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Hubs on a roll with Wheelers

February 16, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Editor's note: The following is the last in a four-part series on sibling teammates who play basketball in the Tri-State area.

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Like father, like son and daughters.

A generation ago, Tyrone Wheeler Sr. was a standout basketball talent, playing high school ball in the Washington area and college ball at Allegany College of Maryland.

These days, Wheeler's passion for hoops can be found on a near-nightly basis in the form of his three children wearing the red, white and black colors of North Hagerstown's varsity teams.

Veronica and Valentina Wheeler, twin sisters in their junior years, are starters for the Hubs' No. 7-ranked girls team. Tyrone Wheeler Jr., a senior, starts for North's boys team, which currently sits in first place in the MVAL Antietam. All three need only point to their father to give the biggest reason for their successes on the court.

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"My dad was into it," Tyrone Wheeler Jr. said. "He played ball in high school and college and was really good."

"He was an excellent ballplayer," Veronica said. "Our whole family plays ball."

Veronica, the Hubs' starting point guard, and Valentina, the shooting guard, have played vital roles in North's solid season. The Hubs (10-9, 6-6) were faced with a major challenge when star Cara Thompson went down with a torn ACL in late December, but the Wheelers, along with teammates Shawayna Morel and Brooke Powell, stepped up on the court to keep North rolling along.

Valentina averages 6.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, while Veronica averages 5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and two steals per game. Veronica scored a season-high 18 points against Churchill on Dec. 27; Valentina's season-high of 13 came against rival South Hagerstown on Jan. 24.

"Our freshman and sophomore years, we improved a little bit, but now we practice all summer," Veronica said. "That's all we do is practice basketball."

Except for those times when boxing or wrestling gets in the way.

"When we go 1-on-1, I don't like to play her because we never finish the game," Veronica said. "We always end up fighting."

"She knows I'm not going to lose to her, and I know she's not going to lose to me," Valentina said. "We go at it until someone gets hurt."

Tyrone Jr. has become a key piece of North's boys team, which holds a one-game lead over Williamsport in the conference. An athletic forward, he averages 6.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game and scored a season-high 16 points in a win over Tuscarora on Dec. 22. He also posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in an 80-79 loss to Frederick County power Urbana on Feb. 1.

"Sometimes he's just a role-player, but sometimes he has a great game, and that changes the face of our team," Hubs coach Tim McNamee said. "He's not big, but he can jump. His vertical is unbelievable. He's starting to go to the offensive boards. He's not a big guy, he's a finesse guy."

Though a senior, this season is Tyrone's first on the varsity team. It's been an enjoyable experience, one that includes playing alongside the area's leading scorer, Dee Mency.

"It's been fun playing with all of them," Tyrone said. "I bring the excitement. I may be the only one on the team who can dunk besides Dee."

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