The Severna Park girls basketball team is a melting pot of talented athletes.
The point guard can dominate a midfield in soccer and stands out in lacrosse. The top rebounder lets little past her as goalie on the Falcons' state champion field hockey team.
One of the first players off the bench scored a lot of the goals for that same field hockey team. Another went went an entire softball season at shortstop without making an error.
All that without mentioning some others who played on the state runner-up volleyball team.
Natalie Hicks, though, is just fine with being known, first, as a basketball guard. A good one.
"Severna Park is unique with all the quality athletes and teams," said basketball coach Bill Giblin, in his first season. "You can take an athlete, provide [her] with a little structure, show [her] this is how you do this and this is how you do that, and have something.
"We have 11 very good athletes across the board. And then there's Natalie, who is a basketball player."
The 5-foot-9 junior guard is relentless to the basket, hits long jumpers, finds open teammates, attacks defensively, and has quietly led the Falcons to a 12-5 mark as the Baltimore area's 16th-ranked team.
Ask Hicks what her top sport is, and she does not hesitate: "Basketball."
"My parents got me involved in a bunch of different sports when I was younger, and that's the one I took to really well," said Hicks, also a reserve on the Falcons volleyball team.
"I guess basketball is my way of expressing myself," she said. "I really don't do too much other stuff with my free time. If I'm not playing with the high school team, I'm playing on other teams."
The first time Giblin saw her play was in recreation-league play over last summer. He was immediately impressed with her size, ability to handle the ball, and the dimension she adds by being left-handed.
By summer's end, Giblin knew he had his team's foundation.
"I told her, 'Natalie, this team is going as far as you take us.' She has responded well to that," he said.
Any chance she gets, Hicks downplays her role as the Falcons' go-to player. She's averaging 15 points -- shooting 54 percent from the field -- four steals, four rebounds and 1.5 assists a game despite Giblin's tendency to quickly go to the bench in a rout.
After scoring 23 points in a huge 62-58 win over state runner-up Arundel in early January, at times single-handedly answering every challenge the Wildcats presented, Hicks instead opted to talk about the fine team effort.
"We came out strong, which is what we needed to do," she said. "That pretty much set the tone for the whole game. And our defense picked up in that game."
Only after continued prodding will she slightly confess to her individual contributions.
"When I was there, if I felt I had the shot, I shot, and most of the time they did go in. But if someone else was open and had a better shot, I'd give them the pass and they usually made it, too."
The formula has worked wonders as the Falcons have counted on a cohesive zone defense with a variety of traps and a structured offense that gets everyone involved. Hicks is the safety pin that keeps it all together.
"Natalie is a role model for us," said junior Meg Miller, a three-sport standout who often runs the point. "She's the kind of person you can go to with a problem and know she can tell you how to fix it.
"We count on Natalie but she's not the type of person to take it herself all the time. It definitely pumps us up when we know we can always count on her. It just makes all of us play that much harder."
Hicks is not the "Go team, go!" kind of a leader, instead counting on a steal and layup to get teammates fired up.
A lot of her offense results directly from hard work on defense. Her ability to drive is her biggest offensive strength, but her perimeter game is catching up fast.
"She has sneaky quickness with a slasher-type mentality. She can pick and choose, and when she decides to go, she can get their quickly," said Giblin. "She can shoot from 19 feet out, and with that ability to drive to the basket, it's a pretty tough predicament for a defender."
Things will only get tougher for defenders with Hicks continuing to work hard on improving her outside shooting and right hand. The long-term goal is a Division I college basketball scholarship, but right now it's helping the Falcons win games.
"I like exciting the crowd, doing my best, and knowing that people can see that I'm playing my hardest and trying to win," she said.
Pub Date: 2/07/99