Howard County Times
Howard County Sports

Family ties helping return Howard County girls basketball to prominence

Nearly 25 years later, Kacy Valentine still has fond memories of playing in Mt. Hebron's gym. In fact, safely tucked away in the basement of her Ellicott City home, there is a VHS tape that has preserved one of the fondest of those moments.

And, on occasion, as she recently did on an early January afternoon, Valentine will pop in that recording and relive the moment of the 1992 girls basketball 2A region championship game.


"The lighting in Mt. Hebron you can see has come a long way," said the Hammond alumna as she watched the video of her and the Golden Bears knocking off a Vikings' team that was going for the program's third consecutive state title. "This game right here totally changed our prospective, because it was about getting over the hump … I had heard how good Mt. Hebron was … the year before they went to the state championship and I went to see that game. Then the next year we were there.

"You've got to shock the world sometimes."


These days, Valentine still enjoys walking onto the Vikings' home floor. But now, however, she sits on the other side of the court, in the stands donning apparel featuring 'M' and 'H' and cheering for the team she used to compete against.

Her daughter, Satori, is a freshman starting point guard for Mt. Hebron.

"It's exciting," Kacy said. "I see some signs of myself when she gets excited about what's happening on the floor. She's helping her team get steals, getting baskets, pushing the ball up and so it's a joy to see her play. The fact that she loves the game purely, like I think I do, it is so exciting. It really is."

As it turns out, when it comes to mother-daughter duos — or trios — on the Howard County girls basketball scene, the Valentine's have plenty of company.

Rhonda Corkeron (Wilde Lake '86), Karyn Swann (Wilde Lake '87) and Raymona Reid (Howard '95) are among some of the best players to ever come out of the area. This winter, they've all been able to watch their daughters follow in their footsteps and begin cementing their own basketball legacy.

"We could have staggered it a little bit," Kacy said, jokingly. "We're all in the stands, and beyond the girls who had parents that played, there are a lot of girls that we played against and they know the game. They are fundamentally being taught the game well. So it's in good hands I think… now you've got good basketball every night in Howard County, so we're excited — real excited to see where they go."

Satori Valentine, Imani Reid (Hammond sophomore), Lyric and Jaelyn Swann (Long Reach sophomores) and Kalani Corkeron (Wilde Lake freshman) lead a new era of Howard County girls' basketball — one filled with potential thanks to the influx of young talent the last couple years.

"Howard County basketball is top notch and I don't think a lot of the surrounding counties are familiar with or used to Howard County basketball being strong, but this is a really strong year," Karyn said, whose daughters Lyric and Jaelyn have helped Long Reach to a 14-2 record this season. "I think this is the best year in a really long time and they are winning a lot of tournaments and things like that, so it is very competitive."


Kacy, Rhonda, Karyn and Raymona played at a time where Howard County girl's basketball was unmatched — perhaps until now.

From 1982 to 1995, 10 Howard County teams won state titles, while at least one county squad reached the state championship from 1986 to 1995. After defeating Mt. Hebron in 1992, Hammond advanced to the state title game four-straight years, with Kacy helping the Golden Bears win 2A state championships in 1992 and 1994.

At Howard, Raymona led the Lions to their first — and only — state title in 1994 in 3A.

"I had the unique opportunity of coaching against each one of these young ladies," said River Hill coach Teresa Waters, who began her Howard County coaching career in the early 1980s at Oakland Mills. "Each and every one of these young ladies stood out. It is kind of interesting to be able to observe their daughters now playing and seeing them in the stands and also seeing them on the circuit and coaching as well. It is almost like full circle."

Now Satori, Imani, Kalani, Lyric and Jaelyn are trying to restart the same winning tradition.

"They will probably surpass their mothers," Waters predicted. "Their mothers may not want to hear that, but they probably will and the reason why I say that is because they have their parents there to spend that time with them — provide them with the direction and the opportunities that weren't necessarily afforded to them. I think this era is pretty unique. These girls are just so much more advanced than kids have been in the past. I think we are pretty strong now. I think we are up and coming."


Satori has averaged about nine points on 41 percent shooting from the field, three assists and three steals per game as a starter in the Vikings backcourt this season. And like Kacy, brings lock-down defense to her team.

"I don't slap the floor like she did, but I always try to shut anyone down if I can on defense," Satori said. "People always come up to me and ask me, 'Do you know how good your mom was?' I don't really know so much, but I'm trying to get a swing of it so I can emulate her game."

For Kacy, it wasn't after a big win, but a lopsided loss that made her realize she wanted a future in basketball.

In her first year competing in AAU Nationals at the end of ninth grade, she played a team that featured several players who ended up playing at the University of Connecticut, which has won a NCAA record 11 national titles. Kacy's team lost by 30 points that day, but the defeat changed her commitment to basketball.

"That's when I realized I needed to get better, because there were so many great players out there," she said. "It was when I was humbled that I realized that I love this sport."

Kacy went on to break records in high school and college. In 1994, she was named Baltimore Sun Athlete of the Year as a senior at Hammond. She scored more than 1,000 points and stands as the Golden Bears' all-time assist leader (396). She later played 111 consecutive games as a four-year starter for Georgetown University, where she broke the program's assist record in 1998, and held the all-time record (436) until 2002.


"Most proud of assists, I love getting my teammates shots. I can remember in college the assistant coach handed me the basketball with the assist record at Georgetown. It was her record. I was so humbled because I looked up to her so much," Kacy said. "[But] definitely my favorite part is being a mom for sure. That is the best. My kids are so receptive to me. They just have support and that's what my parents have been for me for years and years and years. I never felt judged or demeaned by my parents. That is the least I could do. Kids don't ask to be born, so the least I could do as their mom is to cherish them and love them. That is pretty much the highlight of my day is being a mom."

Kacy coaches Satori on their AAU team, the Lady Blazers, alongside Karyn and Rhonda, whose daughters are also on the roster.

"We had a lot of people make varsity this year and it's just a wonderful experience to go out and support each other when we can," Satori said. "It's been great. She knows me, so that's even more beneficial for me. There is no easy way out, obviously. She still treats me like anyone else, but it's like I have a mother and a basketball coach and mentor all in one."

Like Satori, Kalani is a freshman trying to help elevate her varsity team. She entered the Wilde Lake girls basketball program similar to how Rhonda stepped on to the Wildecats her freshman year.

"Once I started at Wilde Lake, we were in a rebuilding year. The team had been terrible," Rhonda said. "We ended up getting a new coach, just like Wilde Lake has this year and we started to rebuild. I would like to say that I brought some new life in to Wilde Lake girls basketball, but we got more interest throughout the school and each year we got more players in that were going to help us."

Rhonda was named co-Player of the Year after her senior year of high school. She left the Wildecats' program having scored 1,127 career points to go with 938 rebounds before moving on to Temple, where she ranks on the Owls' all-time lists in scoring (989 points), rebounds (896) and steals (212). She later played professionally for 12 years in Australia, Brazil and Germany.


"Her defensive tenacity and her drive, that's what I [want] from her game and I am working on getting from her game," Kalani said. "She's injured now, but watching her hop around on her injured foot, still rebounding, still getting after us when we're at our workouts, just still going at it. I can be doing more of that. I can be getting on the floor. I can be getting after every rebound, getting after every steal."

While competing overseas she met her husband Michael, who also played professional basketball for a number of years. After having Kalani, Rhonda decided to end her professional career and moved back to Columbia.

"The player is always going to be in there. It is never going to leave," Rhonda said. "But becoming a mom was awesome and I knew it was time for me to kind of concentrate on Kalani at that point. She is definitely her father's daughter. Michael is a very good 3-point shooter and Kalani has taken that on and I think she has more range than he does. It is such a pretty shot. I love it. Defensively she's coming along, we're trying to get her to dive on the floor a little bit more and be a little bit more aggressive inside, which is my game. I was a defensive player."

After just one victory a season ago, Wilde Lake has won three games this winter. Kalani, who is averaging 8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, says she hopes she can turn around the program like her mom did many years ago.

"Rebuilding the program [is] probably more difficult than I thought it was going to be," she said. "It definitely takes a mentally tough perspective. [Staying] positive is something that we have to do and continue to do to finish out this season. [We just have to] keep working on our own game, keep working with the team and building strong relationships."

Karyn was also an integral part of the same Wilde Lake team that Rhonda began rebuilding in the early 80's. Karyn had never played organized basketball before, but fell in love with the game after trying out for JV her freshman year. By her senior season, she was an all-county selection, and later walked on to the team at UMBC. She earned a scholarship her sophomore year and graduated as one of the Retrievers' all-time leaders in scoring, rebounds and assists.


"I didn't think I was capable of playing [Division-I basketball] because I started so late," Karyn said. "I wasn't recruited. I didn't know anything about the recruiting scene. My high school coach wasn't involved in that with me, so I walked on at UMBC. I made the team and my last three years I earned a scholarship. So it wasn't until I walked on and made the team — that the bells kind of went off, like 'oh I guess I'm kind of good.'"

Her knack for basketball carried over to her twins, Lyric and Jaelyn. The duo has helped elevate Long Reach toward the top of the county standings the past two seasons.

"I try to have the same amount of heart [my mom has] in her game," Lyric said. "She never puts her head down. She always is positive, always puts belief in herself and others."

Lyric had a breakout season as a freshman last year. She was named second-team all-county after averaging 12.1 points, 2.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. She increased those numbers this season to averages of 13 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.1 steals and scored a season-high 30 points against Ballou on Dec. 28.

Jaelyn has had a more vital role in her second year for the Lightning, appearing all 15 games and averaging 4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. She scored a career-high 15 points against Southern in December.

"When I get in, I always look to [my mom] and she always tells me what I need to do more of," Jaelyn added. "For my mom's playing days, I know that she was really good and she was really good defensively. It's cool to see how she used to play and how she can still play like that today."


Along with Lyric and Jaelyn, Hammond forward Imani Reid is part of the county's talented 2019 class.

Imani led the Golden Bears to a 10-12 record her freshman year, after averaging 11 points, 11 rebounds and more than a block per game. This season she bested most of those numbers through 12 games, averaging 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1 steal and 1 block a contest, while shooting 41 percent from the floor.

"I knew being a freshman and being a captain at the varsity level was going to be hard, trying to get older classmates to listen to me," Imani said. "I guess [I earned it with] my work ethic in practice and out of practice. I showed them I wasn't just talking. I wanted to walk the walk too. So I made sure whatever I said, I was going to work on and willing to help them."

Raymona, who currently coaches Imani at Hammond, was a day-one difference maker when she stepped into the Howard girl's basketball program her freshman year. She finished her varsity career with 1,412 points — a record Imani hopes to break — and went on to letter at Norfolk State in both basketball and track and field. She still sits among the Spartans' leaders in career 3-point percentage (33 percent), steals (207) and blocked shots (64).

"[Howard County girls basketball] is kind of my passion," Raymona said. "Being a part of it gave me an opportunity that has come and instilled in me a focus to really get as many girls as possible to learn as much about the game while they are here so they can take advantage of what I took advantage of."

During her freshman season for the Lions, Raymona sat down with then head coach Craig O'Connell to discuss possibly playing basketball in college. O'Connell believed it could happen. Later that year she received her first college letter and her dreams began to come in to fruition.


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The same conversation went slightly different with Imani, as she experienced cheerleading before starting competitive basketball in fifth grade when she guided her AAU team to the sixth-grade Division II Nationals title.

"Fifth grade she definitely was a standout on her team… So that was the time where I kind of reached out and was like, what do you want to do? Do you want to play college ball? And she did. She actually got her first college letter in sixth grade, so she definitely has me beat," Raymona said. "I just see the spirit — I was always a fighter… I kind of see that same aggressive competitor, which is what I want. However, I also see in her another aspect, which is that compassion piece. She definitely would give you the shirt off her back. She wants to help any and everyone, so it kind of cool seeing a little mini-me."

Along with beating her mom's high school point record, Imani's goal is to play at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is on the right path, as Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell already has her eyes on her.

"Having those two [goals] as my standards, everything else falls into place afterwards," Imani said. "Right now, [I am] the same [player] as a my mom — don't ever take anything from anyone, always hustle and give 110 percent every time I step out on the floor."

As for short-term goals, beating her mom one-on-one is right there at the top of the list.

"Hearing a lot of people saying that oh, 'You were better than you mom at your age' — it's kind of hard to believe because if I am better than her I should be able beat her," Imani said. "I have to be better than she is now, so I kind of use that to work harder. I am kind of just waiting for that moment to come… I will probably feel proud about it because of everything she has accomplished and I can say that I have exceled over her.


"It's something that I look forward to."