It is amazing how last winter feels like so long ago.
But it was indeed just last March that the Howard Community College Dragons men's basketball team reached the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament in Danville, Illinois.
This year's team had high hopes of returning to the national championship tournament, especially after an even better regular season than last year. The Dragons had more overall wins this winter, including a regular season MD JUCO conference championship, on the way to entering the Region XX tournament as the top seed.
But the efforts of the team's strong leading trio on the season of Kayode Ajenifuja, Omari Ringgold (Centennial High School graduate) and Jaz'mon Harris – all averaging over 13 points a game – wasn't quite enough to get the team back over the hump.
Going up against a good Potomac State College team from West Virginia, the Dragons ended up losing a close game, 74-69. The team's downfall was a slow start, falling behind by 11 points and never fully recovering.
Ajenifuja led the way in the loss with 23 points and seven rebounds, followed by Jeff James (14 points) and Ringgold (13).
Despite the program falling short, however, it's important to remember how far the team has come in an incredibly short period of time. When Coach Mike Smelkinson took over three years ago, he was inheriting a team that had won just seven games during the 2010-11 season.
Each year during his tenure, Smelkinson has taken the program to new heights. It's always wonderful to see one of the county's former standout players doing great things, and Smelkinson, who was a boys basketball Player of the Year while at Long Reach, certainly fits the bill.
I would say he's doing one whale of a job.
Apply for scholarships
High school seniors are heading into those scholarship award months and I highly recommend that qualifying individuals apply for as many of these awards as possible.
If you look at the costs of college today, you may fall back and shudder at the constantly increasing numbers. It is with that in mind that I recommend seniors investigate what scholarships and awards are out there and apply early. You might be surprised how many opportunities are available for those who do a little digging.
I have talked to some students who believe that only the 4.0 students will win the scholarships and therefore they shouldn't even bother applying. Having served on a couple of those scholarship boards, I can tell you from personal experience that a perfect GPA does not guarantee anything. There is something to be said for well-rounded students as well.
If you meet the requirements and you feel that you deserve a shot, get the necessary forms and submit your application. If you aren't selected, try again when the opportunity arises. One thing is certain, though, you can't win if you don't try. Believe in yourself and take a chance.
Paralympics in Sochi
I have taken the time to watch the Paralympics going on right now in Sochi and I hope that you are watching along with me. It was breathtaking to watch the skiers competing on just one ski or the sled hockey, which I have previously seen at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel.
Initially I did not want to watch more Olympics from Sochi because of Putin in the Ukraine, but I was transfixed by the action and just couldn't pull myself away.
Tatyana McFadden from Clarksville is competing in these winter games and adds a local tie to the competition. And, from what I have witnessed from her and all the athletes the past few days, these truly are world-class competitors.
All I can say is to watch. I have no doubt you too will be impressed by the efforts of these inspiring individuals.