Stars hope to shine at national tourney County duo eagerly awaits AAU event in New Mexico


Tiffany Clayton and Ann Heiser are leaving for Clovis, N.M., today, but they'll probably have little time to enjoy a city neither has ever seen.

As members of the Annapolis Stars Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, the two county residents likely will spend most of their time indoors, working the perimeter for an open jumper or driving for a layup.

The two players, who just completed their freshman seasons at Anne Arundel Community College, are members of an eight-player team that will play in the 18-and-under AAU national tournament beginning this weekend in Clovis.

"We're there to play but I'm sure there's going to be some time to look around," said Clayton, 18, a 1991 Arundel High graduate.

The Stars will compete against some 60 teams from around the nation and will be coached by Mike Crisco, an assistant at Frederick County's Linganore High, which won the 1991-1992 Class 3A state championship.

The team also features two players from Linganore's championship squad, another from Frederick Community College, one from Class 1A state champion Williamsport (Washington County) and two from Allegany County.

The Stars were coached by Severna Park High and AACC graduate Katie Laidley in late April and early May when they captured the AAU state title in a double-elimination tournament.

Laidley, who is headed for Shepherd College (W.Va.) on a full scholarship, later turned the team over to Crisco.

"Both Ann and I are learning a lot with this team," said Clayton, a 6-foot, 150-pound center-forward. "[Crisco] likes us to run down the middle instead of down the sides, and he's taught us some different moves, like posting up from the foul line instead of down low.

"I'm not forgetting anything that I was taught, just adding to it. There's more things that I can do now, different options that I didn't think of before."

In the winter of 1990-1991, Clayton and Heiser were seniors on opposing high school teams.

Clayton, then at Arundel High, did everything she could for the Wildcats against Severna Park. She scored eight points with nine rebounds, but Heiser and the Falcons downed the Wildcats, 43-39, in the first round of the Class 4A Region IV playoffs.

Still Clayton, along with All-County point guard Donna Parker, had led the Wildcats that season to a school-record 15 wins against eight losses and their first playoff appearance since going 13-8 in 1987.

"At Arundel, I started and all, but I don't think I had the confidence I have now," said Clayton, whose squad had defeated the Falcons, 54-50, during the 1990-1991 regular season.

"I'll shoot the ball now," added Clayton, who averaged nine points and eight rebounds for the 12-12 Pioneers this past winter. "I'm not afraid to go to the basket or move around when I don't have the ball. I'm not afraid to get fouled."

In 1990-1991, Heiser averaged 10 points and eight rebounds for the Falcons, who posted a 16-7 record and dropped a Region IV semifinal decision to eventual Class 4A state champion Old Mill.

"I've gotten a lot stronger as a player," said Heiser, a 5-foot-9-inch, 140-pound forward who averaged eight points and seven rebounds at AACC. "I've got better power moves to the basket because [Anne Arundel coach Tom] Smith has taught me a lot of new, smarter ways to play.

"At Anne Arundel, I was able to execute in games and leave the thinking in practice, so I could run the court better and faster."

That kind of talk is music to Smith's ears.

"She and Tiffany will be my two returning players, so this is a real good experience for them," Smith said. "They had to carry the load when Katie [Laidley] got hurt toward the end of last year, and from watching them in the AAU state tournament, I think they'll improve excellently on both offense and defense."

Clayton says she's ready to test her improved talents against some of the nation's best 18-and-under players.

"I'll see girls my height or taller, so I'll just have to use what I've started learning to do," she said.

Said Heiser, "I've spent a lot of time this summer working on some of my weaknesses. I'm starting to look at the corner of the glass instead of at the basket when I'm shooting. I can hardly wait until next season."

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