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Solid work ethic builds up Brick; High schools: Despite numerous individual and team accolades, McDonogh senior Vicki Brick is relentless in her pursuit of excellence.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fifteen minutes after No. 1 McDonogh routed Catholic High in an Association of Independent Schools girls basketball quarterfinal Tuesday, the lights went out in the McDonogh gym.

One person remained on the court.

In the dim light, Vicki Brick kept shooting.

The Eagles senior had just scored 19 points in a 67-31 win -- and she played in only the first half.

Still, under the watchful eye of Buzz Braman, an NBA shooting coach and former Washington Wizards assistant coach, Brick worked on honing her jump shot.

"I was trying to groove my stroke," Brick said. "I kind of feel like the form is in but one of the things Buzzy emphasizes is repetition. Once you have the stroke, the more you shoot, the more it becomes second nature."

This is last season's All-Metro Player of the Year. Still taking one more practice shot. Still the last one out of the gym.

"She works harder at basketball than anyone I've ever seen," said McDonogh coach Katie Keating. "When we have a day off, she calls and asks for the keys to the gym. She will obviously be remembered as the best player that's played here, but she will also be remembered as the most hard-working and most dedicated player that's ever played here."

Tonight, Brick plays her final game for McDonogh -- the AIS A Division title game against No. 4 Roland Park at 6 p.m. at Loyola College's Reitz Arena. Brick and the Eagles (25-0) are looking to end the season with a perfect record and keep the area's longest active winning streak, now at 43 games, alive.

It would be a fitting close to one of the most storied high school careers in local girls basketball history -- one that almost ended two years early.

Rising to another level

Brick had planned to give up basketball after her sophomore year to concentrate on her longtime goal of playing professional tennis, but her desire to play college basketball was stronger. Last November, she signed with Maryland on a full scholarship.

A combination of talent and an intense work ethic have allowed Brick to reap individual accolades while helping elevate McDonogh girls basketball to the top.

"She has definitely brought the AIS league up to another level," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "A lot of us [in the Catholic League] already played McDonogh, but everyone who didn't, wanted to play her. They wanted to see how good she really was and after they played against her, they knew how good she was."

A three-time All-Metro first-teamer, Brick was named Miss Maryland Basketball for underclassmen by the Maryland Women's Basketball Coaches Association last season.

But for Brick, those rewards take on a whole new meaning within the team context.

Before she arrived at McDonogh, the Eagles had never cracked the Top 10. Only one AIS team ever had -- Bryn Mawr. Carried by four-time All-Metro Kisha Ford, the Mawrtians reached No. 5 in 1992-93.

The Eagles soared as high as No. 11 in Sonia Chase's senior year, 1993-94, but by the end of Brick's freshman year, the Eagles were up to No. 5.

In January 1998, the Eagles became the first AIS team to earn a No. 1 ranking. They have remained there since and this week, they cracked the USA Today national poll for the first time at No. 25.

For Brick, the team honors mean even more than the individual ones. Even her teammates say so.

"She's a real team player," said Eagles senior Jazmine Norton. "Basketball is her passion. It's what she thrives on and what makes basketball so special to her is the team game.

"When she played tennis, she was by herself out there, but she likes to have teammates out there, people to say, 'Vicki, it's OK if you miss your shot,' or 'Vicki, that was a nice pass you had.' She gets along with everyone on the team."

Devoted to basketball

Brick would seem to be the kind of girl other teen-age girls would love to hate, because she's athletic, pretty, smart (3.46 grade-point average) and extremely self-confident, but she has a wide circle of friends. She is very popular, even with some of McDonogh's fiercest rivals, including Roland Park's Meghan Kelly.

"Around my room, I have five pictures of us after games and we're smiling," said Kelly, whose Reds have never beaten Brick's Eagles. "If she were in the other position, I know she would feel the same way. She would realize, like I do, that it's just a game."

Although Brick and her friends go to a lot of school dances, much of their social life is spent at high school and college games. Sunday afternoon, they were turned away from the sold-out Towson Catholic-Spalding boys game, so they found another game to watch -- the St. Peter's men at Loyola College.

"Every inch of her life is devoted to basketball," said her friend Bridget Fitzsimmons, who plays at Dulaney. "All of her friends play basketball. A date to her is going out on a court and playing one-on-one with the guy."

Still, Brick devotes far more time to basketball than the average high school player. She even studies videotapes of her games.

"I am always striving for excellence," said Brick. "My parents instilled some of that in me, but through self experience, I've learned that if you work hard, good things will happen."

In addition to introducing her to Braman, her father Victor Brick also flies in former Russian Olympic track coach Ben Tabachnik from California several times a year to upgrade her program to build acceleration and speed.

As determined as her father is to give her every advantage, she is equally determined to get the most out of what she's given.

"She is very fortunate that she gets all this," said Fitzsimmons, "but she doesn't take it for granted. Most kids would work a few times with someone like that and say, 'Oh, that's all I need to do,' but Vicki goes out and continues to use what he's taught her every day. She works so hard."

Her efforts have paid off by making her one of the toughest local players to stop. For her career, she is averaging 20.2 points, 4.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds. After scoring a career-high 40 points in Thursday's AIS semifinal win over Bryn Mawr, her career point total -- the best in McDonogh girls history -- stands at 1,915.

Although only 5 feet 6, her quick first step makes her excellent at penetrating, often outmaneuvering girls six or eight inches taller. Her most impressive high school statistic may be a 55 percent career field-goal average, but her 2.4-turnovers-a-game average is also an outstanding statistic, especially for a point guard.

Looking ahead to Terps

Brick's intensity is what drew the attention of Maryland coach Chris Weller, who spotted her at the invitational Nike Camp in Indianapolis last summer.

"She'll outwork you and that's what it takes," Weller said. "It's my philosophy in life that you've got to outwork people. Talent will get you nowhere."

The fact that Brick lives by the same basketball creed has impressed Weller, who initially did not expect her recruit to earn a lot of playing time next fall.

"In the recruiting process, I told her I couldn't guarantee anything, because she's physically not dominating," Weller said. "I didn't paint a very positive picture, but she accepted the challenge and decided to come here anyway. She's really mentally tough. She wanted to come prove me wrong."

After Maryland's 69-55 loss to 18th-ranked Virginia on Monday night, Weller called Brick to make sure she wasn't discouraged by the setback.

"She told me she was taping all of the ACC games," said Weller, "and when her season's over, she's going to take a couple weeks off and then start studying those films and get back to work. I was thinking to myself, 'Wow.' I've never, ever heard a high school player say that. She's ready to dive right in.

"She'll come in ready to play. I don't think there's going to be a leadership problem with her. I think she'll step right in and be a team leader."

Pub Date: 2/13/99

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