Last week I introduced you to some of the premier players I’ve had the opportunity to cover in my first few months at Patch. And, while those athletes are certainly at the top of their class in Baltimore County, a lot of them wouldn’t be able to do what they do without the foundation set by the players I’m prepared to tell you about now.
Regardless of how many stars a team may have, no squad is complete without a player that assumes the responsibility of handling the “dirty work” on the court—the tasks that may not get your last name into the box score for points, but are absolutely essential for a team to win.
These players are arguably as important as the top performers I mentioned in last week’s entry. So, without further ado, my Dirty Work Player nominees…
Keith Crowell, forward, Western Tech
Statistically speaking, the junior power forward is one of the more productive players I’ve included in this entry. The versatile Crowell, who is forceful in the post and capable of knocking down the open jump shot, is averaging a double-double on the year with 11.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
However, his value to the Wolverines extends much farther than the numbers alone. Although he is not your typical vocal leader, Crowell hardly hides his emotions on the court, and his teammates feed off of his every move. Earlier this week against Marriotts Ridge, he single-handedly willed his team into overtime by scoring the final three points to tie up the game, before he and his teammates completed the comeback in the extra period.
At 6’3, Crowell is Western Tech’s best post option and most tenacious re-bounder on both sides of the court and because the Wolverines are a guard-heavy squad, the work he puts in as a front-court player has been absolutely key to their success early on this year.
“[Crowell] is someone who just gives it his all the entire 32 minutes,” coach Mike Slepesky said. “He is the most physical player on the boards we have. He is always willing to go down and throw his weight around.”
Derek Terrell, guard, New Town
Although I’ve only seen a couple Titans games so far this season, it didn’t take me very long to realize Terrell is the type of player that epitomizes what dirty work on the court is all about.
Last week against Milford Mill, the 5’11 senior was guarding the Millers opposing ball handler, who—for what had to be a good 20-30 seconds—dribbled the ball around at the top of the key, going behind his back and crossing over, consequently drawing ‘oohs and aahs’ from those in attendance. However, Terrell ignored the fanfare and continued to shuffle his feet and stay in front of his man. Caught up in his act, the Millers guard eventually carried the ball and turned the possession over to New Town.
Of course the crowd didn’t ‘ooh and aah’ at Terrell’s defensive stand. Defense isn’t pretty—it’s dirty work and Terrell did it to perfection.
It doesn’t end there. In addition to his stout defensive play, Terrell always crashes the boards, doesn’t think twice about diving on the floor and staunchly supports his teammates, according to head coach Mike Salapata.
Although I’m sure he’d love to score more, the senior will gladly trade personal points for team wins. Against Northwestern earlier this year, Terrell pulled down 11 boards and came away with four steals. He scored zero points. The Titans came away with the win.
Zack Hall, guard, Catonsville
According to head coach Brian Barber, the senior point guard doesn’t receive nearly the recognition he deserves given Hall’s importance to the Comets on offense and defense.
Despite, being a sparingly used player a season ago, the 5’10 Hall has assumed the primary ball handling duties for Catonsville this season and has proven to be vital in initiating the offense game in and game out. Although his statistical numbers won’t wow you, Hall is largely responsible for the early season success of players like junior Deniko Carter, whose 14.2 points per game may be a lot lower if not for the savvy point guard feeding him down low.
As the Comets main ball handler, Hall is forced to deal with the opposing team’s pressure throughout the game, and although he doesn’t strike me as a fiery type of leader, Hall’s quiet confidence and reluctance to panic in tight situations is exactly what a coach should require from his floor general.
Hall is a prime example of the kind of player whose contributions don’t show up in the stat book, but if you took him away from Catonsville’s squad this year, Comets coaches wouldn’t be able to rest as easy knowing they had someone who could consistently get the ball down the court, set the offense and guard the opposing ball handler on defense. With Hall, they can.
Jasmine Cole, guard, New Town
Titans coach James Thomas heaps a whole mountain of praise when speaking of Cole, his junior point guard.
In addition to being the team’s primary ball handler, Thomas refers to Cole as being his voice on the court and someone who’s assumed the responsibility of holding the team together when the time calls for it—two aspects of being a player, and more so a leader, that certainly don’t appear in that stat sheet upon games end.
“Sometimes she tells the girls what to do before I even have a chance to say it,” Thomas said. “When someone messes up, she doesn’t belittle them. She just tells them to play harder—stern but not embarrassing. She’s not going to tell you something to do and then not do it herself. That’s what I like about her.”
A tenacious defender herself, Cole preaches to her teammates to focus as hard on the defensive end as they do when they have the ball. She makes things very difficult on the opposing ball handler to say the least.
Although sophomore Jannah Tucker’s ability to score garners her much of the recognition (and rightfully so) when it comes to New Town, Cole’s impact on her team as a leader should not be underplayed or forgotten. Every team needs a player like her.
Christina Rolle, guard, Western Tech
Nolan Roe’s lady Wolverines squad is filled with candidates deserving of this “honor”—that could be part of the reason why they have been successful so far this season. However, I am singling out Rolle because she does a little bit of everything to help her team win.
Said Roe, “Christina doesn’t necessarily fill up the stat sheet for us every night, but she is a big part of our game plan.”
Western Tech’s bread and butter is pressuring opposing teams and creating turnovers as a result, and Rolle has been an essential part of this scheme. Her active hands close down passing lanes for opponents and lead to a ton of tipped balls that the senior’s teammates can turn into steals and then buckets on the other end of the court.
Her toughness and athleticism as a guard give other teams another player to worry about when it comes to cleaning up the defensive glass off of missed shots. As a result, Rolle’s teammate Ateh Ade (who will be featured in next week’s column of up-and-comers) as well as other forwards have been freed up to secure rebounds of their own.
Rolle also contributes as a ball handler, helping the other guards advance the ball up court and get set on the offensive end. The old adage states that pressing teams don’t like to be pressed, but with players like Rolle handling the ball, this is not the case.
When you do a lot of different things well, that earns you a spot as a dirty work player.
Hannah Corton, forward, Franklin
The 5’10 senior’s inclusion on this list may have a lot to do with the fact that Corton’s best sport is lacrosse, not basketball. Lacrosse is a scrappy game and Corton transfers her style of play on the lacrosse field to the basketball court as a determined defender and steadfast re-bounder.
Indians coach Denikwa James absolutely loves her attitude. Although she was in the starting five early on this season, sophomore Ariana Foote’s emergence as a force down low relegated Corton to a role coming off the bench—her attitude and effort hardly suffered as a result. In fact, she’s embraced it.
A game a few weeks ago against New Town displayed James’ confidence in her senior leader. Given the task of trying to slow down Titans’ rising star Jannah Tucker, James opted to go with the box-and-one defense. A scheme designed to have one defender go man-to-man with a talented scorer (Tucker) while the other four players helped out of their zone positions. James selected Corton to be that one defender and she did a solid job slowing down the immensely talented Tucker.
With seconds to play and Franklin ahead by a bucket, Corton forced Tucker to receive the under the basket in-bounds pass several feet behind the three point line. Tucker had no choice but to hoist up a long jumper that fell short in part because of the effort Corton put forth on the defensive end.
Here are some other players worthy of Dirty Work status: Isaac Brown (guard, Owings Mills), Joe Walsh (forward, Franklin), Rachel Schwaab (forward, Catonsville), Ashley Reid (guard, Franklin).
Check back next week as I draw attention to some of the rising stars in Baltimore County when I name my “Up and Comers” so far this season. I also would love to hear your thoughts on who you think should be included on in this entry and if you believe there’s someone I’ve left off these past two lists.