Eric Breland of Glenelg is built like a truck, but he moves like a luxury car.
And the sophomore power forward has the Gladiators cruising toward its best basketball season since 1977 -- the season Glenelg posted a school record 18 wins and the last time it won a county championship.
At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Breland is a lot to guard. His big frame doesn't hinder his agility in the open floor, however, nor does it stiffle his excellent jumping ability.
And his huge soft hands make him a comforting target as a post player, a position he's still learning.
"Eric matured a lot over the summer, developed his game and is playing incredible ball," said senior Glenelg point guard Brandon Robertson.
"He's taking it seriously."
Breland is so agile that he hasn't fouled out of a game this season. And that agility and his improved defensive ability allow Glenelg to play a lot of man-to-man defense without being slowed down.
"He's not a liability on defense. He's come a long way defensively," Glenelg coach Jeremy Snyder said. "His willingness to learn has made my life a lot easier."
Breland was a starter as a freshman and averaged 10 points and five rebounds and blocked 37 shots. This season he's averaging 16.5 points and eight rebounds, has 20 blocked shots and is the biggest reason Glenelg is 13-3 overall and 9-3 in the league.
"I'm amazed by his maturity and leadership role," Snyder said. "He realizes he's our go-to guy and takes it in stride. He's not a show-off. But he knows he needs the ball for us to win, and he isn't afraid to tell his teammates that."
Breland's breakout game occurred early this season against rival River Hill in a crucial 46-43 overtime victory when he scored 25 points and had nine rebounds.
Then he produced another outstanding game in Glenelg's upset of Oakland Mills when he scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds. It was Oakland Mills' only league loss.
And since Breland's cousin, Anthony, is a star player for Oakland Mills, the game had even greater significance for Glenelg's 16-year-old sophomore.
"He's one of the best big men in the league, if not the best," Snyder said. "He showed against Oakland Mills that he can compete against anyone in the league."
Consistency has been a Breland hallmark. Until Wednesday's game against Howard when he scored only eight points, Breland had scored in double figures in 24 straight games.
He has seven double doubles this season. His rebounding high was 16 in a loss to River Hill. His scoring high was 29 against Wilde Lake.
Breland thinks he's playing better because he's stronger and is boxing out better than last year.
He thinks the team is more successful because it is more experienced.
"Last year we lost the close ones, but we learned from our mistakes and are winning the close ones this season," he said. "We play more as a team."
He and his cousin Anthony played on the same Mt. Royal team in Baltimore City last summer. He also plays with Anthony on the First Baptist Amateur Athletic Union team. And he played with his Glenelg teammates on a summer league team.
As an eighth grader, Breland played for the Howard County Panthers traveling team along with Glenelg teammate Chris Bowen and Centennial sophomore starters Kevin Laycock and Brian O'Connor. That team was coached by Bob Bowen, a Glenelg assistant coach this season, a former Maryland player and the father of Chris Bowen.
"We won a lot of games," Breland said.
With Breland towing the load, the winning figures to continue for Glenelg this season and in the future.
Pub Date: 2/07/99