boys basketball

Brendan Fields, left, poses for a portrait with Brandon Jones, and Jones' parents and Fields' guardians, Priscilla-Jones-Mercer and Norman Mercer, in their Owings Mills home. The two boys met on the basketball court. (photo by Phil Grout / March 8, 2013)

Before Brendan Fields arrived at Boys' Latin last summer, the Lakers' basketball team was at the bottom of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference.

But that almost seems inconsequential in the context of where Fields was, and where he had been, before he arrived at the school. 

Still, Fields' impact on the basketball team was undeniable this past season. With the 6-foot-4 senior on board, the team's fortunes rose dramatically — all the way to a 22-5 record and a conference championship berth. Fields averaged 10.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game as a center for the rejuvenated Lakers.

"He added a big, athletic inside presence that we haven't had much of," Boys' Latin coach Cliff Rees said. "I think he had an all-conference-caliber type of year. He was incredibly valuable, someone in the post we could get the ball to when we needed a bucket."

Fields' accomplishments were all the more remarkable considering the challenging and painful journey the 18-year-old has traveled to get to a place where he has found reward in his athleticism and stability in his family life.

'My mom is gone'

Fields and his seven siblings were living with his mother, grandmother and grandfather in Reisterstown, where Fields attended Franklin High School as a freshman.

Then, starting in late 2009, Fields lost both his mother and grandmother within a three-month span. His grandmother died that October.

Then his mother, Valerie Harris, died from heart disease and kidney failure at 41 in January 2010.

"I would think about what happened and realize my mom is gone," Fields said. "Sometimes, I would just leave school, go home and skip the rest of the day. It was really tough being there.

"I remember one time I missed a whole week of school. I was just really upset. I just didn't go to school that whole week. I stayed home, slept, stayed in the dark and really didn't talk to anybody."

Fields and his siblings continued living with their grandfather until he was diagnosed with diabetes and could no longer care for the family.

After that, Fields and his siblings bounced around. Fields attended four high schools and lived in as many households in two states.

Fields and his older brother, Jordan, 19, moved to Washington state in August 2010 and lived with relatives first in Takoma and later in Seattle. Fields' other siblings moved to southern Virginia to live with relatives.

When the Pacific Northwest wasn't a good fit, Fields and his brother returned to Baltimore in June 2011 and Fields entered foster care with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

"Going all over and moving, I didn't feel wanted," Fields said. "It was like people didn't care about me. When I got there, they would say, 'You don't have to worry about moving.' The next year I was moving again.

"You never know when you have to pack up everything you own and just move across the country or with another family member. It was definitely rough," he said.

During his junior year, Fields lived with a family friend and attended Southwestern Academy in Baltimore County.

It wasn't until last summer that Fields landed in a place that would give him a sense of family and stability.

'We want him'