It's safe to say the South Carroll boys basketball team has taken on the personality of its point guard, senior Dan Mullen.
In his fourth year on varsity, the two-year captain is smart, works hard and does whatever is needed to bring home wins. After the graduation of standout Ryan McTavish, who left the program as Carroll County's all-time leading scorer last year, many believed the Cavaliers would slip a bit this season following two state tournament appearances in the past three years.
It hasn't happened, and that's largely because of Mullen's play. The No. 14 Cavaliers (18-4) defended their Carroll County crown and earned the top seed in the Class 2A West region with Mullen averaging 10 points and six assists per game. Just as important, he controls the flow on offense and buckles down on defense.
Mullen also enjoyed a fine three-year varsity career in football, playing defensive back, wide receiver and running back. he was recruited more heavily to play that sport in college, but basketball is what he enjoys most, and when the Naval Academy came calling for him to play hoops, he jumped at the chance. A member of the National Honor Society with a weighted 4.0 GPA, Mullen was accepted straight into the Naval Academy, but he plans to spend next year at its prep school in Newport, R.I., to help smooth in the transition and further develop his game.
How rewarding was it repeating as Carroll County champions?
We lost Ryan, and a couple other key guys that were a big part of our group last year, but a bunch of new guys stepped in and have played well. It felt good to win, because I don't think a lot of people expected us to. We just worked hard and deserved it.
What was the key to getting it done?
I think it's just the hard work we put in. Couch [Doug] Goff pushes the effort level, and we stress team defense. I don't think many teams do that, and I think that gives us an advantage.
What do you enjoy most about playing point guard?
The game's tempo, and a lot of the decisions have to be made by me, basically. I like just being in control of the game.
What's the key to being a good leader?
You have to be smart out there and know exactly what you're doing. You can't let things get to you. If there's a bad call or if you make a poor decision, you can't let it bother you. You just have to move on and always be picking up your teammates.
The team is a very close-knit group, how important is that to help bring wins?
It definitely helps, just knowing they're your friends and they're going to do anything they can to benefit you and the team. We trust each other. Nobody ever bickers about anything, and we're just very close as a team.
What's it going to take for the team to get back to the state tournament?
We're going to have to come to practice and really work hard to be ready for the playoffs. We have some tough games [in the region playoffs]. We [could] play Oakdale, who already beat us, and Century, who is tough. And our first game will be either Francis Scott Key or Winters Mill, and both gave us tough games this year.
What's it been like playing in the state tournament at the Comcast Center?
It's a special feeling — playing on the floor out there and seeing the all the seats. You can't really describe what it's like, but it's definitely special.
What's the best advice you've received?
It's not really advice maybe, but coach Goff has always instilled hard work into us. I think that's the best virtue anybody has really instilled in me because it doesn't help just on the basketball court, but it's a life value that I can take everywhere I go.
What was it about the Naval Academy?
It's definitely the opportunities that comes with it. I understand that I'm going to have to give some things up, and it's going to be a tough couple years there. But I'm definitely willing to do it, and I'm excited about the opportunities it's going to bring me in my life.
Why did you decide to go to the prep school for a year first?
I think it's going to benefit me a lot both academically and athletically. It give me a year to transition from high school to one of the top schools in the country. It's kind of like an in between to get me used to it. As far as basketball, it gives me another year to develop, get bigger and further improve my game.
When you go away to school next year, what's the first thing your going to ask your mother to cook for you when you come home?
That's a tough one because my mom is a really good cook and anything she makes is really good. But I'd probably ask her to make chicken and rice. That sounds good right now, so I'll say that. Just the way she cooks the chicken right on the rice and then the rice has the chicken broth and stuff — it's just really good.