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County stars align to make HCC history

April 10, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

It didn't look like much.

Seven of Washington County's top girls basketball players sat down at a table in the concourse of Hagerstown Community College's athletic complex. They were all signing their name on the dotted line.

But, each dotted I and crossed T did more than just finalize the letters-of-intent with the group's choice to play basketball for HCC next year. It was each player's signature in the Hawks' history book.

"We think to-day is one of the biggest and best days in Hagerstown Community College history," said Hawks coach Marlys Palmer. "This is historic. None of these girls have played for us yet, but I'm proud of them already."

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The strokes of the pen were strokes of genius and opportunity for HCC. The Hawks thoroughly recruited three area schools - Boonsboro, North Hagerstown and Williamsport - to land the majority of the top players in the area.

Turning in their blue and red uniforms for Hawks' green next season are Amy Rhoderick and Alex Baker from Boonsboro, Lindsey Smith from Williamsport and Shawayna Morel, Veronica Wheeler, Valentina Wheeler and Cara Thompson from North Hagerstown.

"I think this is historical just for the sheer numbers," Palmer said. "To get seven players from the county that are all quality athletes is big. This is one of the best classes the county had produced in a long time. We got shooters, speed for defensive quickness and size."

They are all pieces HCC needed to replace from the 2006-07 team, which produced a 20-win season. Last year, Palmer went for specific pieces to improve the Hawks. This year, the key was to replace the ones that were leaving to keep HCC at the top level.

Baker and Thompson come with strong shooting backgrounds. The Wheelers and Morel play defense and penetrate with the ball. Smith and Rhoderick provide strength in the post.

Plus, they are all coming from programs that were proven winners this season. Williamsport lost to Boonsboro in the Maryland Class 1A West East sectional final. Boonsboro and North Hagerstown lost in regional finals.

But as history goes, the Washington County seven has bigger history on their mind.

"We want to make history at HCC," Morel said. "We are going to go far. We want to win championships. It doesn't matter which one. We want them all."

The seven players are familiar with each other as opponents and teammates on AAU teams. Now they bring their own special set of talents to work together and reasons for coming to play for the Hawks.

· Rhoderick - "(HCC) is close to home and I like the atmosphere and the coach. I can't wait for the chance to play inside here. I love playing so much. I never thought I would play college basketball."

· Baker - "I've always wanted to play college basketball since I was little. I came here hoping Coach Palmer can coach and groom me to be able to become a player at a four-year school in the next two years."

· Smith - "I wanted to play college ball but I'm not ready to leave home. I have been able to do a little bit of everything on the court and I hope it for HCC."

· Morel - "Fifty percent of why I came is to still be able to play with my (North High) teammates. I'm going to bring to the court whatever they want. Coming here is going to make my game better. I have things I need to work on."

· Valentina Wheeler - "I'm still here playing with my people. I just want to play basketball. I'm coming here to play defense and penetrate with the basketball."

· Veronica Wheeler - "I'm here to stay in Hagerstown and to be part of a great program. ... The record proves that and my father and sister came to school here. I'm probably the smallest player on the team, so I'm here to play defense. You can't win games - or championships - without defense."

· Thompson - "I realize coming here is going to open up more doors and opportunities for me. I want to get stronger and get more looks. I think we can help with scoring. Alex will be from the outside and I can get more driving to the inside."

One of the big draws for the Washington County Seven to come to HCC, though, is the chance to play with players they both know and respect.

"I think it's an advantage," Thompson said. "Advantage - Hagerstown. And will that help us make history here? I hope so."

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