Man-child. That's how Hammond coach Jack Burke describes Oakland Mills' 6-foot-5, 225-pound center, Mark Terry.
It illustrates the dichotomy in the 19-year-old Terry's behavior on and off the basketball court.
Terry usually plays the game like a man among boys, using his skills, strength and agility to dominate as no other player in the league can. But occasionally the child in Terry rises to the surface in the form of a hot temper that can get the better of him.
Terry the man likes tough basketball competition.
"He (Terry) can be the mostdominating player in Howard County," Burke said. "And he may just goon a run in the playoffs and take his team to a state title."
"The tougher the competition, the more fired up I get and the better I play," said Terry.
No one who was there could ever forget his 31-point performance last year that led Oakland Mills past Hammond in a game that decided the county championship. It was one of the greatest individual performances a county player has produced.
This year, inthe first of two games against Hammond, he wasn't much of a scoring factor until the game was on the line. Then, with only two seconds left, he hit a three-point basket from half-court that tied the score and sent the game into overtime.
"That was the turnaround shot of the season for both them and us," Burke said. "We had a guy right on him, and he still made it."
The shot set the stage for five more points from Terry, who helped lead the Scorpions to an 89-83 victory.
It was Oakland Mills' first league game after a disappointing 4-4 non-league season. Since then the Scorpions are unbeaten with a eight-game winning streak and are speeding toward their fifth straight county title.
In a crucial showdown with Wilde Lake two weeks ago, Terry was again spectacular, scoring 19 points and leading the Scorpionsto an 89-65 thrashing of the Wildecats.
And in a tight 54-48 victory over second-place Mount Hebron the week before, Terry scored 16 points, managed six steals and was a dominant factor for most of the game.
He's averaging 15.5 points and eight rebounds this season, upfrom an average of 12 points and down from 11 rebounds last year. His high games this year are 24-point efforts against Walkersville and Watkins Mill.
What he enjoys most is the power game inside.
"I like to pound it in," he said. And when he gets a crisp pass inside, almost no one in the county can stop him from scoring.
"Mark is always the first option in our offensive game plan," Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby said. "He creates opportunities for our other players because he demands double-teams. He's a real smart basketball player who's never fouled out of a game."
But Terry the child sometimes has stretched Appleby's patience.
Terry was suspended and missed the season's first two games following a fight with an Oakland Mills student. Oakland Mills lost one of those games.
And two weeks ago against Howard, his temper flared again when he yelled at two Howard players, then resisted his teammates' efforts to calm his down.
He drew no fouls, but Appleby sat him on the bench to cool off.
"It affects the other players somewhat at the time it happens, but the kidsunderstand Mark, and know we have to be supportive of him," Appleby said.
Terry, who grew up in a tough section of Baltimore and has weathered some family problems, knows he needs to control his temper and is determined to do so.
"I feel bad when I disappoint my coach,but I don't like being taken advantage of," Terry said. "Guys do stuff on purpose to try and get you riled up, like pulling out your jersey or bumping you when the ref's not looking."
He said the flare-up during the Howard game was caused by Howard's Chris Keary "jumping in my face."
"I've had a bruised tailbone, and he drove in and hisknee hit my tailbone and it hurt like heck," Terry said. After making a layup, Keary waved his fist near Terry's face.
"I thought I did good by walking away, and I didn't need my teammates pulling me away because I wasn't going to do anything," Terry said.
Terry said that the fight that led to his suspension started with a friend jokingin the locker room.
"But he got an attitude and picked up a pipe on me and said he could take me," Terry said. "I wound up pushing himand people saw it, so they suspended me." He believes his suspensionmight have cost the team its game against Loyola.
Terry also acknowledges a shouting match he got into with a teammate during a practice.
"We were just fussing; it was no fight," Terry said. "We play physical during practice and I was just trying to toughen him up. He got in my face and told me he wasn't scared of me. I'm used to a tough league in the city. We play soft out here in Howard County."
Terry left Baltimore and Southwestern High School three years ago to live in Columbia with his 68-year-old grandmother, Elsie Lowery, to whomhe has dedicated his season.
"She and I talk a lot, and she's helped straighten me out," Terry said.
Lowery said she appreciates the patience Coach Appleby, Principal David Bruzga and Terry's teachershave shown him.
"They have all been good to him," she said. "Coach Appleby has given him a lot of confidence. He's a good boy. Everyone else thinks of him as a man, but to me he's still my child."
Terry is not a strong student but has been encouraged by Appleby, who suspended Terry from the team for 10 days before the league season started because he thought his star was neglecting his studies.
"Coach(Appleby) has stressed academics come first," he said.
"We give students at Oakland Mills a chance to succeed, but they have to take responsibility for themselves and want to succeed," Appleby said. "Oneof the reasons I coach is to see kids like Mark Terry succeed."
Terry said he hopes to attend either Towson State University or MorganState next fall.
One of six children, Terry learned to play basketball on the playgrounds of the Bentalou Recreation Center, where such players as the University of Maryland's Rudy Archer got their start.
His parents still live near the center, and Terry spends his summers in Baltimore.
He said he lives with his grandmother to escapethe crime that surrounds the Bentalou area.
"If I went to school down there, I would have gotten into serious trouble by now. I came out here to get away from that."