stool and leaning her left elbow on a black granite countertop, Erin waves the bangs off her forehead. She takes a moment to tuck her right arm close to her body; it's an optical illusion that makes it appear as if her arm is positioned behind her back.

"She's done that ever since she was a little girl," Bill said. "It's a bit of a defense mechanism she uses sometimes so that it gives her a chance with people before they notice [her arm]. I'm not sure she's even conscious that she does it."

The desire to be normal, to be like the rest of the kids in her class -- it never goes away.

"I would love to see, like just have a day where I look like everyone else and just see what would happen," Erin said. "I just feel like I'd love my life so much more. It would just be easier."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Superstar Recruits Robinson and Simmons Face Off in Key Patriot Game Tonight

The Washington Post has launched a new set of sports blogs...

Superstar Recruits Robinson and Simmons Face Off in Key Patriot Game Tonight
By B.J. Koubaroulis

I talked to South County football coach Pete Bendorf this week about the Stallions' (2-0) home match up with Annandale (2-0) tonight.

My first question to him was "How are you going to stop the Robinson kid?"

His answer came in the form of a question "You got any ideas?" Bendorf asked.

My response? "You might have someone get him in the parking lot before the game."

All kidding aside, Annandale wide receiver Melvin Robinson, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior, is among one of the area's top recruits in the class of 2011. For a high school player, he's as close to unstoppable as they come.


Veteran Line Drives Oakton Past Madison

Veteran Line Drives Oakton Past Madison

By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 5, 2009

At 6 feet 6, 247 pounds, Oakton senior offensive lineman Nick Koutris towered above the rest of his teammates as he howled through his face mask, slapped his chest pads and high-fived and chest-bumped all takers as the Cougars strutted to midfield for a warmup session prior to last night's 14-0 home victory over crosstown rival Madison in the season opener for both schools.

Koutris's swagger was a preview of the kind of football the No. 3 Cougars expect to play this season. He and the four other starting linemen to return as seniors from last year's 13-1 state semifinal squad -- Sam Strauss, Jonathan Hart, Austin Mayhugh and Trevor Yarnall -- showed flashes of last year's dominance, at times brutally owning the trenches, dominating the line of scrimmage and creating vast running lanes as Oakton manhandled its way to 330 yards of total offense and its second straight Outback Bowl victory.

The linemen "just know how to work as a unit, they know how to pick up blitzes, stunts, and they play off each other," Oakton Coach Joe Thompson said. "They have a sixth sense for each other."

The front five, which averages 220 pounds, sprung junior running back Luke Willis (74 yards) and protected junior quarterback Jimmy Boone -- a 6-foot finesse passer who amassed 148 yards passing and 73 yards rushing in his first varsity start. However, the Cougars were penalized 11 times for 85 yards.

According to Thompson, all five linemen are garnering college recruiting interest.

"We know the winning formula, we just have to put the work in to get back to that game 15," Koutris said.

Boone capped a six-play second quarter drive with a well-blocked screen pass to Willis, who reeled in the offering with a one-handed grab and streaked down the left sideline for a 7-0 lead. Boone added a one-yard plunge to give the Cougars a 14-0 lead before the half.


Stingy Defense, Blocked Punt Vaults Bulldogs Past Wolverines

Stingy Defense, Blocked Punt Vaults Bulldogs Past Wolverines

By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 12, 2009

Westfield senior Dylan Doty skirted through a slight opening in West Potomac's line and leaped over a defender, using his outstretched fingers to block a Wolverine punt. Teammate Vinny Caporossi pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for a second quarter touchdown -- a crushing blow in Friday night's 35-14 Bulldogs victory at home.

Caporossi and Doty, known previously for little more than their diminutive size (they both check in at 5 feet 8), helped Westfield (1-1) take a big step toward shedding a rebuilding label that stuck after last week's season-opening loss to Stone Bridge.

"We heard a lot of that [rebuilding talk], and it was just motivating," said Caporossi, who recovered two fumbles and was part of a defense that stuffed the Wolverines' high-powered offense four times on fourth down.

"I don't honestly feel that we're ever rebuilding at Westfield, I feel like we're just reloading," said Doty, who added a rushing touchdown and also batted down a surefire first-quarter touchdown pass from West Potomac quarterback Colin Mathewson.

With an undersize roster, its first season without a superstar recruit at running back and its second year behind a signal-caller whose last name is not Glennon, the Bulldogs might have appeared depleted.

But Friday night, Doty and Caporossi were just the headliners in an effort that saw strong line play, consistent quarterbacking from 6-5 senior Danny Fenyak (14 of 25, 124 yards, 1 touchdown) and a big effort out of their backfield foursome -- Doty, junior Bryan Monticue, junior Hayden Ferington and sophomore Kendall Anderson. The group combined for 183 yards on 27 carries and each scored a touchdown.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Former VT QB Glennon Coaching at Westfield

The Washington Post has launched a new set of sports blogs...

Former Hokie QB Coaching at Westfield
by B.J. Koubaroulis

The circle of life just keeps spinning right in front of Westfield quarterbacks coach Brian Day's eyes.

Day, who played quarterback at Fairfax in the 1990s for then-Rebels coach and now Westfield coach Tom Verbanic, was watching Thursday's North Carolina State-South Carolina game at his home with former Westfield quarterback Sean Glennon.

Glennon, who spent the past few years at quarterback for Virginia Tech, was sitting with Day as they watched Sean's little brother Mikey -- also a former Westfield quarterback and the 2007 All-Met Player of the Year (offense) -- get his first series of plays as a Wolfpack red-shirt freshman.

Mikey went 1-for-2 passing for zero yards in a 7-3 loss to South Carolina.

As they watched the game, "Sean was yelling at the T.V.," said Day, who groomed both quarterbacks during their time at Westfield. "I looked at him and said 'Yeah, now you know how I feel. I've been yelling at you on T.V. for the past four years."

The impact that both Glennon brothers had at Westfield is enormous, both setting records and winning state championships: (Sean, 2003) and Mikey (2007).

But the Glennons are still having a direct impact on Westfield football -- a factory that has produced additional studs like Evan Royster, Eddie Royal and many other football stars.

Sean Glennon has spent the summer helping as a quarterbacks coach with the Bulldogs, in particular grooming current QB Danny Fenyak.

"I like being around the game and it's a way for me to stay involved and help out and be around people I know," said Glennon. "Sometimes I get to do certain drills, throwing to receivers or throwing to nets, I goof around and challenge the kids. The main thing is having fun, being around football. I give them a unique perspective and they get a kick out of it too."

Sean Glennon went undrafted during the 2009 NFL draft, but signed quickly afterward with the Minnesota Vikings.

He was cut on July 19 to make room for Brett Favre.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Washington Post Launches New Set of Sports Blogs

The Washington Post launched a new set of sports blogs, check out my first post:

Renner's 5-Wide Attack Fuels Lake Braddock

I just got off the phone with Lake Braddock Coach Jim Poythress, who was doing his best to deflect all the preseason hype circling Burke and Northern Virginia about how good the Bruins are supposed to be this season.

"I guess the word is out," Poythress said.
Thumbnail image for Bill Renner.jpg
But, despite Poythress's pleas, the Bruins can't hide behind coaching cliches about "proving themselves."

Not when they have back two preseason All-Mets in 6-foot-6, 325-pound offensive linemen Khamrone Kolb and Keli Doe, a 6-2, 310-pound defensive lineman.

Not when they've got back 17 other starters, including brainiac quarterback Michael Nebrich.

And, especially not when they've added one of the most influential offensive minds in the Northern Region's storied coaching history in former West Springfield head coach Bill Renner, who signed on as an assistant this summer.

Renner, a former punter with Virginia Tech and the NFL's Green Bay Packers, went 57-47 at West Springfield in the past 10 seasons, most recently producing top quarterback prospects in former University of Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich (now at Oregon State) and Renner's son Bryn, who threw for 3,123 yards and 35 touchdowns last season before heading to the University of North Carolina for football and baseball.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Video Sidebar

Murnane Focuses on High School Soccer

Like many soccer players, Westfield senior Sean Murnane was feeling overworked in playing a year-round schedule of club and high school soccer. Fearing he might burn out, the All-Met Player of the Year took time off from his D.C. United Academy team this spring to focus on high school.

Video By B.J. Koubaroulis and Paul Tenorio, The Washington Post

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Scholarships With a Cost

Scholarships With a Cost
Soccer Standouts Play Year-Round At Frenetic Pace

By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sami Kuykendall woozily came off the field at Madison High, a bulge of gruesome purple swelling under her right eye after she withstood a soccer ball to her face from point-blank range. She gripped her new front tooth between her index finger and thumb, spotted her parents in the bleachers and shot them a smile. With Kuykendall playing her fifth game in seven days -- and having been tested seven times in the past three years for concussions -- the signal provided her parents some needed reassurance on the April night.

A 17-year-old junior midfielder, Kuykendall has spent each of the past three spring seasons splitting time between the Vienna high school's varsity girls' soccer team and the under-17 McLean Premier Soccer (MPS) Dragons, the sixth-ranked club team in the country. The ball to the face, the concussions, the shattered jaw suffered in an aerial collision during a game last year (and subsequent tooth implant) are just a few notable entries on the list of injuries incurred during basically a year-round soccer season with a singular goal: a college scholarship.

"I made a decision, consciously when I was a lot younger, that this was the way to get to college soccer," Kuykendall said. That decision has meant she has played approximately 90 games in the past calendar year, including three club league schedules and a barrage of tournaments. By comparison, consider: D.C. United plays approximately 35 to 40 games a season, including exhibitions and club competitions.

This weekend, Kuykendall will be one of many area players at the Player Development Academy Girls College Showcase at Rutgers University. The club schedule -- combined with the high school schedule -- makes for year-round soccer and is especially intense during the spring, when Kuykendall plays for both teams.

That grind puts players at risk of short- and long-term injury, according to doctors. The social sacrifices are, Kuykendall says, countless. Her family's financial sacrifice is considerable. And the tension between club and high school team is omnipresent during the spring season.

Kuykendall said the conflicts and pressures have been worth it. She has committed to a 60 percent scholarship to play soccer at Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall of 2010.

Outside experts, however, warn of the potential costs elsewhere.

"We've really created an animal here," said University of Notre Dame women's soccer coach Randy Waldrum, the president of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. "It's just way too much soccer."


Local Fighter Takes Act to Big Stage

Local Fighter Takes Act to Big Stage
Former All-Met Wrestler Kaplan to Fight on Undercard at Saturday's UFC 98

By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Despite a journey that has taken him through five preparatory schools, four colleges, interviews with government agencies such as the CIA, a stint as a motorcycle salesman, reality television shows and game shows, the Netherlands and most recently Las Vegas for a mixed martial arts career, Dave Kaplan still has a cellphone number that carries a 703 area code.

But as the 1998 Woodbridge High School graduate turned Ultimate Fighting Championship brawler attempts to describe the people who might know him best, Kaplan is stumped.

"High school?" asked Kaplan, who wrestled his way to an 82-20 record while at Woodbridge. "I can't tell you that I still talk to anybody from high school."

"College? No," Kaplan said. "Girlfriends? Probably a few girls, but no one that would really have any insight on me. Vegas is kind of a hard place for that."

But Las Vegas, one of the most unpredictable, volatile and erratic places in the world, is where Kaplan has finally found stability in a job that fuses his attractions to violence and showmanship and where the former second-team All-Met wrestler became the Ultimate Fighting Championship's "Diamond Dave."

Kaplan, a 29-year-old, 155-pounder who holds a blue belt in Brazilian jiujitsu, will fight George Roop (8-5) on the first undercard of Saturday's UFC 98, an 11-card mixed martial arts event at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

"This is one of those things for me about leaving footprints," said Kaplan, who is 3-2 as a pro and trains full time at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. "I don't want to live an ordinary life. I want to live a life that some people can't. Maybe it's not 100 percent stable, but maybe that's why it interests me."

Kaplan's recent success on Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter 8" earned him a spot on Saturday's card; one that features two anticipated brawls in a 205-pound title fight between Rashad "Sugar" Evans (18-0-1) and Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (14-0) and a grudge match between 170-pounders Matt "The Terror" Serra (16-5) and Matt Hughes (43-7).

Kaplan's family has moved 22 times in the past 30 years because of his father's career in the Army JAG Corps; Kaplan continued the transient lifestyle in college, with stints at Longwood, Virginia Commonwealth, Missouri and Old Dominion.

"He would never hold back," former Old Dominion wrestling coach Gray Simons said. "He would open up the whole match. You always felt like he had done his best whether he won or lost."

Now a mouthy, flamboyant entertainer and a risk-taker in the ring, Kaplan's bleached white hair pays homage to his childhood hero, professional wrestler Ric Flair.

"He's out there," said Tom Lawlor, one of Kaplan's closest teammates on "Ultimate Fighter." "I'm not sure if that's a persona he cooks up in order to get himself hyped up for fighting and he's gone ahead and taken that persona on as his own. He's almost like a character of himself."

Kaplan's reputation in the fight industry as a head case stands in contrast to his label as "highly gifted," after a childhood during which his IQ was measured at more than 140 and he taught himself how to play the piano, guitar and oboe.

"We always thought he'd be doing something more with his mind than with his body," said Marshall Kaplan, Dave's father.

However, Kaplan said he couldn't stomach the 9-to-5 lifestyle offered by the numerous government security agencies with whom he interviewed, but "that's what I'd be doing if I weren't fighting," said Kaplan, who after a six-month turn as a motorcycle salesman moved to the Netherlands to train at Vos Gym in Rotterdam, where he learned muay Thai and kickboxing.

In 2007, he surfaced on the NBC game show "The Singing Bee," lifting a microphone with his right arm -- a muscular, tattooed weapon he used that night to win $50,000 by belting out lyrics to songs by Mariah Carey, Tammy Wynette, Donna Summer, Jennifer Hudson, Tina Turner and Bonnie Raitt.

As part of Team Lloyd Irvin, a team of fighters based in Temple Hills, Kaplan developed his fighting sense in winning four straight amateur bouts; he considers himself more of a striker than his traditional wrestling background would suggest, but also more of a "showman than an athlete," he said.

"One of my criticisms is that I'm reckless because I'm trying to be so entertaining and exciting," Kaplan said. "I abhor the 'lay and pray' kind of fights."

Monday, April 27, 2009

All-Access Pass to Mixed Martial Arts Event

Ultimate Warrior Challenge 6: Capital Punishment

Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Future of High School Sports?

National High School Invitational
Video by B.J. Koubaroulis

The National High School Invitational welcomed some of the nation's top high school boys and girls basketball teams for a showcase televised nationally by ESPN. The tournament, which aimed to crown a true national champion, drew some opinions from those who favor the progression of high school sports and those who think it is becoming too commercial.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lake Braddock Suspends 16 Girls' Soccer Players for Violating Alcohol Policy

Lake Braddock Suspends 16 Girls' Soccer Players for Violating Alcohol Policy

By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, March 26, 2009; E05

Lake Braddock has suspended 16 players from its varsity girls' soccer team after a party that involved alcohol at one of the players' homes earlier this month, according to multiple school sources.

According to Fairfax County Public Schools' participation policy, students who violate the standards of conduct in relation to alcohol are issued a mandatory 30-day suspension. It is not clear how many of the 16 players face the 30-day suspension; sources said not all the players suspended consumed alcohol.

"It's a situation that we're faced with and we'll just work our way through it one day at a time," said Bruins Coach Adam Soos, who would not discuss specifics about the incident and would not name the players involved. "Some choices were made, some consequences were dealt, and we're coping with it day by day."

One source said that the party is an annual event at which freshman players are welcomed to the team, an area power that has won five state titles, including two of the past three Virginia AAA championships.

Fairfax County Director of Athletics Bill Curran said that the incident was investigated.

"The reports of hazing incidents are taken very seriously and they are investigated to the fullest extent," Curran said.

When reached for comment, Lake Braddock Athletic Director Mark Martino said, "We're dealing with it and we're moving on."

The incident occurred on the weekend of March 14, according to one source, who also said that many of the six remaining players who were not suspended were at a showcase tournament in Las Vegas during the time of the incident.

After defeating Langley, 3-0, in its season-opener on March 11, Lake Braddock has been outscored 14-0 in losses to Chantilly, Oakton and Robinson. Because the Bruins would have been unable to field a varsity team, Soos called up seven players from the junior varsity team.

The Bruins will return as many as five players next week and should have the remaining 11 back in time for their April 16 meeting with Annandale, Soos said.

"As quick as we are to punish kids for poor decisions that they make, we also need to provide them with opportunities to redeem themselves," Soos said. "If they choose to do the work to redeem themselves, if they choose to do the work to earn back the trust, then I'm all for it."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stuart's Postseason Victory Is a Family Affair

Stuart's Postseason Victory Is a Family Affair
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 24, 2009; E07

Following Stuart's 59-53 first-round Virginia AAA Northern Region tournament victory over visiting Herndon last night, Stuart senior Mo Ibrahim interlaced his fingers on top of his head and stared at the ceiling outside the locker room, looking for the perfect word to describe his team.

Watching Ibrahim squirm, Stuart junior Antonio Harris Jr. interjected.

"Family," said Harris, a 6-foot-1 sharp-shooter who connected on a variety of pull-up jumpers, floaters, bank shots and crafty finishes for a 17-point performance that gave the Raiders their first regional tournament victory since 1996.

Stuart (19-6) will travel to No. 4 T.C. Williams (24-2) tomorrow.

"Yeah, that's right. Family," said Ibrahim, who finished with eight points and absorbed two key charges from Herndon senior Isaac Johnson (21 points) to squash Herndon's fourth-quarter push.

Some teams preach family to foster unity; at Stuart, no preaching is necessary -- the Raiders really are family. Harris's father, Tony Harris, is the head coach; cousin Kevin Harris is an assistant and back-court running mate Trey Ford, a senior guard, is also his cousin. Stuart seniors Dominique Kosh and Raymond Watson are cousins.

Last night, Watson (11 points), Kosh (10 points) and Ford (11 points) surrounded Harris Jr. in a run-and-gun approach that ended perennial power Herndon's season at 13-10.

"Tonight was a big step," said Tony Harris, who two years ago left his coaching position at Falls Church High School and took with him both Ford and his son, starting a turnaround that took a program that averaged 3.5 wins per season in the previous seven years to a 34-15 record in the past two. "This is a big sigh of relief. We finally got what we deserve."

Ibrahim, a 6-5 high-flying senior, showed promise as a sophomore and was pulled up to varsity. However, he asked to play down with the junior varsity squad -- a team he thought had a better chance of winning.

"I've never heard of anybody doing that," said Tony Harris. "No one ever does that. I mean, he thought it was okay to just play with his friends and I understand that part of it, but that will never happen here again."

Stuart 59, Herndon 53

Times Are Changing: In the seven years before Tony Harris took over as coach, the Raiders had combined for a total of 25 wins -- one less victory than Herndon posted during its 2006 season, when it rode McDonald's all-American Scottie Reynolds (Villanova) to a 26-5 state runner-up finish.
Up Next: Stuart advanced to a date tomorrow with reigning region and state champion T.C. Williams, which has won the past two region titles.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Achhal Is Victorious In a Split Decision

Achhal Is Victorious In a Split Decision
Annandale Resident Wins Pro Debut
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 22, 2009; D04

Iman Achhal dropped to her knees, slapped her open palms onto the canvas and then cupped her face with her glove-wrapped hands in near disbelief when she heard the announcer call her name as the winner of the largest female Mixed Martial Arts card ever held in the metro area.

Annandale's Achhal, 32, won the first and third rounds of an undercard at Ultimate Warrior Challenge 5: Man "O" War -- a nine-card Mixed Martial Arts event at George Mason University's Patriot Center last night that drew 6,248 fans.

"It's not kicking in yet," said Achhal as she sat surrounded by media, coaches and trainers while she iced a baseball-sized blackened knot that continued to swell underneath her left eye. "It's been a long road here."

Achhal, nicknamed "Mannie," won an unexpected split decision victory over Felice "Lil Bulldog" Herrig, a two-time kick-boxing champion. Both fighters were making their professional MMA debuts.

"I knew she was going to come out swinging," said Achhal, who continued a ground assault as much of the crowd chanted "Mannie" throughout the final five-minute round she won by working a repetition of take downs. "There was no way she was going to touch me on the ground. That's my world."

Achhal, who abandoned a guillotine choke-hold early in the first round, avoided Herrig's strikes early, but took a hard right hook at the start of the second round that ballooned her left eye nearly shut and left her scrambling to tie up around the edges of the hexagon.

According to a list compiled by, two of the top 10 most viewed MMA events of all time were women's fights CBS aired in 2008. Each event drew more than five million viewers, prompting UWC President Marcello Foran to add the female card to his third MMA venture at Patriot Center.

"We deserve to do what the guys do, I just proved it," said Achhal, who at age 18 fled Morocco to escape an arranged marriage and spent much of the 10 years that followed enduring poverty and homelessness before she rose up the local MMA circuit -- posting a 4-0-1 amateur record. "Do what you want to do. Don't let anybody tell you what you're supposed to be doing."

Achhal is now a trainer and fighter at Capital Jiu-Jitsu -- a chain of local schools operated by MMA legend Royce Gracie.

Mike Easton, a 22-year-old who grew up in Anacostia, submitted Justin Robbins with 16 seconds left in the third round of the main event to earn the bantamweight championship belt. "I just had to get my forearms into that guillatine," said Easton, who landed a series of overhand rights in a fairly uneventful first two rounds before taking Robbins to ground for the chokeout submission. "The guillatine, I love it, it's one of my best submissions." Easton (7-1), a 5-foot-5 muscular showman nicknamed "The Hulk" who trains at Lloyd Irvin Martial Arts in Temple Hills, fought Robbins (13-8-1) instead of Chase "The Rage" Beebe, a former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion from Chicago who failed to show at Friday's official weigh-in. He suffered a knee injury that hampered him from making the contractually-set limit of 135 pounds, according to promoters.

Last night, promoters announced UWC 6: Capital Punishment scheduled for April 25 at Patriot Center.

Foran "wants to feed," said nine-time UFC Champion Matt Hughes, one of several mixed martial arts stars in attendance last night. "[Foran] wants to bring local talent in and get them to the next level and that's exactly what he's doing. He's going to continue to grow and make money."

In his 185-pound fight against Richie "The Dirty Samurai" Hightower (7-3), Foran's brother Marcus (6-2) -- a two-time All-Met wrester and 1993 graduate of DeMatha -- absorbed a series of elbows to the back of the head that left him bloodied and unconscious. Because a blow to the back of the head is illegal, the fight was ruled a no contest.

"It was unintentional," Marcus Foran said.

MMA Note: Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley and Washington Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Donald Brashear attended last night's event.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Achhal Fights, Seizes 'Independence'

Achhal Fights, Seizes 'Independence'
Annandale Resident Set to Make MMA Debut
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, February 19, 2009; 2:53 PM

Iman Achhal pinched each of her cheeks between her thumbs and index fingers and pulled them in a sharp upward motion as she reenacted the worst beating she ever received.

"If you ever wondered if it was possible to lift someone up by their cheeks, I know that it is," said Achhal, a 32-year-old Annandale resident who will make her professional debut on an undercard in Saturday's Ultimate Warrior Challenge 5: Man "O" War -- a 10-card Mixed Martial Arts event at George Mason University's Patriot Center in Fairfax.

During a break in her training earlier this month, Achhal, nicknamed "Mannie," peered out from underneath her Adidas baseball cap and relived what she called "the beating of her life" when, at 18 years old, she endured a 30-minute verbal and physical pounding at the hands of her mother. She was devastated that her daughter had refused an arranged marriage to a man she had hand-picked from their hometown in Morocco.

"I just knew I could do better than to marry someone I didn't know or I didn't love and just end up barefoot and pregnant, so I knew I had to get out of that situation," said Achhal, who, at 18, fled the small country in northern Africa and came to the United States on a green card she won through her biological father.

"At that time [the government] was giving out visas, lottery visas, and I guess [my dad] was one of the lucky ones that got one," said Achhal's half-brother, Anas Achhal, who was one of four siblings that accompanied their father to the United States in 1995.

Anas, a 26-year-old student who lives in Prince William County, is the only family member with which Iman remains in contact.

"Iman left us a month or so after we came [to Virginia]," said Anas. "She had always lived with her mom and she didn't grow up with my dad's house rules and when she came here, you know, he had his house rules and I guess she didn't like them and that's why she left."

A self-confessed tom-boy, Achhal's passion for athletics was smothered back in Morocco "because that's just not, you know, what girls are supposed to being doing," she said. "When I came here, once I had my freedom, I realized that I could work out, that I was allowed basically to work out and I just went all out. I would be at the gym for, oh my god, four to six hours."

She left her family, her religion and her country to pursue a life that better suited her "independence," said Anas.

"My family is my coaches and my trainers," said Iman, who spent most of the 10 years after she left her father's home working as a day-laborer, braving frigid early mornings in front of local convenient stores waiting to hop onto the back of a contractor's truck.

She said she spent one winter homeless, finding shelter in a tent in Bull Run Regional Park in Manassas.

"So, you're not allowed to live in a park, so I had to basically just pretend like I was camping," said Achhal. "The only bad thing in that picture is that it was snowing and really cold, so a lot of people were looking at me like 'there is no way you like being in a tent' but I had to make it look like it was awesome."

She remained homeless until she saved enough money helping to remodel homes, hanging drywall and painting to rent a different bed, basement, floor or room each week all over the D.C. Metro area.

Fluent in Arabic and Spanish, she said she taught herself English by listening to the radio and television.

In 2005, she was one of 30 recruits who spent 22 weeks in training to become a Fairfax County Firefighter.

"She told me about the arranged marriage and how she got here and ended up being homeless for awhile," said Fairfax County Firefighter Ron Gemsheim, a 45-year-old captain who was Achhal's superior officer at the Franconia Fire Station in Alexandria. "Honestly, she inspired me. To come from something like that and stay upbeat the whole time, really made me look at my problems and say 'What the hell, mine are minuscule compared to that.'"

Mike Lee, a 28-year-old firefighter stationed at Fire Station 14 in Burke, was part of Achhal's class at the academy in Fair Oaks.

"She really didn't have any prior experience, but what she had was heart," said Lee, who works out with Achhal four to five times a week. "She might not have been the most technically proficient person, but she had the heart to push through a lot of stuff. And that's basically the same deal with her fighting, it's like, regardless of whatever setback she might have, she always has the heart to keep on pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing."

Achhal recently left firefighting to become a full-time fighter and trainer at Capital Jiu-Jitsu -- a mixed martial arts gym that has local centers in both Sterling and Alexandria that are part of MMA legend Royce Gracie's chain.

According to a list compiled by, two of the top 10 most viewed MMA bouts of all time were women's fights televised in 2008 by CBS. Each fight grabbed more than 5 million viewers.

That prompted local promoters to add a female card to their third MMA venture at Patriot Center.

UWC President Marcello Foran says that Achhal's fight against Felice Herrig -- an 18-2 world champion kick-boxer also making her professional MMA debut could be the "highlight of the show." Herrig has won bantamweight titles with the International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) and World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) and gained national attention when she appeared on "Fight Girls" -- a 2007 television show on the Oxygen Channel.

"On the 21st, win or lose, I really don't care," said Achhal. "I care about how I perform. I want to perform well. I owe it to myself. I went way too far. I've done so much on my own and this is just the result of hard work and persistence. I'm very persistent and I got here."

Notes: Saturday's card will also feature a co-main event. Local fighter Mike "The Hulk" Easton (6-1) will take on Chicago's Chase "Rage" Beebe (11-3) in a five round 135-pound matchup for the UWC Bantamweight World Championship and Jamal "The Suit" Patterson (4-2) will square off with Antoine "The Juggernaut" Britt (8-1) in a 205-pound fight . . . the fight will also be streamed live on

Monday, February 16, 2009

Soccer Star's Heart Is on Hardwood

Soccer Star's Heart Is on Hardwood
The Sport That Brought Kalipinde To the U.S. Is Taking Him to College
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, February 16, 2009; E03

Given Kalipinde flings open the door of his dorm room at Episcopal High School. "Come in, come in, come in," says the 19-year-old with a toothy grin.

He strolls past the Shaquille O'Neal poster taped to his wooden armoire, dodges the bunk beds and slaps his hand on the cinderblock wall next to a Kobe Bryant poster hung over his roommate's desk.

"Kobe Bryant right there. My coach doesn't like him, but, hey, he's the man. Kobe Bean Bryant."

In many ways, he sounds like just another basketball-obsessed kid enjoying his senior season. But Kalipinde's journey to the elite boarding school in Alexandria has been a unique trip. A product of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program, Kalipinde's basketball voyage started at home in Zambia and continued to South Africa before the 6-foot-3 guard finally arrived in this country in August 2007.

Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post

Honored last fall as The Post's boys' soccer All-Met Player of the Year, Kalipinde has signed a letter-of-intent to play basketball at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. His room bears no evidence of his soccer prowess.

"Basketball is what I love doing and it's the reason I'm here," says Kalipinde.

Kalipinde has a graceful jump shot, poise, speed, ballhandling ability, an enveloping wing-span and impressive strength. He has paced the Maroon (13-6, 7-3 IAC) by averaging a team-high 20.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals entering tomorrow's first-round Interstate Athletic Conference tournament game against St. Albans (3-20, 1-9).

Among the colleges that have expressed an interest in Kalipinde were Wake Forest, UNLV, George Mason, Richmond, Boston University and Fordham. He chose Loyola, however, out of loyalty; LMU assistant Myke Scholl helped bring him to the United States.

"The first time I saw him playing was with boys much older than him, 14 years old playing with 18-, 19-year-old guys and he just showed a lot of promise," said Scholl, a former Detroit Pistons scout who spent 10 years as director of international programs for Miles and Associates International, a sports marketing firm in Johannesburg. "You find, in the development over there, that there are lot of centers and power forwards that come over here and have success, but you haven't found guards like him. That's what struck me at the core about him. . . . He was just so natural."

While in South Africa, Scholl also established the country's first national high school basketball league. It was sometime around 2004 when Scholl first saw Kalipinde on a basketball court.

"He's been my coach since, I guess, probably since I was 14," Kalipinde said. "That helped me out, having someone I know out there, helping me out each and every day."

Scholl had heard of Kalipinde while the player was still in Zambia and helped secure a spot for him in 2006 at the Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg. The camps, part of the NBA's international global outreach initiative, include instruction from NBA players and are made up of the continent's top emerging 19-and-under talent. Kalipinde was one of two players chosen from Zambia.

"He was the first guard that I saw that really had the ability to come over here and earn a college scholarship," Scholl said.

Soon after the camp, Kalipinde left Manali boys' high school in Lusaka to attend Durban -- a boarding school in South Africa.

"Once Myke had him at Basketball Without Borders, that's when he got him enrolled at Durban to help him academically," Episcopal Coach Jim Fitzpatrick said.

Episcopal Director of Counseling Jeff Goodell met Scholl at the Basketball Without Borders camp, setting in motion the sequence of events that relocated Kalipinde. That process included two visits by Scholl to Episcopal, online tours by Kalipinde, testing, submission of writing samples, application for financial aid and phone interviews with Episcopal staff members.

"At Episcopal, one thing about the athletic programs, and specifically basketball in this area, you have to make sure that you get good kids here that are also good players, who have some talent," Fitzpatrick said. "You have to be creative."

Though he is 19, Kalipinde is not a fifth-year senior. He has had four years of high school, but a teachers strike in South Africa kept him out of school for months before he came to Episcopal.

"The first thing I wanted to do when I got here was go to the basketball court," said Kalipinde, who is in the United States on an I-20 student visa. "Once you get to the basketball court, it doesn't have the U.S. written on it, you know, it's just a basketball court."

Because Episcopal students are encouraged to play more than one sport, Kalipinde soon found his way to the soccer field.

In a soccer-rich metro area that is infused with ultra-competitive club, travel and Olympic Developmental programs, Kalipinde flourished despite playing the sport for a total of six months in the past two years.

A goalkeeper on the Zambian under-18 national team, he played forward for the Maroon and scored 14 goals to go with 22 assists. There was interest from such college soccer programs as Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion, but it wasn't reciprocated.

"Our message to all the soccer coaches was clear," Episcopal soccer coach Rick Wilcox said. Kalipinde's preference was plain. Another factor that played his role his decision was that a full college scholarship was more likely in basketball than soccer, which might have only netted him a partial scholarship.

Currently, Kalipinde receives a financial aid package from Episcopal that pays for most of the $41,000 annual tuition. Kalipinde often works odd jobs and at athletic youth camps at Episcopal to send money to his mother, four brothers and sister in Zambia, where the average per capita annual income is $800 per year, according to the World Bank. Kalipinde's father died when Given was young.

"I could run to the mall with this money and get some clothes or Xbox or something," Kalipinde said. "Coming from where we came from, where things are not so easy, and not getting things as kids, I guess it teaches you a lot. Giving back and helping out, you know, kind of keeps you on a helping page with everyone back home. It keeps you kind of thinking, you know 'I'm still part of the family.' "

Though he is far from his family, Kalipinde has grown close to Fitzpatrick, who has turned a spare room in his house on campus into a bedroom that Kalipinde uses when most others at his school return to their families during vacations and holidays.

"I look at Given like a son," Fitzpatrick said. "Luckily for me, he has let me be a part of his life and be a father-like figure in his life and, luckily for me, he's allowed me to look at him like a son. When this journey is over at Episcopal, I think Given will always be a part of my life and I a part of his."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hummer and Zanna to Battle Again

Hummer and Zanna to Battle Again
Gonzaga and McNamara Ready for Rematch:
No. 7 Gonzaga (21-3, 12-2 WCAC) at No. 5 Bishop McNamara (18-6, 10-3)

By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, February 12, 2009; 11:47 AM

Before a practice this week, Gonzaga senior center Ian Hummer let out an uncomfortable laugh when the conversation turned to his matchup with Bishop McNamara's Talib Zanna.

During a 67-41 home victory over the Mustangs on Jan. 13, Hummer contained Zanna, holding the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Pittsburgh recruit to just four field goals and a total of 11 points.

"I was fortunate to come out on the winning end of that one," said Hummer, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound Princeton-bound senior. Hummer scored 17 points in the victory and established an inside presence that both disrupted McNamara's flow and allowed Gonzaga to free up its outside shooters. "That will be my assignment again. [Zanna] is one of the best big men in the league. I definitely got to force him to his weak hand. He's improved his jump-shot a little bit, so I definitely got to look out for that."

Zanna, who is leading the fifth-ranked Mustangs with 15.7 points per game, is widely considered one of the top talents in the talent-rich Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

"Last time I learned that I have to be patient when I get the ball," said Zanna. "I had two charges because I was trying to rush the play. This time I have to take my time, make my move and create some baskets or some wide open shots."

Friday's 7:30 p.m. rematch in Forestville will pit two of the area's top teams in a key WCAC showdown that should help create space in a tight league race for seeding in the upcoming tournament.

Gonzaga (21-3, 12-2 WCAC) is currently atop the league standings, while McNamara (18-6, 10-3) sits in fourth place behind DeMatha (20-3, 11-2) and Bishop O'Connell (19-6, 11-3). A McNamara victory would give the Mustangs the school record for wins in a season.

No. 7 Gonzaga, last year's WCAC tournament champion, had its 13-game winning streak snapped Sunday in a 46-44 loss to O'Connell, but rebounded Tuesday with a 49-44 victory over Paul VI.

"Playoffs is coming up soon and the season is winding down, so to get a big win like this would be tremendous for our confidence going into (the) playoffs," said Gonzaga's Tyler Thornton, a 6-2, 190-pound junior who has orally committed to Duke. "They are another top team in the conference. We sit number one right now and they're not too far behind so to play against that caliber of a team and for us to get a good win at their house, it would be great."

Following its 61-60 loss to Good Counsel, McNamara has won two in a row, including Tuesday's 62-54 victory over St. John's in which Rashad Whack scored 24 points, showing he's fully recovered from the ankle injury that hampered him in the first meeting with Gonzaga.

"Being at full strength will help me because I'll be able to move better, create better shots and defend the ball better," said Whack, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound George Mason-bound senior who is averaging 11.8 points per game and is one of the league's best three-point shooters. "A win over would be great to show that they are beatable and how good of a team we are this year. So just getting a win would be tremendous and a good way to go into the playoffs."

Monday, February 02, 2009

No Starks, No Problem

Little Hoyas Carry On Minus Starks
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 3, 2009; E07

The raucous crowd of 2,000 at Georgetown Prep shared an awkward silence last night as they watched Little Hoyas junior guard Markel Starks roll around in the lane, writhing in pain as he grabbed his left knee following a collision with a group of Landon defenders.

The Georgetown recruit had dazzled the standing-room only crowd through nearly three quarters, displaying his full arsenal of skills -- deep three-pointers, pull-up jumpers, undeniable dribble-penetration moves, high-flying lay-ins, no-look passes -- and most importantly an impressive poise as he scored 17 points to help the Little Hoyas build an early 20-point lead.

But Starks could only watch from the bench with an athletic trainer wrapping his knee in ice as Landon cut that lead in half in the final seven minutes of the third quarter.

He even hobbled to team huddles during timeouts to hype his teammates, but by the beginning of the fourth quarter it was evident that No. 8 Georgetown Prep didn't need him or his pep talks to dominate No. 11 Landon, 69-53, en route to sole possession of first place in the Interstate Athletic Conference.

Georgetown Prep (15-3, 6-0) won its 10th straight and ended Landon's (13-5, 5-1) six-game winning streak.

"When I went down, the whole rest of the team looked at each other and said 'Let's go,' " said Starks, a 6-foot-2 junior who is averaging more than 20 points per game. "I don't look at myself as the savior of this team. I look at myself just like these guys and tonight, it was great to just sit back and watch."

Little Hoyas senior guard Robert Olson (17 points) -- a 6-foot-4 Loyola (Md.) recruit -- senior guard Paul Llewellyn (nine points), sophomore forward Nat Eggleston (eight points), 6-7 senior center Kevin Mulquin (eight points) and junior guard Thurgood Wynn (eight points) not only survived Starks's absence, they dominated Landon in the second half with a smothering defense that held the Bears to three field goals in the fourth quarter.

"[Markel] really is the centerpiece of this team, but I think tonight says a lot about our team," said Llewellyn, a deep sharp-shooter who knocked in two three-pointers as part of the second-half push.

Landon's Daniel Rubin scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second quarter to help the Bears crawl back from a 23-7 first-quarter deficit to make it 43-30 entering halftime.

Landon senior guard Christian Webster had 16 points, but Prep's smothering defense helped limit the high-scoring guard's opportunities.

"I think the main thing tonight was our defense," Olson said.

No. 8 Georgetown Prep 69, No. 11 Landon 53 Prepping for Last Night: Since Landon swept Georgetown Prep in the 2004-05 season, the Little Hoyas have posted a 7-1 record against Landon, winning those seven games by an average of 20.7 points. Starks Update: Georgetown Prep junior guard Markel Starks will have an X-ray on his left knee tomorrow, according to a team trainer.

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 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."