Nothing sails over Heather Landis' head - even if she is 5 feet, 4 inches tall.
As the standout point guard for Chapelgate's girls basketball team, Landis has heard all the taunts about her petite frame. Then again, when you're a two-time All-County player for a school that has won the past two Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference titles, you're bound to be the center of attention.
So when opposing players and fans toss smack at her like guests with rice at a wedding, Landis doesn't shy away from the jeers. She tackles them head-on.
"That just gets my adrenaline going, and it makes me want to do something," said Landis, whose vertical leap is over 30 inches. "My response is to just play and show what I can do."
What the senior has done in 3 1/2 seasons with the Yellow Jackets has been nothing short of remarkable. Landis has set school records for career points (1,477), career assists (549) and single-game scoring (39 in a three-point loss to St. John's at Prospect Hall on Jan. 19).
Averaging 20.6 points, 6.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 4.5 steals this season, Landis - who will play Division I basketball at Rider University next season - is a huge reason why Chapelgate (8-6 overall and 6-5 in the IAAM) is a dangerous opponent as the conference tournament begins in 15 days.
"She's the heart and soul of that team," said Severn coach Chuck Miller, who watched Landis compile 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the regular-season opener Dec. 4 that the Admirals won by five points. "Chapelgate certainly scares me as much as St. Paul's and Towson Catholic because of Heather. She can strap them to her back, and she will."
Since Landis arrived at the Marriottsville school, Chapelgate has made three straight appearances in the IAAM B Conference championship game and captured the last three Maryland Christian Schools State Tournament crowns.
Landis is either first or second among the Yellow Jackets in every major category, and her work ethic is so contagious that one of her closest friends on the team calls her "inspirational."
"She makes me want to go out and work harder," said senior guard Donna Geiger, who frequently matches up against Landis during practice. "I remember asking her by e-mail to keep playing hard on me so that I could become a better player."
Only a few things - her faith, family and friends - have more meaning to Landis than basketball. Landis, who first picked up a basketball when she was 5, has been playing organized games since she was a fourth-grader at Spencerville Adventist Academy in Silver Spring.
After transferring to Chapelgate for the seventh grade, Landis - who could dribble a basketball between her legs the length of the court as a fifth grader --- earned a spot on the school's JV as an eighth-grader. That year, the team defeated Notre Dame Prep for the JV title.
It didn't take long for Landis to earn the starting point guard role as a freshman when she averaged 10.6 points, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals. She improved during her sophomore campaign - 13.4 points, 6.8 assists, 4.4 steals and 2.3 rebounds - and secured her first All-County selection.
With graduation taking a toll on the Yellow Jackets' low-post presence last season, Landis asserted herself as an offensive weapon. She averaged 17.6 points, 5.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 steals as Chapelgate earned a second straight IAAM B Conference championship and Landis earned her second All-County honor.
Much of her success can be traced to her competitive spirit. Landis has been known to bury poor performances by shoveling snow off the driveway of her parents' home in Silver Spring, breaking out an old kerosene heater to stay warm, and shooting baskets in the middle of the night for an hour or two.
Erica Lynott, another close friend on the Yellow Jackets team, said one of Landis' favorite words is "rematch."
"Whenever her team loses anything, she says 'rematch,' " said Lynott, a senior forward. "She never likes to lose."
It also helps when your father is known among Chapelgate players as the "Shot Doctor." Harold "Chip" Landis is a dentist by trade, but he's also an assistant coach for Columbia Union College's men's basketball team and the former head coach of the women's team at the same school.
Chip Landis, who has worked with Charlotte Hornets draftee Jason Miskiri (George Mason), was the one who suggested to Heather two years ago that she shoot blindfolded to synchronize her muscles into one smooth motion.
"She could see where she was not squaring to the basket," said Chip Landis, who - along with his wife Lori - has three other children who play sports other than basketball. "She definitely has a sense of where the basket is, and everything is now automatic for her."
Heather Landis said she owes much of her success to her father, who usually accompanies his daughter's trips to the family driveway as the primary rebounder.
"When I was younger, I wouldn't motivate myself to go out and work on the driveway," she said. "He would always encourage me to do that."
Chapelgate coach Jim Barber said he has never been concerned when he has watched opposing coaches stick taller, more physical players on Landis.
"With Heather, it's heart, not height," Barber said. "She's never limited herself. She's always set very high goals. The thing with her is she does the work necessary to put herself in position to achieve those goals."