Mary Urban will try to savor next week's Association of Independent Schools basketball tournament enough to last six months.
That's how long it could be until she plays her next game.
On March 5, Urban is scheduled to undergo surgery to correct scoliosis. In a four-hour operation, doctors will insert a metal rod into her back to help straighten the lateral curvature of her spine.
She should be able to walk in about a week and swim a few weeks later, but she cannot participate in full contact sports for about six months. Once she straightens out, however, the 5-9 junior said she could be as many as two inches taller.
Urban timed the surgery so she would not miss her senior season at McDonogh, but the lengthy recuperation period means sitting out the entire spring Amateur Athletic Union season. Because AAU tournaments are often the best exposure to college coaches, she feels a bit more pressure to excel now.
"I want to end my junior season with kind of a bang," said Urban, a Linthicum resident, "but I talked to a bunch of college coaches about the operation, and they've come to look at me this year."
Urban, whose game has not been affected by scoliosis, caught the attention of several college coaches while playing for the Chesapeake Bay Hurricanes at last year's national AAU Under-15 tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
"She had a great, great nationals," said Hurricanes coach Deb Taylor. "She played great defense, and she played with heart. Her game is completely different when she plays with that fire. She's just outstanding."
A year earlier, Urban had showed little intensity and ended up as Taylor's last player off the bench -- and that made a big impression.
"If I wasn't going to play well, I wasn't going to be needed on the team," said Urban. "It made me want to play more [and] harder."
That intensity still is hard for Urban to maintain at times, especially against weaker teams, but she's determined to improve on defense, the key to keeping the fire in her game.
Offensively, there's never been any question. She is one of the area's top pure shooters with 907 career points and a 15.1 career scoring average. She now averages 14.4 points for the fourth-ranked Eagles. Her 47 percent field-goal average is impressive for an outside shooter.
As a freshman, she emerged as the best player on a rebuilding team. Last year, she earned second-team All Baltimore City/County status, but she was no longer the Eagles' best player. Freshman Vicki Brick, an All-Metro point guard, stole the spotlight.
"Making that change to bring in more people around you, to change your role a little bit is difficult for a 14-year old. It took part of the season to mold into that," said McDonogh coach Seth Kushkin, whose team finished the year with 12 straight wins.
Urban admitted that the adjustment was not easy although she welcomed the chance to relinquish the point to Brick.
"We complement each other," said Urban, who moved to small forward. "Vicki's an awesome penetrator, and she dishes real well. I'm a shooter. I'd much rather have this than my freshman year. I'd rather have the team doing well than just me doing well."
The Eagles (17-2) have won 11 straight and are overwhelming favorites to defend their A Division tournament title. Early in the season, the Eagles defeated their nearest rival, No. 15 Roland Park (17-2), 64-37.
With odds like that and Urban's determination, she could have plenty of tournament memories to help her through the next six months.
Pub Date: 2/07/97