Whenever Essence Greer walks onto the court as a member of the Glen Burnie girls basketball team, she knows what to expect.
A box-and-one. Sometimes, a triangle-and-two. A quick player to prevent her from slashing to the basket. A tall player to muscle her away from the boards.
The defensive chess match that opposing coaches throw out there may have befuddled some players by now, but Greer takes it in stride.
"I don't get irritated," she said. "It's kind of a sign of respect. It just makes me play harder."
For the past four seasons, the 5-foot-11 senior forward has commanded that kind of awe from opposing teams searching for a way to contain her. Greer, who is the all-time leading scorer in Gophers history, is also the county's top scorer with 18.8 points a game.
In addition, she leads Glen Burnie in assists with 5.2 a contest and is second in rebounds with nine a game.
"She can do it all," said Gophers coach Dan Mangum Sr. "She can handle the ball, shoot, drive, and play defense. She's been the backbone inside and out."
To fully understand the talent and skill that Greer can command with a basketball, consider that she broke the 1,000-point barrier in her career in her junior season.
She has scored 1,329 points, already surpassing 1983 graduate Tammy Dailey's 1,184.
True to her character, however, Greer is almost embarrassed when asked to discuss that achievement.
"Hitting 1,000 points before 12th grade, that's a big accomplishment for me, but I don't think about it too much," she said. "As long as I have fun out there, that's the key."
Greer was introduced to the sport almost by accident. As a third-grader in the Cherry Hill section of southern Baltimore, she followed her brother Donald to games at the local playground and in various leagues.
"I used to go to the court with my brother and sit down and watch," Essence Greer said. "Then one day, it was just the two of us and we started playing."
A self-described tomboy back then, Greer accompanied her brother to his games and watched how he and his friends played. When she started playing in organized basketball leagues, Greer always played with the older girls to hone her skills.
Moving to Glen Burnie toward the end of eighth grade, Greer became a starter for the Gophers varsity during her freshman season when she averaged 14 points. Glen Burnie registered an 11-9 mark - its first winning record in a decade.
With expectations building before her sophomore year, Greer missed seven games because she punctured a lung while playing.
The injury was so serious that doctors ordered her to be hooked up to an oxygen machine for three days.
"When I started to play again, I was cautious because the doctors said it could happen again if I was bumped or knocked down," Greer said. "I was just hoping that nobody would hit me."
Still, she finished the season averaging 16 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists, earning her a spot on the All-County first team. Glen Burnie registered a 19-5 record that year, falling to eventual Class 4A state champ Arundel in a Class 4A East regional semifinal.
Then last season, she missed five games due to illness and the Gophers didn't win until the ninth game of the season. Greer registered 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals in that initial victory, and the Gophers finished 11-13 overall.
She averaged 16.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists that year and again was named to the All-County first team.
Glen Burnie was thought to be a contender for this year's county title but has struggled and played itself out of the county championship game with a 6-6 county record, 8-10 overall.
Greer said she believes that Glen Burnie is finding some cohesion just before the state playoffs begin later this month.
"We're still building," she said. "The practices are getting harder, and we're having fun playing as a team."
Greer said she plans to study psychology in college, but also would like to see where basketball will take her. Mangum estimates that he has received more than 100 calls from colleges and universities inquiring about Greer. He said Pittsburgh and Boston University are two of the schools that have shown the most interest.
And when Greer graduates this June, Mangum said he's not sure when a player of her caliber will walk into his office again.
"Maybe once in 20 years, you see a player like her," he said. "I don't think you'll see anybody like her at Glen Burnie for a while."