Mitch Guest wears the loves of his life, his mother and basketball, on his arms.
Glen Burnie's standout guard has his mother's name -- Michelle -- tattooed down his inner left arm and a basketball player going to the basket near his right shoulder.
It is the combination of a caring mother and the game of basketball that drives the 5-foot-8 senior and has enabled him to turn adversity into success.
Guest has led his team in scoring the last two years and last season was named first-team All-Anne Arundel County and second-team All-Metro.
"My mom is my backbone and my heart," said Guest, a three-year starter averaging 25 points a game and the fourth Gopher to surpass 1,000 career points. "She gives me my inspiration.
"Basketball is my other love. I try to be happy all the time. I don't care what the situation is, I'm always happy."
Guest, who will lead the No. 7 Gophers (7-0) into No. 19 Old Mill (8-0) tonight in a renewal of a fierce neighborhood rivalry, started playing basketball at age 6.
"Mitch and a friend hooked up a milk crate to a tree, and that's how he started," said Michelle Trustey, Guest's mother, who signed up her son at 8 with the Harundale youth program. "Basketball is his first love. He even told his girlfriend that nothing comes before basketball. Mitch has had a lot of disappointments coming up but has managed to stay focused because of basketball."
Guest, 18, lost his father, Michael Guest Sr., three years ago to a heart attack at age 41. And an older brother he was close to is in jail, according to his mother.
"It's been a struggle for him because I'm a single mom, and he's been through a lot," said Michelle, who graduated from Dunbar in Baltimore City. "He had to repeat a grade [in middle school] because of his home situation. I've been married twice, and I'm separated from my second husband. We've moved from house to house, and I've had financial problems when I didn't have a job.
"But Mitch has stuck in there. His love for basketball has kept him straight."
A second older brother, Michael Guest, 19, a Glen Burnie graduate and construction worker, said his younger brother is "not only a great basketball player but [also] a great person who has been through a lot."
Guest didn't play his freshman year because he was academically ineligible. His mother said there were a couple of times when he got into trouble, but his open relationship with her and his coach, Mike Rudd, got him through it.
"Mitch and I keep an open relationship and talk all the time," said Trustey. "He knows he can come to me with anything and talk to me, and we will get through it. The hard times have made him more determined. "
Guest said that Rudd has "helped me a lot since I've been here," especially in terms of school. "A lot has changed from my freshman year until now. He has helped me a great deal."
Guest has worked hard in the classroom to stay eligible and has boosted his grade point average to 2.6. He is awaiting his SAT score but feels he needs to attend a prep school to improve academically before college.
His game also has improved.
"Mitch worked so hard in the offseason that his game has gotten so much better," said Rudd, who on Wednesday earned his 100th career win in eight seasons coaching at his alma mater. "He's always been quick, but honestly, I think his first step is a little quicker. He's matured on the floor, and his turnovers are way down from last year. And he handles the ball a lot."
Rudd said Guest might be the best player ever to come out of Glen Burnie. He can be extraordinary from the perimeter, drive the lane with abandon and finish, hit the open man and play defense.
"He makes every kid on the floor better," Rudd said. "He elevates their play, and that's a gift."
Brandon Albert, the Gophers' 6-foot-7, 325-pound senior center, said Guest made him feel right at home when he transferred from New York last year.
"Mitch and I talk basketball all the time," Albert said. "And he is the guy everybody looks up to because of how hard he plays."
There is no question that Guest wants to play in college, but his mother keeps reminding him of where his priorities should be.
"Basketball is fine, but I tell him to focus on his grades, because there will be a life after basketball, " said Trustey. "It's my hope and prayer that he will have a good life."